For my list in the GLBT challenge, I decided to go for a mix of adult and YA literature, because one of other ambitions with this challenge was to have start developing a list of books I could recommend to my students, as my school’s GSA adviser. The only area of my reading that might be more underdeveloped than GLBT fiction is contemporary YA!
Luckily, one of the books I placed on my list was Boy Meets Boy, one of the most charming teenage love stories I’ve read in many years, if not ever. I’d recommend it not only for gay and lesbian teens, but for adults, teachers, writers, and readers; basically, I can’t recommend it highly enough!
We see the entire novel through the eyes of Paul, a boy so confident in his sexuality that a kindergarten teacher notes it on his report card. If the possibility of any teacher doing so strikes you as highly unusual, then you are ready to enter Paul’s world, in a small town where the homecoming queen is also a drag queen who plays on the football team, Boy Scouts have been renamed “Joy Scouts,” and gay couples kiss in the school hallways. Paul begins the novel with an ex-boyfriend who ignores him, but he quickly finds himself in the middle of a love triangle with Kyle, his ex, and Noah, the new boy in school who carries a camera everywhere. This drama plays out in parallel with Joni, Paul’s straight best friend who soon finds herself in a love triangle of her own that includes a controlling new boyfriend who’s recovering from his crush on Infinite Darlene, the aforementioned homecoming/drag queen.
In some ways, the novel follows classic conventions: much of the plot builds up to the big school dance at the end, there’s lots of romantic confusion that ends happily, teen culture is all-consuming, any sexual activity stops at kissing. Pop culture references abound, from The Advocate to The Breakfast Club. But when you consider that a lot of this romantic confusion is happening amongst boys, openly gay and bisexual adolescent males, you begin to see what a subversive book it actually is, in the best possible meaning of the term. The scenes where Kyle confesses his sexual ambivalence to Paul are moving, and the scenes where Paul has to win back Noah with a week of romantic wooing are just pitch-perfect and delicious.
Is everything perfect in Paul’s world? Not at all; another plot line is focused on Paul’s friend Tony, who lives in a nearby town with religious parents who are petrified at the possibility of their son being gay. This plot line is handled extremely well, and while Tony and his parent make some progress over the course of the book, it serves as a way to keep the story somewhat grounded in the world the novel’s readers might recognize.
I can’t wait to recommend this novel to students, but even more, I would love to see it on the shelves of every school and public library, waiting for the right kid (or adult) to discover it.
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson: Book Review (pinkbananaworld.com)