Aug 7, 2011

[Books] Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets BoyA few years ago, I was delighted to find that local bookstore chains like National Bookstore and Power Books had setup separate sections dedicated to gay and lesbian fiction. While the pickings were a bit slim, it was still nice to see that the LGBT community had reached a point that they warranted a shelf section dedicated to books written by members of the pink community. So over the years I did my part to buy a few of the books whenever I could - which meant when my money wasn't going entirely to new science fiction and fantasy titles.

Recently I noticed that the shelves are gone. Thus we're now limited to the few "popular" writers who just happen to have LGBT touches in their books as a possible source for LGBT fiction in the country. Were it not for my Amazon Kindle, I'd probably lose all access to such titles and that part of pink culture outside of paying ridiculous customs and shipping charges or having friends bring books over as part of their luggage. It's a sad thing really - LGBT writers need all the support that they can get, whether local or foreign.

And LGBT fiction has a long way to go. A lot of publishers still have the notion that marketing to the LGBT segment means borrowing what has worked for female readers. Hence the prevalence of trashy queer romances and plucky gumshoe detective stories. There are some good ones out there to be sure, but then still I feel there's a lot more than can be done for the genre, if we even what it to be a genre as an end result. And it's a good thing that there are authors who are trying to think beyond the current times and trying to speculate as to what queer fiction might be in the more tolerant future.

Boy Meets Boy is a 2003 LGBT young adult novel set in such a world - or at the very least a town where gay people are accepted. The book was written by David Levithan and it had the pleasure of winning the Lambda Literary Award for the Children/Young Adult category.

In some fictional small town in New Jersey, we meet Paul. He's an openly gay high school sophomore in a town that has learned to accept and pretty much fully embrace members of the LGBT community. The story pretty much revolves around him and his perspective of things and to some extent his closest friends. First there's Joni, a straight girl who ha had less than ideal luck with love. And the other is Tony, another gay friend but one who lives in the next town that happens to be a lot more religious and conservative than Paul's.On one of the nights when they manage to sneak Tony of out his home under the pretenses of some sort of a study group, Paul meets Noah in a record store and there's an immediate attraction between the two.

And as it turns out, Noah is a new student at the same school as Paul's and thus the two set out to find one another the next school day. Around the same time, Joni ends up getting together with Chuck, one of the football players. He's a bit of a bully, especially when it comes to Infinite Darling, Paul's friend and the school's transvestite star quarterback. The relationship causes a lot of stress for everyone, including Joni's on-again, off-again ex-boyfriend Ted and even for Paul. And as Paul gets closer and closer to Noah, he finds that his ex-boyfriend Kyle has started to show interest once more. And this is given their history where Kyle publicly proclaimed that he had been somehow tricked by Paul to be gay with him, thus the reason for the break-up.

This book was one of my earliest Kindle purchases and one that I don't regret at all. It's hard enough to find LGBT fiction in the current bookstore climate and this title was one I don't ever recall seeing. But it garnered good reviews on Amazon so it seemed to be worth a look. Plus I was eager to get back into LGBT fiction again, especially given my own interests in writing such a novel in the future.

David Levithan's setting for the book may seem a bit idealistic - perhaps even utopian, but that doesn't mean the story is completely detached from reality. In fact, beyond the quirkiness of the setting, everything else is quite logical and in that regard realistic. And that's where the brilliance of this book is. Levithan has created a setting that is new and refreshing that now allows new LGBT stories to be told, instead of just the usual fare of the struggle of coming out, the constant battle against discrimination and all the usual tropes of LGBT fiction in book print and movies.

And for a young adult novel, Levithan does quite a remarkable job of capturing the raw emotional turmoil that we all experienced as children. In that regard, kudos to his writing skills are definitely in order. He has a unique way of recreating the emotional states of our youth in a manner that somehow resonates with you as a reader. After all, we all went through such turbulent periods (and probably still do from time to time) and generating that kind of an emotional reaction is the true demonstration of his talent here.

Yes, it's a simplistic story, but in no way is it merely simple. In fact, the plot that he has carefully woven for us to navigate transcends the basic story format of boy meets boy, boy loses boy and boy gets boy back somehow. It's not a tale that you can easily project the ending of - instead you're better off just enjoying the ride. And it's more than worth it, for sure.

As for the small town setting, I didn't think it was all that unrealistic. Perhaps similar to what science fiction writers do when they write of the future or of alternate worlds, Levithan has dared to dream of what a future and more tolerant world might be like and the kind of stories that can be told in such a world. Thus you get rather fun creations like how his Joy Scouts replace the Boy Scouts and how one queer boy can be both the high school quarterback and the homecoming queen at the same time. And while such examples seem humorous and far-fetched, who's to say that this can't really happen in a more tolerate world? When homosexual, bisexual and other gender definitions that can be dreamed of are free to live together in a single community where they are accepted as truly normal, what will be the shape of that society?

So I really enjoyed this book. It's the kind of book that I'd recommend to any young person coming to terms with their sexuality and to any jaded queer who might need a good old fashioned love story to make him or her think of brighter days instead of dark ones. And the book gives me hope for the future and dares me as a writer to think of even greater stories.

Boy Meets Boy is a step in the right direction for the kinds of books we need to see more of representing the pink community. Maybe it's not a perfect, sterling example, but it is a darned good one. And thus I rate this books as 4 expressions of Paul's love out of a possible 5.



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2 comments:

nOx said...

a favorite book from david levithan. love this one.

have you tried hero by perry moore? :)

rOckY said...

I can't say that I have - will look it up.
Thanks for the tip!

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