Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
YA realistic fiction
Paul is a sophomore at a high school in a very unusual town. The quarterback of the football team used to be a guy named Daryl… but now he prefers the name Infinite Darlene. The cheerleaders ride Harleys. Being gay, bi, or trans is an accepted, normal thing in this community.
Over a couple of weeks, Paul and his long-time friends are confronted with issues of friendship and love as they start to slowly drift apart. His friend since the 2nd grade, Joni, starts a relationship with a guy that no one likes. His friend Tony from the next (not so gay-friendly) town over is gay but has oppressively religious parents. He is struggling with how to be himself while not shutting out his family. Paul has been recovering from a bad break up when he meets Noah. He is falling hard when his ex, Kyle, comes back to complicate things. Boy screws up and loses boy and things begin to look hopeless. Paul makes a grand gesture to say he is sorry and show how he feels about Noah but… will it work?
I started reading this in anticipation of seeing Levithan at the Texas Teen Book Festival here in Austin, TX. I hadn’t read any of his work before and had been eyeing this one for awhile.
This took quite some time to become of real interest to me, honestly. I read two other books both over 600 pages while slogging through this 180ish page book. At its heart, it is a romance (hence the play on the standard boy-meets-girl title) which I haven’t ever particularly been drawn to (though I admittedly haven’t read as much romance as I should… bad librarian, BAD!). The fact that it is also about teenagers figuring it all out kept me coming back, no matter how slowly.
I got that Levithan was creating this “alternate universe” for us, but the architecture of it seemed a little half-hearted. I kept thinking, why put this story in a “friendly” environment? It became clear to me at the end that this was intentional as Paul begins to understand Tony’s struggle when Paul himself has it so “easy”. This point of view could be very relatable for those of us who don’t struggle with our identity in that way but want to empathize.
What I really appreciate about Boy Meets Boy is that it is so normalizing. It shows that a romance is a romance no matter who it is between. This isn’t a book about being gay but about being a teenager in love while dealing with life’s bumps and bruises.
It took me awhile to get there but I finally did. And I certainly realize how important a book like this can be. Glad I finally got to know Levithan and look forward to checking out some of his more recent work.
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