Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy touched me more than any book I’ve read in years. I’m gay. Have been pretty much since the beginning of time. (Of course I dabbled here and there—in the words of Ellen Degeneres, “who didn’t?”) Since I’ve started focusing on YA fiction, both in writing it and reading it, I’ve been on the lookout for solid gay YA books. I figured they were few and far between, but I’ve already picked up a few, including Definitely Positively Not and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I’ve also written my first gay YA novel, about a fifteen-year-old lesbian who survives the rapture and battles dinosaurs on her journey to find her true love. There needs to be more gay YA fiction out there, and Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan, easily sets the benchmark for this small but growing genre.
Boy Meets Boy is magical, not for any other reason than it tells the love story of two high school boys and treats it as normal as if the romance were between two members of the opposite sex. In the world of this novel, people, young and old, are gay, and no one cares. There’s no big coming-out scenes, no scenes of suicide attempts, no depressing “why-can’t-I-just-be-normal” contemplation scenes. In the world of Boy Meets Boy, it’s normal for a fifteen-year-old boy to be infatuated with another boy, it’s normal for a cross-dresser to be both football quarterback and Prom Queen, it’s normal to be gay and have parents who actually love and respect you for who you are.
The book feels so modern, as we slowly but surely transform into a society where gay people can be married and have kids and be happy with no opposition, where people can love who they want to love and not feel guilty or be punished for it. Thus I’m surprised it’s nearly ten years old—the book was Levithan’s debut novel and came out in 2003, before Glee, before Modern Family, before Neil Patrick Harris outed himself, before even Ellen started her talk show! Clearly Levithan was ahead of his time, and part of me is sad I didn’t discover this book when it first came out, as it would have helped me with my own coming out, during those awkward years between 2003 and 2006. I needed to turn to my own art to help me through that difficult time, and in 2005 I wrote and directed a gay short film, that you can watch below.
Every year I feel lucky when I come across a book or two that I love, and this year I’ve already found two: John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy . (You better believe I’m excited to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the novel they co-authored together!) These two authors have inspired me to no end, and I’m ecstatic to read the rest of their work. They understand the teenage years more than any YA authors I’ve come across yet, and I feel privileged every time I sit down to read their prose and drop down into their worlds for a while. Looking for Alaska was a joy from beginning to end, but Boy Meets Boy is a particular revelation, because it gives all the young gay readers out there hope for a better community, a better world, and a better life. Don’t miss this amazing novel. I can’t recommend it enough.

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