Meet PAUL. Gay his whole life, and finding love as wonderful, confusing and heartbreaking as every other teenager in his high school.
Meet Paul’s friends:
JONI – his best friend
TONY – his other best friend
INFINITE DARLENE – homecoming queen AND star quarterback
KYLE – the ex-boyfriend who won’t go away;
And NOAH – who changes everything. From the blurb
Picking up this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't read a book with a gay protagonist before, and I wasn't sure what kind of book I would get. I soon discovered Boy Meets Boy is an absolutely wonderful, beautiful novel about love and friendship.
Not too far into the novel, I was a little confused. Paul is gay, he's known he's gay his whole life, and has never really had a problem because of it - not from family, not from friends, not from anyone at school. In fact, he's found accepting and being who he is pretty easy. This seemed a little confusing to me; although this is how the world should be, from what I hear, this isn't the norm. Because of this confusion, mid-read I had a look on David Levithan's website to find out a little more about what I was reading, and I saw this quote about Boy Meets Boy: "I’m often asked if the book is a work of fantasy or a work of reality, and the answer is right down the middle – it’s about where we’re going, and where we should be." Accepting this, I continued reading, thinking it may be an enjoyable read, but I might not get the education and understanding out of it I was hoping for, thinking it was simply just a teen romance, where the characters happen to be gay.
That's only half true. Paul has had it easy, but not all of his friends have. He has a number of LGBTQ friends, and they've struggled. Take Tony for instance. He's from a very religious family, and they are completely anti-gay, and Tony has had to struggle with this. His family don't hate him for being gay, they're terrified for him. As Tony says to Paul, "They honestly believe that if I don't straighten out, I will lose my soul. It's not just that they don't want me kissing other guys - they think if I do it, I will be damned. Damned, Paul." (P185) And if that wasn't bad enough, he's struggling with his loneliness. He has yet to have a successful, happy relationship. He's dated a few guys, but it's never felt right. So he's longing to be with someone, but also knows that he probably will never be accepted for who he is by his family. It's a lot to deal with.
Then there's Kyle. Kyle is lost. He and Paul went out a while ago, but then Kyle freaked out, dumped him, and told everyone Paul had tricked him. He's having a hard time dealing with and accepting his sexuality - not even sure what his sexuality is, because he seems to like boys and girls - and looks to Paul for help, despite bad mouthing him. He's all over the place, and wants help to come to terms with these feelings. One thing that really stood out for me was this exchange between Kyle and Paul about Kyle's sexuality:
'"Do I really have to find a word for it?" Kyle interrupts. "Can't it just be what it is?"That really struck a chord with me, because it's so true. We, as a human race, tend to want to put things in boxes and at it's very basic, I think the boxes - or labels - would be "normal" and "other". Are not all labels - whatever those labels may be; sexuality, race, gender, etc - a way of defining what isn't the same as "us"? It seems we want to categorise that which is different, that which is not "me", and I think that's where a lot of prejudice and discrimination comes from. Wouldn't things be so much easier if we weren't intent on labelling everything? If we were simply just "human"? Those few sentences really made me sit back and think.
"Of course," I say, even though in the bigger world I'm not so sure. The world loves stupid labels. I wish we could choose our own.' (P108)
Something else that stood out for me was how Paul, in some respects, is like me: he may be gay, but his life has been so easy, relatively speaking, that he doesn't really get what other gay people go through, and Tony highlights this perfectly:
'"Kyle feels lost, Paul. That's all he's saying, And he knows that you're not lost. You've never been lost. You've felt lost. But you've never been lost."' (P184)So it's through his friends that he - and us readers - learn a little about the struggles people can find themselves facing. Saying that, although he hasn't been through the same things as some of his friends, at a very basic level he can relate to the amazing things his friends do, yet because of the differences, respect them greatly for it:
'I find my greatest strength in wanting to be strong. I find my greatest bravery in deciding to be brave. I don't know if I've ever realised this before... If there's no feeling of fear, then there's no need for courage.' (P190)I have to mention Infinite Darlene in this review, because she is simply amazing! Infinite Darlene is one of Paul's friends, and she's a crossdresser. It's never made completely clear - at least not to me - if Infinite Darlene (yes, that is the full name she goes by) is a crossdresser or is transgender. This could be because I'm so uneducated on such a topic that I'm just not sure, or it's felt that topic is not important - as above, does she really need a label? Either way, she's just brilliant! She's over-the-top old school Hollywood glamour, and in my head, she sounds like a Southern Belle, with her "I do declare"s. She's also captain of the football team and their star quarterback. She is completely wonderful, and provides a lot of the humour for me. I loved her!
Boy Meets Boy is one of the most romantic YA novels I have read. I have read a lot of YA Romance, but most of the time "Romance" seems to mean "relationship" novel, because there never seems to be that many small or grand romantic gestures. Boy Meets Boy is packed full of them! It's just so sweet! It had me "aww"-ing so many times! It's just beautiful! Because at the heart of it, that's what Boy Meets Boy is all about, it's the romance between two people, and shows, no matter what your sexuality is, everyone can go through the same teenage relationship issues.
Boy Meets Boy is an absolutely incredible novel, and I can't recommend it enough! It's just completely wonderful; a novel that puts the romance back into YA Romance, and leaves you with the biggest smile on your face! I will leave you with what is probably the sweetest - the best! - quote I've ever read in a book:
'I know he's not going to be amazing all the time, but there's more amazingness in him than in anyone else I've ever known. He makes me want to be amazing too.' (P208)ETA: I have just been made aware that HarperCollins Children's Books will be re-issuing Boy Meets Boy on 1st August! See it on Amazon. Thanks to Charlie Morris for the heads up.
Published: 6th February 2006
Publisher: HarperCollin's Children's Books
Buy on Amazon US
David Levithan's Website