Title: Boy Meets Boy
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books (an imprint of Random House)
Standalone/Series: Standalone Title
The story told is a love story between Paul and Noah, Paul’s self-discovery and his attempts to love and be loved.
I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to David Levithan and Knopf Books.
Excerpt from Page 8:
“I’ve always known I was gay, but it wasn’t confirmed until I was in kindergarten. It was my teacher who said so. It was right there on my kindergarten report card: PAUL IS DEFINITELY GAY AND HAS VERY GOOD SENSE OF SELF.
I just assumed boys were attracted to other boys.
Imagine my surprise to find out that I wasn’t entirely right. Imagine my surprise when I went through all the other reports and found that not one of the other boys had been labeled DEFINITELY GAY. (In all fairness, none of the others had a VERY GOOD SENSE OF SELF, either.)”
Narration: Paul is a warm narrator. When he tells you something, it’s almost always personal to him and his world. You feel closer to him; more intimate with his story. He has a different way of looking at his school life, where he lives, who he likes and who he loves and it’s great to get a fresh voice. I believe that he’s a teenager dealing with typical teenage problems (love, gossip, navigating high school etc.). He is consistent. He mistakes Noah’s locker number for 264 almost immediately and this misconception is carried forward until he speaks with Noah again. He describes his surroundings with distinct adjectives (Infinite Darlene’s “crystal” voice).
Character: No one can deny that there are some strong characters in this novel. The body language, the dialogue and the thoughts of the character go hand in hand (in hand) so that we get a more well-rounded character. Everything from Infinite Darlene’s body language (the looks she throws Paul’s way) to her spoken words suggest that she is over-dramatic and loves to be the centre of attention and while this is true, she is more than this. She is multi-faceted. She is caring, thoughtful, protecti and fiercely loyal.
We even get a sense of character from characters’ absence. We never get to see Noah’s parents and through them, we are able to see that they care more about their careers than they do about their own children. They expect Noah to look after his sister constantly. When he goes to (what seems like his first prom), it is his sister that takes pictures in his parents’ absence.
I love the range of characters and their quirks and distinct names. I feel like the characters are named with specific reasonsing. From the rivalry between divas Trillby Pope and Infinite Darlene to the quiet introvert Tony to the shrewd bookmaker who sets up the odds (Rip); there’s something for everyone.
(My personal favourite is INFINITE DARLENE. It’s all in the name 😉 )
I am aware though, that we get to see most of the characters in set environments. We never really get to see Infinite Darlene outside of school and I really want to know what she’s like at the weekends . Does she still dress in drag? Does she go by her boy alter ego? How far does her drag-at-school routine go? What are her parents like? How do they feel about her choice to perform in drag? She’s such an interesting character and I’m left with so many little, nagging curiosities that I really want to allay.
I also have an issue with Paul’s character in the choices that he makes and the justification for those choices. When he kisses Kyle, he tells us that he wants to take away some of the sadness from Kyle. In my experience, if you kiss someone, it’s because you like that person; because you want to kiss them and since Paul and Noah have history, I don’t buy this rationalisation. Levithan wins major brownie points later on with me when we see Paul’s demonstration of his love for Noah (which made me grin like a hyena on laughing gas – okay, maybe not quite that bad but you get the picture!).
Plot: The premise is simple. Paul meets Noah. Paul likes Noah. Paul falls in love with Noah. In between all of this, most of the characters in the novel are dealing with their own problems and these problems soon impact Paul himself. The story is sweet and funny. Paul’s community is a kind of Utopia. The Boy Scouts were renamed the Joy Scouts, Infinite Darlene is a six-foot drag queen and the star quarterback, the PFLAG draws a bigger crowd than the PTA. It’s unrealistic only when we measure it against reality and forget the fact that what we are reading is fiction.
I’m sure that many will describe the book as unrealistic and to those, I would say that Levithan has chosen not to go down the typical route. The Utopia – of equally-treated sexuality – he has created is used very cleverly to show what he thinks is achievable and also to provide a contrast for Tony and the issues he endures with his family. I do, however, question Tony’s curfew in the opening page. Paul tells us that his parents think he’s at a study group but that he has to be back by midnight. I just wonder if his parents are that naive.
Setting: I feel like we get to see what we need to see in this story. It’s a simple story with a lot of complex and colourful characters. Levithan anchors us in these places so that it feels like we are actually there, right beside the characters he has created. In Noah’s room, we can visualise the whimsical styling; when Paul is at school, we can imagine this as a typical American high school (at least as far as the setting is concerned). I would like to get just a little bit more when it comes to exploring this town. I’d like to know more about some of the other places that exist in this Utopic town.
Comparative Literature/Originality: It’s difficult to gauge this book within YA canon – many of which touch on gay issues like Cassandra Clare in The Mortal Instruments series or Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Boy Meets Boy brings a fresh voice to the genre; an array of vivid, colourful and well-thought-out characters. The story is simple but then again, the best things in life are. The angle Levithan takes is unexpected and instead of weaving a tale chronicling the trials and tribulations (homophobia at school, issues with family and friends) of a gay adolescent, he tells us something that makes us smile, makes us laugh, makes us cry. If you Google “gay teen fiction”, I have no doubt that you will find hundreds of books that take the homophobic avenue, and while there is nothing wrong with this, Levithan offers us a fresh and different story and for that, I commend him.
Summary: It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry. And then it’ll make you laugh again. A fresh take on same-sex love.
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