Boy Meets Boy -- David Levithan
Fans of Francesca Lia Block are pretty much guaranteed to like Boy Meets Boy. Normally, that would usually be a complete and total turn-off for me. Oddly, I ended up really liking it.
I'm not sure if I would have liked it as much if it were by a different author--for instance, if it'd been written by FLB, I wouldn't have been able to handle it. But already having read Realm of Possibility and Are We There Yet?, I know that David Levithan isn't a one-trick pony. He doesn't only do whimsy. (If I had been in a bad mood, I know I would have hated it, regardless of how much I like the author. Too much whimsy when I'm cranky is THE WORST.)
I was tempted to categorize this book as a fantasy--in some ways, it is one. Paul lives in a town where people, for the most part, live and let live. Or love and let love. In other reviews, I've seen the town described as a 'gay-topia'. It's a place where the local McDonald's became Veggie D's after vegetarians protested, where the Boy Scouts divorced themselves from the national organization and became the Joy Scouts (in protest of the BSA's anti-gay stance), where the high school cheerleaders are bikers and where the Gay-Straight alliance was formed to teach straight kids to dance. It's a place where the star quarterback and the Homecoming Queen are the same person:
I don't know when Infinite Darlene and I first became friends. Perhaps it was back when she was still Daryl Heisenberg, but that's not very likely; few of us can remember what Daryl Heisenberg was like, since Infinite Darlene consumed him so completely. He was a decent football player, but nowhere near as good as when he started wearing false eyelashes.
Infinite Darlene doesn't have it easy. Being both star quarterback and homecoming queen has its conflicts. And sometimes it's hard for her to fit in. The other drag queens in our school rarely sit with her at lunch; they say she doesn't take good enough care of her nails, and that she looks a little too buff in a tank top. The football players are a little more accepting, although there was a spot of trouble a year ago when Chuck, the second-string quarterback, fell in love with her and got depressed when she said he wasn't her type.
Setting aside, this is a pretty traditional YA novel. Paul likes Noah. Noah likes Paul. Paul messes up. Paul wants to get Noah back.
He also deals with siblings:
Once she's out of the room, Noah asks me if I have a little sister. I tell him I have an older brother, which isn't really the same thing.
"Different methods of beating you up," Noah says.
At this point, Ms. Kaplansky announces a pop quiz. We all groan and clear off our desks. Ms. Kaplansky has an uncanny habit of asking us to translate phrases into French that we would never, ever use in English.
1. Sir, are you familiar with the works of Australian film-maker Gillian Armstrong?
2. He was predisposed to believe that she has a case of indigestion.
3. I am amazed by the size of that ostrich.
One of his best friends is dating a guy that he doesn't really like:
Chuck is a short guy but he works out a lot, so as a result he's built like a fire hydrant. Most of the time he acts like a fire hydrant, too. Conversation is not his strong suit. In fact, I'm not sure it's a suit he owns.
Of course, being a teen novel, there's plenty of angst:
"Do I really have to find a word for it?" Kyle interrupts. "Can't it just be what it is?"
"Of course," I say, even though in the bigger world I'm not so sure. The world loves stupid labels. I wish we got to choose our own.
And even though Paul's town is pretty much perfect and safe for him and his friends, David Levithan doesn't create an entirely new world:
Tony and I figure the best thing a straight boy with religious, intolerant parents can do for his love life is tell his parents he's gay. Before Tony's parents discovered he was gay, they wouldn't let him shake hands with a girl. Now if he mentions he's doing something with a girl--and girl--they practically pimp him out the door.
It's a good one. It took me a few chapters to decide if I'd like it or not--like I said, though, that's just because of my own whimsy hang-ups--but I ended up liking it enough that I think I'll buy a copy. Like his other books, the overwhelming feeling in this book is one of joy. Joy of life, of growing up, of family, of friends. It's nice to read something so positive once in a while.