When Paul falls hard for Noah, he thinks he has found his one true love, but when things take a turn for the worse and Noah walks out of his life, Paul has to find a way to get him back and make everything right once more, in a tale about the ups, downs, and dramas of teen relationships. Reprint.
David Levithan is a children’s book editor in New York City.
Gr. 9-12. Paul, a high-school sophomore, is gay. Big deal! He's known he was gay since he was in kindergarten. Remarkably, everybody else knows it, too, and nobody cares. Clearly, the world Paul inhabits in this breakthrough book (the first upbeat gay novel for teens) differs from the real world: two boys walk through town holding hands; the cross-dressing quarterback, named Infinite Darlene, is not only captain of the football team but also homecoming queen; the school has a biker cheerleading team. Even in this whimsical world, however, the course of true love doesn't always run smoothly: Paul meets-and gets-the boy, Noah, a new kid in town, but loses him. Then, in perfect balance with this extraordinarily large-hearted, cheerful book, something unpredictable but deeply satisfying happens. Though at times arch and even precious, this wacky, charming, original story is never outrageous, and its characters are fresh, real, and deeply engaging. In its blithe acceptance and celebration of human differences, this is arguably the most important gay novel since Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind; it certainly seems to represent a revolution in the publishing of gay-themed books for adolescents. ((Reviewed August 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews
Somewhere on the eastern coast of the US that's home to Francesca Lia Block's Los Angeles is a town where six-foot-five drag queens play high-school football, kindergarten teachers write comments like "Definitely gay and has a very good sense of self" on student report cards, quiz-bowl teams are as important as football teams, and cheerleaders ride Harleys. Paul and his friends go to high school in this town. Paul meets Noah, falls for him, does something dumb, and loses him. The last half of the story is about Paul working to get Noah back. Paul narrates his own story, and he talks and thinks like teens wish they did, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her Scooby squad. Paul learns that love is still scary when boy meets boy even if it's as accepted as mom's apple pie. With wry humor, wickedly quirky and yet real characters, and real situations, this is a must for any library serving teens. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Now away we go
9 p.m. on a November Saturday. Joni, Tony, and I are out on the town. Tony is from the next town over and he needs to get out. His parents are extremely religious. It doesn't even matter which religion-they're all the same at a certain point, and few of them want a gay boy cruising around with his friends on a Saturday night. So every week Tony feeds us bible stories, then on Saturday we show up at his doorstep well versed in parables and earnestness, dazzling his parents with our blinding purity. They slip him a twenty and tell him to enjoy our study group. We go spend the money on romantic comedies, dimestore toys, and diner jukeboxes. Our happiness is the closest we'll ever come to a generous God, so we figure Tony's parents would understand, if only they weren't set on misunderstanding so many things.
Tony has to be home by midnight, so we are on a Cinderella mission. With this in mind, we keep our eye on the ball.
There isn't really a gay scene or a straight scene in our town. They got all mixed up a while back, which I think is for the best. Back when I was in second grade, the older gay kids who didn't flee to the city for entertainment would have to make their own fun. Now it's all good. Most of the straight guys try to sneak into the Queer Beer bar. Boys who love boys flirt with girls who love girls. And whether your heart is strictly ballroom or bluegrass punk, the dance floors are open to whatever you have to offer.
This is my town. I've lived here all my life.
Tonight, our Gaystafarian bud Zeke is gigging at the local chain bookstore. Joni has a driver's license from the state where her grandmother lives, so she drives us around in the family sedan. We roll down the windows and crank the radio-we like the idea of our music spilling out over the whole neighborhood, becoming part of the air. Tony has a desperate look tonight, so we let him control the dial. He switches to a Mope Folk station, and we ask him what's going on.
"I can't say," he tells us, and we know what he means. That nameless empty.
We try to cheer him up by treating him to a blue Slurp-Slurp at the local 24-7. We each take sips, to see whose tongue can get the bluest. Once Tony's sticking his tongue out with the rest of us, we know he's going to be okay.
Zeke's already jamming by the time we get to the highway bookstore. He's put his stage in the European History section, and every now and then he'll throw names like Hadrian and Copernicus into his mojo rap. The place is crowded. A little girl in the children's section puts the Velveteen Rabbit on her shoulders for a better view. Her moms are standing behind her, holding hands and nodding to Zeke's tune. The Gaystafarian crowd has planted itself in the Gardening section, while the three straight members of the guys' lacrosse team are ogling a bookstore clerk from Literature. She doesn't seem to mind. Her glasses are the color of licorice.
I move through the crowd with ease, sharing nods and smiling hellos. I love this scene, this floating reality. I am a solo flier looking out over the land of Boyfriends and Girlfriends. I am three notes in the middle of a song.
Joni grabs me and Tony, pulling us into Self-Help. There are a few monkish types already there, some of them trying to ignore the music and learn the Thirteen Ways to Be an Effective Person. I know Joni's brought us here because sometimes you just have to dance like a madman in the Self-Help section of your local bookstore. So we dance. Tony hesitates-he isn't much of a dancer. But as I've told him a million times, when it comes to true dancing, it doesn't matter what you look like-it's all about the joy you feel.
Zeke's jive is infectious. People are crooning and swooning into one another. You can see the books on the shelves in kaleidoscope form-spinning rows of colors, the passing blur of words.
I sway. I sing. I elevate. My friends are by my side, and Zeke is working the Huguenots into his melody. I spin around and knock a few books off the shelves. When the song is through, I bend to pick them up.
I grasp on the ground and come face to face with a cool pair of sneakers.
"This yours?" a voice above the sneakers asks.
I look up. And there he is.
His hair points in ten different directions. His eyes are a little close together, but man, are they green. There's a little birthmark on his neck, the shape of a comma.
I think he's wonderful.
He's holding a book out to me. Migraines Are Only in Your Mind.
I am aware of my breathing. I am aware of my heartbeat. I am aware that my shirt is half untucked. I take the book from him and say thanks. I put it back on the shelf. There's no way that Self-Help can help me now.
"Do you know Zeke?" I ask, nodding to the stand.
"No," the boy answers. "I just came for a book."
He shakes my hand. I am touching his hand.
I can feel Joni and Tony keeping their curious distance.
"Do you know Zeke?" Noah asks. "His tunes are magnificent."
I roll the word in my head-magnificent. It's like a gift to hear.
"Yeah, we go to school together," I say casually.
"The high school?"
"That's the one." I'm looking down. He has perfect hands.
"I go there, too."
"You do?" I can't believe I've never seen him before. If I'd seen him before, it would have damn well registered.
"Two weeks now. Are you a senior?"
I look down at my Keds. "I'm a sophomore."
Now I fear he's humoring me. There's nothing cool about being a sophomore. Even a new kid would know that.
From the Hardcover edition.