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Review - Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

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Reviewed by Nick Nurse

A Book Worth Reading: Boy Meets Boy

This is a novel that the author, David Levithan, cheerfully describes as a ?dippy happy gay teen book,? and while that much may in fact be true, Boy Meets Boy is far more than just that. ?

There is an old adage that cautions readers against judging a book by its cover. ?Yet in this case, if one flips to the back jacket cover, one sees the most clever ?Author's Bio? in recent memory: while short on actual information, it cheekily informs the reader on many things that our Author has never done. ?It's apparent from the get-go that this is Something Different, and that sense of uniqueness never goes away throughout the entirety of the novel.

It is this concept of uniqueness that is one of the central themes of Boy Meets Boy. ?The protagonist, Paul, is growing up in a singular American city: long ago, he says, the lines between straight and gay blurred in such a fashion that punks and skaters listen to ?queercore thrash,? the local chain bookstore holds concerts where Paul's ?Gaystafarian? friend Zeke performs, and the Boy Scouts, ousted after their rejection of gay scout leaders, have become the Joy Scouts. ?In this place where it seems just about anything could happen, Paul stumbles upon Noah, the new boy in town, and is near-instantly smitten in a pitch-perfect description of teenage romance. ?The rest of the book follows the trail of their relationship, from the nervous hellos in the hallways to quiet and moving dates about town to a dramatic falling-out and its aftermath. ?Without giving away the ending, it should be emphasized that this is a ?dippy happy? book, and it never really quite loses sight of that goal in the plot and themes.

What elevates Boy Meets Boy above the level of simple romance novel for teens and into something much greater than just that is both the earnestness of the author's vision and the cleverness with which he imparts that vision onto the reader. ?Boy Meets Boy takes an upbeat view of Paul's city, a little oasis of tolerance, while themes that normally bleed through the pages of gay-themed fiction (alienation, acceptance, the conflict of man versus society) are treated as backstory: Paul is seamlessly integrated into this gay/straight Utopia, and acceptance is as natural as breath. ?Instead, Boy Meets Boy takes the interaction between gays and straights one step further and envisions a future where cultural divisions are pass?: here, the American ideal of the melting pot is epitomized in Paul and his group of friends, a medley of gays and straights, all of whom live and love and, in doing so, are treated exactly the same. ?The brilliance of Levithan's vision is in the details: a careful read reveals a savvy writer concerned as much with the proper turn of phrase as with getting the overall structure right. ?Clever offhand references such as ?painting music? and the description of the people that populate Paul's nameless city cement the conviction that this is a writer with something to say and the panache to say it well. ??????

Oh, and did I mention that the novel is damn hysterical, too? ??

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