Top positive review
All he really wanted in the first place
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 14, 2006
Already honored as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, An ALA Quick Pick, A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and A Lambda Literary Award Winner, David Levithan's BOY MEETS BOY lives up to its reputation as a groundbreaking gay-themed novel for young adults. The tension created between the characters is top-notch, and the writing quality something after which every writer strives.
Paul has known he was gay since his Kindergarten teacher wrote it in his report card: "PAUL IS DEFINITELY GAY AND HAS A VERY GOOD SENSE OF SELF." Since then, his life hasn't been as difficult as it probably should have been. The town he lives in is supportive, his family loves him for who he is, and Joni (straight as a toothpick) and Tony (also gay--they're just friends) are his best friends forever. Joni's mom and dad are like a second set of parents to Paul, and he's practically got Joni's house memorized he's spent so much time there. Tony's life hasn't been easy. Because of his church-going parents, he's had to lie to them for years so he could sneak out to have any kind of fun. And fun they had.
Everything changes when Paul meets Noah, the new kid at school. Noah's parents don't know he's gay. From the moment Noah invites Paul into his private art studio, things heat up between the two of them. At the same time they're hitting it off, Paul's old boyfriend Kyle wants to get back together. Tony's trying to figure out how to tell his parents who he really is. And Infinite Darling, the drag queen quarterback and homecoming queen, can't seem to mind her own business because her friends are her business.
Unfortunately, the characters (Noah excluded) are largely one-dimensional. It's as though the kids attending this school are completely obsessed with and defined by their sexuality, while Noah's character is the only one with any depth to him. The rest of them seem only interested in figuring out their gender and sexual orientation, begging the question--"If these kids don't want people to define them by their sexuality, then why don't they define themselves by something else?" Chalk it up as a missed opportunity to have characters who happen to be gay, instead of gay characters.
That said, Paul's story is about love. About how "part of love is letting a person be who they want to be." How "if you want to be loved," you've got to "be lovable." It's about a kid who everyone else thinks has it all together, and the truth is that when compared to most kids like him, he probably does. Even still, he can't help but "want to feel like life matters," like the courage of his friends will somehow make a difference, like for once, he'll be able to have and to hold something real. Which is all he really wanted in the first place.
Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens