Friday, July 11, 2008

What a Wonderful World: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

PhotobucketTrust me, I hate overuse of the word "quirky" as much as you do.

But if any book is, it's Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. Quirky and whimsical and refreshing normal yes distinctly odd in the best way. Paul lives in Gaytopia, New Jersey, and he's your typical teenager. He's architecting the Dowager Dance on a teeny budget and lack of volunteers to dance with the Dowager's portrait, his big brother gives him grief, and he's stuck in a love triangle with the boy he loved and lost and the gentle, artsy new kid in town. Unlike your typical queer love story, the rest of the town doesn't care much--in their society, being gay is okay and everything's skewed a little bit beautifully eccentric:

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 colour of licorice.

Teenagerdom's not easy, even in a gaytopia where the Joy Scouts practice guitar in the park, the cemetary markers have memory books and trinket boxes to celebrate the lives of the deceased, and painting abstract masterpieces to a jazz soundtrack is an acceptable first date. Paul kisses the wrong boy, gets a friend in serious trouble with his less-than-tolerant parents, and almost loses his best friend over her poor taste in men. Unlike a lot of YA, the book never becomes mired in its own drama; Paul and his friends--gasp!--actually communicate, and come up with some pretty ingenious solutions to their assorted woes. I would like my future lovers to take notes from this title on the proper way to beg forgiveness:

On the first day, I give him flowers and time.
The night before, I unlock my closet of origami paper--over a thousand sheets of bright square color. I turn them all into flowers. Every single one...

On the second day, I give him words and definitions...I decide to look randomly through the dictionary to find other unique words...After I jot down the words--a hundred in all--I rewrite them nicely on a long scroll, under the heading

Words to Find and Know in this World

Levithan has an incredible way with words--every word, every sentence has meaning. If it sometimes feels if the message is overpowering the story, I can forgive it for being such an inspirational one:

I have seen men holding hands walking down the street in a big city and I have read about women being married in a state that's not so far away. I have found a boy I just might love, and I have not run away. I believe that I can be anyone I might want to be.

It is, as I said, a victory. It might not last, but right now it means everything to me.

David Levithan's website
*Interviews: Teen Book Review, Achuka (especially good!), (rest of the site is variably NSFW, browse at your own risk)

Want more? Worth the Trip is my favorite blog for GLBTQ-and-then-some lit.
*Speaking of painting the music...
*How-to's for origami paper flowers, in case you need to do a little groveling
*The International House of Logerrhea can help you make your own list of words to find and know


Clicky Web Analytics