My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There's something about stories like this that just make me cry from sheer pride and happiness. I love when people are who they are, and when they're willing to fight to be happy and not live in someone else's world, but make their own if that's what it takes. It's the opposite of the gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, hollow-me-out-and-leave-me-weeping stories that I love. These fill me up with such pride I just want to SQUEE! all over the place, but end up always getting something in my eye instead... So, I loved this one. This is a celebration and examination of so many things... What it is to be gay, what it is to be a teenager, what it is to be in an unhealthy relationship, what it is to love, what it is to be something other than what is expected of us, what it is to be brave and stand up for what's right, what it is to be a friend... Gosh there is so much in this little book, I don't know how Levithan fit it all in. Maybe he writes really small. I loved this community. Everyone, well, MOSTLY everyone, is so unbelievably accepting and quirky and fun. It's like Perfect Small Town Community, Exhibit A. There's the park with a lake with paddleboats with names and personalities; there's the I Scream Parlor, which serves up horrifying ice-cream concoctions while playing horror movies; there's the music shop run by a couple with polar opposite taste, and the shop reflects that by being split down the middle; there's the movie rental place run by the guy who won't rent to anyone he doesn't know, won't help people find anything, and categorizes based on his own personal thoughts about the movies... and VHS format only. The football team quarterback and the Homecoming Queen is the same person, a drag queen called Infinite Darlene, and our main character's kindergarten teacher outed him for being gay on a progress report and nobody thought this was strange at all. I loved the community, but at the same time, I couldn't help but be a little distracted by the unrealistic perfection of it all. If the world were really like that, it would be amazing. Unfortunately, it's not, so the paragon of acceptance shown here comes off feeling a little cartoonish, a little too-good-to-be-true. This, and one unresolved issue, are the reasons why I can't give this 5 stars. The next town over, where Tony lives, is much more realistic, and this is where most of the stuff got in my eyes and made them water a lot. Tony's parents are of the religious variety, and aren't exactly accepting of their son's preference for boys. Seeing Tony struggle with the two aspects of his life, his parents and his heart, was hard for me. Paul's friendship with Tony was invaluable here. He provided the support that Tony needed to cope with these two warring forces in his life. There were some amazing lines in this little gem of a book. So many quotables that just stand out and shine. I'm surprised that this book doesn't glitter like Edward Cullen on a sunny day. (Actually, this is a library book, and there's something spilled on the back of it, and it seems like it's the image of a Sasquatch. He seems friendly though, from his stance.) Anyway, right. I could kind of quote this whole book, but then it would be plagiarism and that's not cool. But here's one of my favorite sections in the book:
"The first time I met you," he says, not directly to me, not directly to the floor -- somewhere in between, "I honestly couldn't believe that someone like you could exist, or even a town like yours could entirely exist. I thought I understood things. I thought I would get up every morning with a secret and go to sleep every night with the same secret. I thought my life would start only when I was out of here. I felt that I had learned something about myself too soon, and that there was nothing I could do to undo the truth. And I wanted to undo it, Paul. I wanted to so bad. Then I met you in the city and on the train, and suddenly it was like this door had been opened. I saw I couldn't live like I'd been living, because now there was another way to do it. And part of me loved that. And part of me still hates it. Part of me -- this dark, scared part of me -- wishes I never knew how it could be. I don't have the courage that you do."It's kind of heartbreaking, right? Beautiful though. I really loved this book for everything that it is. On the surface, it's just this happy little boy meets boy book, a little whimsical, and fun, but underneath, it's so much more. I highly recommend it.
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