I wanted something light and easy to read this time around, so I thought Jack Harbon’s ‘Meet Cute Club’ fit that bill. The title alludes to the weekly book club that main character Jordan holds in his house, basically a discussion book of romance novels. He meets Rex, who works at the local book store, and, well, you can probably can tell what happens next. If you want something warm and familiar, go for this, but do not expect depth. It’s cute, and with everything that is happening in the world right now, that could be refreshing.
P.S. I would be surprised if a man wrote this,
We have all had summers that changed our lives, and that is the premise of Karen Hattrup’s ‘Frannie and Tru.’ It’s the summer before Frannie has to change schools because of an economic downgrade in her family, and she finds out her cousin Tru, is arriving from Connecticut. She overhears her parents say that it is because he just came out to his parents and is being shipped to his family so things can cool down. (I mean, what do you expect when you name your child Truman?)
Tru’s character is meant to be complex, and does complicated things but I never thought the character was truly fleshed out as well as Frannie, who is fascinating on her own. And the plot was slow to come, with not enough character study to fill up the space between. There are flashes of great here, but it was slow coming.
Michael Barakiva’s ‘One Man Guy’ is the story of Alek Khederian, a fourteen year old boy in suburban New Jersey of Armenian descent. He has an overbearing mother, and this book is a story of a certain summer when he had to go to school to make up for his grades preventing him to be in the Honors program. It is also the summer he meets Ethan and falls in love. We have all had these ‘transitional’ summers that changed our lives. Barakiva sets the premise nicely, but I couldn’t feel but feel a little disappointed. While I am sure a lot od what is in the book is inspired by life events, it felt a little too trapped in sitcom-type situations. Sure, I appreciated a lot of Armenian history stories that is in the book, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more fully-developed characters. And I don’t really get the title – is it alluding to fidelity or to the fact that it is his first romance? I liked certain elements of the book and related to it. For example, I too, fund a lot about myself getting lost in the streets of New York City, and for sure, it is good to read about another Armenian family with last names starting with K. I just wished the book dug deeper.
Do our labels define us? That’s a question Bill Konigsberg’s book ‘Openly Straight’ asks us. It is the story of Rafe who moves from Colorado to a New England all-boys boarding school wanting to start fresh. He has been the famously gay guy in his school and wants to be that guy who is just a guy, not defined by what label is attached to him. In the beginning, this really works out for him at Natick, his new school. But then, he falls in love, and that complicates matters, as you can just imagine.
Halfway through the book, I kept on shouting at Rafe’s character, no, no don’t go there, I have been there – you cannot fall in love without someone not gay. But of course, sexuality is really fluid, and Ben, his ‘best friend’ in his new school seem to be as confused about his orientation as well. I fell in love with the characters int his book, and found myself affected, and I may have even shed a tear or two. Very rarely do I get very emotionally involved in characters nowadays, but the ones here left a hole in my heart.
I started reading Kathryn Shay’s ‘A Perfect Family’ without knowing anything more about besides the fact that it is a story of a teenage boy coming out and how it affects his family. Apparently, this story is based on Shay’s life story, about her own child’s coming out process and how it almost tore her family apart. I can’t really bash the book as it has all the best intentions but I wish it was just…more interesting. To me, it reads more like writings from therapy sessions, and of course stories like these need to be told and if it reaches one bigot mind and changes it, then it’s existence is already warranted. That said, I like that the book points out a lot of the Catholic Church’s hypocritical policies – I didn’t know that the church advocates conversion therapy practices for gays, for example, and that is one of the most dangerous things you can do for a gayling. There are some lessons learned here, and they are worth learning.
Look at what the world has come to: we now get Young Adult noels about little kids who want to grow up to be drag queens. I guess if the millennials are the ‘Will and Grace’ generation, then the next generation will be the ones growing up to ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race?’ Jeffrey Self’s ‘Drag Teen’ is an empowering novel to young gaylings who are looking for their identity in the world, and that is the biggest praise I can give this book. But I have to be honest – I am probably too old and too cynical for this. I thought the thin plot was straining, the characters obnoxious, and the humour a little of the trying-hard variety. I thought a lot of the plot seems inauthentic, not to mention most of the surrounding characters. But I am not the target market for this novel, and I am sure a lot of people will enjoy it. And hello, the idea itself of the book is fabulous with a capital F, and I won’t dare knock that.
I wanted to read “The Great American Whatever” by Tim Federle as soon as I ssaw it was available as I had enjpoyed his ‘Nate’ book series. It’s very hard nowadays to find young gay novelists that I like, and I wanted to support him. I enjoyed this book a lot, and I was skeptical at first, because I don’t know if I could still identify with the youth of today. I mean, the characters here are not even millennials – they are 9/11 babies. But I needn’t worry. Federle’s main character here, Quinn, is identifiable, lovable, and real. He is sixteen going on seventeen (He has a birthday in the course of the story) and his sister/bestfriend/ally passed away six months ago in an automobile accident. He has been wallowing, but his best friend, Geoff, has had enough, and wants hi to snap put of his funk. And so he takes baby steps into rebuilding his life, and by the end gets a little farther away from what he was before. This is one of those page-turners that I didn’t want to end. As a matter of fact, as I read it on my Kindle, I got more and more depressed as I look at the remaining percentage left in the book. And as much as I liked Quinn, I liked is friend Geoff just as much. I felt their friendship was genuine, and their affection for each other touching. This didn’t feel like a coming-of-age, perhaps a coming of a quarter age? But it’s a story that drew me in, and is immensely readable.
It took me almost a week to finish John Inman’s “Hobbled.” You know what that means? It was boring. This is supposed to be a comic, romantic, mystery book, but it failed on all three counts. I could hardly recall a funny moment, and the romance seemed forced, and the mystery part? It started around the halfway point if the book and by that time I was already disengaged. I almost did not finish this book, but I kept on hoping against hope that it would pick up, or something in it would catch my fancy, but unfortunately, nada. I am just glad ot be over this now so I can move on to my next book as this one made me felt trapped. I am running behind my reading goal as it is.
A story about a showtune obsessed high schooler doing “Into The Woods” seemed like a good premise for a story. But unfortunately, Linas Alsenas’ “Beyond Clueless” didn’t live up to its promise. Marty Sullivan is a young lady who just got cast as The Little Red Riding Hood in her high schoo production of ‘Into The Woods,” and she has a new crush, a dark haired boy named Felix (he plays Prince Charming) and she also has a gay best friend, Jimmy, although they have been separated because Marty now goes to an all-girls Catholic school. My main problem is that Marty isn’t likable enough for me to care about her, and I thought that there wasn’t enough wit here for it to be funny. By the time something happens (the action is slow) the book was already about 75% in on my Kindle, and I was just going through the motions for it to finish. This is a disappointment.
I read a headline the other day that says that Garth Greenwell’s “What Belongs To You” is the best new gay novel. I have to disagree – I found the book to be one of the best novels of this generation, never mind gay. It is one of those books that after reading, you want to read over again. As a matter of fact, since I read the Kindle version, this is a book I would want to physically own, a first edition, so I could proudly display it on my shelf (Do people still do that? I know I do) It’s been an hour or so since I read the last word from the book, and it’s been a haunted hour for me – the characters have lingered with me, and I am desperate to find out what happened to them, specifically the narrator – an American teacher in Bulgaria, and Mitka, the hustler he meets at the Sofia’s National Palace Of Culture. Their lives become intertwined after, and in my mind they will forever be. Some people may looj at this as a story of unrequited love, but I think otherwise. This is as deep love gets for two people, but the only thing we have to understand is that these two people give the most love that they can give to one another. We can look at it as uneven, but it’s not. One may no”Ct be able to give you the love you expect them to give you, but if they are giving it to you the best they know how and can, then it’s the best love in the world. Greenwell’s words are lyrical and poetic that I find myself reading and re-reading the sentences, as if I want to cling to them. He writes these very long paragraphs with thoughts coming out almost in a stream of consciousness style, rat-tat-tat like a machine gun, emotions bursting, words breathless coming from the heart in the middle of passion. The third act was devastating I found myself so attached that I felt palpitations. This is a book for someone who already understands life, and it mirrors things you have gone through, especially if you are a gay man. Quite possibly the best gay novel I have read since Andre Aciman’s ‘Call Me By Your Name.” Five Glittering Stars.