Finished Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan last night at like 4 am. It was completely unlike any other book I’ve ever read, and that’s something I almost never say. It’s a gay-themed young adult novel about Paul, a high school sophomore who meets Noah, the new boy in town, and instantly falls for him. The book is completely mimetic (i.e., no aliens, no elves, nothing outside present-day consensual reality), and yet it has the feel of a fantasy, because Paul’s high school is unlike any real high school in the U.S. (with the possible exceptions of the Harvey Milk school and maybe a couple places in the Bay Area). The homecoming queen is Infinite Darlene, a transgender student who is also the quarterback for the football team. Paul’s elementary school teacher helped him figure out that he was gay. With telling details, Levithan creates a world where everyone accepts everyone else for who they are – and that’s a speculative element for a story if ever I’ve heard one.
I read much of this book on the subway, with a giant smile plastered on my face because it was such a joy to read. At times I tried to hold back the smile a bit, tone it down a notch, because I was starting to worry I looked like a non-New Yorker It’s an incredible vicarious joy to read about a world where a high school boy can worry about his dating life instead of about being called a faggot every time he turns around a corner. Of course, the only problem is that Levithans’s imagined homophobia-free town is so perfect that sometimes things seem a bit too easy for our protagonist, especially in the first half of the book. But Levithan was smart enough to see that problem, and actually uses it to add another layer of complexity to the story as it builds, with a little bit of a clash between Paul’s fantastic hometown and the harsher world beyond. He draws the story to a moving close.
Those are my initial thoughts. I feel an entire column coming on about this one, about the ways this novel is almost a part of the fantasy genre despite the lack of anything overtly fantastic.