Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (co-author of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) is not a work of speculative fiction. Or so I thought until I turned the first page.
Nothing in Boy Meets Boy defies the laws of physics. The novel doesn’t feature any technological advances beyond cell phones and instant messaging. It’s not just a clever title, it’s also a handy plot summary: Paul is a high school sophomore who falls for Noah, the charismatic boy who’s new in town. Paul pursues Noah while navigating the complexities of friendships, ex-boyfriends, and high school life.
And yet as I began reading Boy Meets Boy, I got the strange feeling I was reading fantasy. Maybe because Paul’s high school is not quite like any high school I know. The star quarterback of the football team, Infinite Darlene, is also the homecoming queen; she has trouble getting along with the other drag queens in school because they feel she doesn’t care for her nails properly. Paul’s kindergarten teacher helped him understand that he was gay, and when he came home to tell his mother, her reaction was to yell to his father, “Honey … Paul’s learned a new word!” Paul helped found a gay-straight alliance in the sixth grade, mainly to help the straight kids with their fashion sense and dance moves.
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.