As I already know and have been learning in my young adult and children’s literature class, it’s important for developing kids to have fictional characters they can identify with. This is hugely important for queer kids—it’s why I’m not happy with Glee, with its legions of teenage fans, for dismissing the possibility of bisexuality last week. I’m sure I would have sorted out things earlier had I encountered a fellow asexual in fiction. Today, we’re going to look at two books concerning queer characters—one that’s sadly realistic, and one that presents something a bit brighter.
What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl?Popular Claire McKenzie isn’t up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she decides to befriend the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani’s arrival, tragedy strikes, and Claire is left questioning herself, her friendships, and, most interesting of all, the possibility that angels may exist on earth.
For some reason, I was convinced the title of this book was, in fact, What Happened to Lani Garner. Once I realized it was What Happened to Lani Garver, though, it felt much darker than the mistaken title. And it’s definitely dark; I think we know how the story of a potentially angelic androgyne might end. But the intersection between androgyny and angels fascinates me.
The Black Sheep at One Black Sheep reviewed this last year; they found it an interesting examination of labels and why we continue to impose them on those who reject them. While they found the writing a little simplistic and repetitive, the characterization was quite good. Lawral at lucy was robbed found it “hauntingly good“, although she didn’t like the mythology of the angels.
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.
I’m in love with David Levithan’s writing. I’ve only read one short story of his so far—”Quiz Bowl Antichrist”, as collected in Geektastic—but it was hilarious, hopeful, and achingly human. And this sounds great; I can’t wait to meet Infinite Darlene. The title does remind me of the webcomic of the same name that I adored in middle school, but then again, it’s not a very creative one. Still, I want to read this so very bad.
Amanda at the Zen Leaf loved it, especially the fact that this book is about these characters, not these queer characters—they are who they are. (And, naturally, she loved the writing.) Darren at Bart’s Bookshelf enjoyed the setting—a place where you can be who you are without fear of retribution—and found the examination of who we are under the labels fascinating.
Boy Meets Boy was published September 1, 2003.