Reviewed by Kate Plager
There’s a limited number of classic tropes featured in most works of adolescent realistic fiction. Drama about who will be named homecoming queen, parents’ pressure about college decisions, nervous and awkward first dates with a boy you have a crush on, trying to find your place in a high school run by football players and cheerleaders, desperate attempts to be ‘cool’ no matter what: all these are also major themes in Boy Meets Boy. However, what makes this novel special is that these teen dramas take place in a town where being gender fluid is not at all controversial. The homecoming queen is transgender as well as the starting quarterback. The ‘boy scout’ troop has rebranded as the ‘joy scouts’ in order to accept everyone into their group. And the protagonist Paul has been openly gay since kindergarten and is loved and accepted by all.
While there is one set of parents, from the neighboring town, who represent religious homophobia, their prejudice is not the main source of conflict in the story. In this queer utopia, ‘regular teenage drama’ continues to ensue.What makes Boy Meets Boy such an important novel for the classroom is that it presents young adults who have complex yet normal lives that are not defined by gender or sexuality. The story emphasizes the common struggles of growing up a teen, whether you’re queer or straight. Therefore, although the content of the novel may seem trivial, its work to normalize the mainstream perspective of queer adolescent is anything but.
Boy Meets Boy
By David Levithan
Random House, 2003
Kate Plager is an English teacher at an alternative High School in the Twin Cities. She’s been teaching English for five years and three of those were in Doha, Qatar. She is obtaining her masters in Youth Development Leadership at the University of Minnesota.