Thursday, May 7, 2009

He Said, She Said- Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan


Welcome to He Said, She Said, a feature for GuysLitWire in which a guy (Book Chic, a recent college graduate) and a gal (Little Willow, a bookseller) discuss books that will appeal to both genders.

Little Willow: Last month, when I posted about the many works of David Levithan at GuysLitWire & Bildungsroman, I described his first novel, Boy Meets Boy, as such:

What if someone's orientation was a non-issue? If people honestly, truly accepted gay and straight (and questioning) without question, and recognized love as love? Boy Meets Boy is a romantic comedy for ANYONE, but especially for teen boys who might be shy (or curious) about their orientation, and especially for librarians, teachers, and booksellers who support GLBTQ rights and wish more places would do so without blinking an eye.

Today, Little Willow and Book Chic will be discussing a few aspects of Levithan's novel Boy Meets Boy.

What stereotypes or myths did Levithan completely bust?

BC: Quite a few. He seemed to set out to break tradition and stereotypes and think outside the box when it came to these characters and this school.

LW: I think he busts through a lot from page one, when he (through the eyes of Paul, the first-person narrator) describes the town where the story takes place: "There isn't really a gay scene or a straight scene in our town. They got all mixed up a while back, which I think is for the best." Paul describes the background of their city a little more, closing with, "This is my town. I've lived here all my life."

BC: I particularly enjoyed the cheerleaders on motorcycles bit. I also thought it was great to have a drag (and Homecoming) queen be the school's quarterback, as it shows that not all gay or transvestite people are sports-hating and effeminate. Although Darlene is effeminate, in the book, Paul states that she's all business on the field and will do the best she can and not worry about breaking a nail or anything. It was great seeing someone like that who can be both.

LW: I definitely think it's possible to be strong and sweet at the same time, no matter what your gender or race or orientation. Not only is it possible, but it's OKAY. Don't think you shouldn't be a dancer because you're a guy, or you shouldn't be a weightlifter because you're a girl. Stereotypes drive me insane. BREAK THE STEREOTYPES. Girls can play football. Guys can be cheerleaders. Women can be leaders. Men can raise children. Anyone can be anything. There's so much out there to see and hear, so many things to learn about and pursue - Why limit yourself because you think girls or boys should or shouldn't have a certain hobby or a certain kind of job? Realize your potential, and do what makes you happy.

Do you think the school was idyllic? Utopic? Both? Neither? Was it realistic?

LW: I loved that it was what it was. Gender and orientation were non-issues, for the most part, and people were who they were - with typical high school insecurities and worries, of course.

BC: I really think the school was utopic, and it's a fascinating world to be reading about - a world of acceptance and diversity where it seems like everyone can just be themselves, whatever that may be. It's interesting also to see it in a high school when that's usually the time for the most confusion about who you are and what you want to be. I loved reading how Levithan wrote this school and it shows such a great example of what high school should be like.

LW: I agree. So much changes for kids during middle school and high school as they attempt to figure out who they are while trying to fit in (or rebelling against such things!) Do you think that if the focus were on a straight couple, the school would have just seemed like an everyday school - albeit a good one, meaning a nice environment - rather than a utopia? I wish that the majority of humankind were more accepting and open, that people didn't just claim to tolerate others but truly accepted them, rather than judge them or hate them or worse.

BC: As the school is utopic, in my opinion, and utopia is impossible to achieve, I don't think it's realistic. At least not completely. I don't feel like this level of acceptance and diversity would ever happen. I hope that acceptance of GLBT people, other cultures, etc. in our world will continue to grow, but I don't think it would reach that level, even in just one town.

Paul meets Noah in the self-help section of a bookstore. Discuss.

LW: It makes me think of song lyrics, actually. On page 3 of Boy Meets Boy, it says: "I know Joni's brought us here because sometimes you just have to dance like a madman in the Self-Help section of your local bookstore." Duncan Sheik sings about "the Self-Help section of my local bookstore" in his song Bite Your Tongue. The phrases were so similar that I couldn't help but sing along in my head!

BC: I thought this was really interesting as both definitely needed some help since they'd both had had horrible breakups prior to meeting each other. It's like meeting each other and dating helped them to get past their breakup and see that love is possible and how amazing it can be. It was a very clever way of having them meet, I thought.

To conclude this post, I (Book Chic) wanted to chat a little bit about what this book means to me. This was probably one of the first, if not the first, gay book I read. Now, by the time I did this, I was just barely out of high school and hadn't really had much contact with the GLBT world. This book gave me hope for myself romantically and emotionally as a homosexual (and still does, as I'm single). I hadn't met any other openly gay people and this book transported me to a place where people could be themselves completely with no shame whatsoever and no need to hide their orientations. Therefore, there were quite a few openly gay people in this world that Levithan built and it was interesting to see them all interacting; it made me realize that I wasn't alone in this. It was a fantastic experience for me at the time and still is, having re-read it again for this post. This is one of the books that I would recommend to anybody, gay or straight, and will always be on my favorites list.

Hope to hear from some of you readers out there what you all thought about this book if you've read it! See you next time!

Previously on He Said, She Said:
Play Me by Laura Ruby
Poison Ink by Christopher Golden
Soulless by Christopher Golden
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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4 comments :

tanita davis said...

LOVE this book! I hold it in my head as a "hope to get there someday" type of writing.

Little Willow said...

Tanita: *grin*

Richard said...
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Liviania said...

This is the only one by David Levithan I haven't read yet. I really should.

The description of the high school reminds me of something that really shocked me in my freshman year.

So I'm walking along with one of the seniors on the line to where we were practicing, and we stop to say hello to some people, who include an openly gay guy. After we turn the corner, she tells another person, "People like that will burn in hell." I'm still kind of annoyed I didn't say anything, but I was surprised she said it and not in much of a position to argue. It would be nice to go to a school where things like that don't happen.