Title: Boy Meets Boy
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf, 2003
Where I got it: The library of course! On audio no less.
Paul is a high school sophomore who lives in an idealized town where everyone is accepted for who they are, unconditionally. It is a place where you can love who you want to without having to deal with the grief or social stigmas that go along with them—gay and lesbian couples abound, and there are more than a couple transgendered people, including football star Infinite Darlene. Set in such a fantastical place, Boy Meets Boy is largely Paul's story of meeting a boy and falling for that boy, with normal high school situations and hijinks mixed in and none of the issues that are found in the usual LGBTQ literature for teens.
This was a sweet story of love, though not first love—both Paul and Noah (his love interest) have had relationships in the past, and have been hurt badly by them. They approach this new relationship with caution, and of course there are the usual wacky misunderstandings and bad decisions that lead to drama. It is a pretty straightforward love story, with nothing really out of the ordinary besides the incredible setting.
Most of the characters were wholly believable (again, putting aside the unbelievability of where they live and the lives they lead). It was easy to see why they acted the way they did, and why they come to some of their conclusions even if they are not thinking through everything clearly (but then again, how many teenagers do?). My absolute favorite was Infinite Darlene—what a vivacious and lively woman! Listening to the full-cast audio was wonderful, especially in her case. The actor was spot-on, with just a slight Southern accent and deep and sort of sexy voice. I always enjoyed the scenes with Infinite Darlene and looked forward to them.
My complaints lie with the story itself. Though Levithan creates a lovely world where everything seems to be coming up roses, I felt bored with a lot of what was going on. It wasn't a story I hadn't heard before—boy meets boy, boy falls for boy, boy loses boy, boy has to get boy back. Ho-hum. Nothing too crazy, with the exception of Infinite Darlene and her over-the-top and indulgent drama.
Another huge issue I had was the treatment of religion. I understand that many Christians vilify the LGBTQ community, but not all of us do. The way Levithan puts it in the book, all religion (but especially Christianity) has no place in this supposedly ideal community. I found it very hard to believe that not one of those families living in Paul's town had any religious background or practices at all. Religion was the enemy for this community. I am sad that it can't have a positive role in a place that many see as utopic—Levithan didn't really make any attempt to include it in his world, except when it is used to show how unaccepting it is.
Though the community is one to wish for in some ways, Levithan missed a few key points in creating this world, and gave us an ultimately boring story of puppy love. However, he did manage to keep me interested with some of the characters and in waiting to see what else this place had in store.
Note on the audio: This was a full-cast production, so each character had a different actor. I thought they were all chosen very well, especially Infinite Darlene, though some of the girls sounded really similar. It also included a lively and fitting piano score that enriched the experience, plus interviews with some of the actors after the book was over. I give the audio performance 4 out of 5 stars.