I have two books to talk about today, see if you can catch the theme. *grin*
First up is My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr.
The narrator is Ellen, a 14-year-old girl who is hopelessly devoted to her older brother Link and hopelessly in love with his best friend James. One day a classmate asks her if Link and James are a couple. The thought had never occurred to her before, so she asks them. James thinks they are, and wants to be, but Link maintains that he isn’t gay. They “break up” (for lack of a more appropriate word), Ellen and James stay close, sort of each using the other as a substitute for Link in their lives, but in very different ways.
I really love this story for many reasons. For one thing, it’s about being gay, but told from a straight character’s perspective. At one point, she thinks about what it is that makes someone gay. Is it being in love? Having sex? Saying the words? Nothing at all? Everything all at once? It may be un-PC to admit, but I’ve had that conversation with myself before. And I like that the narrator came to the same conclusion I did – basically that there’s no answer. I think it’s a really REAL portrayal of figuring the topic out, from someone who it doesn’t apply to.
I also really like when Ellen wonders how her father, a man she respects endlessly, and who is very intelligent, can possibly be so ignorant and close-minded about this topic. Y’all? I have been there and done that. And like Ellen, I too was stunned to find out that my Dad wasn’t quite as dumb as he appeared to be.
This isn’t the most well-written story. Really, not that much happens. But the feelings and emotions are pretty realistic and I like the way the characters are developed. I like that so many of the main character’s thoughts could have been lifted directly out of my own head.
This book really is about defining love, and how that word means something different to every person. It also focuses very closely in identifying and defining oneself, which you all know is a fascinating topic for me.
The second book is The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd. This book is about Dade’s last summer between high school and college. He knows he’s gay, and he’s had the obligatory teen-novel sexual experiences with a high school boy who denies anything ever happened when they’re outside of bed. And although he routinely tells his ceiling fan that he IS gay, he has chosen to wait until he moves to come out to his parents, whose own marriage is falling apart.
This story is just sort of about life. Not much happens; Dade meets a guy, makes a friend, and works at his crappy job. He goes to parties and the mall and tries to make peace with how he feels about the aforementioned secret sexual partner who now no longer wants anything to do with Dade at all. And then of course, it all comes to a head at once and has to be dealt with. This book also has a ton of very, very casual drug use by teenagers, which kind of makes me feel sick, to be honest. I wish the author had skipped that.
But what I love about this book is the characters. They are rich and complex, honest and flawed. I really felt invested and like I knew them. I WANTED for them, you know?
Also? I looooove the descriptions of kissing. NGH! This book isn't really about sex, but I felt lightheaded reading it, all the same. The author just captures that intimate, swoopy-headed feeling that a really good kiss gives you, and I love that.
So, read! Enjoy! Come back and tell me what you think!