While I'm not sure I'm ready to come out to my kids or at work, after the last post I realized the type of person reading this blog is less likely to be the ward busybody and more likely to be someone open to a gaymobro married with kids. So if they happen to discover my identity... well that's probably ok. Why not include more personal details?
One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to read more, write more, and watch less. (The only new TV show I've added to my regular watching rotation is The Flash. I admit I enjoy a good superhero story and for a CW show it has surprisingly little soap opera. Plus it doesn't hurt that Grant Gustin is easy on the eyes... and can sing.)
So over the past two months I've read more fiction than I had in the previous 12. I tend to gravitate to young adult fiction. It's because my wife likes YA so she got me started with John Green's An Abundance of Katherines. I also enjoy the first person voice typical of YA fiction. At the end of the day, fiction is all about getting to know a new character. First person often (not always) helps me get inside the character's head.
In an attempt to find books with strong teenage male voices, without even meaning to, I ended up reading back-to-back a couple of gay-themed novels including Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
Before I complain about Aristotle let me first solicit recommendations. What are you reading that you recommend: gay, straight, YA, grown-up, chicklit, whatever?
Now, after a big ole SPOILER ALERT, on to my complaints:
In Aristotle, Ari (short for the philosopher) meets Dante at the pool one summer day and the boys become fast friends. I loved the first half of the book. The two boys have distinct characters and their friendship reads genuine. I'm a sucker for friendship tales.
I was fine with Dante coming out. That was about as obvious as an electric billboard in Times Square. I appreciated the fact that Ari was OK with this, even though he was not necessarily gay. He did institute a "No kissing" rule though. As a gay teenager who wouldn't want a strong friend willing to stand by you whatever?
(One last spoiler alert. If there is the slightest chance you might read this book, stop reading this post now.)
My biggest issue with the book? In the end, everything revolved around homosexuality. Every subplot somehow tied into it. Besides Dante's outness, there were disowned lesbians and not one but two hate crimes. Then the last chapter had Ari's parents sitting him down and telling him that he was gay. He didn't figure it out for himself. His parents had to give him a beer and break it to him. "Son, given your behaviors x, y, and zed, don't you think you are gay?" And just like that, Ari realizes and embraces his new sexual identity.
I'm all for books that help gay teens see themselves and know that they are OK. And who wouldn't want parents as understanding and compassionate as Ari's? But a book that ties everything together using homosexuality is not healthy. Sure, being gay is going to affect many factors in a teenager's life, but it's not the only thing that happens. Gay teens need to see that life's joys and heartaches are influenced by factors other than one's sexuality.
In my opinion, the book would have been better without Ari's outing. Why not let him just be Dante's fiercest advocate and forever friend? Or just end the book without Ari making up his mind whether he is gay or straight? And if you must have your protagonist realize he's gay, at least spend a few chapters (instead of a few measly pages) with him coming to terms with his sexuality.
In short, it started out with so much potential...