In Gaytopia

By Marie Lee ’86 / May / June 2004
June 15th, 2007
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan ’94 (Random House).

The small town where Paul, the protagonist of David Levithan’s young adult novel, lives is as American as apple pie, if a bit Mayberry-sleepy. And, Paul notes, “there isn’t really a gay scene or a straight scene. They got all mixed up a while back, which I think is for the best.”

This coming-of-age story would be completely conventional if it weren’t set in a high school gaytopia where the star quarterback is also the homecoming “queen,” the cheerleaders eschew pom-poms for Harleys, and the school gathers enthusiastically for the Homecoming Pride Rally.

Paul has known he is gay since he was five (his kindergarten teacher: “Paul is definitely gay and has a very good sense of self”), but, in a new twist for young adult literature, this is not a problem; it’s just part of who Paul is. After all, this is a town that jettisoned the Boy Scouts in favor of the Joy Scouts.

In a book where gay culture is at least equal to mainstream straight culture, even the most hackneyed teen-romance plot becomes subversive. And in truth, nothing particularly dramatic happens in Boy Meets Boy: Paul meets Noah, the new kid in town, and falls head-over-heels. But Noah catches Paul sympathy-kissing an ex-boyfriend. So Paul loses Noah. To complicate things slightly, Paul’s best friend Joni is dating a jerk whom everyone in their circle of friends despises.

Things work out well, of course. While planning a school dance, Paul and Noah are reunited, and the friends manage to make Joni aware of her boyfriend’s boorish and controlling behavior. No surprises, but I found myself growing a bit teary, especially at a scene in which the gang helps another gay friend—one who lives in a less-tolerant town—stand up to his ultrareligious parents.

What astonishes is that Levithan has created an utterly believable world in which life for a gay teen can be nurturing, honest—even fun. In its lyrical lightness, Boy Meets Boy brings into exquisite focus the soul-killing prejudice outside this gaytopia, in what’s known as real life.

Marie Lee is the author of Finding My Voice.
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May / June 2004