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Posted February 21, 2013
This is an unusual young adult novel focusing on gay subject mat
This is an unusual young adult novel focusing on gay subject matter. It is different from the norm, in that the story is told from the point of view of a straight teenage boy. The plot focuses on him coming to terms with having a gay brother, and learning to be friends with a gay boy working in his dad’s pet supply store. The book is set in the era of the Vietnam War, so American society is much less tolerant and informed about homosexuality. Much is explored about why people feel about gay men as they do, and what it means to “be a man.” The story seemed a bit simple when it began, but as it progressed, I really like the way feelings and perceptions were considered and analyzed. This novel has some important things to say. It might be helpful to any boy learning to accept gay family or friends.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel “To Be Chosen”
Posted September 11, 2011
Posted November 4, 2010
A touching account of coming of age in rural America during the Vietnam war.
A fact worth noting is this book is not about being a gay teenager. The main character, Paul, is straight and his own sexuality, it's never questioned. This is his journey toward tolerance of others' homosexuality.Paul faces a difficult relationship with his parents, increased by the guilty loving hating one with his dead brother, Christ. And the secret he took to his grave. A secret he confessed to Paul shortly before dying. Paul struggles with his memories, and the fact that being gay, makes Christ, not so perfect after all. Sadly, he cannot tell his parents, who worship Christ's memory. Ignoring how Paul languishes in the shadow of a brother who he will be never able to surpass. Paul's brief encounter with a prostitute gets him in trouble with the law, his father confines him at home, only allowing him to work at his pet supply store during the summer. Paul's duties include training JJ, the new employee, who seems nearly perfect and who is also gay. Paul is overjealous of JJ's qualities, and the admiration his own father has for him. Eventually, an unexpected friendship joins Paul and JJ, who will teach Paul, among other things, that manhood and sexual preferences are two completely different issues. The story intimate narrative reads as a biography, and there are moments when Paul comes across as selfish and biased. Other times, he is vulnerable and grief-stricken, inspiring sympathy. The author brilliantly uses the training of aggressive dogs as a vehicle for JJ to show his wisdom and sensibility, while Paul learns about confidence, patient, respect and friendship. The moment of truth in the book, when Paul has to stand up and protect JJ, is heartbreaking. Paul finally understands Chris' life choices. Being written in first person, we never get a chance to know how JJ, the gay character in the book really feels. Yes, there are a couple of glances, but only through Paul's perspective. I would have liked to have JJ's inner thoughts too. Maybe we will, I have the feeling he might get a book by the way this one ends.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 23, 2010
What makes a man?
Before returning Viet Nam after a brief leave in November 1972, Chris Landon came out as gay to his 16 year old brother, Paul, and made him promise not to tell anyone else. While Paul loved his brother, he was also somewhat jealous of his father's constant boasting of him as the "perfect" son, which implied Paul was significantly less so. He was tempted to tell his father about Chris' revelation, though he kept the promise he had made.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
While Paul was still working through his feelings about Chris' sexuality, the word came that Chris was killed in action, while trying to rescue several other soldiers in his unit who were injured by enemy fire. The entire family was stunned, with Paul especially upset in that he blamed his father's constant "be a man" talks for Chris having enlisted in the first place, which resulted in his death. The emotional riff between father and son increased, as Paul was forced to work in the family pet supply store, and was not allowed to have the money or time to have much of a social life.
Meanwhile, JJ, a college student who was hired at the store, seemed to replace Chris as Paul's father's ideal young man, as he showed an unique ability in training aggressive dogs belonging to customers. When Paul discovered JJ was gay, he began to further resent the newcomer.
Ms. Reardon is the author of two previous novels about gay teen's coming-of-age, but outdid herself here with a realistic and relatable story that demonstrates multiple perspectives on homosexuality. I was especially impressed by her brilliantly simplistic analogy of dog "pack mentality" to explain why some straight men react to openly-gay individuals as if they were a threat to them. Much recommended reading, and a great gift for a family going through such revelations. Five stars out of five.
- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Posted July 31, 2011
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Posted April 7, 2014
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