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Talking in the Dark

Talking in the Dark

4.8 5
by Billy Merrell

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PUSH continues to break new ground with this remarkable poetry memoir of growing up, coming out, and exploring love. This is a memoir that is lived in moments. The moments you know - when you see your parents' marriage dissolving, when you realize you're a boy who likes boys, when you speak the truth and don't know if it will be heard. The moments you don't


PUSH continues to break new ground with this remarkable poetry memoir of growing up, coming out, and exploring love. This is a memoir that is lived in moments. The moments you know - when you see your parents' marriage dissolving, when you realize you're a boy who likes boys, when you speak the truth and don't know if it will be heard. The moments you don't recognize until later - when you leave things unsaid (even to yourself), when you feel your boyfriend letting go, when you give up on love. And the moment you get love back. In an amazing narrative of poems, Billy Merrell tells an ordinary story in an extraordinary way.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Billy Merrell is only 21, yet his poetry memoir reveals both talent and experiences beyond many older people. The prose poems read more like a life story rather than a poetry collection. His use of language and wonderfully textured phrases pull the reader in, even those not necessarily inclined towards poetry. The first section is a collection of poems relating to Billy's childhood and family; the remainder of the book focuses primarily on his coming out and various relationships during high school and college. This book is not only a valuable resource for the teenager interested in poetry, it also is an honest portrayal of a teenager who, while not dealing with any homophobia, still has the usual troubles with relationships, be they same-sex or heterosexual. His imagery and language ranges from the ethereal to the gritty, making this a worthwhile read. 2003, Push, Ages 12 up.
— Amie Rose Rotruck
In counterpoint to Eireann Corrigan's poetry memoir You Remind Me of You (Scholastic, 2002/VOYA October 2002), Merrell lays open the journal of his life, taking readers with him through his parents' divorce, his awakening sexuality, and his quest to find love and acceptance while discovering himself in the process. Merrell's poetry is conversational and questioning, frequently arranged into unrhymed couplets, breaking lines almost randomly on the page. Each poem is a snapshot in Merrell's adolescent slideshow, the same figures sometimes reappearing often throughout the text. Readers are compelled to follow Merrell's hesitating steps to uncover the secret he has kept from himself: his homosexuality. Once it is revealed, Merrell shares with readers the first time he kisses a boy; the ache of unrequited, secret love; and the reality of HIV as it claims his friend Ben and forces him to face his own mortality. The poetry in this collection spans a number of years, and the pieces are divided into five sections from the past to the present. Merrell addresses sexuality with a childlike delicacy, choosing to focus on its intimacy and emotion. Reflective in nature, the poems in this memoir will appeal to older teens, gay or straight, who have struggled to understand themselves and how they fit into the complexity of human relationships. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, PUSH/Scholastic, 136p., Trade pb. Ages 15 to 18.
—Michele Winship
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-An affecting memoir told in verse, this work launches a promising young poet. It is more than the recollection of faltering family life; it also deals with Merrell's acceptance of his homosexuality. It is about sons and brothers, friends and lovers. The individual poems enhance one another yet stand alone. The language is measured, doled out carefully, artfully. He writes about his mother: "She's known, she'll say, since I was five/and I'll want to ask why/she didn't tell me sooner, but instead ask/if she's okay." Memories of when he and his father almost speak of his closet homosexuality, and when the moment passes are related in poignant phrases. The poems reveal the author's journey through childhood through the worrisome pit of teen sexuality, made all the more harrowing when a lover dies of AIDS. He silently carries around his fear for ages. He writes, "Admitting/the danger is a danger in itself." This memoir is as difficult as it is beautiful. Merrell writes, "Years later I'll wonder how I didn't know I was lonely when everyone around me did." His sophisticated verse and compelling story will capture attention as it stirs compassion.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sold by:
Scholastic, Inc.
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File size:
644 KB
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

At 22, Billy Merrell is the youngest author to date published by the Push Imprint of Scholastic Inc. Merrell, who grew up in Jacksonville Florida, began writing poetry around eighth grade. He had a better grasp of rhyme and meter than the other students in his classes, and as a result, the teacher began giving him more challenging poetry assignments rather than less expressive work. It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that Merrell began to write about his own feelings, and recognized writing poetry as a liberating activity.

Merrell is recent graduate of the University of Florida with a B.A. in English. During the summer, earlier in his college career, Merrell was hired as the first PUSH Writing Intern. During this summer internship, Merrell came to New York City and began work on his first book. The culmination of his work with PUSH is talking in the dark, a memoir composed of poetry that documents a story of growing up, coming out and exploring love. As a gay man himself, Merrell sought to write a book that he felt could have been of use to him as a teenage boy coming out. It is “an affecting memoir told in verse, this work launches a promising young poet….[Merrell’s] sophisticated verse and compelling story will capture attention as it stirs compassion.” —School Library Journal

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Talking in the Dark 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm 15, and I was in the library at my school, looking for a memoir. The purple cover caught my eye. I started flipping the pages and realized it was a poetry memoir, and i'm not that into poetry but i gotta give it a try. I went back to my class and started to read this book. It started out confusing, well to me. Probably because i don't really read poetry often. But i could understand some of the things he was saying. After the first couple of pages, he was talking about how his childhood was like & what he had experience. The poems were straightforward, revealing and dealing with mature topics such as family struggle, homosexuality etc. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished 'Talking in the Dark'. I thought it was amazing. I couldnt put it down and it only took me a short 24 hours to read it. I had randomly picked it off the shelf at a Barnes and Noble and when i read the back i knew it was a must read for me. I think that his book has been one that I can definately connect with; the struggles of trying to find who you are, the unexcpeted responces from those you care about, and the confusion that follows with all of the above. Falling in and out of love, testing the waters, all apart of trying to become who you know you are. I had been reading many different novels with characters that were lesbians once I myself came out, but once I saw his book I decided that maybe I should try and read something from the other side of the rainbow. I think that this book has been the one that I have enjoied the most and it really made me feel as if I am not alone in the world, and that there is someone else out there that has gone through what I am going through and felt what I am feeling. You won¿t find a book that has such pure and honest emotion. Ariane
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't typicly enjoy poetry. I wish my English teachers read Mr. Merrell's book and taught it cause I would actually listen. Mr. Merrell is very smart and his poems are so beautiful. My mom bought me TALKING IN THE DARK and I'm glad she did because we are much closer now. I'm gay and she's okay with that but I wasn't. But now I think I am because of what I learned from the book. My favorite poems are 'Histories', 'Moth', and 'Breakfast'. I also like 'This Bird Has Flown' because I like the Beatles and I know what it is like to loose your brother when he moves away. The best thing about Mr. Merrell's book is that it isn't about being gay. It is about living 'daily and wholly' in a world where it is't so easy always. 'There are things we do when no one's looking that make us feel like we're alive. And when we're finished we want to die --- not for what we've done, but for only feeling when no one's there.' from 'December' My mom likes the book too and says that Mr. Merrell is very wise for only being 21. I think she's right. P.S. I love you mom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a lesbian. I'm 20, not really a teen. But a friend told me about Billy Merrell's TALKING IN THE DARK because she knew I loved poetry, and it has since become one of my favorite contemporary collections. And not only that, but I found in Merrell a place to feel comfortable. Not only because I'm gay and so is he, but because he happens to be gay, and so do I. He is so wise for his age. My mother is reading it now, and that is what she told me. The poems are smart, emotional, revealing. Merrell strips his life down to amazing, telling lines that left me wanting it to go on and on. I've read it twice already and am taking my time reading it a third time now, and there's always something new and beautiful to find in the rereading. My favorite poetry is personal, careful, and spiritual (not religious, necessarily, but intensely in touch with the world). That's what the poems in TALKING IN THE DARK are like. If you know someone, anyone, who reads poetry, this is a book that will affect them, always.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago