LGBT Young Adult Literature/Boy Meets Boy
Boy Meets Boy is a young adult novel by David Levithan, published in 2003. It is set in a gay-friendly small town in America, and describes a few weeks in the lives of a group of high school students. As the title suggests, the central story follows the standard romance novel plotline usually known as "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl" except that the main characters are both boys, the narrator Paul and newcomer Noah. The novel won a Lambda Literary Award.
Openly gay sophomore Paul lives in a gay-friendly small town in New Jersey, where homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism are accepted and embraced. His best friends at this stage are Joni, whom he has been best friends with since early childhood and whom he came out to in second grade, and Tony, who is also gay and who lives in the (much less accepting) next town over with his strict religious parents.
On a night out with Joni and Tony, listening to a friend play music in a bookstore, Paul meets Noah and is instantly enraptured. They discover that they attend the same school, and after some miscommunication and false starts, they track each other down, and start to date. At the same time, Joni (who has recently broken up with her long-term boyfriend Ted for the twelfth time) starts to date Chuck, a football player who was extremely cruel to Paul's friend Infinite Darlene, when his crush on her turned out to be unrequited. This relationship causes a great deal of tension within Joni and Paul's friendship, and also upsets Ted and Infinite Darlene.
The previous year, Paul had dated Kyle, who then dumped him and spread the rumor that Paul had 'tricked' him into being gay. As Paul's relationship with Noah starts to flourish, Kyle also attempts to come back into Paul's life. He apologizes to Paul and starts coming to him for comfort and support, as he is uncertain about his sexuality and his aunt has recently died. While Paul is at first cautious, he comes to understand Kyle more and see him as a friend. Paul confesses everything to Joni, who then tells Chuck. Chuck spreads this all around the school, and before long people are placing bets on what they think the outcome will be. Noah's feelings towards Paul seem to cool at this stage.
Tony is having a great deal of trouble coping with his homophobic parents, and decides to go for a hike with Paul to nearby woods. After their hike, Paul hugs Tony tightly, only to be interrupted by Tony's mother's best friend, who spreads this to everyone she knows. Rumors start to fly that Paul and Tony are a couple, and Tony is forbidden from seeing him.
The next day, Kyle is feeling a great deal of stress and fear, and Paul kisses him. Noah hears the rumor about Paul and Tony, and in the process of denying that anything happened between the two of them, he inadvertently confesses the fact that he kissed Kyle that day. On hearing this, Noah breaks up with him, and not long afterwards, Paul and Joni's friendship seems to break.
Paul is arranging the Dowager's Dance, a dance held yearly by his high school. The theme of the dance is to be 'death', and in order to study this theme, the planning committee (including Kyle) go to a cemetery one evening. When Kyle and Paul find themselves alone together, Kyle kisses Paul and tells him that he loves him. Paul says that he doesn't feel the same way, and Kyle is upset and leaves. Paul goes to see Tony and explain everything to him, and Tony confesses that he's feeling troubled by everything that's been happening but that he's working on showing his parents that he is more than just his sexuality, and that being gay won't stop him from living a full and happy life. Tony's mother comes home and catches Paul and Tony talking, but instead of getting mad, Tony quietly challenges her and she finally allows Tony to see Paul again. Tony also decides that he wants to go to the upcoming dance, and he and Paul decides that his parents are most likely to let him attend if a large group of people comes to pick him up.
Paul realizes that he is still in love with Noah, and that what he has to do is show him how he feels. Over seven days he sets himself to seven tasks for Noah to prove his love and make his apology:
- Day 1: spends the entire night making origami flowers and decorates the hallway and Noah's locker with them
- Day 2: writes a list of 100 words he likes and their definitions, and leaves the list in Noah's locker
- Day 3: leaves a note in his mailbox wishing him a good day; doesn't want to overwhelm him
- Day 4: has his musical friend Zeke write a song for Noah, and goes with him to sing it
- Day 5: buys twenty rolls of film (Noah's hobby is photography) and enlists his friends to give them to him in a series of creative ways
- Day 6: writes Noah letters explaining everything he's been doing, thinking, and feeling
- Day 7: closes the distance, and speaks to Noah in person
Noah is overwhelmed by this, and asks Paul to be his partner for the upcoming dance. Their relationship starts afresh. Paul goes to see Joni and ask her to be a part of the group picking Tony up for the dance, but Joni refuses, saying that she and Chuck had already made plans. Paul challenges her, implying that she's letting Chuck control her, and leaves. The night of the dance arrives, and Paul gathers the group to go to Tony's house and ask his parents if he can come with them. At the last minute, Joni arrives with Chuck to join the group. Tony's mother gives her permission for Tony to go to the dance, despite clear signs of uncertainty.
Instead of going straight to the dance, the group go to a clearing in the woods where Tony and Paul hike. They start holding their own celebration there, dancing and talking and laughing. Tony and Kyle talk and dance together, and Paul and Noah dance together for song after song. Paul looks around him, wanting to fix this image in his mind forever, and the book finishes with him thinking to himself: what a wonderful world.
- Paul: Paul is the narrator, a high school sophomore. Paul is openly gay and has known this since he was in kindergarten, and his friends and family are all accepting. He has a lot of friends and is generally well liked. He has lived in his town all his life, and can't imagine living anywhere else.
- Noah: Noah is a newcomer in town, having lived in four different places over the past ten years. He has close-set green eyes, untidy hair and a comma-shaped birthmark on his neck. While he is attracted to Paul, he is cautious about relationships after his first and only boyfriend (whose name is Pitt) cheated on him. He is interested in photography and painting.
- Joni: Joni has been Paul's best friend since first grade. She has been dating Ted off and on since the fifth grade, but starts going out with Chuck during the course of the novel.
- Tony: Tony is Paul's other best friend, who lives in a nearby town. Tony and Paul met on a trip to the city two years before the start of the novel and became very close friends. Paul notes that they were not meant to fall in love with each other, but a part of [himself] still fell in hope with him. Tony's parents are religious and homophobic, and while they love him, they are stiflingly protective and hope that they can find a way to change his sexuality. At the end of the novel, Tony has developed a budding relationship with Kyle, who like him, struggles with accepting his sexual orientation.
- Kyle: Kyle is Paul's ex-boyfriend, who is attracted to both males and females but doesn't like the word bisexual. The book takes place a year after Kyle and Paul's relationship, which ended badly because Kyle told his and Paul's schoolmates that Paul tricked him into being gay. After apologizing to Paul over his past behavior, he begins to re-build their relationship. But Paul ends up rejecting him because he only likes him as a friend. Kyle eventually accepts this, and starts to get to know Tony by the end of the novel.
- Chuck: Chuck, a football player, is Joni's new boyfriend. He is not especially intelligent, and after his crush on Infinite Darlene turned out to be unrequited, he was somewhat abusive towards her.
- Claudia: Claudia is Noah's protective younger sister, aged about thirteen. Claudia seems to often be moody and is mistrustful of Paul.
- Jay: Jay is Paul's older brother, a senior. While Jay loves to taunt Paul, he can also be very supportive when the chips are down.
- Infinite Darlene: Infinite Darlene, who used to be a boy named Daryl Heisenberg but who has blossomed since starting to cross-dress, is both the star quarterback and the homecoming queen. She has a larger than life personality and is intense in both friendship and enmity.
- Ted: Ted is Joni's former on-and-off boyfriend (Paul states that they have broken up a total of twelve times). He's described as smart and good-looking, but somewhat self-absorbed, and a master of obliviousness. He is extremely annoyed at Chuck for dating Joni, but at the end of the novel seems to be developing a friendship with Trilby Pope, Infinite Darlene's arch-rival.
References to real life
The exclusion of people who are openly gay from the Boy Scouts of America is mentioned to highlight the gay-friendly nature of Paul's hometown, which decided in response to exclude the organization; instead they have "Joy Scouts".
PFLAG is also mentioned.
Boy Meets Boy received many reviews that focused on the nature of the book compared to reality. David Levithan, the author of Boy Meets Boy, said, "I try to disprove the cliche as much as possible." He said that writing books about teenagers in the gay community "[is] not the scary unknown anymore." Being gay himself, Levithan tried his best to have "the chance to connect to his readers" by feeling "as if [his] readers are happy to explore wherever [he] want[ed] to go."
Boy Meets Boy focuses on the gay community through a teenager's eyes through a "delightfully reversed, pro-gay high school" setting. To say the least, "[the book is] an upbeat story about acceptance and teen love long before the all-singing, all-dancing cast of Glee arrived on TV," seeing as Boy Meets Boy was published in 2003.
Boy Meets Boy won the 2003 Lambda Literary Award in the Children/Young Adult section.