The Boyfriend - Keith Morrisette
Chris is 17, a hopeless romantic, not yet out either to his parents or school. He knows exactly what he wants from romance, having spent his formative years watching TV and reading slushy romantic fiction. He hasnít got the normal outlets for his hormonal urges (het teenage society) so his fantasises are pretty unrealistic.
However, Michael meets Jamie and it seems everything is coming true for him. Jamie is gorgeous; Jamie adores him (Jamie has been worshiping him from afar at school for three yearsówell, actually, not that afar: three desks behind).
So far so good.
I canít say I really enjoyed this book.† For the start the writing is that of a seventeen year old: itís got plenty of clinical descriptions of sex, but passion and romance or even just plain horny lust is sadly lacking. For those of you who are familiar with the American version of QaF, this book is a bit like reading the diary according to Michael Novotney: bitchy, whinny, complaining and, oh, you just want to strangle him! The book is a deconstruction of romanceóset up Chrisís ideals and then knock them down. Which could be funnyónothing ends up the way heíd planned it. But actually unless you are a very skilful writer, striping away any romantic elements from your novel can be dangerous. Iím not sure I wanted to read about crabs or dildos getting stuck and extracted in hospital. Sure, I can see that this might be funny in the right hands (so to speak) but not, Iím afraid to say, in Keith Morrisetteís (or Chrisís).
I also have a problem with the morals of this book. Thereís a scene where Chrisís mother admits that she knows heís gay. How does she find out? She finds Jamieís mega-sized, full condom in the trash. Remember Chris is seventeen. Does she freak? Is she even concerned that her son is upstairs taking it up the ****? No. But she throws a complete wobbly when he tries to take a beer from the fridge. Throughout the book, Keith M tries to set up the premise that these characters having full-blown anal sex is perfectly okay because itís legal (Chris turns 18 during the story), but because itís illegal for them to drink, he makes this out to be the equivalent of murder! Iíd be pretty upset if either my son or daughter were up doing what Chris does in his bedroom with someone they only met that night (and you get that upset would involve a large shotgun somewhere). But Iíd be happy for them to have a beer if they wanted one!
Perhaps Iím totally out of touch, but Iíd have liked to see these boys getting to know each other, fumbles and experimentation. They go at sex like theyíre professionals. I think this is a very dangerous book masquerading as harmless fun.
Chris St Jacques is nearly 18.† Heís gay but has never had sex other than the one-handed kind.† Having explored internet sex- gay story archives (nice touch) and chatrooms- Chris figures itís time that changed.† Chris doesnít live in the city where itís easy to meet other gay teens but a small town in Northern Massachusetts.
Though happily into guys since age 13 Chris isnít ready for anyone else to know, especially schoolmates, not because heís ashamed but for self-preservation, until heís living somewhere his sexuality isnít a big deal. Like many gay teens he has a girlfriend for cover.†
Chris goes looking for sex in a highway rest area, and finds his first boyfriend when a tall blond hunk comes to his rescue after a grabby chickenhawk hits on him aggressively.† Jamie initiates Chris into sex but itís not a casual relationship for he takes him home to meet the family. Chris thinks a boyfriend means happy ever after.† His need for love and positive affirmation rings true, which makes the novel very suitable for young adults struggling with their sexuality.
Chris works in a bookstore.† His boss is a matchmaking fag-hag who buys gay porn for his 18th birthday and asks for the dirt on his sex life.† Work schedules donít allow much of a social life, what with school on top.† Where do you go when youíre a horny gay teen?† Risk arrest for public indecency, ending up on the sex offenderís register (shocking), or make out with your parents next door?† When they go to a gay club Chris is let down it isnít the glittering palace of delights he expects.† Homophobia features as youíd expect.† Jamieís more obvious than Chris.† They attract unwelcome attention just being together.† They canít hold hands or kiss & cuddle like a straight couple as itís just too risky.†
Jamie has previous relationships, which Chris is accepts.† Chrisí schoolfriend Dave turns up at the beach with mate, Jeremy, and Chris discovers having a boyfriend doesnít mean heís immune from desire.† Dave is beautiful and has a crush on Chris.† Morrisette effectively uses Chris & Daveís relationship to show different kinds of love: gay guys have male friends.
Chris is a natural narrator.† A smart-arse, with the arrogance of youth and a bitchy attitude. The book is really good on realities of life for gay youth.† Chris and Jamie are lucky.† They can pass, so school isnít a nightmare of homophobic bullying and ostracism.† But danger lurks.† As shown in the character of Alan, a friend of Daveís, whose young life has been Hell because heís gay.† Dave & Alan are used to show looks† arenít as important as companionship for longterm compatibility.† And leaping straight into sex before getting to know someone not always a good decision.
I enjoyed the novel; but there are problems.† Plot details arenít developed.† Why tell us Jamie stalked Chris for 3 years unless it has significance beyond sowing doubt about the character? Or the hints at something in Daveís past, more than the tendency for gay kids to hide feelings. Maybe the writer intends other books in a series, but it left me with unanswered questions.
We know Chris & Jamie have problems from the prologue but Morrisette develops the central characters so convincingly when the focus shifts I didnít like where it went and found it hard to accept the explanation for their troubles as anything other than plot contrivance to force conflict.† Maybe itís yet another example of my inability to accept hard realities of life versus romantic delusions.† But I wasnít looking for a happy ever after for Chris & Jamie.† The ending is confusing:† it offers hope thatís at odds with the conflict resolution.† However, Chrisí parents deal with his coming out very believably, admitting they already knew, so no big drama, which was nice.
The book shows gay teens can have all the things their straight friends take for granted.† They make the same mistakes and confuse sex and love.† Relationships take work.† Life isnít a fairy tale and love isnít a bed of roses. Middle-aged or adolescent, gay or straight itís something we can all relate to.
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