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Question of Manhood, A Paperback – 13 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: KENSINGTON; Original edition (13 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075824679X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758246790
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 536,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steve on 15 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of Robin Reardon's three novels so far, I think this is the best of a high-class output. In the character of the narrator, sixteen-year old Paul, Reardonn has created a credible, complex, appealing central figure. The story focuses on the death of Paul's older brother, Chris, in Vietnam and on the fallout from Chris's confession to his younger brother, on his last home leave, that he is gay. The depiction of bereavement, grief and guilt following Chris's death, and its effect on the relationships between Paul and his family, are tear-jerkingly moving. Paul himself has to grapple with an achingly difficult relationship with his father, whose causes only become clear in the final pages of the book, and with his own homophobia. How can the brother he hero worshipped have been a fag?
The other, related, theme of the book is Paul's reluctant acceptance that the gay colleague he works with in his father's pet store fits none of Paul's stereotypical prejudices. Indeed, as JJ teaches Paul how to handle dangerous dogs (a fascinating bit of the plot) so of course it is Paul who is also being changed and 'tamed'. There are not many books that make the tears well up. This is one of them and, for me, one of the best novels of 2010.
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By Row on 23 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
i love this author, he always writes really thought provoking books. this was no exception, i would recommend this to anyone looing for a book with more substance than your average novel
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Son of Nietzsche on 2 Nov. 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Set over the course of 1972-1973, against the backdrop of the US invasion of Vietnam, A QUESTION OF MANHOOD is a fairly standard coming-of-age novel within the genre, with the difference that the main character, sixteen-year-old Paul, does not identify as gay, but is instead confronted with others who do so.

Paul lives with his parents - an authoritarian, right-wing, war-loving father, and an ineffectual housewife mother. At the outset of the novel, Paul's older brother, Chris, is at home on leave from the Vietnam incursion. Chris appears to embody everything that Paul is not - 'manly', respected by his parents, a hero. However, on the night before his return to Vietnam, Chris confides in Paul that he identifies as homosexual; shortly thereafter, he dies overseas.

Distraught, resentful of Chris for burdening him with this secret, angry at himself for reacting badly to the news, Paul tries to make sense of his father's continual admonitions to 'be a man'. This confusion of values is further complicated in Paul's mind by the arrival of a new employee at his father's store, J.J., a college student. His father worships J.J. and holds him up as an example to Paul - not realising, as Paul does, that JJ identifies as gay.

A QUESTION OF MANHOOD is a generally fluid novel, although the author does drop the pace rather too frequently. By positioning the narrator as straight-identifying, the novel aims to manipulate broader themes of conflict - primarily Paul's attempts to navigate the pressured expectations that he encounters from familial and other relationships, towards becoming 'his own person'.

The novel does tend to feel rather like an episode of 'The Wonder Years', with the same drawback that the 'lessons learned' are somewhat contrived and predictable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 22 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Question of Manhood by Robin Reardon 7 Oct. 2010
By Elisa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the third book by Robin Reardon about being young and gay, and fighting to have a normal life, the third she wrote and the third I read without hesitation. Even if about young men with problem bigger than them, even if it will be difficult, and hard, for them to be happy, these struggling teenagers are stronger than what it seems, and I know that, at the end of their story, there will be a chance for happiness.

This last book is a bit different though; Paul, the protagonist, is not gay. He is the second son in a family where Chris, the oldest, is the perfect one. There is the war in Vietnam, and Chris, as expected from him, is over there, fighting for his country. Paul is too young, but nevertheless, he would be not as good as Chris, even if he enlisted. Paul has always heard as Chris was his parents favorite son, as he, Paul, was almost an unnecessary addition to their family. But even if Paul would have been all the reason to hate Chris, Chris was really Paul's hero: he was always ready to show to Paul the right path, to give him the right advice, to help him when he was in trouble. And now that Chris is at home, during a leave, Chris tells Paul his biggest secret: he is gay and terrified. Moreover his lover, another soldier, died in Vietnam, and Chris seems to no more have a reason to fight and come back home. Chris is going to die, and he is doing it willingly. For the first time Paul doesn't see him as an hero: Chris is gay and can't be an hero, and plus he is a coward, he chose his dead lover over Paul, he will not fight for Paul as he fought for Mason, he will die in Vietnam.

Maybe if Chris returned back home, Paul would have had the chance to change his mind, but unfortunaly Chris indeed dies in Vietnam. Now Paul has all this rage inside him, rage against the world, his family, and Chris. When a new guy comes to help on his dad's pet shop, he seems the replica of Chris: perfect, kind, too wise for his age and gay. Paul dislikes him like he diskliked Chris, and at the same time he wants to love him like he loved his brother. With JJ, Paul will have a second chance with Chris, a chance to understand him, not to "accept" him, there is nothing to accept, being gay is not a fault, but Paul will learn that he can love JJ, and he could have fully loved Chris, without for this reason being gay as well, or having to change his mind. Paul will learn that love is unconditionally.

It's the second time that the family of the gay guy is not part of who is rejecting the guy. JJ has a loving mother, that, even if he jokes about the fact of being the fourth male son, and so he has no need to provide her with grandsons, in any case she loves him as above, unconditionally. JJ has had the chance to grow up being loved and accepted, and this is giving him the strength to face the outside world with courage and full front. JJ is not ashamed of being gay, even if the times he is living are not allowing him to be "out and proud". But I see the embryo of a well-balanced and happy man in him, someone that will be able to fully enjoy his life. Even if Paul is a good character, and I liked to read his story, JJ is another character that I wouldn't mind to meet again, maybe to see if his promises will be mantained.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Common Question, Uncommon Answer: A Question of Manhood 12 Oct. 2010
By Bob Drake - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Ms. Reardon's two other gay YA novels, A Secret Edge and Thinking Straight the protagonist is a gay youth, one closeted with a supportive aunt and exotic friend, the other out but with non-supportive Christian parents. In her third novel, as in Christopher Rice's fourth novel Blind Fall: A Novel, the protagonist is not gay. In Blind Fall the gay person is the protagonist's best friend, an ex-Marine. In A Question of Manhood it is the youth's brother, a soldier home on a brief and final leave from Viet Nam in 1972 (the period in which the novel is set), who leaves him, and only him, with his secret, and with a million questions his brother will never be able to answer. His father wants him to "be a man." But how? What does that really mean?

This is a truly great book with interesting characters. Few gay YA novels would have the boy describing his liking sex with a prostitute in a pink vest, a father with a gimpy leg and a pet supply store rather than a pet store because mom is allergic to dogs and cats, and an out, gay dog whisperer who goes by "JJ" because, well, read the book to find out! You will learn as much about dogs as you do about people, and you learn a LOT about people. Ms. Reardon has done her homework in researching this book, and you will marvel at her detail.

You might even shed a tear in the final pages, as I did. Her next book is due in six months. I can hardly wait!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book. 5 Oct. 2010
By PTR - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book. The author does a great job of writing about the social atmosphere during the 1970s and a great job of describing what it's like being a teenager with a secret to keep. This is a book that was very hard to put down once I started. Another great Robin Reardon read!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Another Home Run for Robin 21 Oct. 2010
By Mark Ian Kendrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This coming-of-age story, told to us in 1st person by sixteen year old (then seventeen) Paul Landon, explores a universal tale of what it means to be a man. Paul's older brother Chris has just been killed in the Vietnam War. Before he died though, he told Paul that he's gay and to not tell anyone. Given that being gay is illegal and immoral in Paul's little world, he's repulsed and bewildered by this. And now that Chris is dead, there's no way to reconcile this issue.

In steps JJ. Only a couple of years older than Paul, they work together during the summer after Paul's junior year at Paul's father's pet store. Their meeting sets off a chain reaction that catapults Paul into a trajectory of true understanding of what it means to be a 'man'. You see, JJ is also gay. And Paul is forced to work with him - like it or not. Paul is forced to confront all of his fears, anxiety and beliefs about what it means to be gay and more.

Chock full of how to train difficult dogs, JJ's calm techniques are an amazing metaphor for how to handle real life. Paul seems like a typical idiot teenager throughout most of the story - until he's confronted with a life-or-death situation of his own. This seems to be a turning point in Paul's entire demeanor, which bring to a head many different themes woven together throughout the plot. I was not prepared for my own emotional reaction at the end of this story. I just didn't think we were going to get where Robin Reardon led us. But because it ended with such an amazing emotionally charged flourish, I must recommend this story to anyone who enjoys this genre.

I will add that I find it awesome that Robin was able to successfully write in the voice of a teenaged boy. Kudos!
Paul's the Man 22 Dec. 2010
By Johnny Diaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Paul Landon never felt like he was the apple of his parent's eye. That role belonged to his older brother Chris.
Chris was the brave son who enlisted in the army. Charming, goodlooking and smart, he could do no wrong, at least that's what his sixteen year old brother thought.
But when Chris returns home from Vietnam for Thanksgiving, he confides in Paul that he's gay and that his partner, a fellow soldier, died in Vietnam. That secret shatters Paul's his image of his older bro who is then killed in Vietnam too.
Burden with guilt, Paul struggles to carry that secret as he tries to live up to the man that his parents remember Chris was.
In Robin Reardon's third novel, "Question of Manhood,'' we meet an insecure and frustrated Paul as he wrestles with his brother's last secret.
Paul personifies the angst of any typical teenage boy who is trying to establish his own manhood in his home, school and work but can't compete with his parent's memory of a perfect son.
The summer after his brother's death, Paul is forced to work at his father's pet store. There he meets an attractive and smart new employee named JJ, a Latino college freshman.
Through JJ - a Dog Whisperer if you will - Paul finds another older brother type, a mentor who happens to be gay. And through JJ, Paul learns about respect and taking responsibility for your own actions. Most of all, Paul learns that being gay isn't wrong, just the way someone is. Through JJ, Paul learns how to be a man. Paul gets a second chance of better understanding whom his brother was.
Reardon believably channels the voice and inner thoughts of 16-year-old straight boy, which isn't easy to do. From his first sexual experience with a prostitute to caving into peer pressure from a troublesome friend, Paul's thoughts ring true on every page even though at times he comes off as selfish.
Reardon's storytelling is also rich in detail. She lightly reminds you that the book is set in 1972-73 by referencing the cars and movies (Day of The Jackall) that were popular at that time as well as the costs of things.
But the scenes that were most affecting were the ones between JJ and Paul in various dog training sessions.
In those scenes, the reader sees Paul gradually warming up to JJ. Although Paul is suspicious and jealous of JJ at first, he begins to respect and accept him as a friend.
While the book takes off slowly, the story picks up steam once Paul starts working at the pet store as each dog that comes in has a different story to tell. By example, JJ shows Paul how to use patience and psychology to calm these untamed pets.
This isn't a book you want to read fast. Rather, it's one you want to spend some time with to savor the storytelling. Through dialogue that radiated authenticity, Reardon made this reader feel like he was sixteen years old all over again and that's a good thing.
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