I discovered this book after reading The Misfits and I would strongly recommend reading the Misfits first. I thought the Misfits was a better book - far funnier. This is also good though, I think worth 5 stars - and it is interesting how we already have some of the story in the misfits from another boy's point of view. In this book some of the old story is retold from Joe's point of view and then more of the story unfolds. The book is funny and well written and they way the story is revealed is very clever.
Some critics say that Joe's life is unrealistic with his supportive family and friends. OK many gay teenagers do not have such a life - hence the extremely high rate of attempted suicides among gay teenagers and bullying.
However, as a reader myself I like to read up-beat, positive stories like this and I think this sort of life does reflect reality for a lucky minority of gay youth these days. Times have changed greatly for the better since the author and I were teenagers (I am 45 and I believe James Howe is old enough to be my dad). If any of my three children is gay or has gay friends they will find a totally supportive and accepting family in my house.
One of the things I liked in this book (and the Misfits) was how James Howe shows us what it means to have girlfriend/boyfriends when you are just 12 or 13: hanging out together, liking each other, perhaps not even speaking because you are too shy, hugging, holding hands and just maybe kissing. And it is clear that many in this age group still do not want to do kissing.
I finished this book a few days ago, I read it in one day, and found it to be the most hilarious book I've read in a long time, not just because of the fact that it's all written from a gay thirteen year olds point of view, but because of how he has captured the language and thought processes of the young man, and made it funny but also believable.
I also found myself reading major parts out to my mum, who also found it amusing, which was gratifying to know I wasn;t only appreciating this book.
This book is written as an alphabiography, basically an assignment set my their teacher to write about themselves but each chapter starting with each letter of the alphabet, and makes great read "Hello, does anybody know an x-word other than xylophone? And does anybody play the xylophone? And if they did, would anybody care?"
I think these extracts give you a real feel for the book:
"J is for Joe....One time when they [grandparents] were visiting, my gradpa asked me id G.I.Joe had been in any wars lately. I said 'No, but he and Ken got married last week.' Every Christmas since then, my grandparents have sent me a check"
"K is for Kissing....I know I said before that I liked kissing, that I called it 'getting smoochy' and all that. But that was when I was little and wasn't talking about doing the kissing myself. Not that kind of kissing, anyway. I mean, bumping elbows is one thing, and holding hands is awsome, but actually putting your mouth on somebody else's mouth and exchanging saliva? Ewwww!"
"Q is for Questions....Why did Kevin Hennessey try to rip up Addie's petition [for a Gay-Straight-Alliance]? Why did he tell her that God hates fags? Does he really believe that? Do most people? Does God?"
"X is for Xylophone....7.Mallets and also called 'beaters'. For a bright and sharp sound, use a hard beater. For a gentle sound, use a soft beater. For an omelet, use an eggbeater. 8. Its is said that if you dream of seing a xylophone, it means you will achieve your greatest ambition. On the other hand, if you dream of being a xylophone, it means it's time to call your therapist"
I recommend this book to anyone, young or old (Im 22), it is a definate keeper!