Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Real Boys Kiss Boys, by Joe Filippone

Real Boys Kiss Boys
by Joe Filippone
Word count: 30, 265


It's a brand new school year and Mitch is not looking forward to it. He has also felt like an outcast in his small town, never fitting in and never having any friends. But suddenly that all changes when Luka, the new boy from California transfers to his school. For the first time Mitch has a best friend and is truly happy but he soon finds out that things are not always what they seem and life can be pretty complicated when you're in high school.


I know I should have listened to the internal voice telling me to stop reading, but I kept thinking that the book would get better. This is the last time I let myself buy a book based on a captivating title.

I try to be fair in my reviews. I look at many factors while I read: voice, writing, pacing, characters, story idea, overall enjoyment etc. I simply cannot find a way to justify more than one star for this book. The writing was...poetic. Poetic (or literary) is fine, however, this is supposed to be a YA book and the language was way too advanced to come out of the heads of the young characters in the book. There’s also no voice in the story, it feels like what it is: written for teens by an adult. Take this for example. The two boys were hauled into the office by the principal for “being gay” at school. The principal starts talking:

“You don’t love him. Teenagers can’t be in love. You don’t know what love is. You’re too young. This is just a fad. Something you’re doing because some movie actor or singer said it’s cool to be gay. Well, let me tell you, son, it’s not.”

That’s right, it’s just ticked off the fingers like that. Here’s Luka’s answer:

“Who are you to say who can be in love and who can’t? Who are you to say what’s right or wrong? Or tell us how we feel? I love Mitch. I do. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t express my love to him.”

That’s not a teenager talking to an adult, that’s the author preaching a message to the reader.

I also found big, BIG faults with how the story was executed. The PoV character is short and scrawny. He’s always been ashamed of his body, but suddenly he stops in front of the mirror and thinks:

“Wait, I thought, what do I have to be embarrassed about? Why should I feel ashamed? My body isn’t ugly. My body is beautiful.”

Just like that! There were many spontaneous mature revelations in the book. They just didn’t feel plausible for a 17 year old. In fact, the whole book felt like a lecture on how wrong homophobia is (I agree, it’s very wrong, but there are ways to show it in a book and there are ways to lecture it).

While we’re on the subject of homophobia, I have to wonder when this book is supposed to take place (today, I presume, since the media's saying that it's "cool to be gay"). Every single person the two MC’s encounter is homophobic, except for one teacher (who can’t help them at all or give any guidance). We’re talking kids at school, parents, and the principal. Not a single person beside that one teacher was supportive. Okay, I live in northern Europe where things are pretty open, but come on, is it really that bad in America today that every single person forsakes basic civil rights? The principal claims that the media says it's “cool to be gay”, but still every single teenager at school sneers at the couple? I’ve seen news about American school policies going against LGBT rights, but that seems to be something that gets into the papers and they often have to change their policy because of pressure. The worst thing is that none of the homophobic people in the story have to deal with the consequences of their behaviour (which is what characters in a book should have to do). No, I do not consider the “revenge” in the book a good enough punishment - the police should have been involved.

There’s homophobic bashing in this book. What I can’t wrap my head around is that after that much abuse, why the MC didn’t get taken to the emergency room. Why wasn’t the police involved? Don’t give me crap about the MC being too embarrassed for being beaten up. You get beaten up badly like that, you go to the police (but, deducting from everyone else in the story, the police would probably have been homophobic too and brushed it aside). Why didn’t that one supportive teacher at school see the horribly mangled face of the MC and ask about it? The MC was also able to shrug the whole thing off very easily. Not scared of shadows, not scared of going back to school and face his attackers, not scared of going out after dark on dates. No thoughts back to the night or jitters when someone rings the doorbell. Nothing. Sorry, I just don’t buy that. That’s not plausible reaction after such an attack.

I didn’t empathise with the characters, even though they went through horrible injustice. I think it’s the lack of showing in the story. We’re "told" everything - in weepy ways, might I add - and I never felt the feelings through the writing. There were what should have been heartfelt moments, but the feelings just didn’t come through because I was told how the character was feeling, not shown it.

Pacing? Sure, the pacing was fast, but the book felt choppy, cutting from one scene to the next and sometimes those sections were half a page with leaps in time in between. I had trouble keeping up with the timeline.

I was curious to see how the hell the author was going to end the story...but found that there was no ending. Well there was, but it felt completely out of the blue and implausible. Nothing was solved.

Why the one star, then? Because if I give none, it won’t be reflected in the overall rating in places like Goodreads. So we’ll just say this book gets one star for a captivating title.

Writing/Voice: 2/0
Characters/Development: 2/0
Plot/Pace: 0/0
Heat: 3 (Non-explicit, but still sex. I’ll give it a neutral rating)
Stars: 1

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