Chris Crutcher, 2009. These three novellas are linked by an unnecessary framing device: the main characters in each are attending the same anger management class, and the counselor provides a little bit of commentary and a data sheet on each of the protagonists.
Superfluous device aside, the stories are excellent. The first stars recurring Crutcher character Sarah Byrnes, she of the face scars and shoulder chip from Crutcher’s 1993 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. She hooks up with Angus Bethune for a road trip to Vegas to find the birth mom who let her stepfather burn her face, then abandoned her. Angus’s parents are divorced, and in a twist I haven’t seen before in fiction, they’re both remarried to persons of the same gender. So Angus has two mommies and two daddies, and furthermore, they all get along. Nice.
The second story doesn’t have any gay content, but does feature a fight against school-paper censorship and a pot-smoking grandma. It’s also pretty disgusting, as the student journalist has a young foster sister who ignores the toilet whenever she gets mad, which is often.
The third novella is the gayest. Marcus James is the only black kid at his rural high school, and he’s also gay, which combination has not won him a lot of friends. The story opens, in fact, with his discovery of a pink noose on his locker. His investigation into the culprits finds a lot of resistance, as the punks who did it are the products of racist homophobic ancestors who also have a lot of local power. Then Marcus not-so-mysteriously drowns in the lake, and über-Christian student Matt Miller takes over as the detective-activist. I love that Crutcher portrayed a Christian teen in such a positive light when it would have been so easy to make him a hater, but why not let Marcus stay alive and have his own moment?