Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 2008. Sáenz is my favorite author discovery since the advent of QueerYA. I loved, and raved about, his latest, and this one was almost as good. In fact, since this one didn’t have much of a plot, it was even more of a feat to make it so riveting. Basically there are these two boys, and they DON’T fall in love, but they’re Really Different (a rich white boy and a working-class Latino) but they have Something In Common, which is that their dads abandoned them when they were little. Does this sound like a giant cliché? Because it isn’t. The characters are so real, so reasonable even when they’re not, so sympathetic even when they’re not. It’s hard to describe Sáenz’s voice exactly, but it turns out English isn’t even his first language. While his work doesn’t have the errors or vagueness of a lot of ESL or translated works – on the contrary, it’s utterly natural, especially the dialogue – it does have the carefulness of language that you’d associate with a second language, or with poetry, which he also writes.
There are two mentions of gaiety. One is about a mean lady who harasses a dude for being gay. The other occurs at the party that’s sort of the book’s climax:
“I just stood there and looked at [John]. He looked like some kind of saint. I’m serious here. I mean, the look on his face. The guy was giving sincerity a good name. And then this guy shows up, and he’s standing real close to John and then John says, ‘This is Gregory.’ I’d never met Gregory. He was tall and dark and had a really deep voice. But I noticed something. They were, well, you know, I think they were boyfriends. Not that it bothered me. That was cool.”