Mark Hardy, November 2008. In 1970s rural Virginia, Vincent knows he’s gay but can’t tell anyone, let alone his preacher father and even holier mother. He resorts to stealing gay porn, dreaming about Barry Manilow, and crushing out on his new friend Robert. Eventually, Robert and Vincent hook up, bonding over horses and nature walks until their sweet first kiss: “He must have brushed his teeth right before bed because he tastes like candy canes. When he breathes out it smells like Christmas.” Vincent’s shame weighs down the story until, in the final chapter, he’s sitting at a campfire with a church group and suddenly realizes that God couldn’t possibly think being gay is a sin.
It’s hard to imagine today’s teens relating to this story; modern queer kids are likely to have someone to confide in, even if they can’t be out and proud to everyone they know. The 1970s setting gets in the way of the plot, and the Jesus talk is pretty heavy-handed. Still, the careful writing, simple plot, and low page count (109 in hardcover) might appeal to those still willing to read historical problem novels.