Frank Anthony Polito, May 2008. This largely autobiographical novel takes the reader through the high school years (and then some) of Jack Paterno, whose best friend is a Total Fag, in the words of his classmates. Jack often questions his own sexuality, and that’s a major theme of the book, but one that’s seamlessly woven into a tale actually about growing up in Detroit in the mid-eighties.
The book is laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, with a huge cast of characters as entertaining backdrop that can get overwhelming at times. Polito handles this by addressing the reader to remind us of who’s who (“In case you don’t remember – because how can you keep track of so many different people, places, and things? — Audrey Wojczek is my friend who works in the Guidance Counseling Office during 1st hour. The one with the long red hair down to her ‘childbearing hips,’ as she likes to call them”). Still, many characters could have been turned into composites once Polito made the decision to fictionalize his life. That would have cut down on the explanations and reduced the “huh?” factor. On the other hand, this method of storytelling is more realistic; it really does sound like a teenager’s thoughts, or at least his diary.
The lengthy (434 pages) book follows Jack Paterno as he plays in the band, seeks out porn, kisses girls, thinks about kissing boys, plays video games, watches soap operas, dresses up for Halloween, and so on. There’s not much of a plot, but that’s okay; the journey we’re on is a fun one, even if it takes a long time.