Tag Archives: Queer Teen Reads

Without Sin – J. Tomas
Book Reviews
July 14, 2009 posted by Nikki

Without Sin – J. Tomas

Sixteen-year-old Jacob Smithson has a temper. He’s picked on because he likes boys, and fighting gets him kicked out of public school. As a last resort, his parents place him in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Boarding School for Boys. At his first mass at St. Thomas he sees Avery Dendritch, a senior who serves as altar boy during the service. When they meet, the attraction between them is hard to deny. The two become fast friends, and as the school year progresses, their friendship deepens until Jacob feels he’s found a place where he belongs. But the other students gossip about their growing relationship. Avery can ignore them; Jacob can’t. As the rumors and slurs start up again, can he curb his temper, or will his fighting get him expelled from St. Thomas, too?

I can’t make up my mind whether or not I liked this book. I read it a few days ago and I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons ever since. I think it’s probably safest to say that I’m sitting on the fence with this one. If you want to know my reasons, continue reading.

Con: Although Without Sin is narrated by two characters (something which I normally love), I couldn’t bring myself to feel any kind of attachment to either Jacob or Avery. Their “voices” were too similar for any real distinction to be made. They both seemed kind of shallow and I felt like they fell in “love” too fast. For me, their relationship was based on physical attraction only, and this is something I can never relate to.

Pro: This novel wasn’t censored in any way. So many young adult novels portray teen characters as all too innocent, something which I feel is a misrepresentation of many youth today. Without Sin does not do this, and it explores teenage sexual desires well. I felt this aspect of this novel was truthful and dealt with appropriately.

Con: Although I was impressed by the lack of censorship, the issue of sex seemed to be all it was about. There was very little plot, except one huge build up to the point where the two boys finally have sex.  Because of this, it didn’t hold my attention that well and I found I had to force myself to keep reading.

Pro: I liked the ending. While I’m not going to tell you what it is, I found the ending to be quite realistic. It’s refreshing to find a novel where everything isn’t wrapped up in a fairy tale ending. Readers are given closure, but it’s not all happily ever after, if you know what I mean. Snaps to J Tomas for pulling this off so well.

Every time I think I make up my mind about this one, it changes right back again. So I’m not going to provide a summary opinion. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself this time.

Rating: : ★★★☆☆

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman
Book Reviews
July 6, 2009 posted by Nikki

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman

I’ve been trying to write my review of this novel for a few days now. Trying, and failing. So, I’ve decided to take an approach that I don’t normally follow. Instead of launching into a detailed description of plot and character, I’m going to post the blurb as shown on the back of the novel (so you at least get a little insight into what it’s all about), and then I want to discuss a few key literary devices that I thought worked well. This isn’t something I normally do, but I don’t think I can say what I want any other way. So here goes…

A lonely gay teen bides his time with trips to strangers’ funerals and Ouija board sessions, desperately searching for someone to love–and a reason to live following a suicide attempt.

Walking an empty stretch of New Jersey highway on an autumn night, he meets a strange and beautiful boy who looks like he stepped out of a dream. But the vision becomes into a nightmare when the boy turns out to be the local urban legend, the ghost of a star athlete killed in 1957–a ghost with a deadly secret and a dangerous obsession.

Vintage: A Ghost Story is an intense thriller that looks at the dark side of gay urban fantasy, where the dead can never rest and trapped spirits never find peace.

Although this novel is narrated in first person, the narrator has no name. Actually, that might not be entirely true, but if he does have a name, readers never find out what it is. The first time I read Vintage through, I felt that by not giving him a name, the author robbed the narrator of authority. Because he was nameless (and also gay), I felt like the author was trying to tell me that his identity didn’t matter, that being gay meant that he wasn’t worthy of a title like a name. I found myself getting all ticked off about the kinds of impressions that would leave on potential queer teens. However, I was so intrigued by this concept of a nameless narrator that as soon as I finished reading Vintage, I went back to the beginning and started again. I very quickly changed my mind over how I felt about this character. I realised that by not giving him a name, the author was actually empowering the character and inviting you, the reader, to assume his identity and really place yourself in the story. This, then, made the story more powerful and a whole lot more engaging than the first time I read it. This gave me the opportunity to step into his shoes, to not be myself for a few hours and really immerse myself in his world. I now saw that this gave the narrator loads of authority, unlike my previous assumptions.

I also enjoyed the fact that, while not necessarily ‘out’, and although the narrator had certainly encountered adversity because of his sexuality in the past, he seemed more than comfortable as a queer teen. He was not struggling to comes to terms with his sexuality, which was very refreshing. I thought that Vintage highlighted a really clear distinction between comfortably keeping one’s sexuality to himself, and fearfully doing so. Coming out should be the choice of the individual, and just because you’re comfortable with your sexuality doesn’t automatically mean that you have to come out. I really enjoyed this aspect of this novel.

Vintage is a quirky queer teen read that I’m almost certain would be enjoyed by readers both gay and straight. There’s something about a good old ghost story that has a real universal appeal. Watch out for the supernatural sexual encounter!
Rating:: ★★★½☆