For every book we read during the book club, we’ll write a review so that anyone who couldn’t be there can still join in with the fun! Saskia den Ouden is our YA book club reviewer, judging all the books we read.
I am not a huge lover of LGBT+ literature, because it’s usually a true to life coming out of the closet story, often mixed with misunderstanding family members, tragedy and sadness. I understand that for a lot of people out there, that’s how the story goes and that’s what they might like to read about. As someone who had her coming out about 10 years ago, I’d much rather read about the LGBT people who are on my level. Doesn’t even have to be true to life. They could be gay in space, or the future or as vampires.
However, neither Ari or Dante are vampires in space. They are just two kids living in a tiny town in New Mexico, but in the case of this book, it’s not a bad thing.
The story is told from Ari’s perspective. He is a quiet kid, who doesn’t think much of himself and comes from a family of closed doors. His brother is in prison and never spoken of; his father was is in the Vietnam war and never tells anything about it; he has an aunt that his parents see on a regular basis, but who is ousted by the rest of the family and Ari doesn’t know why. In a whole, emulating the behaviour of his surroundings, Ari never lets anyone in.
Then one day, he meets Dante at the swimming pool. Dante is outgoing, talkative, artistic and basically everything Ari is not. They become friends and start hanging out.
This book, although it is a coming out story, leans far closer to a coming of age story. Throughout most of the book Ari is struggling with who he is. The secrets surrounding his family are stifling him and are the missing part to his identity. And that’s why I liked this book. In essence, the sexuality of Ari is almost a footnote. It was far more a story about a teenager finding out who he wants to be, who coincidentally is also gay (although he doesn’t really know it) than a story about someone who knows he’s gay and is struggling with his environment, because they’re against it (as with most LGBT literature).