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TeenReader Tuesday: Is He or Isn’t He?

Today’s TeenReader selection, published way, waaaay back in 2006, is a departure from my reviews of fresh-off-the-press ARCs. (Yes, be jealous.) However, it remains an oldie but a goodie. And timeless. I’m sure you fondly remember teenage days, darning socks to the tunes on the radio and debating if your crush is a straight metrosexual or as gay as the Fourth of July.

Is He or Isn’t He?Is He or Isn’t He? by John Hall, tells the story of two best friends, Paige and Anthony, who have vowed to each get a boyfriend by the end of Senior year. But when the new (and super-cute) boy Max shows up in NYC, their gaydar goes completely out of whack. Both falling head over heels, Paige and Anthony flirt and flaunt to discover which team Max is playing for. Surely one of them must win his heart, right? Well, you’ll have to read and see! (And don’t call me Shirley.)

I really liked the author’s portrayal of Anthony as a gay teen. In the first few pages it is mentioned very matter-of-factly, but as the plot gets deeper, the author elaborates on Anthony’s sexuality and its effect on his life. There’s a little preachiness as Anthony sees other gay couples in the city and muses about his own misfortunes, but I thought it was necessary to balance the topic being glided over earlier in the story. A very realistic and tasteful portrayal of today’s homosexual teen: In other words, pretty much just as stressed and confused as anyone else — but with perhaps a bit more flair.

My one qualm was the foreshadowing, which ended up being more like foretelling-you-the-end-of-the-story. Minor spoilers ensue here, but really nothing that a fairly smart person couldn’t figure out after reading a few pages. It starts when Paige is talking with Anthony’s brother Paulo about his annoying obsession with sports. And they argue. For three pages. Later, Paige complains about how she can’t stand Paulo. And how weird is it that he acts all moody whenever she mentions her crush on Max? After their first interaction, I can pretty much guess who’s gonna come through for Paige in the end. But what about Anthony? If only there were an opportunity for him to date Roger, the so-sweet waiter at the cupcake shop. But Roger is definitely straight, as proven by easily refutable evidence. Oh, what to do?

Equally accessible as characters, Paige and Anthony are very different in personality, allowing the reader to root for his or her favorite to win the boy. Personally, I thought Anthony deserved him. So much so that I may have shouted a little bit whilst reading. (Guido-style fist pumps and cheering may have been involved as well. I admit to nothing.) Even with the plot fairly easy to predict, the individual adventures as Paige and Anthony try to win Max still remain suspenseful. This book is a compelling and light read, with a honest view of homosexual teens. Definitely a worthwhile read!

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1 comment:

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Oh my gosh - LOVED this review! Great job!!! Will link to it now.