Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tale of Two Summers by Brian Sloan

I'm now blogging about a teen novel written in the form of a blog; a first for me. Chuck and Hal are best friends spending their first summer apart since they were five. They are now 15. Chuck is attending a teen theatre camp while Hal attends driver's education classes in their little hometown not far from Washington D.C.

The author's twist is that Chuck, the emotional and dramatic one, is straight and Hal, the grumpy one who cares nothing for style, is gay. (Hal came out to Chuck six months earlier.) Chuck sets up a blog so that he and Hal can not only keep in touch over the summer, because telephone access will be limited for Chuck, but also so that they'll have a record of their adventures that will be more permanent than email. It's an epistolary novel for the 21st century, I guess.

It was interesting reading this back-to-back with My Father's Scar (see previous post), which was written a decade earlier. Both are about gay male teens experiencing first love. And that's about where the similarities end. The time period is so different, for one thing; the 1960s versus 2006. Coming out was much more fraught 50 years ago. Hal does have to negotiate some of that, but it is a tiny part of the story. Mostly, Hal and Chuck are both dealing with the sorts of feelings that every teen goes through in the romance department no matter towards which sex they are attracted.

Another difference is that the strong language published in teen novels of today (i.e. motherfucker) was not much used in novels 10 years ago, regardless of the setting. Although Andy Logan in My Father's Scar seems not the sort of boy who would have used profanity anyway.

Here's an excerpt from Tale of Two Summers:
"When his lips finally found their way to my mouth, I was instantly sprung. I mean, it was so damn hot! Then, as if that weren't overwhelming enough, Henri rolled right on top of me, and you know the hell what? He was not wearing any underwear at all. Nothing! I know this because I went to put my hands right on his glorious ass and that's exactly where they landed -- right there on his bare ass! His real, fleshy, French ass, with no jeans or shorts or underwear to keep me away. It was all ass!!!"

Since Hal's love interest is from Paris, (his mother is a diplomat), French is sprinkled here and there in the novel in a charming way. Which reminds me that there was an annoying typo in My Father's Scar: "plus c'est change" instead of "plus ca change." I was more bothered, however, by a racial slur against First Nations people in Tale of Two Summers, where one friend accuses the other of tomahawking him. Sloan could have used a neutral expression like "knife in the back" or "attack" instead.

Teens who are curious about intimate sex stuff (uhhh, are there any that aren't?) will find much to keep them hooked in Tale of Two Summers. Most embarrasing moments, wet dreams, premature ejaculation and what sorts of things two guys do together in bed; details are shared. It's a light read and My Father's Scar was much more to my taste, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one.

Other recent fluffy gay romance titles include Two Parties, One Tux and a Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman and My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Similar also in some ways -- friendships between teen boys and frank, first person narration -- to novels by John Green, Tim Tharp and Barry Lyga.

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