“He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me toward him. My whole body instantly lit on fire, every atom of my being aware that I was held close to an extremely good-looking boy who might have a thing for me. If firemen came to douse me with water, I’d tell them no, I never wanted to be put out.”
This YA debut by author Jason June is utterly adorable, hilarious and just plain fun.
Jay is the only gay kid in his rural town. He longs for the chance to meet another gay guy IRL and to have all the firsts he sees his straight peers having: going on dates, holding hands, kissing, and more. He keeps a list of all the things he’d like to do someday – his Gay Agenda. When his mom gets a promotion at work, the family relocates to Seattle where Jay starts his senior year at a new school with plenty of gay kids. Will he be able to complete his Gay Agenda after all?
I loved this book so hard. It is difficult for me not to write this review in all caps. Honestly? I loved everything about it. Jay is an intensely lovable character. His math geekiness and longing for gay life made me want to hug him. You will immediately sympathize with him and how stuck he is in a rural town devoid of other gay kids. His pure joy at finding others like him when he moves to Seattle will make you want to cheer out loud (or in my case, actually cheer out loud, much to the surprise of my family). Jason June did an excellent job of capturing every nuance and all the feels that gave me a sense that I was really there for Jay’s journey.
There are a lot of other characters in this book to love as well. A highlight for me is Max, Jay’s “Gay Guide” he meets at his new school. Max is hilarious but also sensitive and I wish they could dress me everyday. Jay’s best friend Lu is another great character: she is intense and fierce. I simultaneously loved her but was also a little scared of her. Jay’s parents were really well written. It was so great to see parents so supportive of their son.
I sometimes struggle with YA books because the conflict feels inflated and unrealistic. This could be because I am well beyond my angsty years at this point. I am relieved to report this book had conflicts that felt so real. As Jay navigates his new life at his new school, he has to make some decisions about his old friends versus his new friends and the potential for his first love versus his hormones. Of course these are not easy for people of any age to deal with.
Although this is a very fun book (like, laugh out loud sooo many times funny), it also doesn’t shy away from addressing issues such as coming out, gender identity, sex readiness and even poverty. All of these topics were masterfully handled with Jason June writing characters that were multi-faceted. For example, one character isn’t quite ready for sex while other characters definitely did feel ready. Both options are presented without judgement and as equally valid. It is such a sex-positive book, and although it does get pretty steamy at times, the intimacy is handled with respect for all choices and stages. The whole book felt both realistic and like a fresh take at the same time.
This book should be mandatory reading for all teenagers and also for their parents. Oh, and literally anyone else. I highly recommend it. I can’t wait for Jason June’s next book.
Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.