THIS WEEK we take a look at two new books coming out aimed at the teen market, one for girls and one ostensibly for boys.
Meg Cabot is the author of the best-selling Princess Diaries novels. She was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and her childhood was spent whiling away many hours reading the complete works of Jane Austen, Judy Blume and Barbara Cartland. She went on to various jobs, until she finally managed to move to writing full-time. She has never looked back and currently lives in New York City with her husband Benjamin and their one-eyed cat Henrietta. Teen Idol, the latest offering from this author, is aimed squarely at the female teenage reader.
High school junior Jenny Greenley is good at solving problems. So good she’s the school newspaper’s anonymous advice columnist. Even if solving other people’s problems doesn’t make her own – like not having a boyfriend – go away, it’s still fun.
For reliable, thoughtful Jen, everybody’s best friend, it all started when she was asked by the school administration to guide a new student, Lucas Smith, through his first days at Clayton. Jen and the administration are the only ones who know that Lucas Smith is really 19-year-old screen sensation Luke Striker, the hottest movie star in Hollywood, who has come to Jenny’s small town to research a role.
All the girls at Clayton think the new boy is cute, but when he accidentally reveals his true identity, Jen finds herself thrown head first into her 15 minutes of fame, and a lot of turmoil with her friends and classmates.
Suddenly, she stars being treated as the ‘It girl’ in all the magazines. Reporters want to know what colour she’s wearing to the Clayton High School Spring Fling, and whether she’s going to wear her hair up or down.
Teen Idol is a story that deals with things close to teenagers’ hearts – self-image, confidence and friendships – but Cabot always keeps it light-hearted and funny. A perfect read! Available in paperback at 9.50 euros.
By way of contrast, David Levithan has written Boy Meets Boy, a book with definite guy appeal. Again aimed at the teenage reader, it deals primarily with homosexual relationships. It shows, however, that many teens have the same questioning thoughts on love and dating, regardless of gender.
In an alternate reality where (almost) everyone’s sexuality is out in the open and (almost) no one cares, Paul meets artistic, thoughtful … perfect … Noah. For a while, Paul is pretty confused, especially when his ex-boyfriend Kyle walks back into the picture.
Paul is lucky enough to have loyal friends who are both gay and straight to help him through his confusion. However, when he needs her most, his best friend Joni enters a controlling relationship and refuses to talk to him. When Paul makes a huge dating faux pas (kissing the ex-boyfriend) and rumours begin to fly, he needs his friends more than ever to help him salvage the best relationship of his life.
Paul is the fallible narrator taking us through his falling in love with Noah, his non-sexual love for gay Tony, his struggles with the end of an affair with bisexual Kyle and the loss of friendship with Joni, who is herself in a perpetual stop-start relationship with high school king Ted. The blossoming relationship with Noah is a fragile flower, easily threatened by Noah’s suspicions of infidelity. Kyle is all mixed up. Tony has religious, anti-gay parents and seems to have difficulties in finding a boyfriend. Perhaps his very close brotherly relationship with Paul is an impediment. Also walking in and out of the storyline are Zeke the “gaystafarian” and Infinite Darlene, the drag queen and the school football team’s quarterback.
Though the main character is gay, Boy Meets Boy is not a book aimed exclusively at gay, lesbian and bisexual teens. It should be read by anyone who has ever had a crush, has met and almost lost a great person in their life, has at least one good friend, or is brave enough to stand up for what they care about.
The book is brave, funny, well written and pleasingly provocative. Give it a try! Available in paperback at 9.50 euros.