Saturday, June 17, 2006

Book Six: Absolutely, Positively Not by David Larochelle

219 pages, read from 7 p.m. to 8:20, minus 5 minutes for reading A Magic Schoolbus book aloud

"Why are we so clueless?
Why are we so slow?
When it comes to coming out,
why are we the last ones to know?"

--Romanovsky and Phillips

Sixteen-year-old Steven has an ugly secret: he likes to square dance. But when a very cute new teacher named Mr. Bowman arrives at his school, Steven begins to wonder is being a closet square dancer might not be his only ugly secret. And so he begins a ridiculous journey of self-denial, as he attempts to convince himself he is absolutely, positively not gay.

Following the advice of a pathetically outdated library book, Steven first tries hanging out with the most macho clique in the cafeteria, but all it gets him is the nickname "Upchuck." Next comes aversion therapy with a rubber band, which only makes him realize how astonishingly often he thinks about things he shouldn't be thinking about: "Did other guys think about women as much as I thought about men?" Finally he tries dating, discovering that girls love the way he helps them clean their basements, shovels their walks, and listens to their problems... but attempting to make out with one winds up being something he absolutely, positively can't do.

Finally, in one of the funniest scenes of the book, Steven breaks down and comes out to his best friend Rachel--and just as Romanovsky and Phillips once wrote, she and everyone else in her family are utterly unsurprised. "To complete the family picture, Rachel's ten-year-old sister, Tracy, pushed her way through the door. 'DON'T SAY IT!' I cried. 'Don't you dare tell her anything!'... At last Rachel's little sister spoke. 'Did Steven finally tell Rachel he was gay?'"

Although generally screamingly over the top, there are moments of real feeling in this story, as when Steven discovers that though the teacher he idolized is probably gay too, he cowardly laughs at faggot jokes. And Steven's desperate longing just to find someone he can talk to about being gay is far from funny. But all ends reasonably happily, after much, much laughter. (14 & up)