by Dakota Chase
YA fiction. 180 pp.
Prizm Books. 2007.
Jamie's pretty much your average gay teenager. He's not out with his folks, he's got a crush on a fellow high school athlete, and his life isn't perfect. It's a good thing he has his friend, Billy, to take his mind off things, and to show him that all things are possible.
Billy seems to be all Jamie isn't Billy's openly gay, he has enough money to follow fashion trends, and he's got dates all the time. Lots of them. With older men. When Billy starts acting weird and hiding things from him, Jamie's whole life seems to tilt off its axis.
His stepfather, who has never been the greatest role model, escalates his behavior until Jamie dreads going home. His English teacher assigns him tutoring sessions with the object of his crush, the gorgeous track star Dylan. Jamie's not even sure he can talk to Dylan, let alone tutor him, but it's impossible to talk to Billy about it. Billy's too wrapped up in a very dangerous game they call bug chasing: trying to catch HIV.
Learning about Billy's risk-taking nearly shatters their friendship, and forces Jamie to look at the world in a whole new way. Can Jamie try to keep Billy safe and still stay on top of homework, a new boyfriend, and keeping his step-father in line?
I'm not sure what to say about this book. I think the story idea is interesting, but I really didn't like the execution.
Okay. So here are my gripes:
- I haven't seen bug chasing addressed in a novel before. I think it's an element that needs to have an exploration to expose it for its ugliness. But because this book tried to deal with Jamie's coming out as well as Billy's bug chasing, everything received short shrift. This is a shame. Oh, and the sections that actually dealt with the bug chasing were very much After School Special in their tone.
- I find myself irritated that an underage boy is found in a seedy hotel, the obvious victim of a violent sex act (even if he instigated it), and none of the adult/authority figures seem to be bothered to run what ought to be a standard bloodwork check for STDs. Of course, with the stigmatization of homosexuality, perhaps this is reality.
- My major gripe with Jamie is that he had put the pieces together and didn't tell any adults. I understand that this is part of the Teenager Stupidity Complex, but even so, I think the plot conflict might have been much more interesting if it were brought into the realm of Things That Actually Require an Action to Deal With Because the Protagonist Made an Active Decision. But I really don't like passive conflict in a novel.
- The editing was absolutely abysmal. Typos, grammar, widows/orphans, amateur-appearing typesetting. In hindsight, I guess I ought to have figured that out just from the cover. By the end of the novel, I had assumed that perhaps it was published by a vanity house, but I'm not sure if that's the case. Maybe it is. From what I can tell, Prizm is a YA imprint of Torquere Press, which is an e-book publisher. Regardless, I had purchased City/Country at the same time because I thought the story sounded interesting. Because of the editing in this book, I'm not going to even bother cracking the cover of the other book.