Friday, April 15, 2011


In my last post about the novel, Beautiful, I discussed stress inherent to adolescence, such as outsider status in high school, and lack of caring adults.  The YA novel, Gentlemen, by author Michael Northrop, also provides an honest look through fiction, at troubled teen characters, boys this time. There is a detailed synopsis on Bookduck

If you are planning to read Gentlemen, stop here, unless you want to know the twist at the end.

Let's look at one thread in this novel: Tommy, a friend of protagonist, Micheal, (yes, that's how it's spelled), is secretly gay. In Gentlemen, Northrop, shows us what it might be like to be gay in high school. It is not the main thread, but contains the secret that, in the end, ties everything together.

The inciting incident of the book is this: Tommy has disappeared. Where is he?  His three friends all fear him dead. Their growing suspicions that their English teacher has killed him, lead the boys to the novel's violent climax.

But Tommy didn't die. In the last few pages we learn he left home to "come out." He shows up outside Micheal's house with a hair cut, an earring and his story. What I thought Northrup did well in a few short pages was show honestly, through story, what it might be like to be Tommy.

For instance, Tommy always felt he had to pretend to be straight, so feigns an attraction to a girl named Natalie. He tells Micheal,  '"I was probably hoping more than pretending at first . . . I picked the hottest chick in class and went around telling everyone I had it bad for her . . . it didn't seem like I'd ever have to put my money where my mouth was."

We learn that because he sees his own homosexuality in Tommy, teacher, Mr. Dantley, had always been cruel to him.

Tommy used to dress and cut his hair like his friends, to look straight. But when he returns he looks different.  Micheal says, '"It's not like, as a guy, you couldn't get a fancy haircut. It's not like you couldn't get an ear pierced. it's not even like you couldn't drop out of sight for a while. But  . . . take it all together . . . guys like us,  we just didn't."

But there is a touch of humor. Standing outside Micheal's house, after the truth is out, Tommy asks if can come in. Micheal responds, '"Sure . . . But don't try anything."

Most of the novel is a dark violent story. But the relationship between Tommy and Micheal shows the possibility that maybe male friendship can survive even if one of them comes out. In fact, when I found out why Tommy disappeared, among a sea of worse possibilities, I felt relieved that a quest for self identity was all it was.

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