Monday, February 27, 2012

What We're Reading: Guest Blog

Judy and Kyle Renneker are brother and sister teenage twins, part of the large and unwieldy Renneker family, where you sometimes seem pretty much on your own in the general confusion and multiple demands for parental affection. Kyle is gay, and out to his family, something he announces formally at what turns out to be an anti-climactic non-event. The problem in his family is not that he is gay; it’s that his twin sister inexplicably hates him, and they are involved in a comically vicious sibling rivalry where one or the other must always be the winner. Things really start to heat up when they learn that their father has arranged for a classmate they barely know to stay with the family for the last month of the school term. Garrett Johnson’s parents have had to leave town to take up his father’s new job assignment in San Diego, and they want Garrett to be able to finish out the school term at his current school.

Garrett dyes his hair black, wears black eyeliner, is aloof and cryptic, and is apparently involved in an apprenticeship to be a vampire. He is also hot, however, and becomes the object of the rival desires of both Judy and Kyle, who doubt Garrett’s vampire pose, but don’t really have a clue as to his sexual orientation. The resulting antics, fueled by sibling rivalry, desire, and stupendously awkward attempts at seduction, is a send-up of vampire books as well as a story about the frailties of young love.

There are generally two kinds of novels written for gay teens. The first is rather serious and focuses on the troubles that come with being gay; it is concerned with the differences between the experiences of gay youth and their heterosexual peers. In these novels, families are usually hostile to gay youth or generally unsupportive. In the other sort of “gay” novel, gay teens are part of families that are accepting and supportive, they have circles of friends their own age and find themselves part of a group that usually contains both gay and heterosexual friends. Their experiences in developing a sense of self identity and making their first romantic moves towards others are shown to be common experiences shared by all youth. The similarity of gay youth to their peers, rather than their differences, is the reassuring message of these types of novels, the kind Patrick Ryan writes. In Gemini Bites, Ryan shows that dishonesty in presenting your true self is sure to make things more difficult and awkward for you than they must inevitably be. But mostly this is just a fun read, in which teens straight and gay (and would-be vampires too!) will recognize themselves.

Reviewed by Hubert Kozak

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