The Boys and the Bees

Fri. December 1, 2006 12:00 AM
by Chad Sosna

Book: The Boys and the Bees
Author: Joe Babcock
Review: 5 stars (out of 5)
Definitely the top middle-reader gay novel

I finally read this book just because I thought it was daring. To write about a boy awakening to his sexuality in sixth-grade still somehow startles me, and I wanted to see how this author did it. But he succeeded brilliantly.

ndy is in a Catholic School and secretly admires Mark, the captain of the school's basketball team. He is at the age where he not completely sure of his interest in certain other guys, but knows it's different than most of the other guys his age feel about girls. Conversely, his friend James--who has feminine characteristics and has already been labeled "fag" at school--is a challenge. Andy thinks he should rebuke James but doesn't fully have that rejection in his heart.

I was concerned there would be overt sex among these sixth-graders, which seemed like a creepy possibility. But this book is in good taste, only dealing with the flirtations and desires of these boys, and never getting graphic.

This novel has realistic scenes, honest dialogue, and funny twists. For instance, Andy decides he wants to go to Mass so he can see Mark, and has to convince his parents. "Who has to beg their parents to go to church?" he asks, incredulous. There are also many mini-earthquakes of the emotional sort, often demonstrated in short phone calls. It all rings so true--those moments where "I like you" turns to "I hate you" in a few seconds. We've all been that age and have been there!

As Andy begins to realize who he is, and deals with the outcome, the story reaches an even higher level of storytelling. Witty, well-crafted and wise, this book is a good read for middle schoolers or anyone interested in queer lit.