TJ has really low self-esteem and tends to shy away from boys, but she decides to take a chance on the super-cute new guy, James. When he announces [in class] that he is gay, TJ tries to come to terms with the fact that her romantic feelings will not be reciprocated and pursues a platonic friendship instead. A few of the football players do not feel quite so ready to accept James for who he is, though, and proceed to bully him. James soon becomes known as Pan (short for Pansy) when he embraces the name-calling instead of letting the bullies win. That alone is enough to make me love this book. Although not everything is happily resolved, there is enough positive attitude thrown in that it’s like a novel written for the “It Gets Better” project — except for the fact that it was published about 18 months before “It Gets Better” came to be. But, anyway…
I also liked the realistic portrayal of how awkward high school dating can be. Teenagers sometimes have a hard time being confident in who they are as an individual, let alone trying to figure out who they are as a part of a couple. And teens often find that existing friendships are strained by a budding romance, so it’s certainly no surprise that TJ’s relationship with Caspar (a football player) strains her friendship with Pan. Though Caspar is very different than the stereotypical “jocks,” the mere competition for TJ’s time and affection is enough to start a rivalry between him and Pan.
I can’t say any more about the plot without spoiling the story, but I HAVE to mention that Peter Marino will be at the Teen Read Week Lock-In at the East Greenbush Library on October 15th! If you are a teen (currently in 6th-12th grade) and you live in or around East Greenbush, you should definitely sign up.