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Book Review: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

anythingIn Will Walton’s Anything Could Happen, 15-year-old Tretch realizes he is in love with Matt, his straight best friend, while sitting together in church and hearing the message “hold fast to that which is good.” Tretch isn’t out yet, even though he suspects that Matt, who has two gay dads (and is often assumed to be gay himself because of this fact—weird logic, right?), would be fine with it, as would his family. His mom is “uneasy” about Matt’s dads, but Tretch knows his family would still love him and stand by him if he came out, though he can’t imagine it. Their town is tiny and he thinks that his family would become ostracized if he came out and they supported him.

 

But coming out doesn’t feel really pressing to Tretch. He nurses his crush on Matt all through their semi-eventful winter break. They hang out and have sleepovers (where they sleep together in the same bed), Matt kind of starts to date a girl named Amy, another girl has a crush on Will, and Tretch starts to think more about coming out. This book is light on plot but heavy on interpersonal dynamics, which is just fine by me.

 

Anything Could Happen is a great addition to the younger side of LGBTQIA+ books. The whole story is sweet, warm, and happy. It’s all very wholesome (if you know me well, you know I usually accompany that word with a retching noise, but I mean it in kindest and best sense of the word here), full of gosh, heck, and freakin’. The friendships are all happy and loving, as are the family relationships. Tretch spends a lot of time with his grandparents and parents. The first person he comes out to is his older brother, who just says “cool” and then tells him a story about his girlfriend’s brother coming out to their preacher dad and how that went fine, too.

 

The whole thing sort of feels like it’s from another time, which I think is because of the setting in a very small town. If it weren’t for references to contemporary music and electronic devices, it could be set anytime in the past. The ending packs a lot in—Tretch busts out his amazing moves on the dance floor, has a heart-to-heart with Matt, and comes out to a few more people. He even comes to some kind of understanding with Bobby, the son of his dad’s business partner and his longtime bully.

 

The message at the end is that things are going to get better, but they’re already good. Will really takes to heart the lesson from the beginning, to hold fast to that which is good, surrounding himself with good and kind people throughout the book. Great for the 12 and up crew.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780545709545

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 5/26/2015

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Here’s my not-super-professional review of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: I LOVE IT! GO BUY IT FOR YOURSELF, YOUR LIBRARY, YOUR KIDDOS, WHOEVER!

 

Okay, so now that that’s out of my system….

 

Simon’s classmate Martin takes a screen shot of an email that would out Simon as gay. Martin blackmails him with this info, saying if Simon hooks him up with his friend Abby, he’ll keep quiet. Simon reluctantly (and extremely half-heartedly) agrees to this plan. Not only is he not particularly ready to come out, but he doesn’t want to drag Blue through the drama of being exposed, or lose him in the process. Who’s Blue? Well, that’s a good question. Simon doesn’t really know. Their relationship exists only on email, where Simon goes by Jacques. All he really knows about Blue is that he goes to Simon’s school just outside of Atlanta, Georiga. Both boys try to leave as many personal details of their lives out of their emails, understanding that they can be so honest with each other thanks to the anonymity. Their candor and flirtation in the emails reminded me of everything that is good about starting to get to know someone and starting to fall in love with someone.

 

Simon and Blue are fantastic characters, and this is one of those rare books where every character, no matter how secondary, is extremely well-written and stands out as distinctive and memorable. Simon’s best friends, Nick, Leah, and Abby, are all into their own things, have their own personal dramas both large and small, and serve different purposes in Simon’s life and his story. Simon’s family is also great. They do weekly discussions of The Bachelorette, even Skyping with his sister who is away at college. They are funny and loving and play large roles in Simon’s life in completely realistic ways. None of the characters are any one thing–not even Martin, the blackmailer. They’re complicated and dynamic.

 

There were so many tiny things I just loved about this book, like Leah’s act of subversion of dressing up in a dress for Homecoming week’s Gender Bender Day, the unpredictability of both the plot and most of the characters, and the conversations and observations about sex, sexuality, race, and more. Simon wonders why straight is the default, why everyone shouldn’t have to come out as whatever their attraction or identity is. I loved the many relationships, romantic and platonic. I also absolutely loved that Blue and Simon (on email as Jacques and in his “real” life) talk about and make flirty innuendos about sex. I don’t want to reveal much more of the plot because a lot of the fun of reading this book was not really knowing what would happen next or how certain events would be dealt with. One repeated idea in the book is that “people really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows.” Getting to explore Simon’s vast rooms, and those of his friends, was a total joy. This book is an absolute must-read: sweet, funny, honest, and filled with a bunch of happy endings. Get this one on your list. 

 

REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS

ISBN-13: 9780062348678

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 4/7/2015