Monday, September 3, 2012

Coming of age and coming out

Lavoie, Jennifer.  Andy Squared.  Bold Strokes Books, 2012.

Coming of age and coming out are two themes that appear frequently, not only in literature for young adults, but in literature as a whole.  Indeed, they appear often enough that, done poorly, the story can quickly slip into cliché.  In Andy Squared, Jennifer Lavoie does a fine job of avoiding that slide as she details the coming of age and coming out experiences of a small-town soccer hero struggling to find his own path to maturity.  Andrew and Andrea, both nicknamed Andy, are twins who share starring positions on their respective soccer teams, a bedroom, and plans for college.  But the comfortable shared pattern of their lives is rocked when Ryder, handsome, charming, and a little exotic, moves to their small New York town from Texas.  As his friendship with Ryder grows, Andrew discovers a new hobby, new dreams, and the reason why none of his relationships with girls has ever worked out.  As their relationship becomes both romantic and physical, Andrew struggles to come to terms with this new identity, finding surprising support along the way.  But when their secret is exposed to small-town high school minds, will Andrew be strong enough to admit, to himself and to the world, the truth about his relationship with Ryder?  And will his relationship with his twin ever be the same?  Lavoie is deft and careful with her subject, crafting a story that will work for most high school-aged readers.  While the implication of sex is present, both with Andrew’s past girlfriends and with Ryder, such activities are off-screen; kissing is as far as Lavoie takes her details.  This lack of physicality allows the story to focus on the emotional struggles of learning something new about yourself and finding a place for your new self in a world that perhaps isn’t ready for that personal evolution.  From her teenage protagonists and their supporting cast of friends to the adults that guide and support both Andrew and Ryder, Lavoie’s characters are interesting and well-drawn; if there is a lack at all here, it’s that Andrea, Andrew’s sister, is a bit shallowly drawn.  It would have been interesting perhaps to see more of her internal thoughts, though certainly her actions for good and for ill do allow the reader to judge her and the relationship between the two. 

Andy Squared is definitely a recommended title for readers, male or female, gay or straight, who are struggling with establishing an individual identity outside of the expectations of the people who love them.

ARC received from NetGalley.

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