A teenager navigates a new school and his feelings of being different in this YA novel.
Fourteen-year-old RV (“Short for ‘Arvydas,’ ” he explains. “I’m not a camper or anything”) Aleksandravičius is starting a new chapter: his freshman year at Boston Latin School. But RV has a hard time fitting in with the other kids, and his unique heritage does not help. RV and his parents are “Liths,” or “of Lithuanian Extraction,” and even though they sacrificed a lot to come to the United States, they are still uneasy with the American identity. RV tries not to worry too much about his parents’ increasing fights as he makes friends and learns which bullies to avoid, but he is quite preoccupied by something even bigger. No matter how much he prays to God and throws himself into a flirtatious friendship with a girl named Carole Higginbottom, RV has already admitted to himself that he might be gay. He can’t help but compare himself to the flamboyant Latin teacher Mr. Aniso, and nothing matches the electricity he feels when a handsome jock named Bobby Marshall notices him. RV wishes life could be as easy and enjoyable as eating pizza at his favorite restaurant, Joe’s Pizza, but with the help of his new friends, RV is starting to figure out how to handle the scary and confusing things life throws his way. Roamer molds the entire book to resemble a personal journal, fully fleshing out RV’s voice and insecurities as he experiences first kisses or troubles at home. Overall, RV remains a lovable, relatable narrator. (Although his pedagogical asides explaining words like irony or cretin do feel forced.) The book succeeds most at offering a lighthearted take on intersectionality as RV realizes how his experience as a first-generation American is both similar and different to that of Bobby, an African American, and is a testament to today’s gay youth. Yet even in a progressive school with a gay/straight alliance, homophobia exists and smart kids like RV still feel like outsiders.
A kindhearted protagonist anchors this sweet and contemporary coming-of-age story.