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DESTINATION UNKNOWN by Bill Konigsberg Kirkus Star


by Bill Konigsberg

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-338-61805-1
Publisher: Scholastic

Two drastically different gay teens meet in New York City in 1987 at the height of the AIDS pandemic.

Introverted Micah Strauss lives a sheltered life on the Upper West Side with his liberal Jewish parents, who are clueless about his sexuality. CJ Gorman is his opposite: an openly gay, fast-talking, sometimes-compulsive liar who enraptures Micah from the first moment he sees CJ in a plexiglass bra at a dance club: “He looked to me like everything I never would be.” For Micah, unemotional hookups with closeted jocks from his school are the extent of his contact with anyone not straight. What ensues is a tour de force: an exploration of a relationship that pulls back the curtains on queer 1980s New York City to reveal a community wrestling with life and death. With care, emotional depth, and a myriad of period music references, Konigsberg expertly balances Micah’s wonder, fear, despair, and outrage at coming out during the AIDS crisis. Strong characterizations of Micah and CJ are buoyed by excellent dialogue and believable secondary characters—Micah’s doting mother, caring but passive father, hurt and jealous best friend Deena, and supportive lesbian boss—propelling this exhilarating page-turner. It’s sure to be an emotional eye-opener for those who did not live through this time and a resonant picture of resilience, community, and activism for those who did. Micah and CJ are White, as is most of the supporting cast.

Historical fiction at its finest.

(author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)