DESIRE LINES by Jack Gantos


Age Range: 12 & up
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This bitter, open-ended tale of a Florida teenager who "outs" a lesbian couple, then watches as one kills the other before turning the gun on herself, offers an astonishing change of pace for the author of Jack's New Power (1995). A long-abandoned, overgrown golf course is Walker's refuge, a private place where he spends every free moment: There, he liberates animals from the school's lab and watches classmates Karen and Jennifer--in his words--"screwing around." None of his business, he figures--until a teenage preacher appears outside school grounds to start a gay witch-hunt, and expertly enlists Walker as his informant. The preacher's relentless innuendo, blared through a bullhorn, puts Walker into a panic about his own reputation; he takes up with three punks-in-training, and blurts out Karen and Jennifer's secret to them. Soon everyone knows, and a few days later, the tragedy plays out. Although Gantos is vague about what gays do once their clothes are off, he is explicit when demonstrating how a climate of fear and suspicion can be concocted in a community, and how insecure young people--gay, straight--can be tormented by it. There are no admirable characters, acts, or role models here, and Walker's sense of failure haunts his narrative; Karen, only injured, shows up at the end to tumble Walker's weak defense--leaving him alone with his regret, and readers to wonder how they would react in similar circumstances. No answers here, just harsh questions. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-374-31772-0
Page count: 137pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997


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