An ingenuous voice suffuses a gay coming-out novel with freshness and relevance.
Babcock delivers a first novel that’s already acquired a pedigree. After self-publishing it in 2002, he garnered Best Self-Published Novel awards from Writer’s Digest and the Lambda Literary Foundation. His opening sentence—“I was sitting in class, my junior year in high school, when I finally came out of the closet”—gives one pause at a time when many other gay writers celebrate moving away from coming-out stories. But young gays come out every day, and they’re apt to find this sincerely written version hopeful and encouraging. Babcock’s protagonist, Erick Taylor, 16, finds that more than his emerging gayness riles life at home. He’s nagged by his mother, a Bible-thumping Christian, a temperament she assumed after she had an auto accident that took the life of her six-year-old son—Erick’s brother. So Erick turns to Chloe, a flamboyant drag queen (is there any other kind?) who sells sunglasses at a local mall. Auntie Mame to Erick’s Patrick Dennis, Chloe introduces his charge to costume, wild hair color and gay life in Minneapolis. The latter pursuit means spending lots of time at clubs and, soon, doing lots of heavy drugs as well. When Erick professes his growing affection for Chloe, the latter confesses he has AIDS—a predictable and creaky moment, however plausible. The revelation sends Erick deeper into vividly described drug highs. With little insight into his problems, Erick begins searching for a partner in a series of sensitive encounters. One boyfriend, Mike, confronts Erick about drugs, thus initiating Erick’s long journey to sobriety, reconciliation with his family and eventual triumph, not tragedy, as drag queen Geneva Flowers.
An enjoyable, compelling tale with contagious empathy for its characters. Most valuable for high-school students, gay and straight.