After four years in Canada, Ray Liu is stressed out. On top of his parents’ divorce in China, his father’s remarriage, learning English and struggling in high school, Ray faces another challenge: he’s gay.
Playing online war games is Ray’s safety valve, the one place he feels valued and successful. When his Chinese Army–vet father discovers Ray’s been visiting gay websites, he kicks Ray out of the house, tossing his clothes after him. Furious, Ray avoids seeking help from friends—none know of his sexual orientation—and heads to downtown Toronto. Within days he’ll be robbed, beaten, befriended, solicited and left with a decision to make: whether to become a “money boy,” joining the ranks of Toronto’s teen male prostitutes. Though not entirely sympathetic, Ray is compelling and believable; many of his frustrations are universal to adolescence: peer acceptance, family expectations. For Ray’s family and friends, contemporary immigrants who—thanks to cell phones and the Internet—remain closely connected to their first home, straddling cultures raises unique identity and assimilation issues. Yee effectively shows how Ray’s birth culture is unaccepting of homosexual identity and his acquired one, at best, is in transition. An ending that feels a tad unearned does not materially undermine the text.
Overall, this insightful and deeply felt novel makes a valuable contribution to an underexplored topic and is highly recommended. (Fiction. 14 & up)