A while ago, I was asked if I was ever going to review any ‘contemporary’ YA books. My answer was kind, of “…eh. Not to sure.” And I wasn’t.
Charlie is seventeen years old and a senior in high school. He’s too tall, too skinny and has ears and a nose that are too big. Needles to say, he’s not Mr. Popular. Oh, and he’s gay. This book is told in diary-form, written by Charlie.
And what does Charlie spend his day thinking about? His dick. I’m not kidding, I didn’t take the time to do a count, but I’d be willing to wager dollars to doughnuts that the state of Charlie’s dick is discussed on 80% of pages in this book. He masturbates a lot. And I know 17 year old virgin boys are probably more likely to masturbate more than the average person. But it’s pretty much poor Charlie’s only past time.
And his parents are nuts. They had him when they were too young. His dad is a lawyer, running for state’s attorney, and he’s vaguely embarrassed to have a son like Charlie. His mom is overbearing, but kind of insane. Needless to say, Charlie is horrified by them.
Charlie’s life is sad and pathetic until Rob moves to town. He and Charlie are on the same soccer team and Rob is clearly flirting with Charlie, and poor Charlie is a little slow on the uptake. Until finally he gets it. Then finally there is someone else to give Charlie’s dick as much attention as Charlie’s been giving it.
So life is good, on that end. But Charlie’s parents’ marriage is going to shit and his dad moves out. Now, Charlie and his dad hadn’t had a great relationship, but my god, what happens? Charlie kinda misses the old man. And he kind of realizes that many of the problems he had blamed his father for could also possibly be his mother’s fault.
Then Rob’s mother, who suffered from ALS dies. And one of her home nurses accuses Rob’s dad of killing her by overdosing the Diazepam. Rob accuses Charlie of having known his father was going to kill his mother and they fight. And Rob knocks the piss out of Charlie. Like, really beats him up in a very bad and very embarrassing (i.e. public) manner. So Charlie’s sad, and he still loves Rob. But they don’t get back together. At the end, Charlie is eyeing a guy on the train, who eyes him back. Yay for Charlie.
OK, so there’s the plot. But believe me, it isn’t the plot that makes this book so great. It’s Charlie. It’s Charlie’s voice, and the fact that underneath all the dick references (and you kind of have to be looking for this), Charlie is a completely whip-smart, eloquent, hilarious, young man. Nothing gets by him. His has an eye for the ridiculous things in life and has a way of pointing them out. God, I love this book so much, I can barely gush about it well!!!!!
All right then, in Charlie’s own words. (And it was soooo hard to narrow these quotes down. I really just wanted to quote the whole fucking book, but you know. Copyright laws and all that).
After his first handjob from Rob:
“I used to think that when it came to sex, I did my best work alone, but I’m all about the teamwork.”
On a supposedly inspriational media presentation at his school (Say No to Drugs, Say no to Sex, Peer Pressure, etc.) he says this about the say no to sex portion:
“So instead of your girls letting Trey or Matt or Justin go in through the front door, they just let ’em in the back. Abortion worries over, ‘cuz butt babies don’t live.”
On his mom using the phrase ‘benevolent dictator’:
“What the hell did she mean by that? Was is supposed to be, like a toddler-friendly Idi Amin? A Muppet Hitler?”
On his horniness:
“I haven’t gotten off since Monday morning. If my nut sack gets put under any more pressure, my sperm’s gonna start dying of the bends.”
On his parents’ situation:
“Denial-It’s the glue barely holding millions of American families together.”
On taking communion at church”
“…I started thinking about how the wafer was supposed to be Jesus. He was in my mouth and he didn’t taste like chicken. He tasted like envelope paste.”
But the absolutely best part of this book is when Rob takes Charlie’s virginity. (His real virginity, you know, the ass virginity). They’re in a seedy motel room, which only had the honeymoon suite available. And there are mirrors everywhere, walls and ceiling. And Charlie can’t get over how ridiculous two people fucking looks. And his says there should be some kind of sign from management over the bed:
“Warning: sex in fron of these mirrors should only be attempted by professional. Objects in mirrors look exactly as they do in real life – you really do look that stupid; your ass really is that fat; that is going to leave a mark; yep, he just called out someone else’s name; yes, she’s only doing this so you’ll stop pestering her; and yes big boy, that really is the face you make when you come. Ashamed of yourself? You should be. Roll over and let the emptiness, the guilt, and the shame sink in. Only don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself for too long. You rented this room by the hour, big spender. – The Management.”
Yeah, that last quote I read at work during my lunch break and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. Luckily I was the only one in the breakroom at the time.
Other awesome things about this book:
- Charlie’s best friend, Neil “Bink” Binkmeyer’s parents. They are aging Jewish hippies and they are freaking hilarious.
- Some political jabs thrown in there. Charlie’s dad is running as an Independent for States Attorney, so he has the support of Libertarians, and Charlie makes some references to Libertarians that I just had to read aloud to my registered-Libertarian husband. (No, I’m not married to a gun-toting white supremacist OR a pothead. D is one of the few Libertarians who is neither of those things.)
- It reminds me of why I’m sooo glad to be out of high school. And I want to go find Charlie, give him a big hug and tell him it gets better. It sure as fuck can’t get any worse for that kid.
- An awesome scene where Charlie and Rob play a joke on the biggest asshole in the class (Kyle) while he’s getting a blowjob at the homecoming dance. This was after Kyle called Bink’s dad (the science teacher) a “Goddamn Jew,” in class.
- The squirmy uncomfortable feeling you’ll get when you read about Charlie’s mom catching him masturbating. With a…ahem…plastic cigar stuck up his bum.
- And the same feeling you’ll get when he explains trying to piss through a hard-on. Thank god I’m a girl.
You know, just because a book is about kids in high school, really shouldn’t make is YA. I mean, I was shocked when I saw someone on Goodreads label one of my favorite books of all time, How I Paid for College, as YA, because holy shit. There’s a fucking threesome scene in it. And it’s told from a snarky look-back type style that I thought adults would appreciate more. In my library, that book is in the regular fiction section. But I got this book from the YA section. And I’m pretty shocked. I would have started getting those books (if my library had even had a YA section) when I was about eleven. And while I generally won’t tell my kid he can or can’t read something….I probably wouldn’t let him read this at eleven. It is just sooooo crude. So evidently in Montgomery County, Maryland insane parents can demand all the merry-go-rounds be removed from county parks so their precious five year olds don’t get bumps on the noggin. But their eleven year olds reading about constant masturbation, blowjobs and ass sex? Sure thing. Gotta love the hyper-education hover parents.