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Late 1970s New Jersey is the backdrop for this gay coming-of-age novel by newcomer Soehnlein. As he starts his freshman year in high school in the fall of 1978, 13-year-old Robin MacKenzie is baffled by "normal boys" and men. Why, he wonders, do his salesman father, Clark, and his younger brother, Jackson, his crude uncle Stan and his oafish cousin Larry insult and torment other people, like Robin's 7th-grade sister Ruby, his chronically dissatisfied mother, Dorothy, and his new "burnout" friend, Scott Schatz? Robin already feels different because he has a collection of Broadway cast albums and helps his mother "accessorize" her clothing. Now the gulf between him and "normal" boys is widening: he is beginning to fantasize sexually not about girls but about other boys. Soehnlein depicts Robin's physical awakening with sensitivity, and also illuminates his struggles with new moral dilemmas, as he is forced to decide what to tell the adults about Jackson's fall from a playground slide, how to handle the mixed signals that he's getting from Todd Spicer, the older boy next door, and what to do about Scott's troubles with his abusive father. The third-person present-tense narrative presents an amusingly detailed and largely accurate picture of life in the Jersey 'burbs. Although marred a bit by rather facile psychologizing, Robin's story is ultimately a moving romance. That romance is not that of a boy with another boy (or man)Äthe clinical depictions of Robin's various sexual experiences are not particularly movingÄbut of a boy with a city: the New York where Robin lived as a small child; the New York he visits with his mother on their "City Days" throughout his childhood; the New York that remains, despite an ugly walk on its wild side, the city of Robin's dreams. Author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Robin McKenzie is just starting high school and ready for change, ready to appear more "cool," make new friendships, and fit in more. But after his younger brother, Jackson, injures himself in an accidental and dangerous fall, Robin's life will never be the same. As his parents' fighting escalates under the strain and his family begins to fall apart, Robin adapts to the strangeness of high school. Central in his anxieties is his sexual attraction to other boys. His parents are no help, and to add to his confusion, Robin's friends are just as lost as he is: one minute he and Todd (the cute boy next door) are fooling around, and the next Todd refers to homosexuals as queers and fags. Feeling scared and isolated, Robin starts experimenting with drugs, cuts class, and thinks of boys instead of schoolwork. Full of tension and suspense, Soehnlein's well-paced debut novel is a fresh look at one boy's sexual awakening in the 1970s and his journey to find a place where he can fit in. --Michelle Kaske