Some of the most surprising and enjoyable reads I have had lately have been the result of simply walking into my local bookstore, heading over to the gay fiction, and seeing what cover strikes my fancy. The Trouble Boy, by Tom Dolby, was one of these.
It was a quick read, relatable, entertaining, and one that resonated with me on a lot of levels. It’s the story of Toby Griffin, 22-year-old boy-next-door, fresh-faced college graduate, who moves to New York City knowing he’s going to conquer the world with his charm. His dream of writing a screenplay that gains him recognition and fame are very familiar to anyone who, like me, enjoys writing. His dream of finding that perfect boyfriend is also very familiar to anyone who, like me, has never given up on that love-at-first-sight happy-ever-after ending Disney taught us all to expect.
Life doesn’t quite work out the way Toby hoped though. His quest for a boyfriend is interrupted by interludes with Real World Boy, Goth Boy, Loft Boy, nameless faces that could be anyone but end up being no one. His quest for that award-winning screenplay (and the front-page notoriety that would inevitable come from it) is cut short when he realizes that it isn’t just that easy, that dues must be paid, that it takes more than a good idea and a lot of wishes. Still, he doesn’t give up on either dream, even as he is distracted by booze and coke and the various troubles of his group of friends.
It was very real, the way Toby went from crisis to crisis, sometimes assisted by his friends, sometimes assisting them in their own crises. The book touches on a lot of more serious issues, without belaboring the point or becoming too preachy: safer sex, substance use, HIV, pregnancy. As Toby lives his life, his friends live theirs, and they intersect for moments of camaraderie and compassion, before diverging again. About halfway through the book, you find yourself slapped in the face by a surprising twist. There you are, enjoying a tale of a naive youth flirting with a glamorous celebrity-filled world, and then BAM, like a car into a crowd of pedestrians, everything changes. This forces Toby to look at his circumstances, to really evaluate some of his priorities, and he emerges stronger, maybe not making all his dreams come true, but at least getting closer to realizing some of them.
I also quite enjoyed the guy Toby ends up with. It’s weird how sometimes someone that has been on the periphery of your life, never involved but always there, on the sidelines, can suddenly get centre stage. It’s even weirder how sometimes, you do the same thing in their life. I guess that brings me back to that love-at-sixteenth-sight happy-ever-after ending.
This isn’t a coming out novel, and even though it does tackle some heavy subject matter, it stays quick-paced and clever. Its happy ending is realistic; not everything is resolved (nothing in life ever really is after all). It’s a good read though, so when you’re looking for a book to read by the pool this summer, filled with characters and situations you can probably relate to from Saturdays at the club, pick this up.
Submitted By: Rob B. Follow him on Twitter @robbrowatzke
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