September 9, 2010

Late Summer Reading: "I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip"

I recently read a landmark book in the gay YA genre, a novel published back in 1969 that is now widely regarded as starting the genre:  John Donovan's "I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip".  The book was re-released this year in a lovely 40th anniversary edition with an introduction and essays by authors Brent Hartinger, Martin Wilson and Stacey Donovan.  

The book is the simple but sharply told story of 13 year old Davy Ross, who moves to Manhattan to live with his mom after his grandmother dies.  Told in the first person, the book achingly charts the pain of his loss as well the challenge of moving into his new digs in ol' New York.  Davy lives with his now-single mom in a pre-gay Chelsea while attending a day school for rich kids in a pre-Stonewall West Village.  The book's period details are precise and somewhat fascinating to a NYC history addict like myself. 

Davy's best friend and the most charming suprise of the book is a lively little daschund named Fred.  This is one of the most precisely drawn animals in fiction, with a personality that nearly matches that of all the other major characters. However, the biggest character of all is Davy's alcoholic mom who is a sort of the dark-side version of Auntie Mame.  Living with her is a challenge and you feel for Davy as he tries to navigate her unpredictable behaviour.  He also meets a guy at school named Altschuler who becomes a friend, an ememy and a bridge to a whole new life.  

Clearly forbidden from using "bad" words in a YA book way back then, there are some clever curses and descriptions of Fred doing his business.  And despite the generous use of the Holden-esque words "lousy", "phony" and "old bastard", the book is very well written especially as it gets into Davy's awakening.  So, if you're looking for a late edition to your late summer reading, this book is a sweet and timeless tale of self-discovery that I would definitely recommend.  

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