After the Fall Quarter was finished, I looked around my study for something fun to read. I tried reading Wuthering Heights again, but, while it’s a great book, it wasn’t what I was in the mood for. I started reading A Passage to India, the only E. M. Forster I haven’t read, but that too didn’t work. I decided I wanted something gay (or maybe I should say gayer than Forster), so I rooted about in my bookshelves and piles of random books and picked up K. M. Soehnlein‘s The World of Normal Boys, a coming out story about a kid named Robin set in 1978.

I think I bought TWoNB a couple of years ago. I had been in a gay book club and had gotten tired of having to mail in the little cards telling them not to send me each month’s selection, so I decided to order a few books all at once, complete my obligatory number of purchases, and then cancel my membership. This was one of the novels that sounded interesting. Unfortunately, when I got the books in the mail, I started reading one of the other novels, which wasn’t very good. When I couldn’t get into that one, I figured all three of the books I ordered must not be any good, so I set them on a shelf and forgot about them.

So, after I picked it off the shelf again, I didn’t have very high expectations. Much to my surprise, however, I quickly fell in love with this book. Here’s how it begins:

Maybe this is the moment when his teenage years begin. An envelope arrives in the mail addressed to him from Greenlawn High School. Inside is a computer-printed schedule of classes. Robin MacKenzie. Freshman. Fall, 1978. He has been assigned to teachers, placed in a homeroom. His social security number sits in the upper right corner, emphasizing the specter of faceless authority. Someone, some system of decision making, has organized his next nine months into fifty-minute periods, and here is his notification. This is what you will learn. This is when you will eat. This is when you go home to your family at 135 Bergen Avenue. This is how you will live your life, Robin MacKenzie.

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