Everyone assumes that Zee is a lesbian. Her classmates, her gym buddies, even her so-called best friend. Even Zee is starting to wonder. Could they be onto something?
Everyone assumes that Art is gay. They take one look at his nice clothes and his pretty face and think: well, obviously.
But there’s more to Zee and Art than anyone realizes. What develops is a powerful connection between two people who are beautiful in all the ways they’ve been told are strange. As they explore their own complex relationships to gender, sexuality, and identity, they fall for the complexities they find in each other. With his trademark frankness, B. T. Gottfred delves inside both characters’ heads in this story about love and living authentically.
Over the past couple of days, I had the opportunity to preview The Handsome Girl and Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred. If you’ve read any of my book reviews to this point, then you know that the description of this book immediately grabbed my attention. And if they didn’t win me over, alone, the dedication definitely sold me on reading this book.
dedicated to everyone who has embraced their own unique, magical mix of feminine & masculine (and olux and xulo) and then embraced everyone else’s in return.
And then the book was wonderful. I twas consuming. It swallowed me and kept me turning page after page. I was absorbed by Zee and Art. And I identified with them closely. Especially Art. He’s hilarious. He’s sensitive. He’s a good dresser. (I was not a good dresser at 17, like he is. But I am, now.)
I liked how nontraditional they are. Zee is perceived as masculine because she is strong and athletic and androgynous. She love Crossfit. She dresses in a t-shirt and cargo shorts. She’s not fussed about her appearance, and her best friend is a guy. All signs point to lesbian, right?
Conversely, Art is beautiful. He’s concerned about skincare, he dresses well, he’s sensitive. His best friend is gay and he’s artistic and not at all interested in sports. Apparently, these things equate to femininity, and thus, Art is clearly gay.
But as The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy unfolds, we learn as readers that there is more to sexuality than that. Things are more complicated. And it’s a message people should be told. Because it’s true. I am a smart dresser, I am effeminate. I am artistic. I’m a schoolteacher, for crying out loud. So the assumption made about me in school was always that I was gay.
I really identified with Art throughout this book.
But as the characters evolve, we learn about their intricacies and the complications of their life. Zee’s mother is very sick as the book opens, and dies within the first chapter. Art’s parents are awful and distant. Art’s family is awful.
Zee is in love with her best friend, Cam. Art’s best friend, Bryan, is in love with him.
It’s all very complicated.
Now’s the time I point out that one of the things you must keep in mind when you read YA is about intensity. The emotions are intense and amplified. The circumstances are unrealistic and complicated. Everything is very big. Very loud. Very fast. That’s just part of the genre.
And, so, The Handsome Girl and Her Beautiful Boy is big and intense and loud and complicated and emotional. The relationship that develops between Art and Zee is big and intense and loud and complicated and emotional. Starting out, I loved every part of this book.
It was complex. It was inspired.
And then… it wasn’t.
For 75% of the book, I was in love. I was involved. I was sold on every aspect of the book.
And then the last quarter of the book went off the tracks for me. It’s not even that it was bad. It was just not the trajectory of this book. There were extra complications. There were extra characters who just appeared solely to complicate things. There were extra plot points that weren’t necessary.
And 100% maybe this was just me. Maybe this book just didn’t jive with me, which doesn’t mean it won’t jive with someone else. It just wasn’t my style of book. Which was so disappointing, because I really, truly loved everything about this book until then.
The Plucky Reader
As a pick me up after this sad review, here’s the link to my May reading playlist. At least I had good music as I read.