Saturday, September 17

The Straight Road to Kylie – Nico Medina

Jonathan Parish’s life is pretty awesome – out and proud, surrounded by his three best girl friends, and senior year lies gloriously ahead; the only hiccup is the lack of any prospect of a boyfriend. The only other out teen at Winter Park High is not at all suitable, thank you very much. But everything goes horribly wrong when the meticulously planned celebration of bestie Joanna’s birthday is derailed by a combination of too much alcohol, adolescent hormones and the distress of second bestie Alexandra’s continued virginity. Somehow – how? How? – Jonathan finds himself in a bedroom, having sex, with a girl.
The act itself was less hideous than the aftermath – a chink having opened in his heretofore unquestioned homosexuality, Winter Park’s reigning teen queen Laura Schulberg extends an offer he can’t refuse: pretend to be her boyfriend for the rest of the year and get an all-expenses-paid trip to London, to see the fabulous Kylie Minogue who, almost certainly, will never tour the US (and is, coincidentally, playing in the Pret where I’m writing this review). What choice does he have?
The Straight Road to Kylie wasn’t unenjoyable, but I had several issues with it, almost certainly due to my vast age at least as much as to the writing itself. Chief among these is the fact that there is a lot of alcohol (and light recreational drug) use, with no real consequences apart from a few survivable hangovers. This makes me sound like a terrible prude – it’s not that I think there should be death, dismemberment, car accidents, permanent paralysis, teen pregnancies and brushes with STD’s, but the novel is almost a tribute to teen alcohol use in a country where the legal drinking age is higher than the global average. I certainly get that the pivotal plot moment comes about as a result of Jonathan being drunk but that doesn’t even cause him a second’s thought.
Which brings me to my second issue – all of the characters, but Jonathan in particular, as spookily composed, mature and rational. While it’s refreshing to have jocks who aren’t all homophobic meatheads, the only character who seems to get at all flustered is Alex, who makes the common mistake of confusing sex with love. Interestingly, despite all the alcohol there’s somehow almost no sex apart from the opening scene of Alex and Jonathan’s mutual deflowering.
Unsurprisingly, given these factors, there’s almost no adult presence in The Straight Road to Kylie – with the exception of Jonathan’s boss at Target (hardly fully fleshed) adults are peripheral and sketchy at best. I’m not saying my teachers and parents were fully people to me at that age but they were definitely in my life. Maybe that’s just the Gen X/Gen Y gap...
I did enjoy The Straight Road to Kylie, despite these issues – I liked the premise, and although Jonathan’s life is close to idyllic it was nice to read about a gay teen who’s not only comfortable with his sexuality but accepted by his parents and peers. I do doubt that groovy Jonathan has a MySpace account, but I’m old and on FaceBook so maybe there’s been a pre Google+ retro return to MySpace. Hardly the biggest of quibbles, anyway.
I didn’t hate The Straight Road to Kylie, and I finished it to its predictably rounded happy ever after, but I have no need to pass it on or re-read it and will instead be leaving it when I finish my lunch. – Alex

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