Wed 18 May 2011
It already has a library. It’s where Noah Puckerman famously asked Lauren Zizes out for a pre-Valentine’s Day date. It’s where Artie, Tina, Kurt, Mercedes and Brittany performed “You Can’t Touch This,” an M.C. Hammer tribute complete with parachute pants. And, it’s where Finn and Rachel had a shelf-clearing lovers’ quarrel.
But the only librarian I’ve ever seen is a stereotypically stodgy woman who periodically appears to shush any Glee kids who get carried away.
Nothing against actress Jean Sincere who plays the role, but if there’s ever been a school that could benefit from a tuned-in, turned-on librarian who really knows young adult literature, it’s William McKinley High.
Because – brilliant singing voices aside – the kids there have issues. And, sometimes, the best way to cope with whatever issue is troubling you at the moment isn’t bursting into song. It’s reading about someone facing a similar situation.
That’s why so many young adult books feature characters who feel left out, unaccepted, abused or lacking in some vital way.
What teen hasn’t felt that way at least once? What Glee teen hasn’t felt that way at least once per episode?
A librarian could recommend the perfect book for each character.
I’m not officially a librarian, but I could play one on TV. And if I did, the first book I’d recommend to a Glee cast member would be David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy to Kurt Hummel, who is beautifully portrayed by Golden Globe winner Chris Colfer.
If you watch Glee, you know Kurt has had two stressful seasons. He’s come out as gay, seen his father nearly die after a heart attack and formed an uneasy alliance with his new stepbrother, Finn. Through all this, he’s endured escalating bullying from closeted football player Dave Karofsky that had Kurt briefly transfer to another, more accepting, school. There, he met, sang with – and ultimately kissed – a boy named Blaine.
Boy Meets Boy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) paints the picture of a much more accepting world than anything Kurt has encountered so far. As Paul, the main character, says on the first page, “There isn’t really a gay scene or a straight scene in our town. They got all mixed up a while back, which I think is for the best.”
And Paul’s high school reflects that. Paul is gay. His best friend, Joni, is straight. The school’s quarterback is a 6-foot-3 drag queen named the Infinite Darlene who also is the homecoming queen. There’s also Ted, Joni’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. And Kyle, Paul’s ex-boyfriend, who’s a bit confused. And Noah, the new boy in town who’s caught Paul’s eye.
It’s kind of like Kurt’s new school, Dalton Academy, might be if it were co-ed and no one wore uniforms.
The best thing about this book is its simple charm.
It’s mainly a love story between Paul and Noah, who meet in the self-help section of a bookstore in this scene:
“I am aware of my breathing. I am aware of my heartbeat. I am aware that my shirt is half untucked. I take the book from him and say thanks. I put it back on the shelf. There’s no way that Self-Help can help me now.”
Paul and Noah meet, connect and date with help and some well-intentioned hindrances from Paul’s friends. (Besides being a drag queen, the Infinite Darlene is a bit of a drama queen.)
The book’s appeal also lies in the fact that while it focuses on gay relationships, it’s a sweet, romantic story that would work just as well if it were about a heterosexual couple. The characters’ sexual orientation is beside the point.
Because their struggles are universal.
How do you stay connected to someone you love? What do you do when you don’t like the person your best friend loves? How do you apologize when you’ve made a mistake? How do you forgive someone who has hurt you?
If I were Kurt’s librarian, I’d hand him the paperback version of this book and tell him to read it all, paying special attention to Paul’s alphabetical list of why he doesn’t know what to do about Noah on page 156 and the very romantic kissing scene on page 178.
I’d also point out that The Bulletin gave this a starred review and said, “In a genre filled with darkness, torment and anxiety, this is a shiningly affirmative and hopeful book.”
Which is just what Kurt Hummel and many of the other students at William McKinley High School need to read.
So hey, Ryan Murphy. If you think Glee needs one more librarian … give me a call.