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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clean, simple, plaintive, divine.
The last time a book affected me this much ... well ... suffice it to say that it's been a long time.

First things first. I wish I wrote it.

It's the only novel I've ever read that I'm truly, genuinely envious of.

The writing is sensual but succint, the words lyrical but moderate. I actually became breathless while reading...
Published on July 26, 2004 by Holly

versus
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good till (not through) the end
With teen-coming-out books plowing into the fiction market by authors like James Howe, David Levithan, Alex Sanchez, Brent Hartinger and surely more to come, this little, quiet book (originally published in 1995) might be evaporating into invisibility.

Teenager Nathan finds his new home in the country especially welcoming when his neighbor, Roy, befriends him...
Published on April 24, 2006 by Chad Sosna


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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clean, simple, plaintive, divine., July 26, 2004
By 
Holly "junkstory" (Los Angeles, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
The last time a book affected me this much ... well ... suffice it to say that it's been a long time.

First things first. I wish I wrote it.

It's the only novel I've ever read that I'm truly, genuinely envious of.

The writing is sensual but succint, the words lyrical but moderate. I actually became breathless while reading.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it's a love story between two boys, and neither the word 'gay' nor the phrase 'I love you' is ever used.

Sure, there's touching, kissing, sex, teenage awkwardness, guilt, fear, even discrimination. But nothing beyond narrative emotion + action speaks of the nature of it. No labels, clichés, or assumptions. It's just simple, perfect, and beautiful.

I want to cradle this book like a baby.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seductive, compelling tale, July 2, 1998
By 
sampsonjwe@aol.com (Birmingham, Alabama) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Hardcover)
I read DREAM BOY a couple of years ago, shortly after its hardcover publication. I was on a business trip, and stayed up well into the night to finish what I still consider to be one of my favorite novels. Grimsley's use of the first-person is a particularly wicked turn of style: I was hooked on page one, immediately drawn into the lives of these two boys. Seductive may be a better descriptor, for DREAM BOY is nothing if not seductive. While most readers may identify with Nathan's pain and his unwavering affection for Roy, it is Roy's love for Nathan that most captivated me. Strong yet subtle, confused yet confident, his undeniable passion and desire for Nathan give the book its emotional core. An unsteady core, to be sure. But it is that unsteadiness that allows the reader to more fully appreciate Roy's love, and to more easily understand the novel's inevitable climax. Much has been written about DREAM BOY's ending, mostly comments on Grimsley's talented use of some very powerful, dream-like imagery. But I think the ending only serves to remind us that Grimsley's real genius in this tale is his careful manipulation of his readers--to the point that we are willing to believe...either that the dead can rise and angels exist, or that a tortured soul can survive and redemption exists. Either way, he is simply asking us to believe in the same hope that allowed Nathan and Roy's relationship to blossom in the first place. Tonight, I have just seen Eric Rosen's stage adaptation of DREAM BOY, at Atlanta's 7 Stages, where Mr. Grimsley is a playwright-in-residence. The performance was textually and visually precise...nearly as emotionally stunning as the book itself. James McKay's Nathan will quietly draw you in, and Christopher Graham's Roy will make you believe, just as Nathan does, that this love is real...that it is somehow worth the pain.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good till (not through) the end, April 24, 2006
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
With teen-coming-out books plowing into the fiction market by authors like James Howe, David Levithan, Alex Sanchez, Brent Hartinger and surely more to come, this little, quiet book (originally published in 1995) might be evaporating into invisibility.

Teenager Nathan finds his new home in the country especially welcoming when his neighbor, Roy, befriends him. Roy is a year older, hot and needs help with his homework. While their homework evolves into bodywork, Nathan still has secrets. Apparently his father is an abusive alcoholic whose actions have caused the family to move from city to city. And now gossip is starting in this town.

As the story progresses to a campout that brings the book's climax, you find the tale shifting to a disturbing level of horror that doesn't really match the more subdued tone of the rest of the book. Though I liked the writing style very much, the ending confused me--and once I realized what had happened, felt the story was ruined by the ending. That single element made me reduce what would have been a five-star rating to a three-star one. But you decide: a friend of mine loved the ending and thought it was totally appropriate.

If you're tired of the overly-trod gay fiction themes of alcoholic parent/ abusive parent/ hot, confident jock who easily realizes he's gay, you will not like finding these plot turns yet again (though, admittedly, this book was more than 10 years ago, so Grimsley was probably the trendsetter rather than a follower).

The novel's style is much more literary than the newer gay-teen books by the authors mentioned above. Its richer style and layered nuances prove the writing above average.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicate, ethereal vision of emotional violence, January 2, 2005
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
Grimsley conveys his story with a fanciful style of, well...dreaminess -- he tells us about the characters actions: he did this, he did that, in a kind of fairy tale that hovers above daily reality but isn't removed from physical feeling. The story is told as if by a precociously wise youngster who idealizes the situation, simplifies it into something abstract and poetic. And it's an especially good work because it works along the lines of emotion and our reactions to dreams in an emotional way -- our fantasies and the feelings they invoke in us are evoked from Grimsley's writing of THIS story.

Nathan is a bright boy, we learn, in his sophomore year in high school -- yet kids are concerned that he skipped third grade? The characters, Nathan and Roy, should be younger judging by their speech, but it's quite possibly the colloquialisms of the setting that result in the way they talk (and making them younger would have made it seem more innocent and playful, I think, with a sense of boyhood discovery, excluding the awful emotional violence we experience at some points in the story; having them as high school students adds an edge of suspense, a roughness and unpredictability).

Of course Grimsley appeals to the most common of gay fantasies -- the unlabeled boy who has sex with boys, Roy; here, portrayed not as dumb, but not as saintily intelligent and aware as Nathan, who makes observations, such as the difference in Roy's shoulders when he drives the bus one day, that, to him, render changes in the course of history. There's a feeling of constant suspense that the entire enterprise will fall apart -- that Nathan's dad will find him, that Roy will leave Nathan for his girlfriend ("I'm not your boyfriend, I have a girlfriend"). You don't want it to end tragically, you want Grimsley to let it continue, to let us down easy. Our anxiety is because we know it can't and that he probably won't. We suspect it early on -- we suspect a lot of things throughout the novel, actually; Grimsley rarely spells anything out explicitly. Occasionally his foreboding can become a bit too visible, such as when Nathan's speech begins to get especially ominous in the abandoned house, how he suggests that he'll "never leave."

Grimsley is uniquely talented at creating sexual situations in which the emotional consistency is pure and recognizable, much more so than could be said to be "erotic" -- the eroticism, when there is any, is due mostly to the secrecy of the affair. Grimsley deals very intelligently and compassionately with the theme of father-son incest, especially compared to the replay of it as found with Nathan and Roy, and finally with another character. The emotional violence that Grimsley conveys is just shattering, and the detail between the relationships is very precise. The climax of the novel is terrific -- Grimsley destroys the world he's created for us. It's a violent tearing away, when a flashlight goes on the tenseness of the entire novel is brought up. The foreboding of the novel would normally bother me, but here it adds the echoes of long-gone voices, and when the ending comes it all sort of flows together into some ethereal vision. In many ways, this is Roy's story -- Nathan IS Roy; he's what Roy uses to discover what's in himself (there's a hole in Nathan when he does); Nathan is the dream boy.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreams of Nightmares?, January 10, 2004
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
rafting the stories of boys just coming out seems to be a trend in gay literature. Perhaps because so many younger people are coming out these days, this literature helps to give them a sense of identity. Or perhaps us old folks enjoy reminiscing about the days when we first came out, and the world was fresh, new and exciting. At any rate, Grimsley lends his voice to this genre with "Dream Boy".
This is my second journey into the literary world of Jim Grimsley. First, after having devoured "Comfort and Joy", I was eager to see what other journeys Grimsley has planned for us. "Dream Boy" is one incredible journey, but where its destination is still remains to be seen.
Nathan is a reticent, introverted sophomore suffering from constantly moving from one area to another. His father is a distant alcoholic with a terrible secret; his mother is as undefined as the wallpaper in their new house. At the beginning of the story, they move next door to a religious family with a son named Roy, two years Nathan's senior. Nathan becomes immediately smitten with the older boy, but is unsure of his intentions. Soon, they are made clear, and a complicated romance blooms between the two.
Their courtship dance is the most compelling part of the book, as we see them weave their interest in each other very carefully. Both boys are complete characters, complex and developed. You yearn for them express their feelings and emotions for each other, for them to work out. But Nathan harbors a terrible secret, one that is slowly revealed, but ultimately threatens everything that Nathan wants.
Grimsley's writing style in this book is far more poetic than in "Comfort and Joy". His descriptions are wonderful, lyrical, and allows you to slow down in this read just to enjoy the words. What could have been a common, everyday coming out story transcends higher because of the melody of his sentences. The music of his writing is simply beautiful.
However, the main fault of the book lies in the ending. Taking a beautiful story, Grimsley warps the story by it's haunting, tense climax. It seemed out of book's style to have what happened happened. Frankly I was a bit confused as to the outcome as well, having difficulty understanding what was real and wasn't.
Perhaps this is one of those books that will linger in my mind for months to come, thereby, getting a bigger understanding of the entire story. For now, "Dream Boy" simply stays with me as a dream, and a somewhat beautiful, haunting dream it is.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching, powerful, and wonderfully written, December 12, 1999
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
Jim Grinsley's book just came out in Hebrew. A friend who liked Winter Birds asked me to buy him this book as a present. Before I gave him the present I started to read the first chapter to see if I like it. I put the book down when I finished the last page. It is hard to say what is so enchanting in this book. It is not a sophisticated novel; it does not use literary "tricks" to create subtle meanings. And yet, there is something very powerful in the way it is told; a lyrical undertone that you feel as if you read a poetry; and a living characters that one can easily identify with, even if he or she lived in a very different culture and society.
When I finished the book I had tears in my eyes. I am not sure if it was tears of joys, due to the possibility of two persons to find each other and create a special tie between them -- the word love might not be enough to convey the depth of their relations -- and to help each other find his inner self; his salvation. Or were these ties of sorrow, because their love was doomed to be destroyed by evil forces of homophobic society and wicked men (significantly, men and not women).
Grimsley is also unique in his treatment of the wicked characters in the novel -- Nathan's father and Burke (due to the Hebrew translation, it's hard to know if this is how the name is spelled in English). Undoubtedly, he does not condone them. But nor does he simply castigate them either. In his unique lyric and parsimonious, almost childlike, prose, Grimsley makes them also victims of cruel and hopeless poverty and of homophobic society -- a society which does not let its men to provide for their children on one hand (as in Winter Birds) and to express their feelings when they fail to do it on the other hand. A society that condemns such revelation of tenderness and compassion to be a secret, as when Nathan and Roy establish their unusual relations. Some readers too easily condemn Nathan's mother too, for not stopping her abusive husband. I think that Grimsley would like us rather to understand why so many women find it impossible to act otherwise. In a strange way I think that Grimsley makes us sympathize will all characters, even with those we would like to hate.
And finally there are all those allusions to the New Testament; not something that a Jewish man like me knows much about it. But obviously, religion and faith are crucial in this novel, both as a symbol of hypocritical society -- which applauds good virtues but condones evil -- and as a source of real hope and salvation. These are the reasons that this seemingly simple book should turn into a classic, a book to be recommended and studied i schools and colleges.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Two Day Sugar Coma on a Second Hand Couch", July 21, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
I've never been the "reading" type, especially when it comes to modern gay literature. Being a young gay man I have too easily put down many gay themed books for being typically sarcastic, venomous, too political, or just plain boring. Luckily, this book made its way into my life by chance and I am forever grateful. From the minute I flipped open the front cover (hesitantly, mind you) I found myself smirking in anticipation, reading further in shock, and sighing with inevitable delight.
A select few may share the opinion that this book is "underdeveloped", for whatever "their" reason. But, that is where its beauty thrives. This is a simple story about the most basic of human emotion, and the wants and needs that surround...a love story.
Jim Grimsley is so amazingly clever with words. An innocent walk through a field, a first kiss, or even a scattering of dinner plates becomes a grand event unto itself. Quite the dream.
I could ramble on about the wonders within this book, but read it for yourself, and relive your teen years...they way the could have been.
Thanks Jim. "Amen" :-)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Story, but Sad, October 6, 2004
By 
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
I have to say that when I read this, I did not know what to expect. I began reading, and I found that I rather like shy Nathan and Roy, whom he worshipes.

I also have to admit that I sometimes felt that the love was one-sided and that Roy didn't love Nathan as much as Nathan loved Roy. I mean, Nathan is the one that does all the work, and Roy is the only one who gets the pleasure. Poor Nathan is happy just by seing Roy smile at the service he provides. I felt really sad about that.

Then I saw that what I thought was not true by what Roy did to Nathan in the abandoned house. From then on I could barely read the book beacuse I was extremely angry and depressed. I have to say this...(people are going to think I am insane...) I don't cry usually. At movies, in books, when someone I know cries, I don't cry. I don't think I cried for a long, long time, and when that time was, I don't know....(here goes *gulp*, don't hate me) I didn't even cry when seing Passion of the Christ, though I was very moved. I am Christian and I have read most of the BIble, and know some of the short stories, I studied religion in school, read and wrote about it, but i DID NOT cry at Mel's movie, though it was a teribbly sad masterpiece. But I cried when reading this novel. I have no idea why, but the things that happen to poor Nathan got be bawling. I wanted to strangle Burke. I would have killed him for what he did to shy Nathan.

Anyway, I couldn't even see the pages because of my tears. I know I sound teribbly corny, but it's true. I did, like most readers, have to go back and re-read the last parts since they confused me in my hightened angery state. I am so happy that Jim decided to end the novel the way he did. I was going to be depressed for several days if more sad things happened to Nathan.

But even with the ending, I was still sad. It took so much suffering for that sweet little boy to finally find some peace. *Sigh* Go buy it, it's completely worth it. A moving story, one of the few things that ever got me crying.

I really should stop being so sentimetal.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Teenage Love Story, July 28, 1999
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
I first discovered Grimsley in the form of a book called "Winter Birds" in the bargain bin at a local bookstore. I began reading it and was very upset to find that it had been written in second person (a viewpoint I loathe greatly, and feel should only be used for cookbooks). I immidiately through it across the room and returned to the bookstore. Also in the bargain bin a few weeks later I found "Dream Boy." After checking at the store to make sure it was not written in second person (it wasn't) I decided to give Grimsely another chance.
I am very glad I did. This story is beautifully written and touching throughout. It greatly reminded me of my first love (which is not that far back, as I am only 15). I felt deep attatchments to both main characters, particulary the POV character. I read this book a chapter at a time right before bed (spending the daytime reading horror mostly) and would end up crying myself to sleep, and feeling impressed that the author caputered this book so well.
The one criticism I have concerning this book is the ending. Grimsley applied a very supernatural ending--which would be fine if the supernatural played a more important roll throughout the book--and left things very unresolved. I left this book with a sense of disclosure, and longed to know more of what really happened (and Mr. Practical-Sensible--who had not been turned off during this book because of the reality of it until the end--simply refused to believe the ending provided).
All in all, this book is very worth reading, but if you like your books to end with any closure and truness to the story, you may want to pass on this one.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping and heart-wrenching, August 29, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
In "Dream Boy" Jim Grimsley once again shows his prowess as an evocative word-artist. This gripping tale of a teen striving to overcome his abusive home life takes us into the farthest reaches of the human psyche and leaves us breathless at the end. At times his writing is poetic, at times strangely dreamlike. Always this book is a great study for those looking for ways to make every word of a story count.

The story is very sexually explicit. Readers should know this. Grimsley's descriptions of homosexual rape are frightening and visceral. Though the main character is a teen, this is not a book for young adults.

While I am often left stunned by the beauty of Grimsley's prose, his plotting sometimes wanders and the tale slips into unbelievability when the protagonist, Nathan, meets yet another large, hairy character who wants to rape him. His father wants sex with him, his boyfriend wants sex with him, and now so does... well, I'm not going to spoil the surprise. But it's just too far out there to work.

While powerfully written, in "Dream Boy" Grimsley draws heavily from the characterizations he developed for his first novel "Winter Birds." You have the same brutish, drunk, sexually-obsessed, abusive father; the same vapid and frightened mother; the same broken, earnest, struggling boy. A writer as good as Grimsley doesn't need to do this, and I look forward to reading fresher, more original tales from him in the future
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Dream Boy: A Novel
Dream Boy: A Novel by Jim Grimsley (Paperback - January 30, 1997)
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