From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-On the cusp of his 18th birthday, Neil Byrne nears graduation, wants to study liberal arts instead of engineering as his father expects, and suffers through all the apprehension and agony of being a closeted gay teen. As readers accompany him on his journey of slowly coming out, they are immersed in his struggle amid homophobia and the culture of Dublin, Ireland, in the early 1990s. Neil's pub visits with his "rhyming couplets" of friends evolve into solo trips to local gay bars and clubs where he meets new friends and his eventual first boyfriend. As he draws closer to telling his friends, the tension builds; when Neil comes out to his parents, the intensity of the experience and their initial rejection is palpable. Lennon tells a mostly dark and serious story that is pre-Internet and -mobile phones, offering none of the extended, globalized support of today. Neil is jumped leaving a pub late one night, struggles through a friend's losing battle with AIDS, and is rejected by some of his family and friends. Lennon does well to lighten the story through tender and uplifting moments, and his use of song lyrics and music add to the book's sweet complexity. The near-tragic ending and realistic portrayal of what it would be like to face some of the darker forms of bigotry and rejection make this title a worthwhile addition to most libraries.-Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The year is 1992, and 17-year-old Dubliner Neil Byrne, star rugby player and Sinead O’Connor fanatic, is finishing up Catholic high school. With his eighteenth birthday on the horizon, Neil’s looking to confide his secret—he is gay—to a carefully selected few and take steps to revealing his true self. This means clandestine trips to the one gay club in town, befriending other gay men, and crushing on T-shirt-wearing Sean and schoolmate Ian. As a foreword written by James Klise reminds readers, the novel, first published in Dublin in 1993, paints a picture of coming out in the 1990s, in a time before gay-straight alliances and “it gets better” campaigns. Over the course of the novel, Neil is beaten up because of his sexuality and watches a friend succumb to AIDS. In spite of all Neil faces, and the 20-year gap between him and today’s teens, this story feels relevant. The plot is somewhat crammed towards the end, but Lennon’s honest portrayal of coming out, available for the first time in the U.S., makes for a worthy addition to library collections. Grades 9-12. --Ann Kelley