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4.1 out of 5 stars
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I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth The Trip.
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Martin Wilson wrote an essay about John Donovan's 1969 novel I'LL GET THERE, IT BETTER BE WORTH THE TRIP in the recently published excellent THE LOST LIBRARY:GAY FICTION REDISCOVERED. He, along with two other writers Brent Hartinger and Kathleen T. Horning, offer "reflections" in this 40th anniversary of this perfect book that has the distinction of being the first young adult novel to deal with teen homosexuality. While there are literally dozens of novels-- some better than others of course-- on the subject now, the publication of this book had to have been a watershed in 1969, just a year before Gordon Merrick unleashed THE LORD WON'T MIND on unsuspecting gay readers. (As I recall, the ads in the long-since defunct "After Dark" magazine touted that novel as the first gay novel that has a happy ending or nobody dies or some such.)

But I digress. Mr. Donovan's novel was a fine novel in 1969; it's a fine novel today. The narrator is Davy Ross, a thirteen-year-old, who, when the novel opens, has just lost his beloved grandmother with whom he has been living. After he has to go to New York to live with his alcoholic mother-- she often starts drinking in the early mornings-- here are his thoughts on his loving grandmother and his guilt as he has to go on with his new life in New York: "I feel guilty as h--l that I haven't thought of Grandmother for a long time. She's the only person I may ever know I didn't have to put on some big act around. She's the only person I could be myself with. My mother and my father don't know me yet. But I think of them more than of Grandmother, who will be the most important person in my life forever. And they aren't worth my not thinking of Grandmother."

Besides having to deal with the mess called his mother, Davy now every Saturday sees his father and his stepmother Stephanie, who is a sensitive and caring person: "Stephanie talks to us as though we are people, not kids and something apart from other people." His own mother of course fluctuates between reminding him, usually while in her cups, that he is a great burden to her and tearfully telling him, that he is the joy of her life, blah, blah, blah. Then there are the pressures of being the new kid in school where on the first day he takes the seat of the mysteriously-absent student named Larry and meets the class jock Altschuler. But through all his perils of moving to a strange new home, Davy has the comfort of his best friend, a dachshund named Fred.

Mr. Donovan's prose is precise, beautiful and believable. His insights into the mind of a lonely thirteen-year-old who is dealing with the death of a beloved family member and the problems of adjusting to a new alien environment and becoming a young man ("Some of the guys at home have already had one or two shaves, but I haven't, and to tell the truth I'd like to") are, in the buzzword of the month, spot-on. Finally he handles Davy and Altschuler's friendship and whatever else happens between them with delicacy and grace.

This is one of those moving and honest novels that made me wish Mr. Donovan had written a sequel. Or I can fantasize as to what might have been their fates. The boys would be fifty-three now. Their friendship probably would not have survived the separation brought on by their going away to different colleges. One or both of them may have perished in the first wave of AIDS. They would have been at that dangerous age in the 1970's and early 80's when easy sex was available, particularly in big cities. On the other hand, they may have settled in with life partners and had happy lives. In a word, Davy and Altschuler are totally alive characters.

This novel is not to be missed.
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on March 13, 2016
I have mixed feelings for ‘I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip’ because upon finishing this book, I was delighted; but while reading, especially the first half, I was bored. But this is definitely a masterful title and something that will resonate with intelligent readers long after it’s finished.

The writing style is very blunt and staccatoed, it’s not an entirely unpleasant to read. Though, it felt so foreign to the types of books I generally read. It reads like a child has written it – which is very true to the inner voice of our protagonist Davy.

The star of this book is definitely Davy’s dog, Fred! He completely captured my heart and had me chuckling in many places. Who can resist an adorkable puppy?

Honourable mentions go to the realistic character portraits of the new best friend, Altschuler and Davy’s alcoholic mother. Both were painted in raw gritty colours through Davy’s eyes, and a story behind their behaviour is inferred. This made an intriguing read, not to have all the facts explained.

A breakdown for the mediocre rating and the reason I found the first half less than exciting lies with how it felt very much like a recount of mundane facts. And on the surface that’s all it is. The perspective you gain upon finishing the novel will switch that all on its head. There is a lot of symbolism and metaphors, and it did take me a while to switch on to it all… mainly because I repeatedly put this book down (due to afore mentioned waning of attention).

Given this novel was written over 40 years ago, the tale still stands the test of time. I loved the description of the streets of New York, and Central Park – they jumped from the page just as brightly as Fred.

I went into this book not knowing anything other than it was about a boy and his dog and was considered a classic in LGBTQI+ Literature. It was nice. I guess I expected more to happen. ‘I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip’ is quietly impactful. Much like life, it travels along innocently until something happens to shift your perspective: and that is the strong sense I garnered from this book.

It’s not necessarily a coming out story, but one of accepting loss and change. This fact alone sets it apart from the typical novel in this genre. At the beginning of the novel this theme is set up immediately when Davy’s Grandmother passes. The rest of the story line interprets the same narrative style in varying degrees.

It ends with a typical note seen in classic contemporaries, that … after a poignant moment, leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Which I like, and am starting to see a trend away from that in modern releases – not everything needs to be tied up in a pretty little bow.

A short novel with a lot of meaning, well worth the read – especially if you love dogs.
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on May 11, 2012
"I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip" was published in 1969. Donovan's narrator Davy Ross is a captivating presence, even if there are times when he seems younger than his thirteen years. There is a wry clarity in Davy's view of the world; but that clarity masks a child who has been traumatized and who has, as a result, focused all of his attention on his dog, Fred. Fred, mind you, is a wonderful dog, a comical dachshund who the reader has no trouble appreciating. At least I didn't, but I have always had dogs. But even I could see that Fred seemed to be the only source of joy in Davy's life. That can't be good.

I was drawn to this book because it was promoted by Brent Hartinger, for me one of the most important YA writers today. His thoughtful essay that accompanies this new edition of Donovan's novel helped me understand my own mixed feelings about Davy and his world. From a modern reader's perspective, "I'll Get There" may seem inadequate, lacking the strong themes of self-affirmation we have come to expect in novels written for and about adolescence. Particularly adolescence that includes the dawning awareness of gayness. But I was thirteen in 1969, and I too had just suffered the sudden death of a loved one; and I, too, had just realized that I was interested in boys, not girls. As I read through Donovan's novel--the first YA novel to ever deal with an emerging gay identity--I couldn't help but recognize what it would have meant to me all those years ago, had I been lucky enough to stumble across it during my own unlucky thirteen.

"I'll Get There" is a touching, compelling story, in the voice of a boy who resonates across the decades to remind us that there have always been gay teens; but there have not always been novels written to help them find their way in the world. I loved Davy Ross, and I loved Fred: but even had I not, this book would have been worth the reading just to witness the birth of a new genre in young adult fiction. The world of YA novels changed because of this book. Had I read it at thirteen in 1969, it might have changed my life.
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on February 1, 2014
" The 40th anniversary edition of a groundbreaking teen classic -- When the grandmother who raised him dies, Davy Ross, a lonely thirteen-year-old boy, must move to Manhattan to live with his estranged mother. Between alcohol-infused lectures about her self-sacrifice and awkward visits with his distant father, Davy’s only comfort is his beloved dachshund Fred. Things start to look up when he and a boy from school become friends. But when their relationship takes an unexpected turn, Davy struggles to understand what happened and what it might mean." (goodreads.com)

The "unexpected turn" means that Davy Ross experiences his "first love" by falling in love with classmate Douglas Altschuler. "I'll Get There" was one of the first mainstream teen novels to deal with homosexuality. Innocent in its representation, but sensitively realistic for boys who are young teens, the story explores the feelings and confusion of young love, whether gay or straight. Humorous, frustrating, tragic, hopeful -- this is what good young adult fiction is supposed to be. There are lessons to learn, even today, from this decades-old, but certainly not clichéd or dated, story. (I shouldn't say more. I don't want to be a "spoiler." Just enjoy the book!)
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on August 27, 2013
A tale of a young boy who is suddenly taken from his comfortable home and thrust into the busy world of NYC. When his grandmother dies the boys family decides what is best for him.

And in some ways leaving the comfort of everything he has ever known will be the best thing to happen, as long as he can navigate becoming of age.

Highly recommended for its intimate moments of reflection and the poignant telling of the story.
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on March 7, 2013
This one is so worth rereading that I'm surprised that I hadn't read it years ago. Author John Donovan connects us to a thirteen-year-old mind and a sixties mindset effortlessly. His narration is never strained, events are never stretched, and his dialogue is completely natural so nothing gets in the way of Davy Ross telling us his story even as he discovers it himself. Excellent audiobook performance by reader Michael Urie.

At thirteen, Davy's life is already an accumulation of losses and the only honest affection he gets is from his dog until he connects with a classmate, then things just happen. The nature of their attraction initially confuses them both, but as they slowly come to understand and accept their own feelings, nothing could be more natural, so his mother's hysterical hostility baffles Davy then infects him with a sense of guilt. Donovan's treatment of Davy's illogical logic is very realistic.

The three commentaries on the book place it in historical perspective and were very interesting.
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on July 21, 2011
This book, goes into LGBT issues in a way that I really appreciated. I don't read a lot of LGBT books because it is an important issue for me. So when I realized what amazing writing this was I was so thrilled. The writing is amazing and for me that's half of what makes or breaks the issue. The characters are second and they are beautifully done and you just can't help but connect no matter who you are. Especially as a teen, where you're realizing all of your parents faults, it just is so nice to see a strong character for teens in a book. So often the stories seem to be in this wacky land of necessity mixed with all the other social issues in one big explosion. And it seems very hero's journey in those stories and slightly predictable. By the time I was fifteen I was searching the adult's section for books because of the writing in the teens section.
In this book, it wasn't about him standing up to his mother, wasn't about him standing up to society, wasn't about religion, it was about finding yourself. It was about the beginning of a confusing journey for a young thirteen year old. And it articulated the confusion a thirteen year old can feel. I have a very short list of books where the writing and characters are strong enough to touch me emotionally. This book was one of them, among those books are Les Miserables and a few other classics. There are some incredible books out there, this is one of them. It is written in a way that you can land in an amazing number of directions. This book, I would recommend to anyone who is trying to find where they land on LGBT issues. Because it is created to help you land on where you are on the issue.
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on November 4, 2014
Had I read this when it was first published, I think it would've been much more remarkable to me. Still, I'm glad to have read the first YA book with homosexuality. I particularly enjoyed the question and answers part in the back. It was very interesting.
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on June 25, 2013
I expected this to be as tame as it was by modern queer lit standards, but the author did make me care about the story. I was only all in for the last 15% or so though. Not much sentence variety and a weird point of view/tense but I liked the characters and definitely a believable story. Quick read that's probably worth your time!
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on July 2, 2015
This book is a quick read. Being based in the 60s, the whole notion of being gay in the book is just hinted at, but not fully understood.
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