Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Great YA Bromances (Though I'm Not Sure About this "Bromance" Thing)

 Pat talks to us about bromances...

When I was telling Nico about the common thread running through all these great books I'd recently read, she was all, "Oh, bromance! Write a post for the blog!"  

According to the Urban Dictonary  "bromance describes the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males."  And by that definition these books fit the category.  But it doesn't contain them--these books are too rich and nuanced to fit so easily into any single category.

Each of these books in their own ways were a vehicle into the male psyche, mostly through the interactions and conversations between the various best friends and, in some cases, between brothers. I just started feeling like, wow, is this how guys really talk to each other?  Is this how they act when there are no girls around?  I loved every one of these books for different reasons, but all of them reflected a particularly masculine humor, language, and camaraderie that was like a peek into a different world.  And isn't that, after all, one reason that we read? 

And before we get to the books, a little background on the concept of bromance...

Jasper Jones (full review here) by Craig Silvey, set in 1960's Australia, follows town outcast Jasper Jones as he engages Charlie Bucktin to help him solve a vicious crime for which Jasper fears he will be accused. Though much of this book is dark and violent, it's the often hilarious interplay between the bookish 13-year-old Charlie and his best friend, Jeffrey, that remains with me. 

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick is a story--on one level--about basketball, but it's really about grief, loss, family,  friendship, and redemption. Finley has worked really hard all summer for his senior year of basketball and he's ready to play. So who is this guy the Coach wants him to make friends with?  This guy who is supposed to be a straight-to-the-NBA baller who calls himself Boy 21 and claims he's from outer space?  Again, it's the way the relationship between Finley and Russ (Boy 21) evolves that grabbed me, though the basketball sequences are really good, too.

Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk is another book where the interplay between Guy and his best friend Anook is what I enjoyed most. Guy lost his father recently and is just trying to get by--not putting out too much effort into school or anything, really.  When Anoop suggests they join the Forensics Club at school, Guy figures it might be a good way to meet girls.  He never suspects that they will find a real body during the club's simulation exercises. Fair warning--Guy and Anook talk the way real high school guys sometimes do--while some may find some of their interactions offensive or juvenile, others might find themselves laughing out loud.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. (full review here)
  OK, speaking of laugh out loud funny, this book ranks.  You'd think a book in which the mother of a high school boy (Greg) encourages him to befriend a girl who is dying of cancer (Rachel) would not be funny.  But Greg is an fascinating guy (though he wouldn't see himself that way) and his unlikely friendship with Earl, a foul-mouthed, extremely short, chain smoking African-American dude is what stuck me most about this book.  And then there are the movies the two of them make. When I encouraged Nico to read this book, she told me she had to stop reading it at the food court because she didn't want to embarrass herself laughing out loud so hard in a public place.  But like all these other books, there is a deep poignancy beneath all the humor.

And finally we come to Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (full review here).This book rocked my world.  Winner of both the Printz and the Morris awards, Whaley explores a range of complex issues in this gripping story about place and fitting in and leaving and coming back.  The small town Arkansas setting itself plays a huge role, but it is the brilliant interplay between 17-year-old Cullen, his best friend  Lucas, and Gabriel, Cullen's sensitive and gifted 15-year-old brother who has inexplicably disappeared that drives the story.  I loved these guys.  I think you will, too.

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