Wednesday, May 30, 2012

King of the Screwups--Guest Post by Jonathon Arnston

Thanks to my friend and co host Jonathon Arnston (@JonathonArntson) for his guest post today!

Here's Jon:


When choosing the book to read for our second series run, I made my selection more out of convenience than out of interest. I visited Lee Wind's blog and used his list created to highlight books with gay parents/caretakers. I went down the list and plugged titles into the search field at the website of my public library. Sadly, very few books came up, and the ones that did are old looking. We all know those books are probably of quality, but they are from twelve years ago and more - most kids are not interesting in those.

In the end, I chose King of the Screwups, by K.L. Going. Here is the Goodreads description of the novel:

Liam Geller is Mr. Popularity. Everybody loves him. He excels at sports; he knows exactly what clothes to wear; he always ends up with the most beautiful girls in school. But he's got an uncanny ability to screw up in the very ways that tick off his father the most.
When Liam [is] finally kicked out of the house, his father's brother takes him in. What could a teenage chick magnet possibly have in common with his gay, glam rocker, DJ uncle who lives in a trailer in upstate New York? A lot more than you'd think. And when Liam attempts to make himself over as a nerd in a desperate attempt to impress his father, it's his "aunt" Pete and the guys in his band who convince Liam there's much more to him than his father will ever see.
When Liam first heads to his Uncle's trailer, he focuses on how poorly decorated and kept his uncle's house and town are. Liam notices the things that set his cross-dressing uncle apart from the average man. But, since Liam has been travelling the world with his retired, supermodel mother, he has already encountered men and women of all walks of life. Liam's observations of his gay uncle (and his band of friends) are subtle. He makes mention when his uncle kisses his boyfriend, who ends up being Liam's English teacher. Liam's mentions are not judgmental and they show how one can be curious without being rude or assuming.

Liam stands up for gay people throughout the novel. He gets kicked off the bus by the man who used to bully Liam's uncle's boyfriend in elementary school. Liam also stands up for those who are not popular, but he does this in a round-a-bout way. He creates a plot to become unpopular, which will help him to succeed just like his dad. As his scheme unfolds, he finds himself digging many, deep holes. As he starts to fall into all of them, he begins to realize he is loved. Going does this in a non-sappy and subtle way. As Liam starts to feel loved, he begins to be himself again.

As Liam fails to impress his father, which is his ticket back home, he abandons his plan to become a nerd. He figures he'll just quite school and join the army. It may sound trite, but Going sets up the close of the story with a lot of tension and emotion. I found my heart broken as Liam realized what he'd thought was his family never really was. But, I found a patch for my heart as Liam began to realize family is not defined by the dictionary.

Hundreds of miles from his New York mansion, Liam finds a huge family within the friends and neighbors he made in the five weeks away from home.

King of the Screwups is a great novel. I am thankful I came across it, even if it was not through the most-desirable process. I hope my public library will expand its collection of gay parents in YA, but I will mention this book to my librarians and give it a recommendation. King of the Screwups is a wonderful addition to any personal library, and creates an opportunity for many family and/or classroom discussions.

I hope you'll pick up King of the Screwups soon!
Thanks Jon for your post today! Great review!


Jonathon Arntson said...

Thank you, Kris, for letting my use you blog for the day!

Kelly Polark said...

Great review and summary, Jon! I was disappointed that my library didn't have some of the books listed, but I do find that if you write out a request for a book, many will get purchase it for the library or get it from another library.
And I have (well, had- he's deceased unfortunately) a gay uncle too. Hopefully one day there will be no need for having this blog series, because LGBT families will be mainstreamed into novels and not so hard to find. I think this series is really helping in awareness of this in the meantime!