The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (Dial Books)

Buy it Now! at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon via The Dreamwalker Group

Dade Hamilton, an outcast at Cedarville High School and occasional plaything of the school “Sexican,” Pablo Soto, gets to live out a bit of every gay boy’s fantasy during the weeks before he’s shipped off to college. Dade is repeatedly dissed publically by Pablo, who has to keep up appearances for his phobic football buddies and his popular girlfriend. However, over the final summer, Dade meets Lucy, a teen lesbian visiting from out of town who becomes his first true friend, and Alex Kincaid, a hot and mysterious boy from the wrong side of the tracks who is a sweet-natured drug dealer and too cool and too mellow for slurs to affect him or even be uttered in his presence. As they say, every kiss is a revolution, and when Alex kisses Dade at a pool party and the world doesn’t end, there is an epiphany for Dade and a bit of bliss.

However, author Nick Burd does a good job keeping the story in the real world. Problems swirl about Dade, his family, and Cedarville. While a subplot about a missing young girl is unnecessary, marital discord, his mother’s pill dependency, and the tenuous nature of a relationship that begins a few weeks before college combine to show how little of a teenager’s life consists of anything permanent and dependable and how scary that realization can be. While the plot’s progression is sometimes slow and the dialogue occasionally flat, Burd’s story hits hard emotionally even while offering Dade hope for the future. First, the reason why teenage heartbreak is so powerful and dangerous is that someone so young has no frame of reference that allows him to know that he’ll ever recover from the pain. (Burd reveals this in a way that is both tragic and unexpected.) Second, when Dade wishes he could “get past” the whole gay thing to a place where it doesn’t matter, Lucy points out that it’s impossible. “It will always matter to somebody.” That is so sad and so true.

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas

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