“Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About The Grapes of Wrath” by Steven Goldman

28 Apr


"Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About The Grapes of Wrath" (hello, unwieldy title!) is a sharp, funny, engaging novel that I bet plenty of teen boys would love. Whether they'd be willing to overlook the weirdly juvenile cover is another issue, so this one likely will require a hefty dose of handselling and strong word of mouth.

"Two Parties …" is narrated in a droll style by 17 year-old high school junior Mitchell, who is one of those shy, offbeat, but not totally nerdy boys who tend to populate many a teen novel. Mitchell has one best friend, the wonderfully aloof David, who, it turns out, is not only gay but crushing on Mitchell. Before you think this is one of those awful "gay teen issue" novels, let me assure you it's not. David's sexual orientation, and Mitchell's well-meaning struggle to treat his pal like nothing has changed, is more of a subtle backdrop to the story than the overarching theme. Without giving anything away, I loved how Mitchell did just about everything wrong in trying to accept David's news, because his behavior — good intentions devoured by fear and awkwardness — is precisely how a teenage boy would act. Everything about Mitchell's quiet friendship with David is perfect.

In the end, this book is unequivocally Mitchell's story. In addition to dealing with the David fallout, Mitchell is also juggling his guilt over an AWOL English teacher; the repercussions of his Claymation-style, very R-rated film version of Steinbeck's classic novel "The Grapes of Wrath"; a popular but shallow younger sister and her bubbly best friend; the sudden romantic attention of the hottest girl in class; the politics of where to stand at a party; a bombastic yet perceptive pal; and a potentially disastrous prom night. In other words, it's a male coming of age story peppered with smart jokes, wry insights, authentic moments, and a light touch of meaning and, well, humanity.

Although the characters always felt slightly out of reach to me — perhaps the tone is a bit too droll at times? — "Two Parties …" remains a delightful, deadpan tale that's truly perfect for teen guys. Please don't be put off by the cover! If you take a chance on this one, you'll find a winner.

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Posted by on April 28, 2009 in Uncategorized


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