Let's take a trip in the wayback machine, shall we?
The year was 2003. There was no Glee or RuPaul's Drag Race. The first episode of Ellen aired that September, but Ellen Degeneres wouldn't marry Portia de Rossi for another five years. There weren't fifty million pro-gay Facebook pages because there was no Facebook. There were no Trevor Project videos on YouTube because there was no YouTube. Same-sex marriage wasn't legal anywhere in the United States.
So it's safe to say that when Boy Meets Boy was published that same year, author David Levithan gave the young adult genre something it was missing: a gay love story. But wait—this isn't just any gay love story. Paul and Noah have accepting friends, accepting families, an accepting high school, and a hometown so accepting that PFLAG might as well be the PTA. In other words, the two main characters being gay is no biggie—they might as well be a straight couple in a typical teen romance book.
Some critics (and critical readers) felt that the world of Boy Meets Boy was unrealistically idyllic, but it's actually just Levithan writing the world the way he hoped it might be. Well okay, maybe the cheerleaders wouldn't ride into the gym on Harleys and the Quiz Bowl team wouldn't be required to actually bowl. But in his world, gay teens would be just as free to walk down the halls holding hands as straight ones. And because of books like Boy Meets Boy that feature happy, well-adjusted gay people, he probably hoped the rest of world would start to agree.
Boy Meets Boy is starting to seem a little more revolutionary now, huh?
The committee of the Lambda Literary Awards was all over it. They awarded Levithan the 2003 award for Children's and Young Adult Literature. Pretty impressive for a first book, but Levithan already knew his way around the YA block—he started working at children's publisher Scholastic as an intern in 1991 when he was nineteen years old and stuck around. In 2002 he founded the Scholastic imprint PUSH, which is dedicated to publishing edgy, challenging young adult fiction, such as Patricia McCormick's classic novel Cut.
And just in case Levithan didn't seem quite cool enough to you yet, he's the guy who wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist with Rachel Cohn. The latter became a movie in 2008 and starred perpetual indie fixture Michael Cera.
And Boy Meets Boy is kind of like reading a movie at times in its own right—the book is full of visual anchors, those little details you can picture so clearly that you feel like you're in the scene. From duck-shaped paddleboats to bedroom walls covered in Matchbox cars to a dance in a dead woman's tomb, Levithan has created a magical, beautiful environment deserving of its magical, beautiful narrator—starry-eyed, very gay Paul.
Boyfriends versus friends: it shouldn't be an issue, but we all know it is. Let's explore some archetypes here, shall we? Prepare for parentheses.
Chances are you've known (or been) one of these people:
We're sure you're familiar with at least the first three. As for the last two, imagine you're one of them, because number four is Noah and number five is Paul. And Noah and Paul are the two boys who meet in the title.
When you've had your heart broken—by which we mean ripped out and stomped on with steel-toed boots—it can be really hard to trust again. You might not be in any hurry to get another boyfriend, now or ever. If your whole family watched you go through the heart-stomping, as did Noah's, they might not be ready for you to get another boyfriend either.
That's the thing about ex-boyfriends, though. You think you're never going to get over them, and then one night you meet a boy who wears green-and-orange sweaters with too-long sleeves (Paul) or a boy in blue suede shoes (Noah) while dancing in the Self-Help section of the local indie bookstore. Suddenly the ex-boyfriend doesn't seem so appealing anymore. Suddenly you decide maybe you could trust again.
Boy Meets Boy is about what happens when you meet someone who makes you want to shake off the heartbreak and let go of the ex you've been carrying around (figuratively, that is. The literal version would be both uncomfortable and impractical.) If you're not quite ready to do it yourself yet, go on a vicarious walk on the tightrope of love with Paul and Noah, and see how you feel 180(ish) pages from now.
(We warned you there would be parentheses.)
A case of mistaken identity at his alma mater, Brown University, led to a collaboration between Levithan and YA-lit juggernaut John Green.
What Do You Have to Say For Yourself?
Levithan's official (and very clever) bio, from his author website.
Paul tells us that in his town, PFLAG might as well be the PTA. This is what he's talking about.
Out Magazine: Boy Meets Boy, Ten Years Later
In which David Levithan tells us why he wrote the book and what's changed since then.
In Which David Levithan Manages to Finish Something (a Lot of Things, Actually)
The American Library Association interviews David Levithan about his work as a novelist and editor.
Turning Japanese, I Think I'm Turning Japanese
Erasure's song Always, a.k.a. Paul's ticket to Elsewhere, has a lush, culture-bending video.
Wonder Twin Powers, Activate
John Green and David Levithan Talk about Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which they wrote together. It's a YA-author double feature.
Banned Books, Shmanned Books
But how does David Levithan really feel about censorship? Find out in this short video he made for Banned Books Week.
But What Does Paul Sound Like?
Find out in the Boy Meets Boy audiobook.
Row, Row, Row Your Duck
Duck-shaped paddle boats are actually a thing. Seriously.
Now That's What I Call Customer Service
We think all major department stores need a laughing David Levithan and a dancing John Green to make returning your ugly Christmas sweaters more awesome.