Paul, Paul, Paul. Oh, Paul—you're so cute, yet you're so misguided. Luckily you smarten up a lot by the end of the book.
When we first meet Paul, he's single, having recently survived a breakup with his evil ex, Kyle. (Everybody's got one, right?) But this breakup was so bad that a less well-adjusted person might have suffered serious damage to his self-esteem. Early on in the story, Paul tells us,
With some breakups, all you can think about afterwards is how badly it ended and how much the other person hurt you. With others, you become sentimental for the good times and lose track of what went wrong. When I think of Kyle, the beginnings and the endings are all mixed up. (3.26)
Getting dumped because your boyfriend can't decide if he's gay or straight—and blames you for his gay side—is enough to make anyone swear off love forever. So when Paul meets foxy new boy Noah at the bookstore, you can't help sort of peeking at the scene through your fingers. After all, nobody wants a sweet gay teenage boy to get his heart broken again. But youth forgets hurt fairly easily, and before long Paul is saying, "Now I don't want time to stop. I want it to fast-forward an hour. Noah has become my until." (4.67)
What is it about ex-boyfriends that makes them come wandering back into your life just as you're almost over them? And what is it that makes you want to comfort them when they look all pathetic because they lost you? Yup—Paul falls into that trap. It would be easy to take Noah's side here and declare Paul a heartless jerk when he pity-kisses a distraught Kyle, but because Paul has endeared himself to us as our narrator (come on, that joke about Noah's little sister being a "glum diva" was funny), we decide to forgive him, or at least to cut him some slack.
After all, he just got confused trying to be Kyle's friend, right? Just overstepped the boundaries a little? Which brings us to…
There's being a good friend, and then there's kissing your ex. There's looking out for your besties's best interests, and then there's butting into their relationships. Paul almost loses Noah over the former and Joni over the latter, forcing him to learn some tough lessons about what people really need from him.
It's never an easy line to straddle, and Paul's not straddling it so successfully as the narrative unfolds. But if he oversteps his boundaries sometimes, it's because he really, seriously loves his friends—and love is love, right? After all, as Joni tells him, "I hate the phrase 'more than friends'… It's such nonsense. When I'm going out with someone, we're not 'more than friends'—most of the time, we're not even friends. 'More than friends' makes no sense. Look at us. There's nothing more than us." (19.29)
That's the big question Paul has to answer in Boy Meets Boy: what do you give to your partner that you keep from your friends? And just how much space must you give the people you love in order to prove that you love them?