Last Friday I had the pleasure of meeting with the Monarch High school teen book club. I shared a variety of new YA novels with them during two separate sessions. I loved meeting these voracious teen readers and especially enjoyed talking with several of them between the sessions. We bonded over our shared love of GLEE, the sensational new TV series about a high school Glee Club. One of the readers asked me about LGBTQ recommendations. The first book that came to mind was Nick Burd's wonderful debut novel, The Vast Fields of Ordinary.
During the eventful summer before he leaves for college, Dade Hamilton watches his parents' marriage implode, his secret relationship with sort of boyfriend Pablo fizzle, and the media's obsessive coverage of an autistic girl's disappearance unfold. He toils away at a boring job at Food World, feeling lost and invisible himself. Then he meets Alex Kincaid, an openly gay drug dealer, who pulls Dade into his world of drugs, sex and rock and roll. Alex openly adores Dade and gives him the confidence to come out to his parents and the rest of the community. When he sees Dade with Alex, Pablo, even though he has a girlfriend, begins pursuing Dade again. Pablo's increasingly bizarre attempts to reconnect with Dade are disturbing and make Dade wonder why he is still attracted to him, even though he is in love with Alex. As the date of his departure to college nears, Dade's parents take off on a trip to Europe to try to work out their problems, leaving Dade home alone. With the privacy for an idyllic time with Alex and the opportunity to explore his emotions freely, Dade works through the turmoil he is feeling before he begins a new chapter in his life.
Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal all gave The Vast Fields of Ordinary starred reviews and I would agree. However, I would definitely recommend it as a high school read, because of the frank sexuality and drug use that are explored in the story.