Goldman, Steven. 2008. Two Parties, One Tux, And A Very Short Film About The Grapes of Wrath. Bloomsbury. 307 pages.
We are standing at a party, a still, quiet eddy in the swirl of motion and noise. David is holding a can of Diet Coke as if it could be a beer, but his facial expression and confident stance make it clear that he wants it to be a Diet Coke, and who are you to question that. I am holding a beer, sort of wishing it were a Diet Coke. We aren't talking, but not because we're not talking. We aren't talking because this is what we do at parties. We stand here.
David and Mitchell are friends. Best friends. (Mitchell is our narrator.) They've been friends since the start of the year (junior year), they hang out a lot. And David is always there to help out, to give a ride, to share a laugh or two. But when David shares with Mitchell the fact that he's gay, there's some squirmy tension between the two. Does David like him like him? Were all those Friday nights spent together dates in his mind? That's what Mitchell would like to know.
This sometimes-funny, down-to-earth novel is about more than friendship, more than coming to terms with your best friend coming out. It's about life itself, coming to terms with the awkwardness and strangeness of high school. Mitchell hates school. It's not that he's horrible at it. He's not. He's a good kid, mostly. It's that he doesn't like it. And that is one reason why Mitchell makes for a great narrator. He's easy to relate to. He's likable. He's understandable.
You may be wondering about the whole Grapes of Wrath reference. (Okay, maybe you're not. But stick with me!) This novel is one of many that Mitchell (and David, by the way) are assigned to read in Honors English. For whatever reason, Mitchell is having a difficult time giving Steinbeck a go. His descriptions of trying to read this assigned reading are just right.
I do not pick up the book. I do not want to read the book. I feel a surge of anger at having been asked to read this book. Isn't wrath a kind of anger? Do I have to read the book? I have to write a paper on this book, but does that mean I actually have to read it first? (18)
His reasoning digresses,
I took really good notes in class; surely I could just fake this one through. Maybe my notes weren't that good, but I took notes; that has to be enough. Okay, my notes suck, but I wrote down words in my notebook and mostly listened. How much do I need to know to write this paper? I'm pretty sure I remember most of the characters' names. (18)
Several chapters later we have,
I should have read this book over the weekend. And I really tried. At least I sort of tried. I opened it twice. It's not like it was the only assignment I had to finish. And Monday, there was a chem test to study for. What was I going to do, blow that off?
Last night I sat in front of the computer and held my hands over the keys. I typed my name, the date, and the title of the paper, erased it, typed it again. I changed the font from Times New Roman to Courier to Arial. I considered adding my middle name, added it, changed my mind, deleted it. After several hours of not writing the paper, I set my alarm and went to bed, telling myself I would deal with it in the morning. Now it is morning. To be specific, it is 5:36. (50-51)
I enjoyed this one. It was the right blend of funny and quirky and right.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews