Tuesday 21 March 2023

REVIEW: Boy Like Me by Simon James Green

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Release Date: March 2nd 2023
TW: Homophobia

It's 1994 and thanks to Section 28, there can be no mention of gay relationships in schools. When a school librarian leads Jamie to a disguised novel in the library that reflects his own confused feelings towards boys, he notices that he's not the only one who has checked the book out. In the margins of the pages, he and another student start to leave messages for each other, and Jamie starts to believe that he's not alone ... and maybe also has a shot at finding love. That is, until the secret novel is discovered by the head teacher and all hell breaks loose. 

THE SCENE: it’s 11pm and I’m sobbing in bed after finishing this incredible novel, in awe of how Simon James Green has managed to outdo himself once again.     

A love story that starts in the margins of a book? I was already in. But upon finding out this story took places in the 90s, a time when Section 28 was still a law, I knew this was going to be one of the most important stories I’d read this year. And I was completely right. 

When a hero librarian gives our main character, Jamie, a book about two boys falling in love, he discovers that another person who’d read the book had left a note inside. So, with his questions about his own sexuality, he starts a conversation with the mystery boy. 

My own high school years started during the year that Section 28 was abolished, so I wasn’t aware of the damage it had caused and the depths of its censorship until I was much older. But even throughout my five years, I only recall coming across a single LGBTQ+ story on the shelves of my own high school library. Section 28 ending didn’t cause a bunch of queer books to magically appear on our shelves. It was still down to the hard work of librarians and campaigners, and many regular people who spoke out for something they believed in, which Boy Like Me celebrates and highlights the importance of.  

GOD I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS SO DAMN MUCH. Jamie is the perfect main character. He has so many questions about who he is and what his future might look like. Though I’m a bit younger, it still reminded me of my own experiences growing up in the 90s and early 00s as a kid who was on the outside, not quite finding a place to belong. Though this story isn't always a happy one, it shows us that no matter what, there is always hope for a brighter future. 

I won’t mention the mystery boy by name because SPOILERS, however I can confirm that I love him DEARLY. His growing relationship with Jamie is adorable. I also can’t not mention the librarian in this story. What an absolute gem she is.  

  • FOOTNOTES. Including footnotes in this story was a genius move on Simon’s part. Not only did a lot of them give me a good giggle, but it made for a great way to give us little glimpses of the character’s futures. One of them had me in tears.   
  • CONNECTION. This story and these characters feel so real. It’s completely immersive and will wreak havoc with your emotions.  
  • 90’S REFERENCES. Am I making a playlist full of the songs mention in this book? Why yes, yes I am. 

This book took on a different tone from Simon’s other stories, but it’s easily become my favourite one yet. I was sobbing my heart out during the final few chapters. I know I am always telling you to read Simon’s books, but if you’re going to let me persuade you into picking up one, make sure it’s Boy Like Me

My own footnote: my sister and I searched absolutely EVERYWHERE for some Fruit Polos to include in our pictures of this book. The closest we came was a Post Office telling us they do, in fact, still stock them. They just have no idea when.

Royal Rating: 

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