Title: The Boy I Love by Nina de Gramont
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
When the boy you love asks you to keep his greatest secret, do you? A thought-provoking, achingly complex novel about prejudice and the many meanings of love from Nina de Gramont, author of Meet Me at the River, which Kirkus Reviews called a “must-read.”
Fifteen-year-old Wren has been content to stay in her best friend Allie’s shadow. It doesn’t bother her that Ally gets the cutest guys, the cutest clothes, and even a modeling gig—Wren is happy hanging with the horses on her family’s farm and avoiding the jealousy of other girls. But when Tim, the most intriguing guy in school, starts hanging out with Ally and Wren, jealousy is unavoidable, but not the kind Wren expects. Because even though Ally is wayyy into him and Wren hasn’t flirted, not one little bit, it becomes increasingly clear that Tim prefers Wren’s company above anyone else’s.
Tim’s unexpected devotion comes at the exact time Wren’s home life is about to be turned upside down. Her parents have just found out that the family horse farm is on land that was once a slave plantation and are struggling with whether to sell it. Wren aches at the thought of losing her horses and leaving town, but at least there is Tim…always a gentleman on their dates. Such a gentleman. Too much of a gentleman, even, and Wren begins to wish he’d be a wee bit less gentlemanly. And as Tim’s church becomes actively homophobic, his pressuring parents don’t understand why he won’t help “spread the word,” and he’s now a wreck. Then he tells Wren his biggest secret, and Wren must decide what she’ll really do for love.
The Boy I Love by Nina de Gramont is a thought-provoking novel of friendship that touches on a number of relevant social issues. In many ways, it is a typical coming of age story with all of the usual teenage angst and drama. However, through the adroit first person narration of sixteen year old Wren Piner, this ordinary novel becomes an extraordinary tale of friendship and courage that is heartfelt and compelling.
Wren has been best friends with Allie Hackett for most of their lives, but their transition to a new school suddenly strains their close bond. Wren has been content to live in the shadow of her beautiful and popular friend, but when surprising events put Wren in the limelight, she is stunned by Allie’s unhappy reaction. But it is Allie’s jealousy over Wren’s new friendship with Tim Greenlaw that drives a wedge between the girls and they begin to drift apart. While Wren’s feelings for Tim take an unexpectedly romantic turn, he divulges a closely held secret that ultimately brings them closer together.
Wren is very comfortable in her skin and she has a surprising amount of confidence for a teenager. She has a strong moral compass, she stands up for what she believes in and she does not hesitate to voice her opinions. Wren is kind, compassionate and steadfastly loyal with an admirable capacity for forgiveness. She is dismayed by the situation with Allie, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, she seizes the opportunity to seek out her own interests. Wren is very honest with herself about her own bouts of jealousy and the hopelessness of unrequited love but she never lets either get in the way of her friendships.
Allie is self-centered and since she has had very little disappointment in her life, she is stunned when things don’t go her way. She is unreasonable in her expectations where Tim is concerned and her immaturity over his relationship with Wren leads to the disintegration of their friendship. Allie rebuffs Wren’s attempts to smooth over their disagreement and she begins to make self-destructive decisions.
Tim is an all American boy who is much admired by his peers. Popular and well-liked, this new school year marks a change in his life as he gives up sports to explore his interest in theater. His growing distress over a change is his church’s policy is the driving force in confessing both his secret and the conflicting feelings that go with it. Tim takes comfort in Wren’s easy acceptance of his admission and their friendship easily weathers the difficulties they eventually face.
There are really no surprises about what is going to happen in The Boy I Love. The book summary pretty much lays out the storyline, but the execution of the plot and the depth of the characters are what makes it an outstanding and unpredictable read. Nina de Gramont introduces sensitive topics in a straightforward manner and the characters reactions to the various situations are realistic. While the novel’s target audience is teenagers, I highly recommend The Boy I Love readers of all ages. It is a meaningful novel with a powerful message of love and acceptance that everyone can relate to.