I was attracted to this book because of the art theme. Through my high school years I was sure I was going to go on to a career in the art field, and I was nudged in that direction by my art teachers as well. I was also a nerd/geek before it was even close to being fashionable and I bought, read, and imitated comic books with my art. What wasn’t common (and still isn’t) are books of fiction featuring kids like me (back then) – art-oriented youngsters.
What I didn’t realize when I signed on for this book, is that it is a LGBT-target YA book. The problem with this? Nothing. Except that it doesn’t appeal or speak to me. Reading about a teenage boy getting excited about spending a night in bed with another teenage boy and ‘not going all the way, but almost’ made me uncomfortable. But to be frank, I’m not comfortable with reading about heterosexual teenagers having sex either. I’m just an old fuddy-duddy (and the fact that I used the term “fuddy-duddy” likely cements this).
So…trying to put my own, personal moral code aside… I recognize that teens who identify as LGBT are in desperate need of assurances that they are okay. They need to be able to read about others who struggle with their identity and sexuality (and let’s face it…teens of all sexual persuasions struggle to understand themselves sexually). Identifying and admitting to one’s own sexuality can be a challenge. Then admitting it to others, including parents, is a difficult step to take. And for those who are LGBT, it is then a daily struggle to stand up against the backlash of thuggish minds (and bodies) who fear the LGBT person. Having someone like Adrian Piper in this book to respect or identify with is important.
Except Adrian has it pretty easy, really. Yes, there are the bullies who beat him up, but Adrian’s secret crush, it turns out, likes his art and has a crush on him as well (and so they fool around, even though he’s never done it with another boy before). And when Adrian admits to his parents that he’s gay, by identifying the young man as his boyfriend, his parents seem to take it in stride. No real challenge or struggle here.
From a literary point of view I understand this, because the struggle in the book is saved for the hate crime against another gay student and Adrian’s willingness to stand up against it. He doesn’t need the struggles at home to complicate the story. But too often there are additional struggles and the teen can’t take on the fights at school when the pressures are everywhere.
This is an important book for YA because of the themes of hate crimes and bullying against gay youth, but the narrative could be tighter, more focused. We spend a lot of time with Adrian and his art. Is art his ‘safe’ place? Is it what gives him strength and courage? How does his art tie in to the hate crimes around him? Given the amount of time we spend hearing about what others think of his drawing (and everyone … EVERYone … loves his drawing, even if they don’t like how they personally are characterized) and his own thoughts on drawing, there should have been a tighter connection between using the art to stand up to the bullying. What’s there just isn’t a strong enough bond.
Although I see that the reviews are mostly pretty fabulous for this book, I wasn’t overly impressed with the work itself. This is pretty average fare, though it may speak directly and importantly to a few young adults.
Looking for a good book? Draw the Line by Laurent Linn is a YA book for LGBT teens dealing with bullying and hate crimes against homosexuals. It could be a tighter story and may have the reader losing focus.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Draw the Line
author: Laurent Linn
publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
hardcover, 528 pages