Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homo by Michael Harris - Book Review

Just before his last year in high school, Will's best friend Julie inadvertently outs him at an end-of-summer party. Now Will feels lost and alienated at Chilliwack high school and strangely distant from his friends. The only other gay kid at school is so not his type, so Will looks online for more meaningful connections. There he meets Riley, a twenty-three-year-old living in Vancouver, and they develop a relationship that seems almost too good to be true. It isn't until after Will loses his virginity to Riley that he discovers Riley is HIV positive.

This is a book that gives away way too much in the description.  Will doesn’t even officially meet Riley until the halfway point, doesn’t sleep with him until the last third, and doesn’t find out he’s HIV positive until the last quarter.  I think there’s only one real spoiler left to spoil.  Don’t worry, I won’t give away this book’s one and only real secret, but I will say that I wish it had been given much more weight than it was.

Will’s story is very different than I’d expected going in.  Based off the synopsis, I was expecting to be dealing with an identity crisis, excessive bullying, and one boy’s slow journey to accepting himself as a gay man.  Yes, all of those themes were in it at some point and to some degree, but everything was overshadowed by Will’s online search for a boyfriend, and subsequent whirlwind romance with the older Riley.  I almost wish this had been told in the only other gay boy in Will’s small-town high school, Daniel’s, point of view, because I feel like we would have felt much more of the gay teenager’s plight seeing it through his eyes.

Though this wasn’t everything I had been hoping for, it was still a pretty good read.  There were a few instances of real wisdom and insight into the life of a newly-outed gay boy that, while I wish had been more numerous, did lend a deal of heaviness and empathy to the novel that I appreciated.  I’m not sure if Harris is gay himself or not, but my biggest fear with anything dealing with LGBT themes is that they’ll overdo it or feed into the clich├ęd idea of what it means to be gay, inadvertently belittling it, but that never happened in Homo (though Daniel’s first real appearance did seem just a bit over-the-top to me).

I do like the realism portrayed in this novel, and I don’t even mean in regards to the homosexual theme.  Will dates Riley who, at 23, is much more experienced than the seventeen year old narrator.  Will gets swept up in belonging with Riley and his group of friends, and makes some poor choices in the name of fitting in and feeling older.  I love how Harris didn’t try to soften this or make anyone out to be this big, bad villain because of some of the things they chose to do in their spare time.  I am NOT advocating these behaviors, but I hate it when stories try to make everyone who does recreational drugs out to be a pressuring a-hole.  Though I would caution the younger YA audience away from this one for this very reason.

Homo was my first Netgalley read, and while I wasn’t wowed by it, I’m ultimately very happy with my reading experience.  I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but definitely to those intrigued by the blurb.  It really is a quick, entertaining read.

Homo - 3.5 out of 5 stars


  1. i followed your blog! i'd love if you follow mine !

  2. Too much description, that's putting me off. Its a bit of a trend at the moment and not one I'm enjoying. The synopsis sounds interesting enough. And mwah to NetGalley, the new love of my life :)

    1. Thanks, Trish! I've seen a lot of spoilery movie trailers lately, but I've been lucky enough to not come across too many book cover blurbs. But Homo was definitely one of them. Still enjoyable, just nothing surprising left in it.

      Yeah haha, I've got to train myself to not request every single book that looks a tiny bit interesting, because there is no way I'd be able to read them all. Too many books; isn't that the best kind of problem for a book nerd?

  3. I downloaded this a few days ago on net galley. I haven't gotten around to it but i plan to.

    1. As long as you don't expect a lot of really deep, heavy subject matter, I think you'll like it. It could definitely have been better, but it kept me entertained.


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