A Boy at the Edge of the World by David Kingston Yeh
Published: Guernica Editions (March 28th 2018)
Genre: contemporary, romance
LGBT rep: gay MC, multiple gay & bisexual LI
Rating: 3/5 🍑
A confabulated fictional memoir.
Meet Daniel Garneau, your average gay hockey player from small-town Ontario. After moving to Toronto to attend university, Daniel meets David, a bike mechanic whose Catholic Italian mother talks to her dead husbands. Their chemistry is immediate, but Daniel is still drawn to his ex-boyfriend Marcus, a performance artist whose grandfather was a book-burning Nazi.
Through a series of misadventures both comic and tragic, Daniel navigates the pitfalls of dating and relationships, while juggling the needs of his eccentric family and newfound friends. A Boy at the Edge of the World is a rollicking dramedy that explores the compulsive and (ultimately) universal human pursuit of intimacy, sex, and love.
I received a galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Well, this is a weird book to give a rating to. It’s not bad? But I wouldn’t exactly say it’s good. If I were to describe it in one word, I would probably choose “interesting”. Or maybe, more accurately, striving to be interesting.
A Boy at the Edge of the World tells the story of Daniel and his romantic & sexual adventures since he was seventeen and kicked off a hockey team for getting into a fight with a bunch of homophobes. He was also in a relationship of sorts with his married coach… So that’s where we first meet him & that also kind of sets the tone for the whole novel.
By which I mean, it feels like the author goes out of his way to shock the audience. Maybe it wasn’t the goal, maybe he really was just trying to describe the Canadian lgbt youth. But it’s one thing to have stories of sex and love from a bunch of young people and another thing to have a bunch of stories from one single guy. The comparison to Sex and the City? It’s so spot-on.
In more than the first half of the book, we’re just introduced to one boyfriend after another with a myriad of one-night stands scattered in between. Like, sure, that happens and it’s perfectly ordinary. But when a novel is written in this very simple style that feels almost like a newspaper article; when the dialogues are unreal & artificial and making it almost impossible to take the characters serious half the time; when the characters themselves are either not fleshed-out at all or just made into caricatures of some trait or another – when you put all that together with descriptions of various sexscapades, it really starts to seem like it’s just done for the shock value.
It’s honestly impossible to have any kind of emotional connection with anything that happens here or with any of the characters. I’m pretty sure the only one I actually liked was David and that’s just because he was, well, nice. None of the characters, including the main one, feel real. They do things, of course, they do so many things, and Daniel describes everyone to us, down to every little quirk, but that’s it. What they do doesn’t exactly always match up with their descriptions and anyway, how do I feel anything for a description? Because none of them ever become more than that! There’s just no time for that in the novel! There are so very many relationships to recount, there’s no space left for making the characters into actual people.
In way of tw for future readers: there’s the relationship with an older, married man (somewhat romanticized), a rape scene at the very beginning (he consented to the act but then blackouted for some time?), straight girls fetishizing gay guys (never really called out, but the narrator/mc is grossed out by it).
It’s a weird book because on one hand it’s interesting, it grips your attention – it starts on a wild (illegal, let’s be honest) note and goes wilder & wilder from there so that you keep reading to find out just how wild will it get – but on the other hand, it’s not well written nor really interesting. I appreciate the author’s effort to paint a realistic portrait of the lgbt community in Toronto but, again, packed into one small book it starts to just be lowkey grotesque. Which is such a shame because it could have been a great book, if only given some more words and revision.
Buy A Boy at the Edge of the World on BookDepository.