I randomly bought this when we were in the UK this past summer. I bought it because of the quirky title, but I was drawn to the display because it was a display of young adult and children’s books with LGBT+ characters.
Now the fact that there are LGBT+ young adult characters isn’t abnormal, I mean just look at the list of books I’ve read recently and you’ll see a half-dozen spanning two decades. What was exciting to me was the fact there was a display in the young adult/children’s section highlighting them! It was magical 😀
What I was not expecting at all was the humor in the novel, when really I should have with a title like Boy Meets Hamster. There were multiple genuine laugh out loud moments where I stopped and basked in the quirkiness of Dylan the main character. When, due to a series of unfortunate events, Dylan comes out to his parents, their reaction is priceless. I re-read his dad’s reaction three or four times because it was so funny, and the follow-up I don’t even get to in this quote is even better!
“‘They have parades for this, don’t they?’ He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. ‘Pride parades. Flags on buses, chanting, bit like the victory parade when someone wins the Cup.’
‘Oh my God, Dad, I’m not a sport!’ I could see it now: him decked out in rainbows like it was the Gay team kit.
‘Just picture it.’ He waved a hand in front of him the way a painter sweeps a brush across his canvas. ‘ Cheering crowds. You and me on top of a bus waving a banner that says I LOVE MY GAY SON…’
Dad wasn’t freaked out that I was gay. Not even a little bit. He was supporting me.
Exactly the same way he supported Woking FC.
My life was still totally over.” (276-277)
I nearly died. She followed it up with the chant he was working on: “It started out TWO-FOUR-SIX-HEY!.” It was too good I seriously started laughing and had a coughing fit. But simultaneously, Milano managed to balance the humor with the seriousness of coming out and self acceptance. She had a way of keeping you in Dylan’s mind but also making you question your own experiences.
“Not that my kissing prospects were ever more than zero. The problem came from never knowing whether the people I was interested in might be interested back. Which, I suppose, is an issue for everyone except psychics, but it’s definitely a thousand times worse when you’re gay.” (21)
“By now I’d hit the chorus and was howling at the top of my voice about wanting to be surrounded by soggy men, or something.
Which, considering I wasn’t exactly public about the fact that I liked boys at all, felt like a weirdly dramatic way of announcing it. Not that announcing I was gay was something I ever really planned to do. I had dreams sometimes where I went to school and everyone already knew, without me having said anything at all. Sometimes that felt terrifying, and sometimes it was almost a relief…but it couldn’t stay secret for ever. Otherwise I’d never get to walk through town holding someone’s hand, or share one of the giant chairs with them at the local Caffe Coffee, or kiss them. Which were my top three things I really wanted to do with someone someday, so I’d have to tell everyone I liked boys eventually.” (93-94)
Milano wrote a wonderfully diverse novel without saying in a stereotypical robot voice “I’m going to be diverse – this is what diversity looks like.” And with all of this she did it so subtlety you didn’t realize it happened. One character happened to be disabled, one was black, one was a body positive kick ass plus size young woman, and others were pains in the asses or rude management. She normalized everything about every character and rather than completely ignoring it she had you see through Dylan’s eyes how he dealt with it when other people didn’t understand or didn’t like the people he loved because of their diversity.’
The most frustrating and yet perfect thing about the novel was Dylan’s complete and total lack understanding and awareness around him. Milano played with this from the perspective of the camp ground operators and she revved it up through Dylan’s insecurities. She pulls you in and gets you in the same head space where even though you know what’s going to happen (hello RomCom trope), you still question whether it actually will happen.
Recommendation: It’s a delightfully quirky read. You know what you’re getting going in and you get it. I smiled for the majority of the book and what more can you ask for than a book that makes you smile?
Opening Line: “The car got stuck in a traffic jam at the entrance to the caravan park, under a massive sign that read: ‘WELCOME TO STARCROSS SANDS – LET THE DREAM BEGIN.’
Closing Line: “This time at Starcross Sands. I was keeping it forever. Dream boy. Dream holiday. Dreams coming true.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Boy Meets Hamster
“Falling in love felt a lot like falling into a canal. A sudden shock as you’re plunged into murky depths, with all kinds of unexpected dangers just below the surface. I was starting to think that I might like to climb back out.” (162-163)
“‘Was it…really obvious?’ Maybe I’d been setting off gaydars left and right. Maybe instead of me not telling the world, it had been the world not telling me that it already knew. That wasn’t a good feeling at all.” (276)