A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Occasional gender and sexual terminology may be new to some readers, including a nonbinary character who uses they/them pronouns and another who identifies as pansexual.
A close, supportive friend group helps you take risks and grow. Believe in yourself and the people you love. Take a chance, challenge yourself, have fun, learn from your mistakes. Honesty and vulnerability deepen friendships and relationships.
Positive Role Models
The four best friend main characters are a tight-knit friend group. They excel in school and have big dreams for their futures. They say "I love you" to each other regularly and they are open, honest, and caring. The boys model healthy masculinity and platonic (and romantic) intimacy.
The boys all identify as gay, while secondary characters are pansexual, nonbinary, and accepting of gender and sexual difference, as are most of the parents and families. Most characters read as White, one secondary character is a Black woman. Rural vs city life, as well as class and family differences are touched on, though they are not the focus.
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Violence & Scariness
A classmate calls two of the four friends "f--gots" and threatens to hit them in the face just prior to the book's timeline, and it is referenced throughout. It was a traumatic experience as it was a reminder of the dangers of being out gay men in their small town. It's a major source of conflict between one of the boys and his mother, who failed him in her response to the incident.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Older teen boys flirt, hold hands, cuddle, hug, kiss, make out and sleep together in bed. Past and present sex is implied and referenced, but not described.
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Swearing includes regular use of "s--t" and "f--k" (and their variants), with more spare instances of "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "hell," and "d--k."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional use of products used for scene setting include FaceTime, Chipotle, Spotify, Dunkin' Donuts, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few references to past drinking and getting drunk as well as a scene of a beach party where teens get drunk, and another where a secondary character brings a flask of liquor to an internship banquet to share with their friends. Consequences include being hungover and a friendship conflict that arose accidentally during the beach party. A parent is permissive about her teen's drinking/hangover. Moderate alcohol use by underage teens is treated as normal.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Golden Boys by Phil Stamper is the first book in a planned duology about four gay best friends from rural Ohio. Sal, Gabriel, Reese, and Heath venture off to different gigs the summer before their senior year. Told in the alternating voices of the four teens, and via text messages, calls, and FaceTimes, the boys immerse themselves in new experiences while trying to stay close. Positive messages about friendship, taking risks, and personal growth abound. All four boys are good students who model honest communication and healthy masculinity. A homophobic bias incident is a shared trauma the boys help one another process. The characters swear regularly, mostly "s--t" and "f--k," with rare uses of "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "hell," and "d--k." Older teen boys flirt, kiss, make out, and cuddle. Sexual activity is implied but not described. Teens drink alcohol and get drunk occasionally, and experience minimal consequences (hangover, argument, etc.).This book is fine for teens, but especially well suited to the interests and concerns of older teens.
Is It Any Good?
This book is a welcome celebration of gay friendship, self-discovery, and queer joy. The titular Golden Boys -- Sal, Gabe, Resse, and Heath are well drawn by author Phil Stamper. They are authentic characters with relatable concerns. Readers will rejoice that these boys who like boys have found family with one another in their small, conservative community. They are uncannily good at supporting one another's goals and tell each other "I love you" regularly. It's refreshing to read about male friendships that are genuinely intimate and caring.
Getting oriented to each character and the details of their summers is a bit confusing in the beginning chapters, and the plot feels slow-moving and low-stakes at times. Still, there's a quiet, compelling heart to the book that will invest readers in the boys' individual and collective struggles, joys, and triumphs. A good pick for teens on the brink of adulthood who would benefit from knowing that though big changes are ahead, best friends will always have your back.
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