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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the Story?
GOLDEN BOYS opens as four teen friends, all boys, all gay, prepare for separate trips away from their small town of Gracemont, Ohio, for the summer. Sal's interning for a senator in Washington, D.C., Gabe will be in Boston working with an environmental group, Reese is off to Paris for a design school program, and Heath is helping out at his aunt's arcade in Daytona Beach, Florida. Each boy's character is developed in alternating chapters from their points of view. They are excited about their respective summer plans, but they worry about how their friendship will change during their time apart. Can Gabe and Sal transition from friends with benefits to just friends? Will Reese and Heath be honest about their romantic feelings for each other before it's too late? New alliances in the group form, conflicts arise, and the difference in time zones and demands of their new lives threaten to alter their collective friendship forever, for better or worse.
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the anti-gay bias incident in Golden Boys. What did you think about Sal's mom's response? Why do you think she reacted the way she did? What should be done when someone bullies and threatens others based on their identity?
What surprises you about the boys' friendship? What makes them work as a friend group? How do their romantic connections impact their friendship?
This is a story about self-discovery and personal growth. Have you traveled or had an experience that helped you learn about yourself and the world? Did it impact any of your friendships? What makes friends closer or causes them to drift apart?
- Author: Phil Stamper
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
- Publication date: February 8, 2022
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 27, 2023
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