A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that David Levithan's Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story is a hilarious and campy young adult novel about a boy's journey of self-discovery as a "big-boned" gay teen, presented in the format of a Broadway musical script with plenty of stage directions that serve as Tiny's commentary. The Tiny Cooper character was first introduced in Will, Grayson, Will Grayson, the bestselling YA novel by Levithan and John Green. Filled with silly pop-culture and theater-history jokes, Hold Me Closer is perfect for high schoolers, especially kids in drama and performing arts classes. Multidimensional and more profound than meets the eye, the novel twists archetypal narratives about characters across the sexuality spectrum and tells an honest story about a realistic and sympathetic protagonist grappling with the ecstasy and heartbreak of young love. There are references to homosexual relations, pornography, and masturbation but no strong language other than one "helluva" and a lyric about a boy worrying that a coach might kick his "ass." Body-positive and anti-bully, Hold Me Closer is a proud rebuttal to the negative stereotyping adolescents often endure.
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What's the story?
HOLD ME CLOSER: THE TINY COOPER STORY is a musical novel by David Levithan, author of many YA novels, including the book-turned-movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. It tells the life story of flamboyant and proud drama nerd Tiny Cooper, from his appearance on the scene as a "big gay baby" up through his childhood, in which sports were sacred, and on to his immersion in the theater, his proclamation of his sexual orientation, and the end of the book, with the "Parade of Ex-Boyfriends" who have thus far dashed his quest for teen romance.
Is it any good?
The opening number of the show (in which Tiny declares he's "happily G-A-Y") makes it explicitly clear that readers who are uncomfortable with homosexuality should stop reading. In fact, Tiny's stage directions following the song state, "If anyone is going to object to this musical, they will have left the theater at this point." But those with an open mind will find a heartwarming, clever, and universal story about the growing pains of puberty and the endless search for love and meaning. There are goofy puns and silly rhymes; a few of the pop-culture jokes don't land; and the story and message are straightforward almost to the point of being too blatant. But these minor shortcomings are overwhelmingly obscured by the sheer boldness and positivity of the script. The dialogue is a perfect facsimile of stereotypical musical theater, and the use of chorus members, supporting characters, and even the ghost of Oscar Wilde give the story a dynamism that would be ideal for the stage.
Although there's no music (yet), readers can imagine the show-stopping choreography and catchy melodies for themselves, adding an element of audience participation. Hold Me Closer is seemingly written for gay teens, but it's equally appealing to anyone interested in the challenges of young adulthood and self-acceptance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficulty of "coming out." What sort of pressures do young teens feel in needing to define, understand, and declare their sexual orientations?
Tiny is searching for a profound and pure love to give his life meaning but is disappointed time and time again. How does writing and performing give him another source of passion? Why does it often help to express your personal struggles and traumas through creating and sharing art?
Do you think it's becoming more acceptable in middle and high schools for kids to be openly gay? Why, or why not?
- Author: David Levithan
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs, Music and Sing-Along
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dutton Books
- Publication date: March 17, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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