My Side of the Story – Will Davis

MSOTS(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

The cover claims that this book combines Queer as Folk with Adrian Mole.

Adrian Mole, certainly – the author imitates young people’s language with ‘like’ and ‘totally’ every other line. Also ‘weirded out’, LIC Gas (which I quite like) = ‘Like I could give a shit.’ At a careers interview, we get typical adolescent irony with the suggested job of choice: ‘suicide bomber’. Do people say ‘spasticated’?

But is he American? He uses terms like ‘faggots’ and ‘faggots go to hell’, ‘sorority’  and ‘conniption’, which don’t sound very English to me. Also, I doubt many teenagers know what ‘spragging’ means – I had to look it up – it suggests bracing yourself so that you are not knocked off your feet – in this instance by a punch.

He also talks of school pupils in year three – it’s been year nine for over twenty years now. As for a sixth former being told to stand outside the classroom for disrupting a lesson, I doubt that happens anywhere since sixth formers are voluntary attenders at school. Same with compulsory sport, which these kids have.

The author seems to think that 16 is below the age of consent (yet he contradicts this later in the book)  – by the time he wrote, which is the period in which the story is set, there was an equal age of consent (or is he thinking about the minimum age for buying alcohol?)

But the back of the book tells me that he was born in London, though. In 1980 and that this is his first novel so I begin to wonder how much of it is autobiographical.

There are some familiar scenarios – meeting your teacher in a gay bar.

The gay teacher is a bit of a stereotype – also contradictory – one minute he is trying to be avuncular, the next parental/policing – and he makes the same mistake twice of bawling pupils out of a gay bar. However, the teacher means well and this conversation ensues: Fellows pats my shoulder in this ultra-cringe­worthy, fatherly sort of way, which is downright freaky, not to mention totally unnatural.

He’s like, If kids pick on you, don’t let them get to you. You have every right to be what you are, Jarold Jones. Just you remember that. Every right in the world. Never let them make you feel ashamed and never let them tell you other­wise. Are you OK?… He’s like, I mean it. Jarold, I want you to feel you can come to me if you have any problems, OK?

I’m like, OK already.

Fellows is like, And I wanted to talk to you about the last time I saw you. In that club.

All hope of a swift end to this torture vanishes. I’m like, a deeper level of Oh brother.

The thing is, I do understand what it’s like, he goes, Discovering you’re attracted to other boys and not knowing what it means. The realisation. And then all the nights weren’t different. I’ve been through it all. I was young once too, you know.

He says this like it’s meant to be a joke, rather than something that actually is quite hard to believe. It’s weird, ‘cos it is always kind of hard to imagine older people you know were once young. Like, trying to see them as teen­agers, asking stupid questions and making stupid mistakes, and getting all interested in sex and making jokes about it. I’ve tried to imagine Mum and Dad when they were young­er, but it’s like trying to imagine having a third arm or something. It’s easy to imagine them as screwed up, because they are, but not as screwed-up sixteen-year-olds.

It’s a lonely life, goes Fellows like he’s dispensing this blinding pearl of wisdom, But things aren’t what they were. Times have changed. I remember how much harder it used to be. You’re very lucky, to be growing up now. Thirty years ago you would have found it even worse. Back before Stonewall and the protesting, people like you and me hardly stood a chance.

Being called ‘people like you and me’ has me practically choking on my own vomit. Fellows clearly mistakes this as a sign that I’m riveted to his every word. I bear it for as long as I can stand and finally I’m like, Can I go now?

Fellows loses his sympathetic smile. He looks at me for a minute like he’s not too impressed by what he sees, and then goes, Off you go then, like it was his idea.

Also a good way to get out of an embarrassing ‘birds and bees’ lecture:  I’m like, I just wish someone would talk openly to me about what men do when they’re in bed together. Dad starts changing colour instantly. He’s like, the definition of Help Me. After he’s gone through the whole rainbow, I decide to let him off the hook and say that I’m tired now and maybe we can resume this conversation tomorrow, at which point he practically runs out of my room.

Another stereotype – the boy has a pushy mother and an ineffectual father.

Like most teenagers, the boy and his friend run away. However, you turn the page with them being at Brighton without having told us why. Another fifty pages of various incidents happens before we are told that they plan to run away.

An amusing narrative suddenly becomes serious when we discover a teenager who self-harms. His later suicide makes it more so.

There are some good turns of phrase such as the description of the boy’s mother having a shouting fit which ‘erupts like a chronic case of zits.’

All in all an amusing read that passed the time.

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