Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. by John Donovan

I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. was originally published in 1969 and is said to be the first young adult novel to deal specifically with a gay relationship between two teens written for young adults. When this reprinted, 40th anniversary edition of the novel came out, I knew I had to have it. Sadly, it was one of those books that found it's place among the stacks on my shelves and after two years, I'm just now making my way to it. It's easy to read this book and say "what's all the controversy about?" But remember that this book was originally published in 1969 when gays had very few rights at all and when teens especially had no outlet at all to be openly gay in.

I can imagine the power that this book would have to a gay teen in the late 60's. It would certainly still have a lot of power in today's world. What Donovan has written is a novel that's timeless. A novel that pioneered the gay YA scene and paved the way for many more novels to come. This is a short novel, but it's a sweet one and it packs a punch. He brings us through quite the gambit of emotions. There's loss...lots of loss, there's humor, moments of giddiness, moments of sadness and disappointment, and we're left with an ending that's pretty ambiguous, but I don't think that's a bad thing at all. I'll get to that in a second, but let me tell you what this is about first.

Davy is thirteen years old and living with his grandmother and his beloved dog, Fred, a little dachshund with a ton of personality. The book begins with his grandmother's funeral. It becomes pretty clear that Davy doesn't have much except for his dog who seems to be his only friend and that he was extremely close to his grandmother. It's decided that he'll go to live with his mother in her fancy New York apartment. His mother is an alcoholic who takes every chance she can to remind him that she hates having his dog around and some of his only moments of solace are the few times he gets to spend with his dad and his new wife, Stephanie.

Davy eventually makes a new friend at school though by the name of Douglas Altschuler. And it's here that he begins to find some hope. Him and Altschuler get along like the best of pals, though Altschuler is dealing with some grief issues of his own at the time. The two become closer and eventually become inseparable until an incident occurs at Davy's house one afternoon that causes them to avoid each other for a few days, a kiss.

I won't go into much more, because there's really not much more to the book. But there is at the same time. There's a lot that happens in the few remaining pages after this that throws Davy into a whirlwind of guilt, self loathing and self doubt. This book has been criticized because of this. Because Davy has guilt over this kiss with his friend. Because the book ends with Davy not saying "hey I'm gay and I'm ok with that." But I commend Donovan, personally, for ending the book that way.

Remember, Davy is thirteen years old. I remember going through these same experiences when I was thirteen. I can't tell you how many nights I laid in my bed just hoping that I would wake up the next morning straight. How many times I felt guilt and that I was "wrong" for being like I was. What Donovan gives us is a true account, at least for some adolescence, of finding out who we are. Of taking that trip. And it's reflected in the title of the book. Davy hasn't gotten there yet...but he will. He'll get there. And let's just hope it's worth the trip for him.

This edition in particular is fantastic!! It has a preface that was written by his niece and three wonderful afterwords that dig into the book further, looking at how this book has affected other people's lives. I hadn't even heard of this book until it was republished and I agree with what so many other's say...this would be fantastic recommended reading and the history behind the publication of the novel is fascinating. This truly is a little treasure of a novel.


Amanda said...

I'm glad you liked this so much! I was bothered a bit by the writing, because some of it felt the way old-fashioned YA feels, almost patronizing, you know? But I got what he was saying underneath, and how hard that would have been to say at the time it was written, so I liked it on an intellectual level, even if not so much on a personal one.

animewookie said...

I can't imaging how hard that must be. That age is so difficult as it is. I see it in my own children. Dealing with the pressures of fitting in' (or NOT fitting in) and finding out who you really are and want to become. Crushes, and broken hearts. For a gay teen it must be compounded 10 fold. Very moving review Chris ((Hugs)) <3

Maree said...

I remember reading this years ago and I've been wanting to find it again. :-)