Title: I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip.
Author: John Donovan
Genre: Classic YA Fiction
Number of Pages: 228
Thematically speaking, this book was way ahead of it’s time. It was first published in 1969 and deals in a low-key and nonjudgmental way with a gay teenager’s crush on a classmate. The main character is a introverted and honestly pretty strange thirteen-year-old boy named Davy who ends up living with his narcissistic, drunken mother after the grandmother who raised him dies. Davy feels unmoored and his only companion in his loneliness and angst is his dachshund, Fred. Davy is a little bit obsessed with Fred and talks about him constantly. Luckily, I’m a huge dog person so his adoration of Fred was something I could understand and relate to.
Then Davy hesitantly befriends a prickly boy at his new private school and starts having confusing feelings for him. His mom starts to suspect that there’s something going on between the two of them when she finds them lying on the floor together and homophobic hysteria ensues. Davy’s narrative voice struck me as being very peculiar and I don’t think I ever got used to it. He seemed both older and much younger than his age and frankly bizarre behavior (like having a conversation with a taxidermied coyote in a museum and then affectionately kissing the glass in front of it) made me wonder if he was supposed to have some kind of mental health disorder.
The author didn’t seem to know how weird he was and somehow that made him even weirder. In a way I enjoyed seeing how differently Davy saw the world and his voice was totally unlike any other YA narrator I’ve encountered. One of the main problems I had with this book was how over-the-top the character of Davy’s mom was. She was a major part of the story but every time she showed up it had me grinding my teeth in frustration and thinking ‘who TALKS like that?’ Certainly nobody I’ve ever met.
It’s obvious John Donovan intended to make her unlikable but her histrionic mood swings combined with borderline ridiculous dialogue made it hard to take her seriously when she was in a scene. The ending of this book was strange and ambiguous but the forward and the two afterwards in my addition helped me understand it somewhat. It has a small amount of hope while also implying the difficult journey Davy has ahead as a young gay man. I hoped that he would end up being ‘okay,’ whatever that would mean for him and that he’d be able to live without shame.