Title: Other Boys
Author: Damian Alexander
Genre: YA Graphic Novel/Memoir
Number of Pages: 208
This book was a lot better than I expected it to be! I wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t become available at one of my local libraries, it didn’t seem like something I wanted to buy in print. Looking back, I actually wouldn’t have minded buying a copy. It’s a poignant story about being different and surviving the conformity of seventh grade.
It isn’t exactly the world’s best-kept secret that young Damian Alexander was probably gay- he mostly befriended girls and preferred dolls and sewing to more ‘manly’ pursuits. He was raised by his grandparents and never really knew his mom, who was murdered by his dad when he was a baby. The loss of his mother left a hole in his life and his depression wasn’t helped by the cruelty of some of his peers.
He escaped his circumstances through art and science fiction and his grandparents did their best to support him. I related to Damian Alexander as soon as he told the story of how upset he’d get when his classmates would kill bugs. I was the exact same way when I was little and just like with Damian, my teachers told me off for being oversensitive.
I found it a little confusing when this book moved back and forth in time between seventh grade and when he was younger, but I liked how it handled a variety of different issues (bullying, grief, gender roles, mental health) in a seemingly simple but heartfelt way.
The ending offers hope without being a cop-out and suddenly ‘fixing’ anything, showing recovery from trauma as a gradual process that starts with having the courage to ask for help. I guess one of the reasons I wasn’t sure about this one was the artwork, and I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite aspect. It seemed a little too cartoony for the subject matter but it’s one of those things that gradually grows on you.