It pains me to say that I overlooked this book the first time around. It was published by Broadway Books for New York back in 2004 and is one of AfterElton’s top 50 gay books of all times. Still I missed it. Then one day it got added to my Amazon wish list. Then I forgot about it again. Then I found it in a charity book shop in Plymouth, and subsequently filed it in my reading pile to be overlooked yet again. When I finally picked this book up, some 9 years after publication, I literally kicked myself for being so stupid. The thing is a freakin’ masterpiece!
Edward Zanni is a High School drama enthusiast, with a flair for the OTT and a hunger for the hallowed halls of Julliard. Of course between his business-minded father and his new Scandinavian Step-Monster, these dreams seem fit to fail when his father announces his refusal to pay the tuition. This book does have a subheading which, in no short terms identifies the length Edward and his rag-tag band of drama geeks will go to to see Edward up on the stage where he belongs. “A novel of sex, theft, friendship and Musical Theatre” pretty much sum out the hilarious events that ensue, and this book is a laugh-a-minute riot, featuring religious outfits, the blackmail of a senators son (in which the straight football star seems to wind up naked and in compromising photograph more than he would like) and a gay piano bar where the kids find solace and a place to belt out tunes from Broadway. Top this off with a fake scholarship tailor-made to his exact character made from money stolen from his thieving step-mother (which incidentally is usurped by a young actor related to Frank Sinatra) and you have yourself a rip-roaring, hilarious jaunt through the dumb things that teenagers will do to get what they want. And it’s all priceless, every single word.
At the heart of this comedic masterpiece however is the story of a boy on a mission, growing up and growing into himself, discovering his identity and his sexuality, sometimes in the most awkward ways possible.
Gay author himself, Acito puts into words what it’s like to be a gay artist at the turn of becoming a man, and does so with finesse and hilarity, very rarely taking himself seriously. It’s a transitional story in every sense of the word, and does indeed rightly earn its place as one of the top gay books of our generation.
In 2008, Acito followed this book up with its sequel, Attack of the Theatre People, which I have yet to read, but have no doubt will be ranting about it at a later date. If you need any more proof of the merits of this book, then king of the damned, Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk actually recommended Acito’s manuscript for publishing. And we all know, Chuck does no wrong!
You can pick up this book from all major retailers, and I will be back to report on the follow up. I may be a little late, but I’m getting there. And if you’re late too, take a trip back to 2004 and give this book a go.