Turning 16 by Perie Wolford ~ Review by Ulysses

The first of a planned series of YA novellas, Turning 16 takes us to the year 1985, and is set up as a gay boy’s recasting of the John Hughes film Sixteen Candles.

: Turning 16

Author: Perie Wolford

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher:

New Gay Series To Pay Tribute To Sixteen Candles Movie and Other Awesome John Hughes Movies.

Sam never liked his birthdays because not a single one of them was happy… When he turned 1, he fell face-down into his birthday cake; when he turned 5, he broke his left arm and when he turned 7, he broke his right arm and his left leg; when he turned 12, his house caught fire. Now Sam is about to turn 16 and he is dreading the day. The only birthday wish he has is for Jake who is the Mr. Popular of Arcadia High to even acknowledge his existence, or better yet give him a happy-birthday kiss.

But Sam knows that it’s not gonna happen. Or is it?

Disclaimer: The plot of the books substantially varies from the John Hughes movies and all the references to the movies are made as a tribute to their awesomeness.

My View

I watched that film in 1985, the year I turned 30, and, like our protagonist Sam, fell for Jake, the handsome-but-gentle jock who is the focus of Molly Ringwald’s obsession. (That young man, by the way, Michael Schoeffling, left Hollywood soon thereafter and became a furniture maker. I was obsessed, too.) The point is, I understand Sam’s point of view.

This is an endearing, very readable book. Sam (yes, same name as in 16 Candles) is adorable, self-deprecating and rather clueless. He’s a good kid, and while not out, is perfectly happy being gay. He has a loving, if chaotic family, a BFF in his pal Melissa, and an undying crush on the gentlemanly football team captain, Jake. Sam’s only problem is that there seems to be a curse on his birthday, which has been haunted by disaster ever since he was a toddler.

And therein lies the running joke in the simple narrative for Turning 16: Sam is a typical teenager, and is so constantly in his own head that he completely misses the cues that would lead him where he wants to go and end his birthday curse. Convinced of his own destiny, he pays no attention to the people around him watching him lovingly. He can’t get out of his own way, and doesn’t even realize it.

Ah, I remember those years.

Aside from some clunky writing (why can’t people use contractions?) that some re-editing might solve, it is hard not to fall for this book. Sam’s anxiety around coming out is not unlike mine was at his age: he’s pretty sure he’ll be supported, but still afraid to make the leap, even for his best friend. His crush on the jock blinds him to truths staring him in the face (literally), and his worries about his birthday curse are the very mechanisms that make the curse operative.

Wolford captures the teen voice in all its irrational clarity. The book is sweet, single-minded in a very teenaged way, and a reminder that being gay in the 1980s was already very different than it had been in the decades before.

Turning 17 comes out in May, and I look forward to reading it.

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I would like to thank the Author for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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