‘You’re safe with me anywhere, at all times.’
It turns out, our ‘anywhere’ is the basement, and our ‘at all times’ is the entire day. We don’t go to school. We play checkers and make out. My parents are upstairs watching the news. And even though it feels like the entire world is freaking out, and even though the entire world is really just our area, and no one else anywhere gives a shit, and they definitely don’t give a shit that there are two boys making out in a basement, that’s what we are, we keep doing it, and there is something sort of beautiful about the fact that we keep doing that even now that we know it’s not what the world is about.
If I could take all the machine guns in the world and bend them into hearts, I totally totally would, even if I got grazed by bullets in the process, which knowing me I probably would, because I’m a little bit of a klutz, but Lio thinks I’m cute.”
A year after 9/11, a sniper is targeting inhabitants of the D.C. area. Parents are keeping children home from school, and people hurry to their cars after leaving the grocery store or bank. Everyone is uneasy, hunkered down and hoping for the threat to pass and leave loved one unharmed. In the midst of it all, Craig and Lio find each other. Craig’s exuberant nature and generosity help Lio forget about his dead twin, the specter of cancer that still haunts him, and his estranged mother. Reflective, calm Lio patiently searches the entire city for Craig’s lost menagerie, a motley collection of pets that escaped during a break-in earlier in the year. However, both boys are frightened and have suffered great losses in their past; being vulnerable is a true challenge for the pair, especially during such frightening times.
This is a story about untidy, realistic love in an unpredictable world. In that aspect, I feel like it is an incarnation of Every Story Ever Told, and I love Hannah Moskowitz for it. The text is full of sad-sweet details that instantly disarm the reader, such as Lio’s patchwork-dyed, multicolored hair. Instead of maintaining such an off-putting hairstyle out of rebellion, Lio does it because he does not want to look like his twin, who died of cancer. Craig’s big brother still lives at home, quietly working the night shift at a suicide hotline and looking after the family. Details like that give the story depth, without feeling manipulative or precious. As Lio and Craig negotiate their various issues against a backdrop of a world that seems to have lost all sense, a quiet optimism emerges in the text. Yes, the book seems to say, the world is awful sometimes, and our families and loved ones aren’t always what we hope. But somehow it is going to be ok.
I loved this book for several important reasons, but the primary one is the author’s treatment of ethnicity and queerness. This is a post-race, post-queer book, in which there is no need for coming out, and the characters’ ethnicities are mentioned only briefly and in passing. This is not a story about an African-American character falling in love with a Caucasian character, nor a story about a gay boy who falls in love with another gay boy. Instead, it’s just about love. Furthermore, the book acknowledges something that adults often find uncomfortable: the depth and intensity of feelings young people experience. The story affords young readers dignity, validating their relationships and emotions, and I like that very much.
Oh, please read this! It’s such a beautiful and tender story. I really think you’ll like it!
Author’s website: http://www.untilhannah.com/
Moskowitz, Hannah. Gone, Gone, Gone. Simon Pulse: New York, 2012. 251 pp. Ages 15 and up.