The Boy's on the Rocks is a coming of age and coming out story which follows the growth of protagonist Billy Connors during his adolescence and discovery of his homosexuality. Meeting Al, his love would have been a 'normal' experience if he had had any frames of reference, instead, all the other boys he knows only talk about their sexual experiences with girls, not other boy's, and his parents are absent, constantly stuck in front of the television and almost unaware that they have a son. This story is very realistic in many ways, and reflects the experiences of many young gay men, focusing on the isolation that is typical of the experience of growing up as a gay man.
Set in the late 1960s in the US, the story describes a social and historical context that seems to be totally ignorant of homosexuality. This is used well in the novel insofar as it creates an insurmountable barrier for Billiy -a barrier that forces him and Al into isolation and discovering themselves without guidance from peers or parents.
Fully realistic, the story is very credible and narrated in the first person, a convention of Bildungsroman which allows the reader to identify with the protagonist and also, in this case, accentuates the isolation of the main character. Sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant and painful, the realistic narrative has the ability to provoke real and strong emotions in the readers.
This novel has often been described as an 'easy read'. It is true that it does not try to make the reading difficult for the reader, yet I believe it does so in order to foreground the story and the emotions of the main character, as well as in order to give a credible and in many ways universally recognizable account of the experience of coming of age for a gay man. The final scene is particularly touching, when we realize that Billy and Al had a counterpart, two other gay boy's whom we had met on various occasions in the novel horse playing, yet one is now dead, and the novel closes with one of them looking at the horizon and crying for the loss of who we discover was not just a friend, but a life partner.
Book Reviewed By Billy Best
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