cover image Charming Young Man

Charming Young Man

Eliot Schrefer. HarperCollins/Tegen, $19.99 ISBN 978-0-06-298239-1

In this inventive historical novel by Schrefer (The Darkness Outside Us), titular charmer Léon Delafosse, a financially downtrodden teen piano prodigy, attempts to navigate turn-of-the-century high-society Paris. To cover his conservatory expenses, Léon needs a society patron, but his socially awkward tendencies and his goal to “have the Léon part of himself disappear into the music” make fostering connections difficult. At almost 17, he’s running out of time to secure a patron, until he meets upper-middle-class Marcel Proust, whose job as a gossip columnist can provide Léon better access to members of high society. Léon fears that his attraction to men, which he can barely admit to himself, may be his downfall, but as he gets to know Marcel and his would-be patron Count Robert de Montesquiou, who are both open about their sexuality, this new world that Marcel introduces him to proves as attractive as it is tricky. Schrefer’s Léon Delafosse, who is based on the real French pianist of the same name, is not only likable, but sensitive and resilient, and his perseverance amid dramatic ups and downs on his path toward happiness is engaging. All characters are white. Ages 13–up. (Oct.)