cover image Breaking Boxes

Breaking Boxes

A. M. Jenkins. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32513-4

Winner of the Delacorte Press Prize for a first YA novel, this earnest drama's message of tolerance is loud and clear. Charlie Calmont's mother ""drank herself to death"" and his only friend moved away. Now he's starting sophomore year fighting with the rich kids in the in-crowd and sharing laughs with his older brother, Trent. Trent is gay, as astute observers will guess and others will find out halfway through this novel of self-discovery. He also appears to be perfect: he is working his way through college, raising kid brother Charlie and speaking honestly about his emotions. Charlie accepts Trent's sexuality, but finds it hard to open up to others about his family and his feelings. He keeps himself safe by locking himself in a box--the predictable metaphor of the title. The novel's strength lies in Charlie's first-person narration, which is horny and conversational, always in present tense: ""Once you've noticed somebody's tits,"" he says, ""it's hard to keep your eyes away from them. Tits are like magnets or something."" Though the plot may read like an after-school special on accepting homosexuals, Charlie's funny, angry voice will keep up readers' interest. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)