The story that inspired the Trevor Project, a 24-hour crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth, James Lecesne’ Trevor is a young adult novella whose power lies in its simplicity. Lecesne notes in his Afterword, young adult novels these days “are full of complex lesbian and gay characters.” He cites as examples authors like David Levithan, Alex Sanchez, Jacqueline Woodson, Bill Konigsberg and Mayra Lazara Dole. Unfortunately, stats still show that LGBT youth are “four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.” I haven’t had a chance myself to read YA that deal with LGBT issues, but I applaud any author who is able to positively change the life of a troubled youth through fiction.
When I think of the issues facing LGBT youth, I imagine kids feeling ostracized, possibly bullied, simply for being attracted to people of the same gender. Possibly because I only really started thinking about these issues as an adult, or perhaps because my friends from school who are LGBT are fairly open about their sexuality, but I never really thought much about the confusion aspect of the experience. I suppose the Q part of LGBTQ (which I learned from this book stood for questioning) was something I was intellectually aware of, without really thinking about what it really means.
That’s why Trevor was such an eye opener for me. The protagonist, a thirteen year old boy, does not identify as LGBTQ. He’s a teen who happens to love Lady Gaga and wants to build a career in theatre. He doesn’t understand why his long-time best friend is suddenly avoiding him, or why a guy he forms an immediate connection to is not allowed to talk to him on the phone.
I found it striking that Trevor doesn’t actually say that he’s in love with Pinky — he’s ”the coolest guy I had ever met,” but the whole idea of being attracted to other guys isn’t something Trevor ever really allows himself to reflect on. Rather, his classmates do that for him — calling him derogatory terms and telling him that his interest in musical theatre is “so gay.” In a rather disturbing, yet quite realistic, moment, Trevor’s best friend gives him the friendly advice to be careful.
“Careful?” I said. “Of what?”
“Of becoming a gay,” he answered. “Boys doing it with boys is gross, and you can end up a pervert. Or worse.” [p. 36]
Note that at this point, Trevor has done nothing more than form a new friendship. It’s disturbing to see a friend pigeonholing him into a label, worse still to see it as friendly advice, confidently given.
The whole pressure to be labelled is a recurring theme throughout the story. Trevor deals with it with humour and utter bafflement, which only heightens the emotion at the realization that the situation is actually bothering him much more than he lets on. In a real eye-opener (for me, at least), Trevor says that the Gay Straight Alliance members were the worst, because they kept insisting he identify as homosexual. When he asks them to leave him alone,
They suggested I consider labelling myself as “Questioning” and leave it at that. Or maybe I could declare myself an “ally.” I asked them why I needed a label at all; why did I need to declare myself as anything other than Trevor? Isn’t that enough? [p. 54]
Apparently not. He is bullied for being gay before he even realizes himself whether or not he is gay, and the inability to escape from a label his classmates affix on him is what eventually pushes him past his breaking point.
The story progresses a bit too quickly for the author to really delve deep into Trevor’s psyche — it’s more a narration of events than an in-depth look into his mind. The events are told fairly casually, and the drama lies in the events themselves rather than in Trevor’s reflections on them. The author therefore lets Trevor’s story speak for itself, without trying too hard to elicit emotion from the reader, which actually heightens the impact of the tale.
Trevor is a compelling novella, told in engaging, straightforward language that belies the complexity of emotions its protagonist undergoes. The novella also includes information on the Trevor project, as well as other resources for LGBT youth. An eye-opening book, one that will resonate not just with LGBT youth, but also with anyone who has been labelled as different, and pigeonholed into that label.
A portion of proceeds from the book will benefit the Trevor Project.
Thank you to Random House Canada for a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.