This charming novel continues the story of Julian, from author Eldot’s series Julian’s Private Scrapbook. Set in the early 1960s, it follows Julian’s coming of age as a gay man through the first half of his first year in high school, as he makes new friends, learns about girls, and navigates this strange but exciting new world.
The title refers to the refrain his mother and her friend continually use when explaining to Julian why he must pay attention to his clothes now and other new “rules.” Julian’s only real concern is his mother’s interest that he take out a girl. Since he is only romantically interested in his scoutmaster Mark, that presents an obstacle. Fortunately, he attracts the attention of Rita, one of the school’s prettiest girls, who invites him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Julian’s complete ignorance about Rita’s intentions during the dance and the car ride afterwards (as well as his description to his mother later) provides some of the novel’s funniest scenes.
Julian is certainly experienced when it comes to sex, however. He continues the explorations he discovered at scout camp the previous summer, both as an initiate in a secret society of like-minded boys, as well as with Randall, recently moved from Washington. Randall, a victim of bullying at his previous school, is instantly drawn to Julian when he sees him, and they form an immediate, deep friendship. Julian introduces Randall to his scouting troop and takes an interest in his photography, and Randall is deeply impressed by Julian’s drawing skills. The two bring out the best in each other.
While not every reader will appreciate the sex scenes, they are sensitively drawn and important to the story. The only complaint this reader has is waiting for Part 2, where it seems the situation will become complicated. Well-written, with engaging, likable characters, this book skillfully presents the challenges and pleasures boys who love men face in growing up.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.