Jay’s Gay Agenda - ✩✩/5
Rep: gay mc, Chinese-American gay li, gay genderqueer side character, gay side character
I have very mixed feelings towards this book. I started out this book very excited about it because it seemed like a wholesome story about a gay teenager experiencing all of his firsts in a new city with a thriving LGBTQ+ community. I did not get what I signed up for. I don’t write many reviews about books that I did not like, so I’m not sure how to go about this. I think the best way to do this is to split the review into factors I liked, and factors I did not like. So let’s get into it.
Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions, so please don’t let me put you off this book unnecessarily!
Fun Fact: This is the lowest rating I have ever given a book.
There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.
Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.
From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.
What I Liked
Albert! Albert has to be on this list, he was just such a wholesome character and I loved his role as one of the love interests. He definitely deserved so much more than he got. He is so sweet, compassionate and forgiving! I also liked how he focused on making genuine connections with people instead of just focusing on the physical aspects of a relationship.
The characters are allowed to be messy! This aspect of the book made the characters really realistic and more developed. I think this is really important with books featuring teens as main characters, who are still learning and growing into themselves, and actually figuring out what kind of person they want to be.
The genderqueer representation, in the form of Max! Max does more than just appear in the story, he also plays an important role. He openly talks with Jay about his gender identity, what it means, how it shapes life. Max was one of my favorite characters in this book!!
Possibly the best part of the book: it does a great job of showing that every conflict has two sides, that no one is ever completely wrong or right. That is shown near the end, when Jay figures things out for himself, and when he explains his reasoning to people around him. But he’s not the only character allowed to share their perspective. For each problem the book introduced, there are two sides clearly shown.
What I Did Not Like
The cheating. Once Jay has agreed to date Albert, him going to have sex with Tony is cheating. None of this “defining the relationship”. You’ve agreed to a date, you’ve used that exact word, and you haven’t discussed either exclusivity. All of this constitutes Jay cheating. So the whole situation, with the fact that absolutely everyone saw this as okay, and the only issue being that Jay hadn’t told Albert? Made some scenes very hard to read.
There is a balance between letting gay characters be sexual, and having pretty much all of their attraction relate to sex. To me and I stress that it’s to me — a lot of this fell into all attraction relate to sex. It’s good for teen books to be sex-positive, don’t get us wrong! But there’s more to being gay (or any sexual orientation!) than just sex.
Jay is, to be painfully honest, a pathologically selfish liar at times. He lies to almost everyone in this narrative. Throughout the story the lies just keep building. He doesn’t even seem aware of the fact he’s doing anything wrong – he’s just trying to have the best time possible. He’s also quite narcissistic at times, his only concern being on himself and his experience even while his friends are going through rough times and they need his support.
This is very much a personal preference, but I did not like the writing style. The language is awkward, the catchphrases quite cringey, and the jokes barely ever have a good punchline. Also it’s almost comical that in a book this open about sex, which is considered an adult topic, eighteen-year-old Jay always uses the word “frack”. It was really just his way of being quirky and different. Again, to each their own, but for me personally it was the opposite of what I see as good writing.
That’s all I have to say about this book. Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you next time!
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