The Book of David, by Anonymous; Simon Pulse, $17.99, 288 pages, ages 14-17 yrs. (June 2014)
At a nondescript American high school, David, the narrator of The Book of David, appears to lead the quintessential teenager’s life. Quarterback of the varsity football team and going steady with the cheerleading captain, David commands respect from the entire school population. With his pick of college offers, the senior year looks bright. After the arrival of a new boy in school, and David begins questioning his own sexual identity, and worries about the repercussions of doing so.
The Book of David is structured similarly to the 1971 classic teen novel Go Ask Alice. David’s author is Anonymous and, like Alice, it is also written as a diary. David mimics perfectly how a typical contemporary American teenager might write, and exudes a sense of voyeurism. Following in Alice’s footsteps, David explores themes of identity and self-perception that will resonate with teenagers at all levels of the popularity ladder. The book illustrates how most teenagers wrestle with issues of social acceptance, and strives to offer readers answers on how to meet those struggles with grace and compassion. Both are beloved by teenagers because they open windows onto their protagonists’ innermost secrets.
David’s diary reveal emotions that he most definitely wants to keep hidden from his friends. The homophobic rants in the book might sound cliché, they do, alas, represent words young people deploy without much regard for their trajectory or ultimate impact. In one poignant journal entry David expresses fear of coming out. Being a potential pro-football player, he laments the lack of gay role models in the National Football League. This book was just published in June 2014, when Michael Sam made headlines for coming out before being drafted in the NFL. Sam quickly became a role model for male teen football players, especially for a sport notable for its absence of openly gay athletes. Perhaps readers might have seen kinder, more hopeful entries in David if Sam had come out sooner.
Teens who savor epistolary narratives, and especially teens questioning their sexual identities will find much to enjoy here. The appendix contains a useful list of resources for those seeking support. David would make a worthy choice for teens–regardless of their sexual orientation or their popularity status–to better understand their peers, and themselves.
Nicole Basbanes Claire is the head children’s librarian at the Upton Town Library in Massachusetts, where she helps young readers discover the wonder of books. Prior to that, she was a teen librarian at Gleason Public Library in Carlisle, MA. Claire received her AB in English and Creative Writing from Sweet Briar College and her MSLIS from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science. She now lives and kayaks with her husband, Billy, at their lake house in Central Massachusetts.