Friday, February 13, 2009

Absolute Brightness

James Lecesne, February 2008. When Phoebe's cousin comes to stay with her family in the small town of Neptune, New Jersey, she's embarrassed by his flamboyance. Leonard is only thirteen, but he's pretty obviously gay, and not just gay but "different. Don't get me wrong. I like different. I am different," says Phoebe, "but when different goes too far, it stops being a statement and just becomes weird." Her cousin wears rainbow platform heels, believes in channeling the dead, creates inventive vodka drinks to soothe his aunt's stress, and makes over every female in town - except Phoebe, whom he deems his ideal.

Phoebe's worried about Neptune's reaction, but in fact, Leonard gets along with everyone except a few token adolescent homophobes. When he begins to work at her mother's beauty salon, he befriends her middle-aged clients and even reads to a lady whose eyes are failing. He arranges a reunion between his aunt and her ex-husband and befriends the theater kids after an amazing audition as Ariel in The Tempest. When he disappears, then, the town rallies to look for him, but not for long, as other local events gradually take precedence over the search for a boy they knew briefly and who probably ran away.

Phoebe can't forget Leonard, though. After he's gone, she learns that he considered her his best friend, and her guilt and love drive her to continue the search. Even after Leonard's body is found, Phoebe doesn't give up until she's satisfied with her knowledge of his relationships and his ultimate good nature.

The book goes on a little too long at 472 pages; a few characters, such as Deirdre and Larry, could have been sacrificed to make the length more manageable. The sainthood of Leonard is a little overboard as well. Still, the story is a sweet one of a teen girl learning to judge people on their merits instead of their reputations. Recommended.

1 comment:

elleng said...

I found this book quite disturbing, and I'm surprised that you're giving it even this positive of a review. Leonard is killed by a troubled teen who used the "he was coming onto me" defense. Ick! Phoebe even has a romantic interest in the killer, and while she loved and missed Leonard is somehow able to forgive his murderer. There is also a particularly gruesome description of Leonard drowning, I believe, after having been tied up and thrown in the water. Not a fan!