Set in and around New York, this novel is the first in the Klub Kids series which follows a group of young, gay men who exist in and around the club scene. The book works for me because the characters are all quirky, interesting, vulnerable and just so easy to love.
This biographical world of club nights and parties is narrated by Johnny Williams, the author. We meet him at a time in his life when he has almost given up on real love and the reader cannot help but empathise with him, as he doesn’t have the best of luck in his search for fun, friendship, and that elusive special relationship.
In Johnny’s circle we meet best friend, Danny, who works but is from a wealthy family. He never seems to lack for money, friendship or partners. He tries repeatedly to reassure Johnny, but Johnny’s low self-esteem is too firmly entrenched. There is also Brendon, a slightly mysterious Goth figure – portrayed as eternally grumpy, heavy smoking and outwardly disapproving. Brendon is particularly disapproving of Jason, an adorable, fun loving twink. Jason is always skipping and sees a rainbow-coloured world, sparkling with glitter and love – despite hints of a painful childhood. His gorgeous looks and ‘innocent’, if manipulative manner, bring him a lot of attention and expensive presents. Sadly, not all the attention was good:
…The World loves a bubbly sissy…I took notice that Jason’s bruises were still there. Well, not everyone loves a bubbly sissy, but by God, they will when I’m around.
Johnny and his friends may seem superficial but they are just trying to fit into a scene that is inherently superficial; and like most other people they are just looking for love and meaning in their lives. The Klub Kids inhabit and try to make sense of a world full of masks and facades that are donned for protection. They do, however, reveal how close they are to each other in a variety of ways, not all of them obvious. Their layered personalities and quirky lives, however, add something special to the wonderful humour – this novel is very funny.
I would have bought this book just for one scene – set on a small plane, flying the group to Key West for a holiday – because it’s the funniest few pages I’ve read in a long time. During this plane scene Jason asks:
Do you have anything that goes with those little umbrellas? Brendon looked over and quipped, ‘Little galoshes?’
The wonderfully snarky but clever humour had me snorting coffee several times, and there are poignant or funny scenes that remain with you long after you finish reading. One such scene involves Johnny working temporarily as a waiter. He is literally captured by a huge muscle bound drunk, who takes a very stubborn liking to him. Johnny is imprisoned on the drunk’s lap, held by very strong arms – the police are called. At one point, the manager tries to resolve the situation with,
“Let our waiter go.”
… I felt like the Israelites being bargained for by Charlton Heston. Only this guy could EAT Yul Brynner.
My whole life started to pass before my eyes. God, how fuckin’ boring HAVE I been? Geez. I start to think of Danny’s life instead.
Although I laughed aloud in many places, I desperately wanted Johnny to find real love – and he gives it a good try. I’m not telling if he finds love, but I know there is a sequel coming. Like the Klub Kids themselves, this story is not as light or shallow as it may seem at first glance. There is a darkness that haunts this tale and the lack of tolerance for young gay men is ever present in the background. Book One takes us to the end of New Year’s Eve, and the next one starts just after New Year, and I can’t wait to read it.