Burd, Nick. 2009. THE VAST FIELDS OF ORDINARY. New York: Dial. ISBN 9780803733404 [Suggested Grade Levels 10- 12]
At the beginning of Dade Hamilton’s last summer home before college, no one knows he’s gay except for his pseudo-boyfriend Pablo, who also has a beautiful girlfriend and will not acknowledge Dade in public. His parents’ marriage is dissolving, he has a depressing job at the supermarket, and to top it off, he is becoming increasingly obsessed with a missing girl whose face is all over the news. Everything changes when Dade meets the beautiful Alex, who not only helps him openly come to terms with his sexuality, but takes Dade through the highs and lows of real first love.
The beauty in this story is how universal Dade’s emotions and experiences are and how powerfully Burd’s prose conveys the immediate and urgent emotions that flood a teenager’s life. Ultimately, the message left by Dade is a positive one: “I stopped wanting to float away from my life, because in the end my life was all I had…There is always hope. The world is vast and meant for wandering. There is always somewhere else to go.”
Dade’s sexual identity is the crux of his eventful summer, but many of the problems he has and emotions he feels are universal to teenagers. If comfortable, hold a discussion about what “coming of age” means and how Dade’s story can be universal.
Other coming-of-age novels dealing with questions of sexuality and identity:
Levithan, David. BOY MEETS BOY. ISBN 0375824006
Peck, Dale. SPROUT. ISBN 978-1599901602
Peters, Julie Ann. FAR FROM XANADU. ISBN 9780316158817
By Cecily Ponce de Leon