I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip 

The First-Ever Gay Teen Novel, Re-Released


DON'T BE FOOLED by the hip, Miranda July-esque title—I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. was published in 1969. John Donovan's novel merits a 40-year anniversary edition because, according to its publisher, it was the first young-adult novel to deal directly with homosexuality. (John Knowles' prep school homos were all repression, no action.)

I'll Get There may have been revolutionary for having gay themes, but its gay themes are not revolutionary—don't expect thoroughly developed same-sex relationships or an overtly pro-gay message. The book is primarily concerned with Davy's relationship with his alcoholic mother, with prior knowledge of the book's claim to fame it's clear early on which classmate Davy's going to swap spit with.

Maybe in the '50s and '60s everyone said "goddamn" and "crummy" and "phonies" all the time, and it's only the selective memory of history that consigns that vocabulary to Holden Caulfield—but Catcher in the Rye is an unavoidable reference point. Davy has a Holden-esque diffidence that allows Donovan to stay a few steps removed from his material—the gay scenes are presented with a "these things happen" nonchalance that was certainly deliberate, given the time period. I'll Get There is more compelling as a historical relic than an artistic one, but for anyone interested in homosexuality's slow emergence from the literary closet (or in YA books where teenagers make out!), it's a worthwhile read.


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