Home > Discussion > Confessions of an Ordinary Boy – Brian Centrone

Confessions of an Ordinary Boy – Brian Centrone

Our next book is ‘Confessions of an Ordinary Boy’ by Brian Centrone. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time / 3pm EST.

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“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?” my mother asked, releasing me from her death grip.
“I’ll be fine, Mom, I swear.”
“Come on, Christine, let’s leave the boy in peace now,” my father pressed.
“Well…ok. If you need anything, anything at all, you’ll call?”
“Or e-mail?”
My father laid his heavy hand down on my shoulder. “See ya, Son,” he nodded his head, then hesitated. “Be good,” was all he managed to get out, removing his hand and placing it on my mother’s arm.
“I will, Dad,” I promised. I looked at my parents as they hovered in the doorway and wondered if I was actually capable of living up to all their expectations. Especially when the expectations I had for myself were far from those imposed upon me by my mother and father. “Bye,” I waved, edging them on to take the plunge.
One more look of despair from my mother and a forceful tug on her arm by my father and they were gone.

  1. 08/11/2010 at 7:50 pm

    I’m here. Ready and willing. Let’s do this!

  2. 08/11/2010 at 7:51 pm

    I’m on, a bit early. Anyone else?

  3. 08/11/2010 at 7:56 pm

    Just to let you know there are probs with the internet in the UK and the North especially, so if we’re a little slow that may be why

  4. 08/11/2010 at 7:57 pm

    hi Sian and Brian, I’m in the building!

  5. 08/11/2010 at 7:58 pm

    I’m here!

  6. 08/11/2010 at 7:58 pm

    OK. So Do I just keep refreshing the page then to see when a comment has been added?

  7. Gina Perry
    08/11/2010 at 7:58 pm

    Yeah ditto on internet – I think it’s something chorlton-related.

  8. 08/11/2010 at 7:59 pm

    Because of the connection problem, I’m going to get things started with a question – assuming other people are around but haven’t been able to comment yet. So, question for Brian…you’ve mentioned before that this is a young adult novel – is this still true, at all or in part?

  9. 08/11/2010 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Morag and Jane

  10. 08/11/2010 at 8:03 pm

    Yes, it’s still true. Though, I wanted to give it more of an edge. Must young adult novels stop at the end of High School. I wanted to show teens what College life would be like. What happens when you finally get your independence. Not every teen has the kind of high school experience the ones in YA novels have. Some don’t get around to that until they leave for college. That’s what I wanted my angle to be.

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:06 pm

      I don’t know the genre, but tried to parallel it to the young adult / coming of age books I was reading (of the Judy Blume ilk). I liked that he was going into a college environment. More over that he wasn’t just lusting after hot roomie (or unattainable straight guy), though I don’t know how common that (lusting after hottie straight guy) is in the genre.

  11. 08/11/2010 at 8:04 pm

    In case Brian can’t see what I’ve sai yet – what do other people think – YA novel?

  12. 08/11/2010 at 8:06 pm

    I would agree ‘young adult’ but with an edge. He makes one mistake and ends up ****

  13. 08/11/2010 at 8:08 pm

    Sorry Morag, just censored the spoiler there 😉 …so would people who have read YA novels say that this kind of edge was unusual?

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:10 pm

      I’m trying to think back – I would say the YA books I read were high school, not first years of uni. I wonder if there is a gap in this market generally in YA.

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:11 pm

        I would agree…the ones I read were about school generally

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:11 pm

        yes, I agree. There is a gap here.

  14. 08/11/2010 at 8:10 pm

    It does seem to be aimed at YA, and when I occasionally felt frustrated with Tom’s petty self-centredness, I had to remind myself what it was like at that age. The edge to the novel is only “unusual” in that most YA novels are straight, I would say.

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:16 pm

      I’d agree with that Jane. Though I suppose his petulance is a more realistic reflection of someone his age, and who was going through the process of coming out. I also liked that he was in the process – that coming out wasn’t just one big event that happened on one day – it happens in stages. Brian, is that something you feel young gay adults may not appreciate….that it is part of a journey?

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:16 pm

      I agree that Tom seemed pretty self involved, but in a believably naive kid-who’d-just-left-home way…is this how other people saw him? Is he really ordinary or did you see any irony in the title?

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:19 pm

        Both – he is ordinary despite the irony as his journey to selfhood & leaving parental controls behind & exploring relationships with friends and with lovers is something we all go through.

  15. 08/11/2010 at 8:12 pm

    I don’t read much YA but would expect happy endings to be more common.

  16. 08/11/2010 at 8:13 pm

    Brian, or anyone else, have you read any YA novels with gay characters, or aimed at a young-ish audience with gay characters?

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:16 pm

      Ash by Malinda Lo explores different sexuality, although I would say it might be aimed at a younger teen audience.

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:21 pm

        what I meant about “different sexuality” here, with trying not to spoil the plot, is that Lo explores the sexuality of the central character as she moves through being attracted to a man and then a woman.

        • Gina Perry
          08/11/2010 at 8:45 pm

          How does her book handle sex scenes?

          • 08/11/2010 at 8:50 pm

            It’s more euphemistic – i.e. stops at kissing – which is why I think it’s aimed for younger readers, but it’s a great twist on the Cinderella story.

  17. 08/11/2010 at 8:16 pm

    To Gina’s query, I would say yes. I read a lot of ya and the furthest some of them go is summer before uni. A few even leave the last few paragraphs as an over view of what their first semester of college was like if the story was geared towards that character having to make choices in life before heading away to school. I guess most people think that once you are 18 you are no longer a child, or young adult – you’re an adult, and that is not really true. This adulthood is thrust upon 18 year olds and they make mistakes – which, of course, is one of the points in the book.

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:23 pm

      Yes, and that journey – transition, really – is a difficult one, and one that “Ordinary Boy” explores in interesting ways.

  18. 08/11/2010 at 8:19 pm

    There are tons and tons of Gay YA novels out there. It’s one of the largest genres. This is more of a recent event though. I would way in the last 10 years that it has boomed. The problem though is getting those books out to the public. Most Library’s in America refuse to carry Gay Teen books, and very few book stores keep a large stock of them. But that is a different discussion I think.

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:24 pm

      That’s a big challenge. I wonder if different in the UK.
      Anyway, that aside, I liked how his assumptions about gay people was challenged in Issac and the LBGT&F group. I liked that the stereotype of gay people is looked at somewhat because there are so many people who are coming out who probably would feel aliented by their perception of ‘acceptable’ gay people. Anyway, I liked that.

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:26 pm

        agreed, – I haven’t seen that covered much in novels before and found it very interesting and believably drawn. Lots of depth to it.

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:31 pm

        I agree Gina – yet I felt frustrated that Isaac didn’t challenge the group when they were hostile to Tom because of his Republicanism, a bit of double-standards there.

        • 08/11/2010 at 8:32 pm

          I’d agree with that – I liked it that Isaac was rustrating in this and a few other ways…he wasn’t as totally benevolent as he made out and this made him more real

        • Gina Perry
          08/11/2010 at 8:47 pm

          I laughed so much when he said he was a Republican!

          • 08/11/2010 at 8:50 pm

            me too, and thought this was a really good moment – this is where Isaac seemed very real, flawed and interesting…he’s sensitive to perceptions of people as imperfect, but doesn’t tick his neck out for Tom on this…seems to pick his issues like the politician he becomes…

            • 08/11/2010 at 8:51 pm

              (as in, the LGBT&F group think Tom is ‘imperfect’ because he’s a Republican)

            • Gina Perry
              08/11/2010 at 8:55 pm

              Good point…hadn’t thought of it like that.

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:26 pm

      A relevant discussion, though Brian, as the accessibility of fiction that deals with sexuality in any form is an important question. Do you think that the explicit aspects of “Ordinary Boy” mean it might be more difficult to make accessible to younger teens?

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:26 pm

        very good question…

        • Gina Perry
          08/11/2010 at 8:37 pm

          But I read Judy Blume’s ‘forever’ at about 14 and they named the boyfriend’s willy ‘Ralph’ so hey, why can’t they be doing what they do? I didn’t think it was too explicit though. Though I imagine the public libraries wouldn’t like it one jot!

  19. 08/11/2010 at 8:20 pm

    Timely observation given ‘extended childhood’ perception of 18+ young adults.

  20. 08/11/2010 at 8:23 pm

    Were there any thoughts on the chapter headings? Anyone spot that they came from a Madonna album?

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:26 pm

      Ah no missed that…well until the epilogue when I was told! There was quite a bit of tell me what’s going on in the book, rather than trusting I’d work it out for myself (or feel extra smug because I’d worked it out) but again, I think that probably fits with the genre? Though do think the reader should be trusted.

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:28 pm

      no – and these references and anything to do with fashion, designers, labels, etc passed me by completely as that’s not my scene at all, but these add aspects to Tom’s character without distracting me from the central plotting and characterisation.

  21. 08/11/2010 at 8:25 pm

    Gina, yes, I think what most teens don’t realize is that sexuality is a journey for many people, and being gay is a journey. There are a lot of different time one might have to come out again and again. I think with Tom, being raised in an environment that everything had its place, the challenge for him is now being out of place. Every time he has to bring up his sexuality, he is out of place again. But I think he gets better at it. He certainly does in the on-going revision.

  22. 08/11/2010 at 8:30 pm

    Jane, yes, I agree. I think we see a variety of transitions in the novel. I appreciate your observation about that.

    Gina, exactly right about the GLBT&F Club. I wanted to create these idea of stereotyped individuates and then slowly break them down. Tom sees that at first how a large portion of society would see them, because after all, Tom is looking for perfection. But after a while the way he sees them changes.

  23. 08/11/2010 at 8:34 pm

    I agree with Gina that I found Tom a bit over analytical and the reader could have been left with more work to do but that is typical of a young adult (especially at university!).I really like the concept of being out of step and having to come out repeatedly. I got that to an extent but it would be great if it’s more apparent in the revision.

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:39 pm

      Morag, I agree that the out-of-step aspects could be made more of, and for me, the main coming-out to his parents was brilliantly handled, the silence and then carrying on as though he hadn’t spoken was superb. Though I felt this then fell flat to some extent as his mother accepted it all quite quickly and easily, and I felt the drama of ignoring everything he’d said could have been extended if she’d set him up with a girl first, seeing it as just a “phase”!

      • Gina Perry
        08/11/2010 at 8:57 pm

        I agree with that. I like that he just ‘randomly’ did it because he suddenly had the courage (now or never). I thought the follow on from that missed something, though not sure if it’s that. i did think mother’s intervention was surprisingly quick…but obviously good in the context of the ‘right kind of gay’ later on.

        • 08/11/2010 at 9:04 pm

          yes, I like that Mother wanted to control Tom in his choice of “the right kind of gay” – it made her uncomfortably like that awful pair, Faggy &mate – but I’d have liked the post coming-out silence to have been extended.

  24. 08/11/2010 at 8:36 pm

    I wanted to handle the sex scenes realistically, but also with sensitivity. There are some YA novels that have a lot more explicit parts than my novel does – though they aren’t in as an intense setting I would say. However, I think that teens know a great deal about sex and avoiding the topic of it seems rather pointless. If someone is having sex, say it. Really show what goes along with that. writing that rays of sun shine radiated through someone’s body instead of saying they orgasm-ed is absurd. I’ve never had rays of sunlight beam through me and neither have these teens.

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:39 pm

      I think so too – kids of a very young age know about sex, even if they’re not actually having it. Euphemisms and coyness would just piss them off and perhaps make them feel like their probems were less ‘ordinary’. Not that YA novels are meant to be a public service.

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:41 pm

      haha good point and good for writing like that. I liked the flash back and the juxtaposition of it – that really rammed home the sordidness of what happened to Tom (hopefully that’s vague enough to get past spoiler-dar).

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:42 pm

      I completely agree Brian – it wasn’t a criticism on my part – I was just extending the discussion about the difficulties of then making the novels available to teen readers, and whether this would limit the potential availability / accessibility of your book, given the moral police.

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:44 pm

        Jane, yep, it’s been a while since I’ve gone looking for teen or YA fiction, but i find it amazng that books would be censored based on content of sex, sexuality etc. I’m stopping short of ‘in this day and age’ but you know what I mean!

  25. 08/11/2010 at 8:37 pm

    I enjoyed Tom’s family and home situation…though it isn’t the same as my own, I felt I understood and believed in it, and I knew what was at stake with the coming out

  26. 08/11/2010 at 8:43 pm

    Yes, the family were well portrayed. I also liked the third person narrative in the epilogue.

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:49 pm

      No epilogue didn’t do it for me. Though I liked that we saw him at a point in his life that puts the ‘OMGness’ of being an 18 year old into context as well as the consequences of his actions.

      • 08/11/2010 at 8:53 pm

        I agree about the later contextualisation Gina, and think this works well, although can’t really say why without plot spoiling!

  27. 08/11/2010 at 8:48 pm

    I don’t think Tom’s mother would ever consider her son’s sexuality as a phase. In her mind things either are or they aren’t. There’s no middle ground. The best way for her to handle the situation is to find a way to control it,as that is what she does best. And the way for her to control it is to make sure that her son ends up with the “right” guy. If’s he’s going to be gay, it’s going to be by her standards.

  28. 08/11/2010 at 8:51 pm

    Is enough made of this brilliant dynamic?

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:52 pm

      with the mother?

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 8:53 pm

      Yeah, I liked this, and the row around it later in the book. I wonder if enough is made of it. It was something I wasn’t expecting.

  29. 08/11/2010 at 8:52 pm

    Jane, it didn’t think if it as a criticism at all. The moral police would halt it simply because it has a gay character – but being a gay book which mentions sex does make it that more risky for some people. But I think writers need to push boundaries and do a service to the audience we can reach.

    • 08/11/2010 at 8:58 pm

      That’s very true Brian, the double-trouble of sex AND gay, shock horror. But what is acceptable is extended all the time, because writers push the boundaries, as you say.
      I’m interested that you mention you are revising the book. What aspects are you keen to improve/change?

  30. 08/11/2010 at 8:55 pm

    I make it five minutes to go to the end of the initial hour – I’m going to stay on a bit past this and the conversation will stay open indefinitely, but some may need to leave at 9, so does anyone have anything burning to raise while we’re all here?

  31. 08/11/2010 at 8:56 pm

    Coming out sexually is the least of Tom’s problems. He is trapped by so many other things, including his family.

  32. 08/11/2010 at 8:56 pm

    Morag, I’m not sure if it is. I think there is room for this to grow and I would like to explore this in the revision. Actually, the entire novel is being turned into third person and there will be a lot of new editions to the story. One of the issues I am dealing with his Tom’s over analytical nature. I am attempting to scale back on spoon feeding the reader – though yes, it is a trait of the YA genre. I’m trying to balance that.

    • Gina Perry
      08/11/2010 at 9:00 pm

      Would like to read the next draft. BTW there’s lots of his voice that I really liked (too much to mention in this) so would be a shame to see it go – I liked that immediacy.

  33. 08/11/2010 at 8:57 pm

    I have to go and ring my mother!!! How ironic…

  34. Gina Perry
    08/11/2010 at 8:59 pm

    I’m going to get off now. Good hour’s session. Have to say I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, as I have to admit the first chapter as it didn’t hook me at all, however, from then on, I enjoyed following Tom’s journey (and liked Merissa and Issac very much).

  35. 08/11/2010 at 9:02 pm

    It’s 9pm, so feel free to drift away, but keep your comments coming if you think of any – discussion stays open on here 🙂

  36. 08/11/2010 at 9:04 pm

    To answer Jane and extend on what I said is response to Morag, I want to enhance the presence of the GLBT&F club. I’ve added new character and sub plots. It was important that I show how they become more real to Tom. I also want to explore additional friendships and more of an overall sense of college life.

  37. 08/11/2010 at 9:15 pm

    I’ll have to go now too, but good discussion folks. Interesting what Gina says about the first chapter as I really liked it – sensitive and funny and delivering a real sense of Tom’s character, and I like the way he has preconceived notions about the gay community which are undermined. For me, it drops a bit here and there in key places after the fantastic coming-out to parents moment (which for me is one of the most successful parts of the book) and I feel more could be made of this and the other dramatic points in the book (coming out, later issues which are potential plot spoilers!) by extending the drama (rather than focusing too much on Tom’s predeliction for histrionics, which I’d like to see him move out of by the end of the main time-frame of the novel rather than only in the epilogue.)
    I’d be interested to see a later version of “Ordinary Boy” Brian. Good luck with the revisions.

  38. 08/11/2010 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks everyone!

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