Bantle, Lee. David Inside Out. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Co., 2009. hardcover. 192p. $16.99. ISBN: 9781416900399.
In his first novel for young adults, Lee Bantle has created a wholly believable and likable protagonist in David Dahlgren. In a story based on Bantle’s own experience of growing up gay in Minnesota, the book takes David from creating a plan to be straight to accepting his sexuality.
Covering such rites of passage as a disastrous first love (with closeted track teammate Sean) to coming out to a parent, this title is a stand-out in the crowded YA field, a practical, relatable read-alike for the now classic Rainbow Boys. David not only deals with his homosexuality but, in a rare treat, visits a gay bookstore and finds a supportive ear on a gay crisis helpline, gaining a larger sense of community and belonging. His process of coming out to his mother is facilitated by her watching the end of My Beautiful Laundrette with David and his best friend, Eddie, who is also gay. David’s friendship with Eddie is another treat; they draw strength and support from each others’ experiences, though at times it is difficult.
While Bantle’s prose is not always elegant, the book has short, readable chapters, a sympathetic narrator in David, and a storyline that readers will be eager to finish.
The book contains significant sexual content, but it’s handled in a mostly nonexplicit way that serves the narrative. Highly recommended for libraries of all sizes as a first purchase.
Reviewed by Angie Manfredi
Head of Youth Services
Los Alamos County Library System