The coming out story. It's a tale that has been spun again and again, in a multitude of books, films and TV shows. This is where Jennifer Lavoie's novel, Andy Squared, shines - as a cheerful and endearing story about coming out and making your own decisions, amidst the pressures of family and friends.
The story focuses on the trials of Andy, a young jock kind of guy, who has the world of high school at his feet. What he also has is an extremely close twin sister, the slightly unimaginatively named Andrea. These siblings have spent their lives together and share many of the same interests, but as they grow up and begin to think about flying the nest their relationship becomes tense, as Andrea becomes obsessed with spending their college lives together as well. Into this mix of hormones and delightful angst walks in Ryder, an attractive young student from Dallas. The eventual romance can be seen a mile off, but seeing it bud and develop is a nice little treat for the reader.
The characters are a surprisingly well-rounded group, which don't necessarily fall into the stereotypes that are usually quite common in literature. That being said, there are some pretty ropey moments which can leave the reader feeling cold, and characters which seem to act slightly out of left field. This is especially apparent when Andy's sexuality becomes a topic of conversation, making characters we have spent our time getting to know seem altogether alien. In some respects, this may be indicative of what coming out can be like for people, but from a literary standpoint it feels a little bit forced.
The central premise is a tried and tested formula of boy meets boy that is seen time and again in novels of this genre. However, it is unashamedly sweet and, thanks to the well-written characters and one or two plot twists, still manages to take a stab at some originality. Andy's journey from 'dumb jock' to well-adjusted gay man is by no means simple, and there are a few pitfalls to overcome along the way. However, as the story begins to weave along to its inevitable conclusion, we were a little concerned by how easily everything was resolved. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but after a long lead up we were a little underwhelmed by the hastily wrapped-up climax.
On the whole, Andy Squared is a well written and original take on a formula we all recognise. It does have its faults, such as the slightly schizophrenic portrayals of some characters and a conclusion that felt a little too simplistic. That being said however, this is a good book for anyone who is looking for a classic 'coming out' story, and a little bit of PG gay romance.