The Boys and the Bees is the first person retelling of a young man's journey through love, lust, confusion and growing up gay in a Catholic grade school. As the word “faggot” is newly introduced to the sixth grader’s seemingly shared vocabulary, Andy, the narrator, learns that he must separate himself from anything that may appear to be gay, including his lispy and fragile best friend James.
What happens under the covers at their sleepovers must remain a secret, so Andy sees fit to call out James on his girlishness whenever possible to reaffirm his own vague sexuality. James wants to be with Andy. Andy wants to be with Mark, the basketball team captain and most popular boy in the sixth grade. Mark, however, appears to be untouchable. He's dating the most popular girl in school. He's popular and athletic. He couldn't possibly be gay!
Though "The Boys and the Bees" is a well-written story, it didn't strike me as realistic. Andy is 11 years old when the book starts and he has, apparently, already engaged in oral sex with his friend James (what they like to call "tongue twisties"). To me, this seems far too young to be experimenting with sex of this level. If the characters were older (perhaps even by a year or two), the sexual exploration in this book would have been a bit more believable.
On the whole, the story felt a little bit vague and stilted. I can understand that it is supposed to feel as if it had been written by young Andy, but there is much that could have been elaborated upon. The ending, especially, left more to be questioned than is necessary in a story of this sort.
On the positive, the rest of the story is quite believable in subject matter. From classmates' use of the word "faggot" to Andy’s fair-weather friendship with James, everything reminded me of my own elementary school experience.
Though this book has no specified age group, the writing style would be well suited for an age group of 10-12 years old. Ironically, this story is too straightforward when addressing sex and sexuality that the content would be better suited to an older audience, who, because of the lack of depth in the story, most likely wouldn’t want to read it.
I fear that this book has no appropriate audience. I would, however, recommend this book to an older audience simply because it gave me a good chance to look back on my clouded, if not so long-ago, youth. It is a light-read and took me about an hour to get through it in its entirety.