Dream Boy – The Novel – A Reader’s thoughts

dreamboy

So a few days ago I went to the Strand to pick up a copy of “Dream Boy” a novel by Jim Grimsley. The book is just under 200 pages, and during the first few days as I made my way through the first 1\2 of the book I was completely impressed. The book chronicles the tale of a young boy, Nathan, who is smart and has a sexually abusive father. The boy finds that he is attracted to the neighbor boy, and is forced to handle the coming out, and the idea of wanting to do things with this boy and how he hated having to do those exact things with his father.

The concept of a sexually abused kid, grappling with this particular difficulty when it comes to sex is one I have yet to ever read about, and I thought that Grimsley’s character introduced the concept in a way that felt real and heart breaking. This topic is just coming to real fruition when Nathan and his love, Roy, have sex. Roy is suspicious of how Nathan knew how to have sex like that, and pushes Nathan away. Nathan’s father then attempts to sexually abuse him, and Nathan flees his home and lives in the woods. Roy forgives (the author’s words not mine) Nathan, and decides that to make this less awkward (Roy helps Nathan survive outside the home, but they never talk about the issue) Roy takes Nathan on a camping trip with his buds. AND THUS ENDS THE TOPIC OF DISCUSSION! For the next 100 pages we are injected into a new story, one of southern Gothic ghost stories. Which ends up with them exploring a haunted ancient plantation home.

The ending is perhaps the single worst part of the story, as Nathan survives a rape and subsequent huge blow to the head. He then walks around, by some miracle, and He and Roy decide to run away. IT makes no sense!

I would highly suggest the first 100 pages, and perhaps the remainder of the book without the ending as another distinct story.

——————UPDATED 7/6/2012 ——————————-

So I notice that a lot of people decide to search the internet for information about this book, and they eventually hit my blog. Therefore,  I think it is important to update this post. For starters, upon a second reading, the ending is a little clearer than I thought. Nathan does not actually survive, he just becomes a ghost. While I think this doesn’t make any more sense than him surviving, that is what is going on. I still standby my initial review, but I was embarrassed that I got this wrong in my review. Still, the book is only good until they decide to go hiking. While I won’t say there is no foreshadowing that Nathan would be attacked, I will say that it is really minor. It certainly would be a great book if it had a less insane ending.

 

I also thought it was interesting that this book (which was written in the 90’s) was just recently made into a film:

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20 Comments

  1. Celso said,

    January 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Amigo, você sabe como eu posso ler o livro Dream Boy em português? Abraço

    • Mike said,

      September 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      I totally agree. I did not read the book, but have seen the film. I think the ending in the movie is even more lame, in that you get the visual. Additionally, there was no reason to kill him, there could have been a fight or rape as did happen, bring in all to the homophobia the author wanted to showcase. The killing, and in the manner it was done, served to detract from the beauty of the film.

      • kyoske said,

        September 24, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        Dear Mike,

        I agree. The movie is beautiful. I think it is odd the author decided to have Nathan killed. Especially as someone who survived so much, it seems particularly odd to kill him. I can’t really speculate why the author did this, as I agree the brutality of the attack would certainly provide everything necessary.to incorporate the hate that Nathan deals with. Having read a lot more LGBT fiction (as well as having written my own full length novel) I must say the trope of the friend of the straight acting love interest raping the more obviously gay character (usually the narrator) is overused. However, the attack in this novel is somewhat believable, the murder aspect is not. I’m guessing we are supposed to believe it was due to self-hate on the part of the attacker (be killing Nathan it is like he didn’t just have gay sex?) but since that character barely speaks, it is hard to justify.
        Still a beautiful film though =) Hulu has a bunch of great LGBT films nowadays, check them out. Also try reading some LGBT fiction =) I’ve reviewed several good ones on my blog.

  2. Kate said,

    January 7, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Hi, can you explain your change in opinion that Nathan is a ghost at the end of the book? I saw the movie first, just read the book and although I could see why the movie went with the whole “He really is a ghost” I feel like Roy’s and his last interaction is too substantial in the book. There’s all that talk about touching, and warmth. So, he did survive a blow to the head. People do come back after dying, usually a few seconds later, not a whole day later. When I think of “ghost” I think see-through, no physical body, maybe seen by only one person…so in theory, the congregation is just following Roy because he ran off for “no reason” they can’t actually see Nathan?

    • kyoske said,

      January 7, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      Kate,

      I’d have to re-read it again to be sure. However, I changed my mind because Nathan would be really broken if he was actually alive. However, I don’t remember anything in the text about that. He seems relatively fine. I do remember him having dried blood on him though. So, it was my assumption that one does not walk away from being brutalized in that way, so he must be a ghost.

      I just skimmed the ending again. It appears he dies. Then Roy finds him and covers him with a sheet. Some time later the cops and Nathan’s father are there, and they cover him again. The next chapter he wakes up still in the old house (instead of his own or the hospital) which indicates he is a ghost. As I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t leave a body there if he was alive (it seems his body was moved since Nathan notices the dried blood where he once was). I think if Nathan really walked out of the house and to his own funeral there would be a different reaction.

      It’s certainly not clear, and I don’t particularly like either option. I do agree the touching is odd. Though Nathan feels for a moment that he “still has a body” which indicates he is not real and does not actually feel it. Rather the touch doesn’t seem to really happen, but the attempt makes Nathan feel it/remember it. Again, it’s not great.

      Neither version of the ending is great. I don’t mind that Nathan is brutalized and murdered (though obviously it’s sad that he is) I am annoyed that it is unclear and seemingly out of left field. There is some foreshadowing of Burke disliking Nathan and feeling jealous/angry about Nathan and Roy’s bond, however, I don’t really feel like rape/murder is what Burke would jump to as a way to end it. That said, it is certainly DIFFERENT from what usually happens (in most version of stories like these, Burke would discover Roy and Nathan having sex, a fight would break out, Roy would be hurt protecting Nathan, etc.) so I appreciate that it didn’t follow that formula. However, every action needs to have some form of logic. I wish the author had given us something to understand why Burke does what he does. LGBT people (particularly when this was written) were certainly brutalized for no GOOD reason, but those who hurt them usually had some sort of internal-logic to why they did it. Perhaps that was what the author was going for. That the killing was senseless, and that Burke seemed to think less of it, because he didn’t seem to think of Nathan as a real person. That’s the best I can come up with.

  3. Kate said,

    January 7, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Thank you so much for you response. Yeah when you describe the covering of his body with the sheet it seems like an easy conclusion. I guess I was feeling like he was resurrected and that’s why he could “feel” and all that. Roy and Nathan got away before the congregation could see Nathan. Anyway it’s disappointing ending either way and not much (really anything) is said online about it. As far as Burke goes,,,maybe a combination of jealousy/simple curiosity -and then to make sure Nathan keeps his mouth shut, he kills him.

  4. Tomasz said,

    February 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Just watched the film. I don’t think I’ve ever been more confused. Did the author ever say if Nathan really survived or not? I’m still in a state of shock; the sudden switch of romance to horror was one thing but the terribly ambiguous ending was too much. I know that it’s impossible that Nathan survived and that him being a ghost is the only answer but how did Roy see him or interact with him? I want him to not have died so bad… On the other hand it was cleverly foreshadowed (in my opinion) that Burke would do what he did.

    • kyoske said,

      February 16, 2015 at 11:25 am

      Tomasz: I revisited the novel in January of this year, to confirm that for myself. It seems clearer to me now that Nathan is dead. He is some sort of ghost, as that is really the only explanation that makes sense. Otherwise I think people would react VERY differently upon A) Finding his body and B) seeing him later. Roy appears to be the only one who seems him (if memory serves).

      I think the movie did a much stronger job of foreshadowing, and I’d love for you to share where you think the novel did this (I only re-read the ending this year, to respond to others who were equally baffled).

      I’m not sure the author thinks it is ambiguous. I looked to see if he’d done any interviews about it, and didn’t find much. So, there is that.

      I just think the novel is frustrating. I really think it’s well written over all, but the ending is unclear and it just seems odd to shift from one type of story to another. That being said, while I’m not exactly happy to have Nathan die, I respect the author’s choice there. I don’t mind being sad/angry about him dying, I did’t need this story to have a happy ending. I just wanted a clearer one.

  5. Jun said,

    August 2, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Hello,

    Can you send me link for some of the lgbt fictions that you recommend your readers to try and read please..

    Thank you:-)j

    • kyoske said,

      August 4, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      Jun,

      I’d be happy to. Just send me your contact info,

      Thanks,

      • Jun said,

        August 4, 2015 at 10:33 pm

        Hello Kyoske,

        Thank you for your response.

        You can send me the link or the list perhaps to this email address please: jonelmdorde@gmail.com.

        I have yet to read and/or explore your blog. It so happened that I have watched the film being discussed above and I wanted to see and/or read some reviews about it. However, I see that your blog is worht reading and I will surely find time to read thru it. Again, thanks for your time.

        Jun

  6. September 5, 2015 at 6:52 am

    I’m sure nobody will even check this … bc the original post is from years ago. but i figured it out “the ending”. they’re all dead. they’ve all been dead…the novel is about nathan accepting peace. look up Poverty Point – the mounds – and the “red clay that looked like blood” smeard on Roy’s shirt in the beginning of the book…the fact that they live on “Potter’s Lakes…..Pokes Road.” the bus that is *always* underneath the tree?? they were hunter – gathers @ Poverty Point [makes a reference in the second or third to last chapter about how nathan feels like he’s been walking around for a “century”]…and here is the “jesus” reference: http://biblehub.com/john/13-23.htm

    so yeah, they were dead the entire time — like a “Donnie Darko” scenario/theme. Nathan just had to “find peace” and overcome his child abuse [in fact i think his father was the original one to kill him…thats why he always recites the bible versus and had “changed” since then…]. because it even references Roy “having the eyes of his father” in the very first chapter. — just like “burke” could be deemed as a “younger” version of his father. and the more nathan found love and acceptance within roy…the closer he and roy became and the harsher “bruke” got…his past abuse and “father” kept him from “transcending.” And roy was his “jesus” and nathan was “john the disciple” that “freed everyone” [note john 13-23 reference that is used throughout the entirety of the novel]

    • Charley said,

      October 22, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      After being incredibly confused about the whole ending (like everyone else it seems) this has really cleared it up for me. I definitely think you are spot on with what you are saying, as when you go through the events in it, this idea fits really well! Thanks for posting this comment!

    • Ben said,

      December 3, 2015 at 6:01 am

      Jamie, your analysis resonates with me. I finished this book on my Kindle in the way home from a trip, and it left me completely in wonder. Thank you for your insight. And thanks to Kyosuke for opening this discussion.

  7. September 5, 2015 at 6:59 am

    i forgot to add * nathan makes a reference to all the plants surrounding the house and how his mother would enjoy it and he knew what they were bc she’d taught him…also, they’re constantly around a graveyard. so it’s possible that roy could’ve never been born or was in a school bus accident.

  8. joe said,

    September 11, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I was so sad and so confused on what happened at the end I want to cry Roy was so good looking and I feel bad for Nathan I still Dont know what why that guy killed Nathan he didn’t need to do that im so sad 😥

  9. joe said,

    September 12, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Did that guy kill Nathan bc he liked Roy

  10. Amy said,

    September 27, 2015 at 12:10 am

    I always interpreted the book ending as Nathan dying & his spirit rising and walking from the place he was murdered. Roy being able to see and talk to his ghost is a little weird but I felt the rest of the book made perfect sense. A previous poster mentioned the foreshadowing of Nathan’s death. I agree. From the time they entered the house everything became creepy and shadows & strange visions hinted that Nathan would never leave alive.

  11. Thom said,

    June 15, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    I found your site because I too was extremely confused by the end of the book. I absolutely agree with you about the first half of the book. The second half sucks and is absolutely insane.

    I could not understand if he survives or if he is a ghost. I kept going back and forth.

    Guess I know now. There has to be much better gay literature out there to read than this book, too bad it got lots of good reviews, what were these people thinking?

    • kyoske said,

      June 20, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      It is an odd way to end a novel, that didn’t seem to be going there. I’ve read ti more than once, so there must be something to it.


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