I fell in love with Phil Stamper's "Golden Boys"
I don't know where to start with Golden Boys! There's simply too much to say — from that delightful cover to the four main characters who stole my heart many times over to the US-and-globe-trotting nature of the story, there's a lot to love about this YA from the author of The Gravity of Us.
It took me a couple of reading sessions to fully immerse myself in the story, which makes sense given that we follow four first-person POVs. The main characters are Gabe, Sal, Reese, and Heath, and they're a group of four queer best friends from a small village in Ohio. At the beginning of the book they're prepping for their first summer apart — each of the boys is heading somewhere more or less exciting to spend the summer working, interning, learning, or bonding with family.
The cast of characters in this book is...sprawling. While we focus mainly on the relationships between the four leads, each of them has a set of side characters both at home and at their summer locale. The side characters were different in terms of gender, sexuality, and race, but I found that after a few interactions with them, I didn't really struggle to keep everyone differentiated in my mind. Stamper is excellent at characterization and giving each of his characters a unique trait or touchstone to allow me to quickly remember, "Oh, yes, Matt is part of Gabe's storyline," or "Diana is Heath's cousin."
Honestly I could write a whole post just about characterization! That's something I've struggled with in my own writing, so I'm incredibly impressed that Stamper managed to handle such a big cast in such a relatively short format. And I fell head over heels for all the boys. They're each perfect in their own ways!
Another aspect of the book I really loved, though, was the destinations. We bounce between Boston, DC, Daytona Beach, and Paris, and I realized at the end of the book that each boy's destination was chosen carefully to represent what they're looking to experience, their character arc, and their personality.
For example, Sal, who's ambitious and wants to work in politics, went to DC. As a character, Sal also embodies some of the stereotypes that come with DC, at least political DC: he's driven, he's pretty no-nonsense, and he will work himself to the bone to accomplish what he needs to (don't come for me if I misread DC, please, I've never lived there and this is just my impression as an outsider lol).
I really enjoyed this book. There was a light touch on Covid-19, which I appreciated but wanted to see impact the story more, since it existed in the world of the book. But just that gentle touch also, kind of, gave me ideas for how to incorporate Covid into my own contemporaries, so that was really helpful!
Phil Stamper's Golden Boys (affiliate link) is available now!