What’s it like to be a 15-year-old boy living in New York City and have your best friend come out as gay? In These Things Happen, award-winning television writer, director, and producer and first-time novelist Richard Kramer has provided a smart, funny, and insightful exploration.
Wesley and his oldest and closest friend Theo are growing up and attending private school in the city. Their days are filled with college coaches (you need an edge to get into Brown), soccer practice, homework, and hormones. Wesley is currently living with his father, a well-known and respected gay activist, and his father’s boyfriend George, a former theater actor and co-owner of the restaurant above which they live. (“I’m not a very queenie queen,” declares George.)
Tenth grade appears to be going swimmingly, and Theo has just won the race for class president. Theo surprises everyone, including himself, when he announces, at the end of his acceptance speech, that he is gay and sets the true motion of the novel rolling. As Wesley tries to deal with this new reality and figure out how to have a relationship with important and unavailable father, everyone else in his life has to evaluate what Theo’s revelation means. When an act of violence turns up the emotional volume, the results are often not pretty, even for these educated, well-meaning people.
Although the first pages might give the impression of a light story and a quick read, These Things Happen is neither. We experience the action from the point of view of each main character in their distinctive and often charming voices as they stumble their way through a difficult situation and find their way back towards each other. They are a very introspective bunch, which sometimes hindered the story for me and made reading more difficult. The end result, however, is still a touching coming-of-age story and moving portrait of where our society is in its acceptance, and lack thereof, of homosexuality.