If you didn’t have to read this book in middle school or high school, you didn’t grow up on the East Coast. We had to read it three times, in eighth, ninth, and tenth grades. You probably read it just as you were going into the phase where you were figuring out what it meant to be a sexual human being. And as you looked to literature, television, and movies for inspiration – there it was.
In an all-boy prep school wonderland, Gene, the book’s protagonist, was just like you. Successful, well-liked, but always overshadowed by a close friend who was always just a little bit faster, stronger, handsomer, and more flashy. Gene didn’t mind, because they were best friends. Or did he? As the book went on you felt his flaws deepen as they revealed themselves. You realized how jealous you actually were of some of your guy friends.
Or was it really jealousy? Or were you just mad that they didn’t return the feelings of adoration you cascaded their way? Gene only hurt Phineas because Phineas refused to recognize that the love between them was real and profound. All Gene ever wanted was for the handsome, popular athlete to love him. Why won’t he love him?! LOVE US!
And then, lo and behold, you turned gay.