Right before I read Catcher in the Rye, I had the pleasure of reading Bart Yates’ 2003 debut novel Leave Myself Behind. I had read reviews of the novel and several folks described it as a gay Catcher in the Rye, which of course I could not appreciate then since I had not read Salinger’s classic masterpiece. Having now read both works I can fully understand the analogy.
Quoting the description that appears in Goodreads, “Noah York is a closeted gay teenager with a foul mouth, a critical disposition, and plenty of material for his tirades”. Noah and his widowed mom, a somewhat crazy poet, have just moved from Chicago to a small New Hampshire town, where she has taken a teaching job. In addition to the challenges most of us go through at that stage in life, 17-year old Noah is struggling with the recent death of his father, his sexuality and adjusting to his new home and school environment. His crazy mom decides to undertake a major remodel of the Victorian home where they live and in the course of doing it, discovers a series of jars hidden in the walls, containing mementos and notes from the former owner. This really bring mom’s craziness to a new high. Meanwhile Noah has developed an attraction and romantic interest in his troubled neighbor J.D., who is even more closeted than Noah.
I won’t elaborate much more on the story but hopefully this may prompt some of you to want to pick up the book and read it. I couldn’t help but wonder if the author’s choice of the name J.D. was a conscious decision to tip his hat to Salinger and of course the book to which myself and others so favorably compare Yates’ novel. For me this book was a great find both from the pleasure I derived from reading it as well as helping me in writing my own first novel.