Nicola's Reviews > Boy Culture

Boy Culture by Matthew Rettenmund
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Oct 23, 09

bookshelves: lgbt, fiction

Usually I’m happy to disparage any novel that fails to set my heart alight with its storytelling power, but actually, Boy Culture is a pretty apt example of how you can be a decent writer with some intelligent, pithy things to say… and you can still end up writing a crappy novel.

Boy Culture is a light-hearted, gay-themed rom-com with an inoffensively dumb premise: a hustler who’s only ever had sex for money falls in love with a starry-eyed virgin who has aggrandized sex as a loving act to the point where it’s never been ‘the right time’. It should be a fun romp as they each deal with their respective baggage and finally consummate their relationship, but… it’s not.

Matthew Rettenmund’s style is so digressive that it drifts into unplanned stream-of-consciousness. It’s hard to follow even the fairly simple storyline, because every couple of pages, the narrator starts talking about something that happened a few days, weeks or years ago. The lack of structure really began to drive me crazy by the novel’s end.

Rettenmund has a tin ear for dialogue, which wouldn’t matter so much if the narrator weren’t set up as a witty, cynical guy who can (apparently) take down anyone with a cutting one-liner. Despite the novel being fairly apolitical as a whole, there are some cringe-worthy ‘soapbox’ moments, when suddenly a character spouts an essay about an ‘issue’.

To reiterate, Rettenmund is not a bad writer – there are the seeds of a smart, modern romance here – but the poor plotting and feeble characterization make Boy Culture a complete non-starter.
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