Rating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel

Anthony Paull’s debut novel, Outtakes of a Walking Mistake, is a stunning coming of age story.  The book centers around Tyler, an openly gay teenager whose less than perfect home life spurs him on to seize what he wants with both hands, regardless of what obstacles may stand in his way.

Tyler is out both at home and school.  His family life is as unique as the way in which he views the world.  However, we find him still reeling and in true pain due to his mother abandoning he and his father to join the circus, of all things.  The loss of his mother and Tyler’s subsequent feelings of guilt and confusion over her abandonment are simply heartbreaking and Paull reveals them bit by bit before bringing them to the fore in a remarkably poignant scene near the end of the novel.

However the thrust of the story is watching Tyler maneuver his way through high school.  While he views being gay as right and ok, his father continues to float in a sea of denial and is not the support that Tyler really needs.  Couple that with a mentally unstable best friend, Jenny, who is also trying to simply survive a horrible home life, and you find yourself constantly waiting for the next shoe to drop in this witty yet tenderhearted novel.

If all these circumstances weren’t enough, Tyler finds himself is hopelessly in love with Billy, the private fantasy of half the school population.  Tyler does not let the fact that Billy is supposedly straight deter him.  No, instead, he makes Billy his boyfriend, with no regard as to how Billy may feel about the fact.  Added into this incredibly intricately woven story is a shady side character, Eric, who takes a scary and unhealthy interest in Tyler—who is drawn to this “bad boy” despite his good sense.

Outtakes of a Walking Mistake develops scene by scene and keeps you gripped in its magical fist as each moment unfolds.   As Tyler’s story comes to life, we see the challenges and the emotional minefield of young adulthood played out.  Conflicting feelings, touching vulnerability, coupled with impossible courage and undaunted optimism are the hallmark of this story.

Paull’s novel is not just for the young adult for it touches a chord in all of us–young or old. Who doesn’t remember a time when they ached to love and be loved so fiercely that it became an all-consuming need? And so this story does–consume the reader bit by bit until you are left loving Tyler and those he loves and despising those who would make any young gay man or woman feel that they should be content to remain tucked away in the closet.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has dared to say, “I am important, I deserve to be loved.”  More importantly, I recommend this novel to anyone who needs to be reassured of the same. Paull gets it, he really does. I look forward to hearing more from this inspiring voice in young adult fiction.

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