Jay Collier lives in a small town in eastern Washington where he’s the only LGBTQ kid he knows. While the other kids accept him him, Jay can’t help but feel like he’s missing out. All the other kids at school are experimenting with hookups and dating and relationships, but with no other gay boys around, Jay doesn’t get the chance to have any similar experiences. So Jay makes a list of goals in his “Gay Agenda,” including kissing and losing his virginity, but also simple things like going on dates and having a group of close LGBTQ friends.
When Jay’s mom gets a new job and the family moves to Seattle, it’s finally a chance for Jay to meet other LGBTQ kids. He is sad to be leaving his best friend, Lu, but he is also thrilled to have new experiences. Things start off super well for Jay in his new school. He joins the Queer-Straight Alliance and quickly meets a great new friend in Max, a genderqueer teen. And while his introduction to Albert (a VSB or “Very Sexy Boy” as Lu would say) is awkward and involves a lot of stammering, the two definitely have a connection and Albert seems interested in Jay. Plus, Max introduces Jay to Tony, a hot college student who, to Jay’s surprise, also seems interested in him.
Things are going well for Jay and it seems like he is finally getting everything that he wants — good friends, potential boyfriends, and real teen gay experiences. But life is getting much more complicated than that. First, an event Lu wants him to attend with her is on the same night as Jay’s school homecoming dance, so now he is forced to decide between his old best friend and his new ones. Not to mention that things with Lu are super complicated, between the distance, her boyfriend that makes Jay feel like a third wheel, and major financial problems she is having a home. On top of that, while Jay’s falling for Victor, he can’t help the sexual attraction he has to Tony, and he is trying to divide his time and attention between the two guys. And Max has his own drama that Jay ends up involved with as well. Before Jay knows it, what was looking like a promising year and the start of a lot of great relationships is all beginning to fall apart. Now Jay has to look at himself and figure out whether he’s making the right choices, or whether he’s so focused on his own agenda that he’s not taking the time to really consider the people in his life. If Jay can’t do some self reflection and figure out how to properly apologize to those he wronged, he might lose his boyfriend and his friends as well.
Jay’s Gay Agenda is a cute and fun young adult romance featuring a main character that’s really learning to find himself. Jay is our POV character and this is really his journey as he breaks free of his small town and suddenly everything he wants is right there at his fingertips. But he is also 17 going on 18 and doesn’t really know how to handle it all well, and he definitely makes mistakes. Author Jason June does a great job really setting Jay up and giving us a chance to understand his perspective as a lonely student and the only out LGBTQ kid that he knows. He’s watching all of his friends have experiences that he longs to also have, but with nobody out there to date, he’s feels like he’s being left behind. So even when Jay makes bad choices, and he does make bad choices, I could understand the position he was coming from and I think June really frames him well.
Jay ends up in two relationships, one a purely sexual one with Tony that gives him a chance to have those sexual experiences that he’s been longing for, and the other with Albert, a sweet student at his school. It is clear that Albert is the one with whom Jay has a romantic connection, but Jay is also still figuring himself out and learning about dating and relationships and is eager to experience the sexual side of things as well. On top of that, Jay is trying to maneuver through things with Lu, and balance being there for her with things happening in his own life in Seattle. Jay doesn’t always handle things well; in fact, he handles a lot of things badly, as do most of the other teens in the story (except Albert, who is adorable and pretty much perfect). I’ll admit, at times the teen behavior made me a bit nuts because they make bad decisions and give bad advice and just generally stumble around. But I also had to remember that they are teenagers and teenagers sometimes do stupid things and part of this story is watching Jay realize his mistakes and make up for them. So there is a nice growth arc for Jay here and I think it works well.
Jay is an interesting character and he gives this story a very specific tone in his narration. Jay is a list maker and, in addition to his Gay Agenda, he is constantly making lists of everything from what he would like to do with Albert, to why going to homecoming is a better choice than the dance with Lu (ie “Homecoming is the Lead Ho Because…”). He is also super into statistics, so he comments on the probability of things happening quite a lot throughout the book, like the odds that out of a school his size, he’d be the only out gay kid. I found the set up fun and enjoyed Jay’s voice (even when I was exasperated with him), but I did find the lists got a bit much after a while. Jay repeats his full Gay Agenda many times throughout the book, adding and updating and crossing things off, and I feel like I was reading the same thing over and over, trying to find the subtle changes he had made each time. I think it was super cute, but also maybe too much of a good thing.
In the end, I found this one fun and charming. These teens make some mistakes, but they also learn from them and the growth makes up for the bad decisions. Victor and Jay are sweet together and things come together nicely in the end.