Flamer by Mike Curato is a fantastic story of a boy coming to terms with his sexuality as a Boy Scout back when society wasn’t as understanding or aware as it is now. It’s written honestly, with humor and compassion. I hope it’s widely read and helps people – teens especially – who are struggling with their own feelings and understanding themselves.
I KNOW I’M NOT GAY. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both. I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes―but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.
Flamer is an un-put-downable, read in one sitting book. It’s fiction but it’s based on Curato’s own experiences, so much that I wonder if it’s really non-fiction. The line feels very, very blurred. (I do recommend reading his blog post about it.)
More than anything, it’s an important book. It would be great if it saves even one life, but I hope it does much, much more than that.
Craft-wise, Curato delivers. The book is primarily in black & white with grey ink washes. He saves color for fire and feelings so when it appears, the impact is powerful.
The color is also used judiciously – the first time it pops up is for a simple campfire. It’s eye-catching but also foreshadowing, in more ways than one (I can say no more…). His use of color is incredibly effective. Black & white comics might be a harder sell in the North American market but this comic wouldn’t work half as well if it were full-color.
There’s not a lot that I can say about this book that hasn’t been said already (and said better, if I’m being perfectly honest). Curato’s web page dedicated to Flamer has plenty of well-deserved accolades. I feel like a bit of a tool for not having much more to say.
On a personal note, his Flamer playlist has a few songs I know and like (Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam – hello early-mid 90s), including my all-time favorite song, Basket Case: