Title: What a Boy Needs
Author: Nyrae Dawn
First published June 1, 2012
124 pages, Nook
Jaden Sinclair feels like he’s never going to be good enough for Priscilla Mendoza. He knows that the past year has been rough for them, and he’s definitely at fault.
Even though he’s aware of his shortcomings, he still can’t help but feel a twinge of envy when he sees her with her new boyfriend. Jaden also knows that his dad thinks he’s a loser, but that doesn’t make him want Pris any less.
His life takes a turn for the worse when a huge bombshell is dropped on him, and he ends up in jail. His mom sides with his dad, and Jaden is left feeling like he’s not deserving of someone like Pris.
He realizes that his friends are all moving on to bigger things, and he’s not sure where he fits in.
In a last-ditch effort to spend some time with his friends before they all go off to college, they plan a road trip to New York. Jaden knows that this is his chance to show Pris what he’s really made of, but he’s afraid that she’ll find out what a mess he really is.
As the trip progresses, Jaden has to decide if he’s ready to say goodbye to his friends and the girl he loves. He knows what he needs, but will he be brave enough to go for it?
This book contains mature themes, sexual situations, and language.
About the Author
As a passionate reader and writer, I’m drawn to the world of young adult fiction. There’s a certain energy and excitement to it that I find irresistible.
Whether I’m curled up with a book or typing away at my computer, I’m always immersed in this genre.
My home is in Southern California, where I reside with my spouse and two kids.
Nyrae Dawn’s 2012 novel What a Boy Needs is a charming and poignant coming-of-age story set in modern-day America. With her signature blend of empathy and humor, Dawn explores issues of love, identity, and acceptance through the eyes of her teenage protagonists.
The novel follows the life of Troy, a high school senior who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. Like many young people in his position, Troy feels isolated and confused, unable to share his feelings with his family or friends.
However, when he meets the outgoing and charismatic Andre, he begins to see that there is another way to live—one that is full of love and support. Dawn’s storytelling is grounded in a deep understanding of the human heart.
She is able to capture the complexities of Troy’s emotions with great sensitivity and insight, never allowing the narrative to veer into sentimentality. The book is at once a tender romance and a raw portrayal of the challenges that many LGBTQ+ youth face in our society.
The characters in What a Boy Needs are vividly drawn and fully realized. Troy is a sympathetic and relatable protagonist, while Andre is an ebullient and charismatic foil.
The supporting cast is equally strong, from Troy’s troubled best friend to his strict-but-loving mother. One of the strengths of Dawn’s writing is her ability to tackle tough subjects with grace and compassion.
What a Boy Needs is a poignant reminder that even in today’s supposedly enlightened age, discrimination and prejudice still exist. The book never shies away from the difficult truths of Troy’s reality, but it also manages to infuse a sense of hope and optimism into its narrative.
That said, the pacing of the novel could be improved. The plot meanders at times, and the climax feels rushed and somewhat contrived.
Additionally, some of the dialogue can feel stilted and unnatural, particularly in the more emotional scenes. Overall, What a Boy Needs is a beautifully written and emotionally resonant novel that will appeal to fans of LGBTQ+ fiction and coming-of-age stories alike.
Despite its flaws, it is a worthy addition to the canon of contemporary YA literature. Rating: 4/5 stars.