By Paul Yee
Published by Groundwood Books
Author Paul Yee has become well-known for his award-winning books such as Ghost Train and The Bone Collector’s Son, which feature Chinese-Canadian characters. Set in Toronto, Money Boy features protagonist Ray Liu, an 18-year old Chinese immigrant who battles with identity and acceptance. Despite the fact he has a lot of Chinese-Canadian friends, Ray feels he isn’t his true self with them, he also struggles academically and can never seem to be the son his father wants. To make matters worse, his father has remarried, and the new stepson has all the qualities Ray doesn’t possess; good grades in school, strong English skills, and he’s straight.
Ray has hidden his homosexuality from his family and friends, instead immersing himself in the world of online gaming – his escape from real life, where he can take on the role of a fearless warrior. Unfortunately, his secret isn’t safe; Ray’s father discovers gay websites in the computer’s browser history and in a cruelly impulsive move, kicks Ray out of his house. Afraid he’ll be rejected by his friends once they find out his secret, Ray heads downtown and observes the young men prostituting themselves on the street. After a couple of rough nights and a theft in the youth hostel, Ray decides to make money by selling his body.
Ray’s voice is engaging and the characterization is excellent; readers will feel empathetic for his being trapped between his family’s cultural expectations and his true identity. Money Boy would be an excellent choice for a novel study in classrooms grade 9 and above; Ray’s story is sure to invite classroom discussion and Yee’s treatment of GLBT issues for young adults is thoughtful yet full of hard-hitting realism. Ray’s struggle throughout Money Boy resolves itself in a bittersweet way, and the somewhat indeterminate ending lends itself to a creative writing assignment: have students write a final chapter to Ray’s story. Highly recommended for teachers and readers who want to diversify their classroom resources and find a book with an edge.
View Paul Yee’s website at: http://www.paulyee.ca/