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Clay’s Way by Blair Mastbaum

November 23, 2007

It’s very rare for me to find a teen novel based in Hawaii that reflects a realistic perspective on racial tension and gay issues in Hawaii, without being culturally generic or watered down. Clays Way by Blair Mastbaum is an honest and gritty depiction of a portion of teen life on Oahu.   The story revolves around Sam a pale, skinny, 15 year old, punk-skateboarder who abhors, but at the same time wants to fit into a culture that worships tanned muscular surfers.  Sam is an only child and has trouble relating to his bourgeois parents, who try to ignore him as much as possible.  One day Sam meets Clay a local surfer at a skate shop and they bond after smoking pot.  After a crazy night of drugs and alcohol Sam and Clay hook up. Sam then becomes obsessed with Clay and pursues him with a first loves intensity.  However, Clay is not ready to declare he is gay and is torn between being a macho surfer, and admitting that he is in love with Sam.  After a Lord of the Flies like experience in the Kauai jungle Clay and Sam have a lover’s spat, which results in Clays almost near self-destruction. The book snowballs into a dramatic ending leaving both Clay and Sam broken, but changed forever.

At first glance, both Sam and Clay are unlikeable characters because they are  self-centered, angry, and destructive.  However, one must remember that they are two gay teen boys trying to find themselves in a nihilistic way.  (Hence, the reason why they listen to a lot of Punk rock throughout the book.)  Based on some on-line reviews I found that people either hated or loved this book.  And I agree, that this book is not for everyone and a lot of people may find the teen angst and explicit gay sex scenes extremely raunchy and tiresome.  In addition, the characters are not positive role models nor is there any apparent moral to the story.  However, upon close inspection this novel reveals a truth about human nature, in that all we really want is to be loved and accepted by others. In addition, non-native readers may have a hard time identifying with the local terminology. Hence, a glossary of terms at the end of the book might have been helpful for non-native readers.  Also, librarians may be reluctant to recommend this title to younger teens due to the graphic sex scenes, drugs, and a plethora of swear words.  However, this book might be helpful for older teens who are going through an identity crisis or who are dealing with gay issues.

*Just a side note: Mastbaum’s appears on the cover. He’s the one smoking.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2008 5:07 am

    i absolutely love this book. could not put it down. its gotta be one of my all-time favorites.

  2. Justin permalink
    June 23, 2011 8:39 pm

    I could not put the book down. It is one of my all time favorites and now always will be. I can relate in so many. As I read the book I found I was Sam. And the boy I loved and lust for is clay. I may not live where they do and we didn’t fight it out like in the book like clay did to Sam, but I still relate. I have to admit I was mad and threw the book across the room after reading it. I wish the ending was different. Maybe there should have Ben different endings so everyone wins. I would have love for clays poser ass to stand up to everyone a declare his love for Sam. My heart broke for Sam and I wanted so bad to cry and jump in the book to hold him. Plus I would have love to see Sam fight back and kick clays ass to make it different. Never the less I love your work but I am so sad and mad at the ending. Why in SAMs world and mine does it always have to end like that. Where is our happy ending or somewhat happy ending. Plus you never said what happened to clay after Sam returned and he stayed back did he find himself or run back to the boy on the beach what? I love this book. I want to close by thanking you for putting my life in that book as well as so many other gay or bi guys out there who struggled with this problem. You are great and I am a big fan for life. Ps please write a part two about this book I am addicted lol. I love your work!

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