In Box Hill, a vivid coming-of-age novel, a young man suddenly wakes up to his gay self—on his eighteenth birthday, when he receives the best gift ever: love and sex. In the woodsy cruising grounds of Box Hill, chubby Colin literally stumbles over glamorous Ray—ten years older, leather-clad, cool, handsome, a biker, and a top. (Colin, if largely unformed, is nevertheless decidedly a bottom.) Colin narrates his love—conveying how mind-blowing being with Ray is—in comically humble-pie terms. “If there are leaders then there must be followers, and I had followership skills in plenty just waiting to be tapped. To this day I can’t see a fat kid in shorts without wanting to rush over and give him what comfort I can. To tell him it won’t always be like this.”
Mars-Jones uses Colin’s naivete to give a fresh view of the world and of love. Before long, however, homophobia, class, family strife, and loss rear their ugly heads. Yet in the end, it seems Colin’s modest view oddly takes in the widest horizon: he learns that “people can care about anything.” A surprise and a pleasure, Box Hill is an intensely moving short novel.