Yesterday I finished reading Money Boy by Paul Yee. The story follows Ray Liu, an eighteen year-old Chinese immigrant who moved to Canada four years before the story begins. Before Ray’s family moved to Canada his father and mother divorced and his father remarried. He lives with his father, and step-mother, and I think his step-brother, but it’s never really clear if Ray’s step-brother Jiun actually lives with them or with his own father. Ray is frustrated living with his Chinese Army veteran father because he likes to be lazy and his father wants him to do better in school, and favours his step-son over Ray. Ray is also confused about his own sexuality, and when Ray’s father catches him looking at gay culture websites he is thrown out of his home and must learn to live on the streets of Toronto. Ray meets some other gay men and makes friends with them and wonders about becoming a money boy, a gay man who sells his body on the streets, in order to earn enough money to live on his own. At the end of the book Ray goes home with his father to see his grandfather, and comes out to his family and friends.
I have issues with this book.
One: Ray likes to play an online role-playing game called Rebel State and throughout the book Ray talks about his involvement in the game and the related forums. I get that this is the only place where Ray feels welcome and important, but frankly, I didn’t see the relevance between the story and the game, so those parts of the book were tedious to read and, in my opinion, unnecessary. Also, at some points in the book Ray thinks his game is more important than his own survival which, to me is silly and juvenile.
Two: Ray’s personality as a main character also bothers me a lot. He feels he is entitled to everything (brand name clothes, computers, money, etc.) and he’s simply a spoiled brat and blames things that are happening to him on someone else. When his wallet gets stolen and the bank won’t let him withdraw his money because he doesn’t have his step-mother’s signature he gets angry and blames her, but if he had listened to the Downtown Outreach worker that first night and NOT slept outside like a moron, his wallet wouldn’t have been stolen in the first place. Ray is also very naive about his situation. He never takes responsibility for this own actions. He actually thinks that becoming a prostitute is a good idea, and doesn’t fully grasp the severity of his situation, and is too proud and stubborn to ask for help from his friends. He is dead-set on proving he can take care of himself and even said if he were in China he’d be on his own by eighteen, and he thinks everything would be better if he were back in China. Honestly, I don’t think he’d survive a day on his own. Another thing about Ray’s personality is his immaturity. The most prominent example of it is when he’s in the library and wants more computer time and the library workers refuse he goes and pulls the fire alarm to get back at them. Frankly, Ray is the type of teenager who made me want to shoot myself after a day of substitute teaching in a high school.
Three: The language. I understand that the language is meant to be choppy to imitate the broken English of an immigrant, but the swear words “rot” and “fart”? Seriously? Whenever I tried to learn a new language, the first things I would learn were the swear words! What teenage boy calls people “fartface”? An immature boy stuck in an eight year-old mentality. Or a writer who doesn’t want to offend his reader’s parents. That last thing about the writing that annoyed me was when we read a dialogue between Ray and someone, such as “She asked me “[insert question]?” but I didn’t understand so I didn’t say anything”. If the author truly wanted to reader to feel what it was like for Ray he should have made it so the reader couldn’t understand the dialogue as well. The way Yee wrote the dialogue makes the reader not believe that Ray didn’t understand.
Four: The target audience. I feel this book has a very specific target audience: Homosexual teenaged boys who emigrated from China. I am not a homosexual teenaged boy who emigrated from China, so I found it hard to relate to this book.
There was literally nothing I liked about this book and I think dragging my face against concrete would have been more enjoyable. I don’t see how this book won so many awards, but I guess to each their own. I definitely would not have finished this book if I didn’t have to for class.