Guest Review: I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip
This review was written by Isaiah Vianese. Isaiah is a poet and college writing instructor in New York. You can read his blog and some of his poetry here.
With his novel, I’ll Get There. It Better be Worth the Trip. , John Donovan accomplished two remarkable feats: He wrote the first novel about a gay teenager and crafted a subtle story that both adults and teens could find moving. Celebrating the book’s 40th anniversary, Flux has brought the book back into print featuring new reflections by notable young adult authors who praise the novel’s role as a harbinger of LGBTQ teen lit. Still, the book has its critics.
One could extensively discuss the history of I’ll Get There… (that it received surprising rave reviews from important periodicals upon its initial publication, etc.) but the essays in the anniversary edition accomplish this task; if you are curious about the book’s legacy, picking up a copy of the new edition will be worth your time.
What seems more important and interesting is the criticism the book receives. Visit Goodreads and you will see a number of skeptics claim that the book skirts around Davy (the narrator and protagonist) and his love interest’s sexual experiences. The book also offers little resolution about their relationship. It is not a message book.
However, this is what makes it work so well, even now. The book’s subtlety grants it a timeless quality that most of today’s beloved novels will not achieve. Told from Davey’s perspective, the reader is brought into his lonely world where his only companions are his beloved Dachshund, Fred, and the boy he falls for, Altschuler. It takes a long time for Davey to meet Altschuler, and along the way, Davy moves in with his alcoholic mother, has awkward dinners with his dad and his dad’s second wife, and starts attending a new school. Throughout these changes, we realize that Davey’s isolation becomes more and more uncomfortable—about 150 pages of discomfort—until he finally kisses Altschuler. The encounter is a breath of fresh air in a dark, troubling story.
Donovan does not give Davy an easy escape after he meets Altschuler. Davy feels guilty and conflicted, though he ultimately vows to respect his new friend. In fact, that is as far as we get in Davy’s journey—the beginning. Though many readers who dislike the book (it seems) wish there was a grand dance-party ending ala Boy Meets Boy, such optimism would not suit the quiet narrative. Donovan’s novel is about starting a journey, and one can’t help but finish I’ll Get There… worried about Davy, but wishing him well as he starts to discover himself and hopefully find love.