Sandra Scoppettone Alleen Pace Nilsen - Essay

Alleen Pace Nilsen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Trying Hard to Hear You is a fourth book to put on the shelves next to [Lynn Hall's Sticks and Stones, Isabelle Holland's Man Without a Face, and John Donovan's I'll Get There It Better Be Worth the Trip]. These are all books touching on the subject of homosexuality. In some ways Trying Hard is similar. For example, the people involved in the homosexual relationship are both males, and again there is a tragedy (death) at the end of the book. But it's also different in that both boys had both parents, so there's no implication that being a homosexual relates to coming from an incomplete family as in the other three books. Another difference is that the boys, who are the same age, are actually homosexual. Although it's done with taste, the author doesn't stop short to leave readers wondering; there is an open discussion of the homosexuality. The story is told through the eyes of Camilla Crawford, a high school junior…. Her mother is a psychologist, so, luckily, at Camilla's invitations, she can occasionally interject little comments and observations which have the ring of authority. (pp. 81-2)

Just as in Sticks and Stones, the tragedy [in Trying Hard to Hear You] was not so much the homosexuality as it was people's reaction to it. And it was refreshing that the author made it clear that the other boy is "alive and well," and off to college:

… he wrote to me that he's met someone he likes a lot. He says that the boy, Richard, will never take Phil's place … but then, no one should ever take anyone's place. He thinks they'll have a nice relationship and he's planning to bring him home for Thanksgiving….

                                             (p. 82)

Alleen Pace Nilsen, "Grandly Revolutionary? or Simply Revolting?" (copyright © 1975 by the National Council of Teachers of English; reprinted by permission of the publisher and the author), in English Journal, Vol. 64, No. 6, September, 1975, pp. 80-3.∗