Why Can't Life Be Like Pizza? The Pizza Chronicles Book 1 by Andy V. Roamer Genre: YA LGBTQ Contemporary
RV is a good kid, starting his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School. Though his genes didn’t give him a lot of good things, they did give him a decent brain. So he’s doing his best to keep up in high school, despite all the additional pressures he’s facing: His immigrant parents, who don’t want him to forget his roots and insist on other rules. Some tough kids at school who bully teachers as well as students. His puny muscles. His mean gym teacher. The Guy Upstairs who doesn’t answer his prayers. And the most confusing fact of all—that he might be gay.Luckily, RV develops a friendship with Mr. Aniso, his Latin teacher, who is gay and always there to talk to. RV thinks his problems are solved when he starts going out with Carole. But things only get more complicated when RV develops a crush on Bobby, the football player in his class. And to RV’s surprise, Bobby admits he may have gay feelings, too.
I did it! I made a move, and Carole responded! Whoa! Whoa! I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself. It was just a little step, kind of pathetic really, and I’m blushing when I write this. But it was something. We did another computer job, helping a lady with her internet connection. It was a beautiful afternoon, so Carole suggested we take a walk through the woods that are adjacent to the ballpark in our neighborhood and then go get some pizza. I couldn’t help wondering if she was giving me another hint. The walk through the woods was kind of romantic. It was a beautiful fall afternoon. The sun was shining, the leaves were turning a million colors, and the world seemed like a good place. We sat down by a stream and gazed at the water gurgling over the rocks. We both sat there quietly, leaning on each other, lost in our own thoughts. Then Carole moved away from me a little and said, “RV. Where are you, RV?” She was staring at me with the funny look that made her eyes sparkle.
“Huh?” Carole giggled. “You’re so far away. We’ve both been far away. Let’s come back here. Here is nice, isn’t it?” She moved back a little closer to me. I hugged her more tightly. Okay, this was it. I leaned over and kissed her on the lips. Her lips felt soft and spongy, like marshmallows. Except they weren’t sweet. They didn’t taste like anything. I pulled back, and we were staring at each other again.
“You’re a nice guy,” Carole said. “I really like you.”
“I really like you,” I answered. The skin on my face turned hot. I’m sure I was blushing so hard I created new shades of red. Carole leaned over, wrapped her arms around me, and kissed me so hard, I fell backward onto the grass. Carole fell on top of me and continued kissing me so hard my teeth began to hurt. Then I felt her tongue against my lips. I’d read about French kissing and knew that you were supposed to let the other person’s tongue go into your mouth. The thought of letting someone’s else wet tongue in my mouth grossed me out for a second. But this was Carole. It seemed like the right thing to do, so I opened my mouth. Carole’s tongue went right inside, pushing against my tongue, probing around my teeth. I did the same thing, sticking my tongue into her mouth. It was like a sword fight with tongues. I wonder if there’s an app that tells you the rules of French kissing. Like whose tongue goes first? Or how much time do you have in the other person’s mouth before it’s the other person’s turn in your mouth? I made a mental note to ask Ray. He’s always on his cell phone even at dinner, which makes Dad mad. But if anyone would know about such an app, it would be Ray. Carole and I lay there kissing and hugging each other. I was starting to get a little tired, but Carole didn’t seem tired at all. Her tongue was all over my mouth and my lips, and she was running her hands through my hair. I figured I better do the same thing, so I started running my hands through her hair. Then I moved my hands over her back, the way James Bond does in his movies. I love James Bond movies, watch all the old ones, and wish they made new ones more often. Now there’s a guy who knows how to kiss. I tried to remember all the moves he does with the ladies, but I’m sure my movements with Carole were pretty pathetic compared to his. Carole finally took her tongue out of my mouth and lifted her head. Her eyes still had that sparkly look in them, though, and she was staring at me for what seemed like hours. Then she finally rolled off me. We lay side by side, looking into the blue sky. “What are you thinking about?” Carole asked finally.
“Uh, nothing much,” I answered. “What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing much.” Carole giggled a little. “Actually, I was thinking this was the best French kiss I’ve ever had.” I wanted to ask her how many French kisses she had before, but didn’t dare.
“How about for you?”
“Oh, yeah. It was great compared to the others,” I lied. Am I supposed to admit to her that I’ve never come close to any kind of kiss with a girl, let alone a French one? Finally, both of us sat up. “I guess I should be going home,” I said, brushing the leaves off my clothes.
“Yeah, I should too,” Carole said. We walked home, not talking too much. I wonder if Carole was thinking about all her French kissing experiences. I was thinking about the opposite—my total lack of kissing experience—in French or any other language.
Why Can't Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza? The Pizza Chronicles Book 2
RV, having successfully completed his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School, is hoping for a great summer. He's now fifteen years old and looking forward to sharing many languid summer days with his friend Bobby, who's told him he has gay feelings too. But life and family and duties for a son of immigrant parents makes it difficult to steal time away with Bobby.
Bobby, too, has pressures. He spends part of the summer away at football camp, and his father pushes him to work a summer job at a friend's accounting firm. Bobby takes the job grudgingly, wanting to spend any extra time practicing the necessary skills to make Latin's varsity football team.
On top of everything, RV's best friend Carole goes away for the summer, jumping at an opportunity to spend it with her father in Paris. Luckily, there is always Mr. Aniso, RV's Latin teacher, to talk to whenever RV is lonely. He's also there for RV when he inadvertently spills one of Bobby's secrets, and Bobby is so angry RV is afraid he is ready to cut off the friendship.
Bobby and I sat there for a while, not saying anything, just enjoying being together, feeling like we were watching the whole world but not letting the world see us.
“So? Was this worth the bike ride and the climb?” Bobby finally asked.
“You bet. I love finding special places. Like the place in the woods not far from my house. It’s a good place to think and dream.” Bobby nodded. “Yeah. I discovered this spot when I came to the park with my folks. They just wanted to sit and relax on the hill, so I went exploring.”
“Yes, exploring is good. Where would we be in life without exploring!” I laughed and gave Bobby a nudge. He nudged me back. “Now I’ve shown you a good place to think and dream too.” I nodded, and we sat quietly for a long time, just happy looking out at Boston and being next to each other. Bobby put his hand on mine and it reminded me again of the first time he had touched me in the spring. The crazy, amazing feeling that went through my whole body. I know it’s stupid to say, but it was like I became alive in a new way. Even though that jolt of excitement lasted only a few seconds, I’ll never forget it. It was great to experience the feeling again. Bobby’s gentle touch on my hand probably didn’t mean much to him, but to me it meant a lot, especially that things were good between us. It was one of those moments in life when everything seems perfect. Just the way it’s supposed to be. I wanted to stay there forever with Bobby’s hand on mine. Then I remembered something. “Hey, Bobby!” I exclaimed, turning to him.
“It’s the summer solstice!” Bobby looked puzzled.
“The longest day of the year. When the sun is exactly over the Tropic of Cancer. It happens every year between June 20 and 22. And this year it’s today.” Bobby suddenly laughed. “Oh, RV. You should go on a game show!” My cheeks were getting hot. Carole calls it the RV Blush. When I’m really embarrassed about something, my face turns bright-red. And I was really embarrassed by my nerd part coming out in front of Bobby of all people. Bobby was still laughing. “I believe you. I really do.” He put his arm around me and gave me a little hug. “Being with you, I learn all these crazy things. That’s why I like you.”
“Don’t these long days make you feel good?” I said, more quietly. “Summer stretching out ahead. It makes me feel optimistic. Like I’ll have time to live my life, and not just do homework. Or chores. Or other things I’m forced to do. Summer is for us.”
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children's and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. WHY CAN'T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? is the first novel in THE PIZZA CHRONICLES. The books follow the exploits of RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate the four years of his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.
Why am I an author? How did it happen? Did classes help? How did I manage to get published?
People often ask me these questions. I ask them too, still a bit amazed that after trying so long I found a publisher.
I grew up in a family of strong-willed, opinionated parents. The discussions around the dinner table sometimes turned into rather loud arguments about the latest news, politics, even mundane things like family finances. For my hardworking immigrant parents, where and how to spend money was always an important consideration. I did more listening than talking. It could be hard to get a word into the conversation when my parents were passionate about one of their favorite topics. And I suppose it was my genes, too. I was usually more comfortable listening and absorbing things, rather than talking, wherever I was. So, yes, I was the proverbial introvert.
Still am. Oh, I can have fun with friends and happily talk when it’s one on one. But put me in front of a crowd? Oh, no! I’m one of those people who would rather be broiled over a fire than get up in front of an audience and talk. (PS: A shout-out to a great book, which helped me feel OK about being an introvert, even though so much of our world seems to value extroverts more highly. The book: QUIET by Susan Cain.)
I was always good with languages and loved reading. Even before I actually put words down, I created stories and imaginary characters for myself. I lived with these characters in my head. Sometimes it was more fun than real life. I could travel with them to far flung places. Go back in time. Be in a space ship or captain a ship. Or take on other new personas.
Perhaps that’s where the nugget to write was born. I kept creating and started writing little stories in school, but I never thought of myself as a writer. And I never said it out loud. Too scary. Too grandiose. But I kept writing. I won a short story contest in a local magazine when I was twelve years old. And I even submitted a screenplay to a famous Hollywood star when I was in college and got a nice rejection letter back. One time I submitted a story for a contest and, seeking validation, I asked the judges, “Can you tell me if I can write?” My story didn’t win, but scrawled on the rejection letter was a quick note by one of the judges, “If you have to write, you will write.” Not exactly the validation I wanted, but an important piece of advice that has always stayed with me. I’ve learned it’s not about being famous or getting validation, it’s about the need to share something that’s deep inside me with others.
Since I was the son of immigrants, it was important not be a burden to my parents, but to get a job and earn a decent wage. Pursuing something as insecure as being a writer was not in the cards. Happily, I did get a decent job – in book publishing in New York. (Whether it paid a decent wage, well, we in publishing still smile and shake our heads about that.) In any case, I had to content myself with being around all those editors and authors, learning about the book biz from the inside.
I loved the people I worked with. “Conventionally crazy,” that’s what I called them. We publishing types had our quirks, as many creative people do. But we weren’t totally out there. We were professionals, who wanted to earn a living doing something useful - bringing the unique voices of authors to the world. I saw how much hard work went into this, and how long it took, and how patience and perseverance were so important. They helped you not to give up and keep doing what you loved.
But the author part of me never died. I kept writing, taking a class here or there. And I kept submitting stories, plays, and books, but nothing much ever came of it professionally. Did the classes help? They didn’t “make me an author,” but they did give me important lessons and tips about writing. I sharpened my sense of what matters to a book reader or an audience watching a play. I learned the importance of rewrites. And just the act of continually writing helped me learn to get over my perfectionism, which killed more than one attempt at writing in the early days.
Finally, lo and behold, last year, after another submission, I got an acceptance email from an editor at Nine Star Press. Now I see the book biz as an author. I still love it, though (Smile. Smile harder!) I often have to remind myself what I learned about patience and perseverance, especially when it comes to sales and marketing. It’s a cliché but true, since clichés often are. I’m another one of those authors who says, “Don’t give up!” Especially if you’re one of those authors who has to write.
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