Uptown calls Monoceros a 'vital book'

By Quentin Mills-Fenn
June 23 2011

A vital book on a vital issue
Suzette Mayr's accomplished fourth novel, Monoceros, tells the tale of a tormented gay teenager who takes his own life

by Quentin Mills-Fenn

With her fourth novel, Monoceros (Coach House Books), Suzette Mayr tackles gay teen bullying and suicide. It's an accomplished and sensitive take on a vital issue. It should be very widely read.

Patrick, four months from his high-school graduation, is tormented because his boyfriend's girlfriend (it's complicated) finds out about the affair. With her mean girl pack, she threatens to expose the two. The boyfriend panics and drops him -- and Patrick takes his own life in despair.

Mayr skillfully rotates through multiple viewpoints, from Patrick's mother, who refused to believe her son was gay, to people with little or no contact with him -- such as his classmate Faraday who never really spoke to him except to sell him his weekly latte.

The boy's school principal and guidance counsellor -- two men in a long-term relationship -- refused to help, worried about their pensions and the Catholic school's reputation. Mayr exposes their hypocrisy and shows the effect of the boy's death on their relationship.

She also writes some beautifully heartbreaking pages about the grief of Patrick's mother and boyfriend and their survivor's guilt.

The book isn't completely grim, though. As the reader moves further from Patrick's circle, the characters and situations become funnier. There's some gentle parody of grief counselling. Plus, we're introduced to Crepe Suzette, a drag queen who's the most level-headed of them all.

Monoceros is another name for unicorn and unicorns are a theme throughout the novel. Lonely and misunderstood Faraday is obsessed with them. They're pointless creatures and most people don't believe in them but, as Mayr shows, sometimes, they kick back.

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