The Vast Fields of Ordinary

Nick Burd

TItle: The Vast Fields of Ordinary

Genre: GLBTQ, Multicultural, Young Adult

Publication date: 2009

Number of Pages: 309

Geographical Setting: Iowa

Time Period: Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Dade is drowning in a sea of unhappy: seventeen, hiding his sexuality, family teetering on the brink of ruin and stuck in Cedarville, Iowa.  Dade recognizes himself as gay, but he hasn’t told his parochial school teacher mother or businessman father–they’re going through a rough patch in their marriage and don’t notice much, anyway.  He’s been in a sexual relationship of sorts with his only friend–Pablo Soto, star quarterback with a girlfriend.  As the story opens, Dade tells Pablo he loves him; Pablo responds by slapping him until he takes it back.  Dade distances himself from Pablo and meets Alex, a drug dealing guy who connects with an undiscovered part of Dade.  His progress continues when Dade meets Lucy, a lesbian who is who she is and is unafraid of that.  Through Alex and Lucy, Dade begins to see that he’s got hope in himself and his future; he’s changing for the better.  The  change is not without teenage debauchery; the three of them have a summer laced with drinking, drugs and going to clubs.  When Pablo meets Alex at a party, he becomes increasingly jealous because he wants to have Dade for himself. Pablo’s behavior leads to a dramatic twist and Dade realizes he’s got to make changes in his life before he can truly embrace his future.

Subject Headings: Iowa, Midwest, Teenage Males, homosexuality, Drugs, dating and Sex, Abuse, Marriage, Divorce, Coming Out

Appeal Terms: Unhurried, Bittersweet, Candid, Emotionally-Charged, Earnest, Moody, Flawed Characters, Authentic, Issue-Oriented, Contemporary, Accessible, Colloquial, Colorful

3 Terms that Describe this Book: Contemplative, Midwestern, Coming of Age

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel: Dade may have been able to better face challenges if he had this book of straightforward experiences by his side.

Iowa: The Spirit of America by Diana Landau: Get to know the state that Dade can’t wait to get out of!

The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy by Robert Leleux: A coming of age story where Dade may have found a kindred spirit–an eccentric mother, a distant father and eventually meeting his life partner, Michael.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors: 

Someday this Pain will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron:  This story is about a teenage boy who is trying to do the opposite of Dade–he deals with life by moving to a small town to forget his troubles.

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf: A story about a dysfunctional family living in Iowa and learning how to cope with family challenges.

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis: This story reflects the experience of a college freshman coming home to see his family after his first semester of college…Dade may benefit from this after coming home from college for the first time.

–Jennifer Hovanec


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