- Money Boy
Ray Liu struggles in his Toronto high school largely due to his poor English skills, and he spends what he considers his real life as a warrior in the online role-playing game Rebel State. There the points he accrues for blood and honor make up for the regular scoldings he gets from his imperious father and his poor academic showing alongside his stepbrother and friends. The tenuous balance of this double life is destroyed when his father checks his computer search history and discovers Ray’s been visiting gay-themed websites, whereupon he coolly tosses Ray’s belongings on the lawn and locks the door behind him. Eighteen-year-old Ray, whose street smarts, motivation, and personal resources are just about nil, spends the week trying to survive and fantasizing how his father will come and find him, apologize, and take him home. In reality, Ray slowly loses everything he has; his money and iPod are stolen, his bank card can’t be replaced because he never bothered to learn his vital document numbers, his laptop is stolen, and his mother back in China is now a prostitute unable to assist him. Unwilling to take any low status employment, he decides to work a street corner as a “money boy,” convincing himself that male prostitution will be a path toward financial independence and an introduction to the joys of gay sex. And indeed, his first encounter seems to qualify as a success, until he learns his john is actually a pimp with plans for more than an affair. The unrealistically happy resolution to Ray’s plight, which is truer to his wilder fantasies than to plausibility, is offset by the painfully realistic depths of the naïve young man’s self deception, and his inability to see that his own misplaced pride is the very trait he so resents in his father. Teens venturing into gritty new-adult writing will be both fascinated by his tumble from grace and relieved that there’s a safety net to break his fall.