I’d been meaning to read Stay Gold ever since I enjoyed Tobly McSmith’s sophomore novel Act Cool. I bought it ages ago, and it finally made it to the top of my pile.
What’s it about?
Pony is an army brat, so he’s used to moving around all the time. This time, though, switching schools feels like an opportunity rather than a hardship. After being bullied at his last school after coming out, Pony decides to go stealth; because he can pass, he decides that there’s no reason to tell anyone that he’s trans. When he meets Georgia, a popular and beautiful cheerleader, his decision to stay under-the-radar starts to look decidedly less attractive.
What’d I think?
On the whole I enjoyed reading Stay Gold, but there were a lot of things that bothered me the more I thought about them. For that reason I decided to break out an old review format: I liked/I didn’t like.
I liked the cover. I mean, look at it! It’s so adorable! I love this art style, and in fact it was the covers that first brought me to Tobly McSmith’s books. Is it maybe a little too cute for the seriousness of the end of Stay Gold? Yeah, possibly. But I still love it.
I didn’t like Pony’s name. It took me a minute to get past what a stupid name “Pony” is, but I accepted it because of the The Outsiders homage (for the record: I love that book but Ponyboy is a dumb name there, too; also, it feels like every time I hear something about SE Hinton lately it’s bad, so…). It’s a slightly tough pill to swallow that anyone would choose their own name and go with “Pony,” especially since he repeatedly teases that it has a good story behind it and then it doesn’t. You might be thinking: didn’t Pony name himself for The Outsiders? Good question, but no. Georgia makes the literary connection but when Pony finally explains how he picked the name it is literally a reference to… ponies, which makes me wish that McSmith had approached the name differently. Like, maybe by naming him Johnny (or Dallas or Darrel or something)—which would have an indirect Outsiders reference for Georgia to grab onto) or simply by letting Ponyboy actually be Pony’s inspiration. In light of Hinton slamming Stay Gold‘s existence, though, I sort of think that the novel would have been better served to move away from that connection, as Hinton—with all her arguably anti-gay twitter tantrums—is a weird public figure to link to a queer character; it’s not quite as bad, but it would be like a trans person choosing their new name from Harry Potter; it’s plausible, but there are, let’s say, better role models).