Henry Hamlet’s Heart (Rhiannon Wilde, UQP)
Henry Hamlet lives in his head, and his head is full of worries—will he ever get a girlfriend and lose his virginity? Will he pass his year 12 exams? What should he apply to study at uni? Henry wishes he could be more like his best friend, Len, who is charming, confident and social. But then Len is dared to kiss him at a party and suddenly Henry has a brand-new worry—what do you do when you fall in love with your best friend? Henry Hamlet’s Heart is a queer romance perfect for those who love the agony of anticipation and the angst of first love. The reader is drawn into Henry’s world and left in a state of glorious anguish for pages of missed signals and rising sexual tension as Henry comes to terms with his feelings and his sexuality. This tension is interspersed with humorous scenes exploring mateship and family as Henry’s group of somewhat homogenous friends (‘the boiyss’) navigate year 12 and his family navigates his sassy grandmother’s impending wedding. Set in 2008, the book’s cultural references offer nostalgia for older readers, although they may be disappointed that the romantic climax of the novel remains firmly PG-rated. Ultimately, Henry Hamlet’s Heart is best recommended for fans of witty dialogue, contemporary YA and slow-burning gay romance, as in Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Will Kostakis’s The Sidekicks.
Jordi Kerr is a freelance reviewer and youth literature advocate, and a support worker for the LGBTIQA+ community.