Different for Boys

Different for Boys

By Author / Illustrator

Patrick Ness, Tea Bendix



Age range(s)



Walker Books Ltd








A poignant and moving LGBTQ+ story that explores sexuality and masculinity with a touch of humour, by twice Carnegie Medal-winner and bestselling author Patrick Ness.

Ant Stevenson has many questions, like when did he stop being a virgin? Are there degrees of virginity? And is it different for boys? Especially for boys who like boys? Ant tries to figure out the answers to his questions as he balances his relationships with three very different boys: Charlie, who is both virulently homophobic and yet close friends with Ant; Jack, whose camp behaviour makes him the target of Charlie's rage; and finally Freddie, who just wants Ant to try out for the rugby team.

From the bestselling author of the Chaos Walking trilogy comes a timely and important story about inclusivity, prejudice and friendship.



Ant Stevenson is a teenager with questions, questions about friendships and virginity, and this will be a week like no other for Ant and his friends, in this bold, powerful and insightful novel from Patrick Ness.

As the new Year 11 starts at St Michael's School, Ant and his friend Charlie find old friends Jack and Freddie sitting next to them in registration, much to Charlie's annoyance - and Ant just wants everyone to get along. It doesn't take long for Charlie's homophobia to come out against Jack and for Charlie to see Freddie and his rugby as a threat to his close friendship with Ant. Yet Ant knows another side to Charlie, his best friend since primary school, but can't be honest about it. As Ant tries to balance his relationships with his friends, tensions rise and Charlie becomes a simmering pot of anger. Will there be the tipping point, will someone get scalded and will Ant find answers to his questions?

In Different For Boys, Patrick Ness has written a poignant and heartfelt story focusing on a group of older teens boys dealing with themes of friendships, sexuality and masculinity and giving an insight into the dynamics of their relationship. Striking monochrome pencil illustrations from Tea Bendix add to the storytelling of the novel - there is much to read into them.

This novel is a revised and updated story from the anthology Losing It published in 2010. It's a short story really, taking place over a week, told by Ant with back stories brought in to explain the current situations, which works really well. What also works well is the use of blacked-out text to cover up swear words, which makes for an interesting reading experience! Patrick Ness has done this to make the point that for many teenagers, swearing is part of them, yet it's not considered acceptable to replicate this in teen and YA novels; this makes an interesting point, especially about representation of teenage language and culture in novels. An interesting twist is that the characters know the blanking out is happening!

The main characters are quite different from each other and each plays a key part on the plot. Ant is at the heart of the story, with his questioning mind and exploration of his sexuality with Charlie, who doesn't see what they do as 'real', despite Ant feeling it's more. I found Charlie's character interesting - complex, troubled, contradictory, anger never far away, not wanting the stability of his friendship with Ant to change - or being able to deal with change. The results of this impact particularly on Ant.

This is a timely novel looking at male teenage relationships, and definitely one that could be used in a PSE setting for discussion due to the issues highlighted in the novel including sexuality, acceptance and prejudice. Readers should note there are some instances of homophobic language in the story.

This short novel really shows that less can definitely be more and how the use of illustrations in YA novels can really help enhance the reading experience, giving a window into the world of male teen relationships. A book to make you think and question.

104 pages / Reviewed by Stephen Leitch, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 14+


Other titles