Hephaestion - Contemporary Bildungsroman

Hephaestion

The Perks of Being a Wallflower + Looking for Alaska

Intended Audience: YA (18-25)
Genre: Bildungsroman
Intended Length: ~60k

Logline: A neurodiverse teenager learns about the darker side of growing up when the death of a close loved one forces him to overcome grief and learn to adapt in a world that’s constantly changing around him.

Blurb

It’s the summer of 1987, and Elio Balotelli is ready to spend the summer with his best friend, Amos Galanos, before they part ways in the fall.

While Amos has his eyes set on the Big Apple - specifically Juilliard - Elio finds himself at a loss when all of his top schools reject him. As if that isn’t bad enough, however, disaster strikes, and Elio finds himself scrambling to cope with the sudden death of a loved one after an accident. Left alone with no hope for the future, a cigarette addiction, and a weakening Catholic faith, Elio can’t seem to find his place in a world that is changing around him.

Then, a mysterious boy named Jude suddenly appears in Elio’s life, and Elio finds out that sometimes the best way to cope with grief is by helping someone else.

Summary

ELIO BALOTELLI, a neurodiverse high school graduate, is planning the best summer ever with his best friend, AMOS GALANOS before they part ways for college in the fall. Elio, denied acceptance into his top universities, must settle for the local university, the University of North Georgia, while Amos plans on attending Juilliard in New York.

During lunch at a local diner, Amos encourages Elio to befriend MICHAEL JOHNSON, a rising junior at UNG. Elio talks to Michael and gets his phone number, and he has dinner that night at Michael’s house, where Elio learns more about college life as well as about Michael.

However, despite becoming closer to Michael, Elio quickly begins to feel lost in a constantly changing world after Amos gets accepted into Juilliard and Elio’s Italian mother, VALENTINA BALOTELLI, a widow of 12 years, begins dating SAMUEL FISCHER.

After a storm, Elio and Amos go swimming at their campsite. They have an intimate conversation about the future and Amos’ mental health before Elio must leave for dinner with his mother and Samuel.

The next morning, Elio returns to the river. He finds his usual spot is overrun with police officers and an ambulance. A female officer stops him and explains that a fisherman found a body. Elio realizes that Amos drowned.

Elio attends Amos’ funeral.

Later, Elio gets his acceptance letter and reconnects with Michael, who invites him to a party the next day. Before the party, Elio meets JUDE SMITH, an enigmatic rising high school senior.

At the party, Elio is introduced to Michael’s friends and gets his first taste of college life. He later leaves to find a quiet place when he runs into Jude, who offers Elio drugs. Before Elio can accept or reject the drugs, Michael intervenes and takes Elio home.

In the following days, Jude keeps reappearing in Elio’s life, bruised and hinting at a poor home life. At the same time that Elio is trying to figure out what is wrong with Jude so he can help, he is trying to reconnect with Amos’ younger sister, CHRYSSA, which leads him back to Amos’ house, where he receives a few of Amos’ belongings.

While out in town a few days later, Elio runs into Jude, who is stealing food from a gas station. After emotional outburst from Jude, who explains he hasn’t eaten in days, Elio offers to buy him lunch, and he and Jude become friends.

Weeks past, and, between partying with Michael and his friends and growing closer to Jude, Elio slowly begins to establish some normalcy in his life again. One night, Jude, injured and homeless, appears on Elio’s doorstep. He explains everything about his dangerous home life to Elio, and Elio’s mother allows Jude to move in with them.

On the day before Elio leaves to move into his dorm at UNG, he visits Amos’ grave alone for the first time where he finally finds the closure he spent all summer looking for.

Major Plotlines (Spoilers)
  • Elio is trying his best to cope with the death of his best friend, Amos, while, at the same time, trying to prepare himself for college in the fall and learning to accept his mother’s new relationship.
  • Elio meets Jude, who is later revealed to live in an extremely abusive home, and tries to help him escape from his living situation and live a better life.
Unique Features

Diverse cast including:

  • Immigrant characters

  • Italian-American Characters

  • Albanian-Greek characters

  • POC

  • Jewish-Agnostic, Mormon, and Catholic characters

  • Explicit asexual MC with implicit LGBT characters

  • Neurodiverse MC (Tourette’s, ADHD, and dyslexia)

Normalizes platonic male intimacy
Deals with grief and mental health in male characters

2 Likes

There are some interesting component pieces to this but I’m unclear on the parts between them that unite them and help give me a sense of this main character and their struggle.

I think, from my understanding, Amos’ death is supposed to be a radical moment in the story that changes Elio’s life. Before that moment, Elio was getting a bit frustrated by everyone else seeming to change and move to places, which does make sense although it’s not fully clear what component of it he is particularly struggling with (his neurodiversity being unclear also means it’s not sure how that is complicating his reaction). But it is somewhat there.

But post death, nothing much seems to happen. Elio still goes to the school he was going to go to and encounters possible drugs, something that would happen with or without the death since it’s college, and before he can decide, Michael shows up and the drugs are never mentioned again. Elio’s Catholic faith, which is in the blurb, never appears in the summary. Instead the Jude character shows up with his own problems and Elio doesn’t really interact with him much in relation to the major death.

Jude’s problem also self resolves by him just stating he has a problem and a mom accepting him in, with no related conflict to that. In the end, Elio then goes to the grave and gets closure. But it’s not clear that he needed closure. He attended the funeral and then proceeded to school and had an experience. Was he unable to do something? Was something holding him back? Where and in what ways?

Not knowing who Elio is before the death and not seeing how he is affected by it means that the death stands out as eventful by its placement and magnitude but not within the confines of the story, and thus I feel like I’m lacking the ability to connect dots.

1 Like