The complicated calculus (and cows) of Carl Paulsen

Gary Eldon Peter

Book - 2022

"Set on a small and struggling family dairy operation in southern Minnesota, The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen follows fifteen-year-old Carl as he confronts his crush on Andy Olnan, a handsome and confident but secretive "city boy" recently transplanted to farm life from Minneapolis who may or may not share the same feelings. At the same time, Carl and his father clash over the future of their farm, a legacy of Carl's late mother: how do they honor her dream for the family while also ensuring financial security? Carl discovers his own resilience in the face of grief, adult-sized decisions, and unrequited love, and along the way learns to cope with both the challenges and rewards of being different"...--

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Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Peter Gary Checked In
Raleigh, NC : Fitzroy Books [2022]
Main Author
Gary Eldon Peter (author)
Physical Description
154 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

It's love at first sight for closeted 15-year-old Carl Paulsen when he gets his first glimpse of the new boy in school, Andy Olnan. Carl is delighted when he and Andy quickly become fast friends, hanging out with each other at school and talking on the phone every evening. There's only one problem: is Andy gay? And how to find out? The answer comes when the two get high and have sex. Carl is elated until the next morning when Andy--sadly but a bit predictably--shuns him. But Andy is not his only problem. The Paulsens' dairy farm is nearly bankrupt and Carl's widowed father is strongly considering selling it. But to Carl, that would be like selling his mother, who had loved the farm and the cows. His love for Andy and the farm is threatened. Will it survive in either case? Though it doesn't have the freshest premise, Peter's novel is nevertheless well executed, especially its farm setting, which the author seems to love as much as Carl. Readers will, too.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in richly described southern Minnesota, Peter's (Oranges, for adults) YA debut is a compact, touching introspection on one gay teenager's first love. Closeted 15-year-old white Carl Paulsen, who lives with his father on their struggling dairy farm, is still unsettled from his mother's death from cancer two years earlier. When white Minneapolis transplant Andy Olnan protects him on the first day of school from Carl's longtime bully, who hurls homophobic slurs, the two become fast friends. Andy is cagey about his move, only hinting that it was part of a deal he made with his intensely religious mother. Despite Andy's closed-off nature and his public fixation with girls, Carl's convinced he might be gay, too. After they get high and hook up, Carl is sideswiped by Andy's subsequent rejection and must unravel his feelings alone. Carl's willfully ignoring Andy's flaws and their clashing personalities is a skillful representation of teenage crushes. Knowing his father will be supportive, Carl is more preoccupied with how to come out, rather than a potential negative reaction, providing an alternate and necessary perspective to queer youth's myriad challenges. This is a tender, rural spin on gay first love. Ages 12--up. (July)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

In the midst of constant worries over losing his family's dairy farm, Carl Paulsen, a gay 16-year-old, contemplates the complications of crushes and coming out. As far as Carl knows, he's the only gay person in his isolated, rural Minnesota town. Although he aches to escape and begin his life in the 21st century, he also can't bear the thought of leaving behind his family's dairy farm, the last connection to his mother, who passed away from cancer two years ago. When new student Andy Olnan introduces himself at sophomore registration, Carl can imagine for the first time having a boyfriend and opening up to his dad about his sexuality. A presumed all-White cast of characters populates this moody, introspective coming-out story. Readers may feel frustrated as, for most of the book, Carl pines and frets, seeming to willfully ignore the red flags in Andy's behavior in hopes that he will realize they are meant to be together. Scanty dialogue and low action also make the narrative drag. Although the ending brings some hope, overt homophobia is prevalent in Carl's community, and even the people who accept him can barely bring themselves to say the word gay. No one dies at the end, but the exploration of sexuality offers nothing new to the genre. Dated and trudging. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.