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"He was a punk, he did ballet": Anthony Nerada delivers a new Queer version of classic pop-punk anthem

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Anthony Nerada — Photo by Jordan Doak
Anthony Nerada — Photo by Jordan Doak

Even before becoming a published author, Anthony Nerada was finding ways to examine well-known stories from a different perspective. One of the first he remembers writing was from the perspective of the stepsister in Cinderella in fifth grade. Several years later, he wrote another story about the Evil Queen in Snow White. Though these never saw the light of day, his first published novel, Skater Boy, follows in those footsteps by twisting the script of a well-known tale.

"Writing Skater Boy, I decided to flip the script on the classic pop song 'Sk8er Boi' by Avril Lavigne [whose lyrics include "He was a punk, she did ballet"] by telling the story from the punk side," Nerada said. "I just remember being a kid in the back seat of my parents' car, and I used to change the words and pronouns in songs so I would see my own story in the lyrics, because back then, there were no songs about boys loving boys and boys kissing boys.

"I thought, 'Wow, this song would be such a good young adult book, but it would be an even better young adult book if I flipped it and told the story from the perspective of the punk," he recalled.

In his debut novel, Nerada explores the punk's perspective as he falls for a male ballet dancer from the right side of the tracks. "We never got to see that side of the story. We always see the 'bad boy' and brooding boy in the background as the love interest that the heroine or the hero pines for, but we never get to see why they are that bad boy and what makes them tick," he said.

"Wes is a very grumpy, angry Gay. He was given a label early on in his life," Nerada added. "He let that dictate everything in his life moving forward, to the point where when he does see someone he can have a future with, he can't manage the juxtaposition of the parts of himself — the person he wants to be and the person everyone else sees him as. I want people to realize that you can be who you want to be, and it's never too late to pursue that person."

Soho Press  

For the kids on the outskirts of the community
Skater Boy is a book for kids who may see themselves on the outside of Queer stereotypes. The story was inspired by Nerada's feelings of not fitting the expectation of what a Gay guy looked like. "My ideal reader is the kid I was in high school," Nerada said. "I never really felt that I fit into the Gay community, even as a closeted kid in the early 2000s and 2010s. I loved punk music [and] I loved Broadway music, but I never felt like I could see myself in the representation told at the time. I wanted to write this character for the kids who feel like they're on the outskirts of the Gay community. There isn't any one right way to be Gay."

"I hope that kids realize it's okay to be whoever they want to be, within whatever shade of rainbow they fall under," he continued. "I also want them to understand through reading Wes' journey that it's okay to be messy, it's okay to make mistakes, because as long as you understand what went wrong and you're able to own up to those mistakes, live your truth, and be the person you are meant to be, I think that's more integral."

One of Nerada's concerns when writing Skater Boy was that Wes wouldn't be likable. At the beginning of the book, he's not. "I knew that my character was not for everyone. He's a bully at the beginning of the book, and you have to learn to love him through his flaws. I knew that was going to be a hard sell, but seeing people understand the heart of the story was super touching. That's why I'm on cloud nine, for sure," he said.

Nerada spent five years working on Skater Boy. He first drafted the novel in 2019 and worked tirelessly with editors and agents until it finally hit shelves this past February. Despite the setbacks and struggles, Nerada knew he had a book that needed to be read. "Shifting my frame of mind was one of the reasons I never gave up, but it isn't for the faint of heart," he said.

Now that he's finally achieved his lifelong goal of publishing a novel, Nerada has no plans to stop. He's working on his next two manuscripts — and yes, they're just as Gay as Skater Boy.

"There's enough straight stories out in the world. It's time for us to tell our stories, too," he said.

Skater Boy is available now. You can find it at Elliott Bay Book Company, Queen Anne Book Company, and Charlie's Queer Books in Seattle.