“He thought he was smart enough about his own identity that there weren’t any questions left. […] [H]e's starting to see some flaws in his logic. Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves they’re straight.”

This passage comes in Chapter Five when Alex is obsessively thinking about Henry kissing him and reevaluating his ideas about his own sexual identity. Alex is trying everything he can to return to his pre-kiss state of "normality," but he’s struggling because his feelings about the kiss cause him to look closely at his past sexual attraction to men. Alex recognizes that, before Henry kissed him, he assumed he knew himself. As that sense of a secure identity begins to erode, Alex recognizes that he may have been lying to himself about his sexuality all along. Thus, through Henry’s romantic intentions, Alex is able to dismantle the protections he's put up around his sexual identity and go into territory that was, in some ways, off-limits to him before the kiss. He discovers hidden desires, and he moves into a more honest relationship with himself.

“I thought, this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I had better keep it a safe distance away from me. I thought, if someone like that ever loved me, it would set me on fire.”

Henry writes these lines in a letter to Alex in Chapter Eleven after they say they love each other and decide to be in a relationship. Here, Henry describes the first time he saw Alex at the Olympics when they were teenagers, when he felt that if Alex loved him, it would destroy him. Henry is right, in a sense: their romance sets fire to the version of Henry that was stuck in the palace, playing a false role, pretending to be straight in order to fulfill his duty to his aristocratic bloodline. Once Henry falls for Alex, the gilded cage of the palace becomes more and more intolerable for Henry, and he begins to defy his family’s orders, ignore expectations, and pursue Alex with single-minded devotion. Henry’s teenage fear of being incinerated by Alex’s love is the dark side of Henry’s fervent desire to be changed and set free by a love powerful enough to help him leave his oppressive family. Through Alex’s love, the old Henry is destroyed, and the new Henry is free to be who he truly is.

“It was . . . tolerable before, somehow," Henry says. "When there was never—never the possibility of anything else. But, Christ, this is—it’s vile. It’s a bloody farce.”

Henry says this to Alex in Chapter Twelve after he goes on a date with June to quell rumors in the press that Alex and Henry are romantically involved. Early in the novel, Henry often goes on dates for show, even dancing with June at the wedding to provide the press with a photo that will help him maintain his image as a straight man. When Henry returns from this date, though, he is vacant and dissociated, suggesting that the act of pretending has become painful and traumatic. Here, Henry articulates that the reason it is now more difficult to go through the charade is that, before meeting Alex, Henry didn’t have hope for another life. By falling in love with Alex, Henry shakes off the hopelessness that previously allowed him to play-act for the press. As a result, he can fully feel the wrongness of what he’s doing, how it uses a woman he cares about, and how it makes a mockery of the love he considers sacred.