A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{July 24, 2011}   Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg

Plot: Bobby is the star quarterback of his high school team. He is also gay. He doesn’t like keeping secrets from his team but he also feels that his orientations could get in the way of his NFL dreams. After all, there has never been an openly gay professional player. But when he is forcefully outted, he must deal with the reactions of his teammates, his family, his “girlfriend” and reporters from around the country.

This review is based on the audiobook read by Joshua Swanson.

I confess, I don’t like football very much. Everything I know about football comes from Eyeshield 21 (a hilarious manga, btw, one of my favorites despite my admitted aversion to football). So a lot of specific references to the sport went right over my head: I don’t know what it means to be out of the pocket and an audible is an audiobook store to me. This did not, however, prevent me from enjoying this book. It is a very sweet coming out story; nothing groundbreaking but well executed.

Some of the dialogue screamed “after school special” but in many ways Konigsberg does something more interesting than that. Bobby is not the stereotype of a gay teen that we are often presented with in popular media; he is not artsy or nerdy or bullied. He is hugely popular and a jock but one that does not feel the need to bully others to keep his secret. In addition, people’s reaction to Bobby’s coming out are varied and surprisingly complex. Some people are mad and homophobic, though not the majority. Some people are confused, maybe even a bit hurt by the secret. Others are proud and supportive of him. Interestingly, some people are more accepting of Bobby’s homosexuality than he is. And then, though it is not the focus of the story, there is a cute little love story with a sweet boy thrown in for all us romantics.

I didn’t like Joshua Swanson as a reader as much as I liked the others I have heard to date. He wasn’t bad and he did a good job with Bobby’s voice but when he tried to voice the other characters in the book, he often had me rolling my eyes. Bobby’s “girlfriend” always sounded like she was being sarcastic (or worse doing the stereotypical gay voice, you know which one I mean) and though she was by far the worst, she wasn’t the only one he had trouble capturing.

I have read better stories about gay teens (must I mention Will Grayson, Will Grayson?) but this is a good one and will be especially enjoyable to football fans.

Challenges: GLBT Challenge (6)


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