Title: Out of the Pocket
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Novel, 272 pages (print, ebook, audiobook)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
Star quarterback Bobby Framingham, one of the most talented high school football players in California, knows he’s different from his teammates. They’re like brothers, but they don’t know one essential thing: Bobby is gay. Can he still be one of the guys and be honest about who he is? When he’s outed against his will by a student reporter, Bobby must find a way to earn back his teammates’ trust and accept that his path to success might be more public, and more difficult, than he’d hoped. An affecting novel about identity that also delivers great sportswriting.
I went to my thirtieth high school reunion a few years ago, and much to my surprise, our HS football star was there with his partner. Who knew he was gay—none of us, that’s for sure. Would that our Bobby (yes, he has the same name) and the rest of us could have read the story of Bobby Framingham in Out of the Pocket. I bet his high school years would have been a whole lot easier and more pleasant—not that any of us knew it was unpleasant at the time. Such is the tragedy of the closet.
I accidentally stumbled across Out of the Pocket while rummaging around on Amazon, although if I had been paying attention, I might have discovered it sooner since it was published in September, 2008. In May, it won the Lambda Award for best LGBT Children/Young Adult book and in my opinion is very deserving. I hope that helps this book get the recognition it needs because it should be on the shelf of every high school library in this country (probably junior high, too) as well as public libraries. It has an important message that needs to get out, told in a open, accessible, and entertaining way.
When I discovered the book, I downloaded a sample, enjoyed it, bought the book, and then had one of those mornings where, instead of doing “real” work, I spent six hours with my nose glued to the e-Ink screen of my Kindle. The story just pulled me in and I couldn’t stop reading, even though I kept telling myself I had more pressing things to do. Uh, no. Reading this book is what is important.
The story is told from Bobby’s first person POV. He’s known he’s gay for awhile and has been ruminating on this fact for the better part of a year. At the start of his senior year he decides he needs to share this information with a close friend—swearing him to secrecy, of course. Before long, Bobby’s “secret” is pretty common knowledge but he is managing to keep the fallout under control, until he is outed by a classmate in an article in the school newspaper. At that point, all hell breaks loose and Bobby’s life spins into orbit. What follows—how he picks up the pieces, puts things back in order, comes to terms with himself, family and friends—makes a compelling story.
I am giving this book five stars because I think everyone should read it, but I do include one caveat: it’s not perfect. There are lots of scenes on the football field that go on a little too long and there is an interlude where Bobby’s dad gets sick and goes away for treatment. I’m not really sure why that was included or what the point was. As for the football scenes—they are easy enough to skim and I suppose for the target audience, I presume young men in high school—they might be the necessary hook to draw them into the book and keep them reading.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. It’s an “important” book that makes its point effectively without hitting you over the head with it. The writing is snappy and fast paced, evoking locales, images, and ah, yes, wonderful high school memories. As for Bobby, he’s a quarterback so, yeah, he’s hot. You’ll be wishing for more than one sexy kiss with the guy who becomes his boyfriend, but that’s what imaginations are for.
Read this book.