Review: Straight by Seth King

Posted December 6, 2016 by Wil in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review: Straight by Seth KingStraight by Seth King
two-stars
on Novemebr 27, 2016
Genres: College, M/M, New Adult
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Straight, Seth King's new standalone M/M romance

CHAT ROOM POSTING, SEPTEMBER 16, 9:08 PM: “Hey guys, I’m begging for help right now. I know this will sound weird, but here goes: I met someone on the city bus the other day, and the attraction was instant – he’s owned my thoughts ever since. But here’s my problem: I’m a guy, too – a straight guy, or so I thought. I’ve always been perfectly accepting of everyone, but at the same time I dated girls, I slept with girls, I loved girls – none of this has ever been in question. Until now. I’ve never so much as glanced at another guy before, and suddenly this dude is all I see in my dreams. I’m excited and a little giddy, but kind of confused and overwhelmed, too, because this was the last thing I ever expected. What does this mean? And where do I go from here?”

Henry Morgan is a beer-drinking, arm-wrestling, 100% heterosexual American male who is still a little numb after a rough breakup from his longtime girlfriend. Ty Stanton is a bohemian arts student who has been openly, and uncomplicatedly, gay ever since he asked for his first wig for Christmas. After a chance, butterfly-inducing encounter one autumn day, Henry starts to realize something strange: he might not be quite as straight as he’d always assumed. What follows is a breakneck adventure that upends both Ty and Henry’s lives for the long haul.

Sexy, fun and thought provoking, Seth King’s Straight is about all the love we can let into our lives when we dare to jump off the beaten path and veer a little off course.

REVIEW

First, I want to say that I have mad respect for this author and his personal story, his struggles and for the message he tried to convey. I wanted to love this, really, really wanted to love it. I know a lot of avid MM readers don’t like the GFY trope, but some of my favorite MM books are actually GFY stories so I was extremely excited for this one. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed with this one, extremely. I loved the concept of the book, yet the book falls short on execution. This is obviously an unpopular opinion, and it might as well be me and not the book, but it’s my opinion nonetheless.

 

So, I loved the beginning, the first encounter between Ty and Henry, the rush, the anticipation, that first hook up. I loved all of that.

 

““Okay,” I say, swallowing the word. Rather than making me scared or filling me with dread, though, the word fills me with a weird excitement that warms my whole body from my toes to my ears. I cannot wait for this, a voice says somewhere in my head. I really cannot wait for this. What is going on?”

 

But then the book started rubbing me the wrong way, at every turn. There’s not much of a story here, this “straight” guy -Henry- bumps into this gay guy -Ty- in a bus and is instantly attracted to him, then said “straight” guy almost immediately hooks up with this guy, while going back and forth for the next 200 pages (that honestly felt like 400) about whether he should pursue this gay relationship or not, etc.

 

The book is solely told in Henry’s POV, and his POV is extremely tiring and frustrating, and also very, very redundant, he often repeats the same thoughts over and over again, he second guesses every decision he makes, and he is extremely ambivalent. In my mind, it had nothing to do with him being gay or straight or bi or just questioning, he was just a weak character, very poorly developed. At times, it was tiring being in his head, he gave me whiplash. He also goes into these long-winded essay type explanations and research finds about sexuality that sometimes enter into soapbox territory, Ty does this as well. It might be because I’m an avid MM reader or because I’m very immersed in the gay world via very important people in my life, but they just took from the story. There are many ways of delivering a message without lecturing people.

 

There were a lot of inconsistencies throughout the story. I’m not sure if it was that the main character just couldn’t make up his mind or that the book just wasn’t quite edited well and those things just fell through the cracks. For example, in the beginning, the main character makes references to working in the present tense.

 

“not since college and work and bills took that away from me…”

“He’s making me realize just how boring my life is. School, work, gym, repeat.”

 

But he doesn’t really work, he’s just a student at the same school as the other character, which confused me greatly. It was kinda hard to follow, I’m very detailed oriented so I lose my concentration if timelines don’t match. I had to read and reread to see if I even understood what was going on.

 

The main character also contradicts himself, sometimes in the same page:

“I know I’m totally single, but still”

“I basically have a boyfriend at this point”

Which is it?

 

They also declare that they are a couple in a few different places, while turning around and saying they’re NOT a couple. Still not sure which is it:

First:

“Because I think I want to be official.” He smiles. “I thought we already kind of were?” “Let’s not label it, actually,” I finally say. “This is beyond some cheesy ‘dating’ thing. You’re just my dude. Let’s keep it at that.”

But then a little bit farther down:

“You were right – I don’t have that much of a right to be mad at you. We weren’t really officially together…”

But later on:

“You mean…be together? I want to.”

And then:

“Can we be together now?” he asks. “For real, this time?”

There were a few more of those inconsistencies throughout the book. Also a few other mistakes like the characters calling each other the wrong name. Ty calling Henry Ty for example (location 2486) or Caroline calling Henry Ty (location 2757), here I actually though Caroline was talking about Ty, and I had to read it a few times to understand it was a typo.

 

Another issue I had, perhaps the biggest one, was the constant comparisons between being straight and gay, the constant straight and women bashing and the constant gay stereotypes. All of which actually defied the purpose of the book and in my opinion devaluated the message of the book that all people are created equally and that sexuality is a fluid concept.

 

Here’s a few examples that made me roll my eyes or just plain made me mad:

On the topic of drinking:

“Let’s take a shot,” I say out of nowhere. My head is spinning and my stomach is burning and I really just need something to calm myself before I faint. He nods, smiling, and I get a bottle of whiskey. “Wait, what is that?” “The Glenlivet. What’s wrong?” He scrunches up his face. “That, my dude, is what we call ‘straight guy booze.’ We definitely don’t take shots of that at Club One.” “Club One?” “The gay bar.” “Oh. Of course. Um…let me check my mom’s cabinet.” I search around and finally find some Fireball from an old party, the whiskey that tastes like candy.

Um ok, so I guess gay guys only drink fruity drinks…

 

Girl/ straight bashing and ridiculous comparisons and stereotypes:

“Girls were always bitching when I tried to get too sexual with them, anyway, and so this talk is refreshing to me. What if I could date someone and fuck them all the time?”

“The texture is different from a girl, too, and grainier somehow. It is a hundred times better, though, and I am mesmerized.”

“But dating girls wasn’t much different from this. The affection feels the same. If anything, they were just more possessive and dramatic.”

“That weekend my “gay lessons” really kick in. I have no idea how I’m going to learn, as before this I was a khaki-wearing straight dude who thought watching SNL was pretty metrosexual of me, but I’m game nonetheless. First we go to the Savannah Outlets, a huge shopping complex on the highway. (More new sex positions like the 69 and the reverse cowboy have thankfully been involved in the lessons, too, but that’s another story.) When I ask him why we have to go shopping, he glances at my outfit with a slight cringe, and that tells me everything I need to know. Then he tells me that according to That weekend my “gay lessons” really kick in. I have no idea how I’m going to learn, as before this I was a khaki-wearing straight dude who thought watching SNL was pretty metrosexual of me, but I’m game nonetheless. First we go to the Savannah Outlets, a huge shopping complex on the highway. (More new sex positions like the 69 and the reverse cowboy have thankfully been involved in the lessons, too, but that’s another story.) When I ask him why we have to go shopping, he glances at my outfit with a slight cringe, and that tells me everything I need to know. Then he tells me that according to his friends, I dress “like a straight guy.” “What’s the problem with that?” I ask him. “Well, nothing, except for the fact that straight guys have no taste.”

What the what? This is just plain wrong! Why does he needs “gay lessons”? Why does he have to change? And um, since when is 69 exclusive to gays? My husband totally disagrees with this.

 

I also start learning new “gay words”

“…even drop into a gay engagement party. It’s way more fun than any straight party I’ve been to…”

“he personalizes with his bedazzling gun”

“I skip my class and decide to do something that came to me last night, during the hatred-fest: I want to get a little gayer. I don’t want to look in the mirror and see someone who looks like Shepard anymore, so I head back to that outlet mall from before. This time I dive in headfirst, though, and get a leather jacket, some tighter pants, and some shirts that are in size small instead of medium or large. Before I would have associated the act of caring about style as feminine, but now I know the truth – you can be whatever you want to be, and I want to look hot. I don’t want to dress like a boring old accountant simply because of the fear that I’ll look “gay” anymore. And by the way, what’s wrong with gays? Nothing at all.”

No Henry, there’s nothing wrong with being gay. There’s also nothing wrong with dressing up the way you want to!!!! You can be gay and wear khakis FFS.

 

“Hey,” he says. “Your gay lessons are officially over. Look at you – your hair is better, your clothes are perfect, even your skin is better. You’re so different already.”

“Near us is a table of jock-ish dudes with numerous mimosa jugs spread about, and as we sit there I hear one of them shout “yassss,” a common gay term used by all Ty’s gay friends all the time. “Typical bro culture,” Ty sighs. “Stealing our words and giving us none of the credit.”

 

On tv shows:

I realize I still have a few “straight” impulses I’ve retained from having so many buddies over before – I grab a beer and put on SportsCenter, but soon I glance over and realize who I’m with. Oops. Ty’s my lover, not my bro, so I fumble with the remote and find the Bravo network. “Yes!” he calls. “Keep it here! There’s a dinner party fight in this episode that I’ve been waiting months to see.” I wrap myself up in him and watch the Housewives do their thing. The women get drunker and more hysterical as the dinner goes on, and soon one of them tosses a glass of Pinot Grigio into another’s face. At first I think it’s kind of dull, but eventually I’m on the edge of my seat. When the episode ends, I grab him by the leg. “How was your first gay show?”

Ugh, Are you serious with this? This one just made me plain mad. I know all sorts of gays, all sorts, this is just plain ridiculous. My cousin (who is a guy) and his husband are huge jocks, they actually travel from PR to Miami just to see NBA basketball games. They would always rather watch ESPN, there’s no argument there. They’re gay as they come, and they’ve never watched the Housewives FFS! When I read this, I actually had to stop. I have many gay friends that love sports, this is just ridiculous.

 

On movies:

The next free day we have, he takes me to a movie theater in the artsier part of town to watch what he calls a “movie for the gays.” Honestly, it’s not bad. Then we stop by what he calls a “gay housewarming party,”

 

Also, the purple prose is very strong with this one:

“So he felt the magic, too. Somehow this makes me feel warm and toasty inside.”

“His body is like a carnival, with all of the lights turned on at full brightness.”

“He is a big bubbling fountain of love, and nothing he ever says is caustic or hateful.”

“He is inside me, he is splashed all over the walls like Technicolor vomit, he is painting the inside of my skull like a demented watercolorist.”

“He makes my heart explode with joy again and again in an endless love-supernova, and I can’t let that go.”

“Ty Stanton was my awakening, my saving grace. He was my hallelujah.”

 

However, even though he was always confessing his magical love in his head, Henry was so wishy-washy and such a coward, up till the very end of the book. Well, actually the book suddenly ends so I guess we have to assume he finally decided to confess his undying love (although even at the end he was wavering and even considered picking up some random dude at a bar!!!). He’s by far one of the worst characters I’ve ever read.

 

Overall, I totally understood the message, love everyone, be kind to everyone, being gay in this world is extremely hard, coming out is hard, living as a gay person in the south is hard, homophobia is real, sexuality is fluid. Like I said before, mad props to the author for being a great advocate for this cause. But the book itself, it just didn’t work for ME. I found too many problems in the delivery that just turned me off to the book in the worst possible way and so I do not really recommend, unfortunately.

two-stars

About Seth King

Seth King is a twenty-five-year-old American author. He enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with his family.

Leave a Reply