Friday, June 5, 2009

Out of the Pocket Review

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Thanks President Obama! I still have to come out to my friends about this YA book stuff. But until then, I have plenty of reading. One reason I enjoy GLBT YA fic so much is because you can find a lot of sensitive, intelligent male protagonists there and I love books about boys. This month we should all make an effort to expand our minds into GLBT fiction because, gay or straight, all the feelings are the same. Plus, why do we even need the subcategory? The hell with it, let's just read good books. We'll work on that. Onto my review.

Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg


The title Out of the Pocket is perfect once you know what a pocket is. I know next to nothing about football because I only watch it when the Steelers are about to win the Superbowl. When the quarterback pocket concept was explained to me I thought, wow, that title is great.

Bobby Framingham is one of the best high school quarterbacks in California and coming into his senior year he's anxious to show those college scouts just what he's all about. But there's something else that he's not sure if he should share. Bobby knows he's gay and lately it's been eating at him more and more. When Bobby finally decides to come out to his best friend he sets off a chain of events that change his game, his future and maybe even much more than that...

The best word I can use to describe this book is surprising. I was surprised by how much I liked the main character, Bobby. He was at times confident but clueless, talented yet stifled, cool guy in school then terribly awkward. I was surprised at what happens in this book. Awful things happens and then many wonderful things as well. I was surprised at the amount of laughter in this book. It was like Robin Williams showed up and was like, laughter is the best medicine. I was laughing, the characters were laughing. I was surprised at the innocence of the story. Bobby knows he's gay yet he hasn't done anything with a guy or a girl. I really liked that. There are around three kisses described in the story and most of them are disasters. That's as far as the sex goes. Even Bobby's fantasies were PG. Hardly any swearing that I can remember. Most of all, I was surprised by all the good things that happened. In a book with a plot where things could go south for Bobby really quickly there was always a bright side, suggesting that maybe people aren't as bad as we imagine. At first I was thinking, is this too idealistic? Or am I just too critical?

Bobby is an all-around nice guy who is committed to his team, his sport and has a soft spot for the stray puppy misfits of his high school. It was great to see him on the field, struggling and triumphing. Even though Bobby is a very good quarterback he still has to work on his game, which is nice to hear. He's definitely not perfect. One of Bobby's flaws is maybe he's a little too trusting or talks too much. Still, why should he be quiet about who he is? Bobby is an honest guy and I think he just expected others to be just as honest as he is. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Through everything Bobby stays true to himself, which is a powerful thing. He takes the good advice that others give him and really internalizes it and puts it into action. It was great, being in Bobby's head. I could really feel him on the page, all his doubts, fears, frustrations, sadness, joy, victory, powerful emotions. There are many moments in the story where I identified with Bobby's uncertainties about the future and thought, yes, that's exactly what it's like.

I said before that I only really like to read sports books about basketball but I opened my heart to football, especially since this wasn't strictly a sports book. The book has a fair amount of football action. I found most of it easy to follow although I am still unclear what a "tier" is but I think it's the equivalent a basketball play. Oh yeah, that's also why they invented Google. Well, I'm lazy so I just read on. What made the football action easy to read is that it was all connected to what Bobby was thinking and feeling so it wasn't a detached play-by-play of the game. In fact, I don't think any game was described in excruciating detail. I paid close attention to what was included and what wasn't. I was also interested in reading how Konigsberg handled writing about a football team which I imagine has a lot of players. He kept most of the focus on a few seniors, friends and not-so-friends of Bobby, along with everyone's sidekick Rocky, the sophomore kicker. Still, there was a real sense of chaos and bodies in the locker room when the whole team was around even when only a few people were actually talking.

The real focus of this novel was not only coming out but relationships. There was Bobby's relationship with his best friends, with his team, with his coach, with sports reporters, with one reporter in particular and his parents. I thought each of these relationships were skillfully portrayed and I especially enjoyed seeing how close Bobby was to his mom and dad. Bobby and his dad shared some particularly heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. The secondary characters were all well-written and distinctive. I especially enjoyed Carrie because she was totally weird and funny. I felt just as amused by her as Bobby was. Rahim and Austin were great friends in very different ways. Also, the scenes with the sports reporters felt very real to me, probably influenced by Konigsberg's background as a sports reporter. However, I was always wondering why they didn't give Bobby some kind of media training or why they let him talk to the reporters all by himself.

Like I said, I was surprised by all the laughter in the novel. Really, there is a lot of humor in the dialogue and often laughter is used in the story to break up a tense situation. The book is definitely not as dark as it could be which is refreshing because hope is a powerful thing. I enjoyed reading about it.

One of my fave parts: "I closed my eyes and let the water pour over my back, wishing I knew what to say to defuse the tension. I really wasn't interested in ogling my teammates naked, thanks very much. I'd been to a summer retreat with these guys, where everyone acted gross for a week and there were no doors on the toilets. I felt no lust for my teammates. I just wanted to win a damn football game."

No doors on the toilet? That doesn't sound like a retreat, that sounds traumatizing.

There are still many questions about Bobby's future when the book ends. Personally, I would love a sequel to see the long-term impact of Bobby's decision and also to spend some more time with Bobby! Still, I felt very satisfied, especially after Bobby takes his revenge.

As Paula Abdul would say, this book is a TOUCHDOWN! Go check it out. I think you'll be as pleased with it as I am. Highly recommended.

PS- Along with learning what a pocket is, I learned about and there's a baseball player named Sandy Koufax and apparently he's kind of a big deal.


  1. Out of Pocket is a great title for this book. For me there didn't seem to be enough story. I know Bobby was struggling to come out while being the star QB, but I would have loved to see more stories develop besides that one. Though I did like Bobby's relationship with his boyfriend.

  2. Sounds amazing. I've been hearing good things about this one, so I hope to read it soon. I really love GLBT books as well and yay for this month. It's great!