Review: Straight by Seth King

Straight by Seth KingRating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Henry Morgan has always considered himself to be a card-carrying heterosexual who not only plays football, but also loves having sex with girls. That is until the day Ty Stanton sits next to him on a bus ride. Henry experiences a butterfly-inducing electric attraction that confuses him. After all, Ty is openly gay, comfortable in his own skin, friendly, and an artist — everything Henry isn’t. Yet, Henry is unable to let this man walk out of his life without knowing more about him and exploring this new tumult of emotions he is feeling.

Ty and Henry meet again and despite Henry’s insistence that he is straight, the two young men are soon involved in a relationship that becomes important to them both. As Henry receives his “gay education” from Ty — emotionally, sexually and culturally — he examines his own identity and the life he has always lived. The question is will this be enough for Henry to admit his relationship with Ty in public, or will he lose the guy for whom he is falling?
challenge month 2017 copy

I have been a fan of Seth King’s since I read his heartbreaking m/f romance, The Summer Remains. Straight has been waiting on my Kindle since its release in 2016, so it was an easy choice for the TBR Pile Week in Reading Challenge Month.

I wanted to love Straight, I really did, but if I am honest, there were several occasions when reading the novel that I would have been happy to leave it at a DNF and not cared if I knew the outcome of Henry and Ty’s relationship. Although I am by no means an anarchist, I have never been one to abide by the “normal” label. This means I could fully appreciate King’s strong message in Straight that “love does not exist between men and women. Love does not exist between blondes and brunettes. Love does not exist between Caucasian people and Asian people. Love exists between humans.” Henry spends a long time wondering which of society’s confined boxes he should fit into because of his sexuality; is he now gay, bisexual, or as Ty claims, just questioning?

Henry even turns to a chat room in an attempt to untangle his confused feelings for Ty. It is here that Henry finds the validation and support he needs to progress his relationship with Ty,

Society tells us that sexuality is a two-way street, straight or gay, pick one and move on. But, I think that’s wrong. I don’t even think sexual categories exist, really – it’s like the wind. When is the wind ever blowing exactly north, south, east or west? Whatever happens with you, good luck. But I think you should stop thinking and just follow the wind.

I think this realization that Henry is not alone in his discord is helpful, not just in the way that we understand him, but King reaches out to anyone reading Straight who has experienced similar emotions. For me, any novel which can reach out and touch a reader personally is a significant one.

However, I felt that the irony of Straight is that whilst King hammers home this message and tries to quash society’s stereotypes of LGBTQ categories, he strongly adheres to other generalizations and I found this infuriating. For example, during Henry’s “gay education,” Ty takes Henry clothes shopping because he looks “too straight.” Admittedly, I am heterosexual and I may be a little naive, but I have never seen any of my gay friends wear specific clothes that scream “Hey everyone, I like men!” Surely, this just insinuates that, in fact, homosexuals are placing themselves into their own box?

Henry’s ex-girlfriend, Caro, is the only female character in Straight. King’s portrayal of Caro is also exasperating! Caro and Henry have been best friends for years, but split up because she is desperate to get married. This is possibly an aim a lot of Southern women have, but I would have thought that the feminist movement had reached Savannah and in reality, the women who live there actually have higher ambitions. For me, this is King cementing another stereotype, which I felt detracts from the main message of Straight and in my opinion equality does not mean that one group is better than another.

Straight is obviously a book I have waited some time to read, but I thought King’s lack of consistency was a disappointment. I am positive there are some readers who will connect with Henry and Ty’s romance; I was just unfortunately not one of them.

This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from NineStar Press. Four lucky winners will each receive a $25 NineStar Press gift card. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on TBR Pile Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!

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Comments

  1. Aagh, there are SO MANY times the portrayal of the (token!) female friend is the fly in the ointment! I’m sorry, especially since I probably would have been drawn in by this blurb too…

  2. I’m glad to have read this review. I may still give Straight a try but I’ll go in with my awareness on the stereotypes. Good, strong female characters are often hard to find in MM, unless they are sassy grandmothers or similar “voices of experience”.

  3. Good review, Kirsty. It’s great to see a straight reviewer challenging some stereotypes and thinking critically about how the queer community is perceived and why.

  4. I remember reading a sample of this book last year; it must have been forgettable because I didn’t buy the book, nor did this review twig any memories. Something in the sample must have turned me off. I really like the out-for-you trope; questioning or curious guys who realize they’re not where they thought they were on the Kinsey scale. Some authors handle this trope really well – Sarina Bowen and Jay Northcote come to mind. But not this one.

  5. Bronwyn Heeley says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever waNeed to read this book, or, really, anything by King, I’m not really sure I can pinpoint why but there’s never been a moment where I threw my ‘no Amazon shopping’ out the window 😉 

  6. Thanks for your balanced review, Kirsty. I haven’t read anything by Seth King, and I’ll be passing on Straight; I definitely want to read The Summer Remains though!

  7. Thanks for your review, Kirsty. Sorry that it’s not as good as your other experience with this author.

  8. Even with authors we like, there are books that just aren’t our favorites.

  9. I haven’t heard of this author before, and reading the review, I’m unlikely to pick this one up.  I’m also really not in a “questioning” reads kind of mood, even though I’ve definitely loved stories where there’s someone discovering their sexuality because of a new person in their life. It just doesn’t hold much allure for me at the moment. I wish it’d been worth the wait for you.

  10. Seth King is a new to me author so i was looking forward to your review on this book because although i haven’t read this author yet this book was on my wish list. My concern after reading your review is that you didn’t care if you knew the outcome of Henry and Ty’s relationship. When reading a book i must care about at least one of the main characters if i don’t then that is almost always a DNF for me. So to be honest i’m a bit hesitant to keep this one on my tbr list.

  11. Really a bummer about the only female character being sort of a caricature in that way :( Thanks for the review!

  12. Well, I haven’t read this author yet and find this review surprising because I’ve only heard wonderful things about his books. But thanks for the honest review, I may read this in the future but at the moment, I have other titles in my tbr list.

  13. I haven’t read a book by this author yet but from the blurb it sounds like a an interesting read. I’m sorry to hear that it wasn’t so enjoyable for you. You brought up some very interesting pointers of why the story didn’t work for you and I’ll have to take it into consideration. As for stereotypes and generalization of people. There are all types of people out there and I have seen and known people who fall into the stereotype category. There are also females out there whose goal is to just get married and have children. It’s not a bad thing it’s just not something for everyone. But I do get how this can be disturbing when there’s only one female character in a book and she’s not depicted as a strong character.

  14. I haven’t read books by Seth King. I’m sorry you did not like it as much as his other book.

  15. It’s interesting that the reviews for this book are so polarized, either people loved it or hated it. Since it’s in in my TBR pile, I’ll just have to try it and make up my own mind.

  16. Purple Reader says:

    Thanks for the honest review. As I read it, I was intrigued b/c I’ve gone thru the, if you will, straight-to-gay, self exploration, coming out experience. So how would this author portray it? I also think life is full of contradictions, but it has to be believable within the context of the character and his/her psyche. Based on what I know of my experience, I’m not sure this one achieved that. 

  17. I have actually just finished reading this on my kindle, I love it. I am still partly in the closet but I loved this book. I was gripped by it within the first couple chapters, I didn’t want to put it down.

    I don’t know if this book is for everyone, but personally I loved it and would recommend it. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. I am sure I will read it again sometime down the line.

    • I am so glad this one worked well for you and it was a keeper! It is always nice to hear diverging opinions so thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Kirsty Bicknell says:

      I’m so glad that this book has worked for you Adam. Are you planning to read the sequel? The fact that I felt this way about Straight certainly won’t stop me reading any more of King’s books xxx

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