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?
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!