Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 11 hours, 1 minute
High school can be hard enough, but moving in your senior year can be cruel and unusual punishment. But that’s the position Andrew finds himself in as his family moves from New Mexico to Illinois as he starts his last year of high school. However, Andrew is actually looking forward to a new school and accepting who he is, meeting new people, and making new friends. And, Andrew already has his eye on his gorgeous neighbor, Carter.
Andrew and Carter become the best of friends, but Andrew wants everything from Carter. Carter is a great guy and cares for Andrew, but he can’t force something that isn’t there and while Carter may be the love of Andrew’s life and wants the best for Andrew, Carter has a crush on a girl.
But on that first day of school, Andrew has a scary encounter with class bully, Bobby, who will forever change Andrew’s world and those he holds closest.
The blurb for Straight Boy delivers only one side to this story. Sure, it is about Andrew and his crush on Carter, but then it becomes a lot more. To start off with, there is Andrew as he is about to start his senior year of high school in a new school. He is confident and embraces who he is, but his first day also draws unwanted and homophobic attention.
The first part of the book focuses on the friendship and developing relationship between Andrew and Carter. They are both good guys trying to get through high school. Carter is also new to the area and his story plays out alongside his friendship to Andrew. Bell was able to capture all of the high school drama of Andrew’s crush and then him not knowing if Carter is interested in being with a guy. Bell also excels at single point of view as the story is told through Andrew’s eyes, yet all of the other characters, even minor ones, have a strong presence and we get to know them as well. But Andrew remains the focus and you will absolutely want him to find happiness and also a way out as life takes a dangerous turn.
The tone and feel of the book changes during the course of the story as Bobby becomes a bigger presence in Andrew’s life. Bobby, while being a secondary character, has an incredibly large presence as so much of what the characters go through is due to his actions. While the book is about Andrew finding out if he and Carter are a romantic match, I would not classify this book as a romance. The story takes on a heavy dramatic tone into teenage dark drama territory as it goes on, where bullying escalates way past what Andrew and his friends are equipped to handle and it is certainly not a light, carefree high school coming of age story. As the tone changes, so will your reaction to the story and the characters as they are forced to handle situations that a person of any age would find challenging.
The ending and the epilogue were where the story fell a little short for me. The epilogue moves the story well into the future and there was too much left out for me to be able to fully make that leap with the characters. And, there were some details that were not fully explored and were left a little too open for my liking. I would up with some mixed feelings at the conclusion as the first part was so much about Andrew wanting to find love, but we don’t come fully back to it as life changes. While Andrew does fall in love, the details are omitted and I did wonder were Andrew’s heart truly lied at the end.
As you move along with Andrew during his last year of high school, Straight Boy offers lots of drama, tension, and heartache as Andrew tries to navigate a new high school, a bully who continually keeps him off balance, the deepest of crushes, and first love.
Kirt Graves is a narrator that I have begun to look for and will choose an audio simply for his narration alone. He was the perfect choice to narrate Straight Boy. He gave Andrew and Carter all of the emotion and depth that they needed and his voice worked to enrich each character. He set the tone for each scene and this book was definitely richer in an audio format with Graves crafting each character and situation. He was able to ramp up the escalating tension without going completely over the top and it was his narration that made the last few chapters impossible to turn off. If this book appeals to you, the audio version is highly recommended.