Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg
“Someone has to change the world. Why not you?”—Guidance Counselor Dr. Blassingame to high school student & star quarterback Bobby Framingham.
Out of the Pocket has been on my reading list for a couple months now. I met Bill Konigsberg on Facebook earlier this year. We connected in March because he’d caught some of this blog and knew that I was an aspiring writer and was also into sports (Konigsberg is an award winning sportswriter… and now an award winning novelist since this book recently won the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Childrens/Young Adult Novel). Finally I’ve read the book and can see why it’s received so much acclaim.
Bobby Framingham knows he’s gay but he doesn’t if he should come out or not. He’s a star quarterback and is looking to be heavily recruited by colleges. Coming out would wreck everything. Or would it? Once his story is leaked by an unscrupulous writer for his school’s newspaper, Bobby’s world is rocked. What about the team? How will his friends handle it? His parents? Will colleges still want him? Can he turn pro and be gay? Can he change the world with his story?
Okay… not all of these questions are answered in the book. But you know there are kids across the country who ask themselves these questions as they weigh whether or not to come out. Konigsberg’s captured the ups and downs of this so well that I imagine this book helping teens search for their own answers. In one chapter Bobby is confident and in control, but in another self doubt creeps and he’s totally thrown off his game. It’s teenage life amped up because of the spotlight thrown on Bobby.
This book works so well because Bobby’s voice is loud and clear. From page one you know who this guy is and you can’t help but root for him. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but this guy goes through a lot more than just coming out during his senior year of football.
I will share one of my favorite moments since it doesn’t give anything away. It’s at the end of the book after the championship game is played. A reporter asks Bobby, “So how was it, being openly gay and quarterbacking a team to the championship game?” Bobby’s response: “I don’t know. Sort of like being an openly straight quarterback, but with a lot more media attention.” Smart answer. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world at large could see that the differences between gay and straight are so minimal?
How accurate is Out of the Pocket to a real life experience? On Konigsberg’s blog a couple weeks ago he interviewed Brian Sims, an openly gay college football player back in 2000, about how the events in the book related to his experience. It’s an insightful interview you should check out.
I’ve read two YA books this year so far (the other is Martin Wilson’s What They Always Tell Us) and they’ve both been outstanding and inspirational. There are many comparisons I can make between Out of the Pocket and the story I’m working to tell with Neutral Zone. Now that I’m in a place where I can make another pass on editing my own book, it was exactly the right time to get a shot of inspiration to keep driving forward.
Up next: Straight Lies by Rob Byrnes