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Absolutely, Positively Not...

Review

Absolutely, Positively Not...

Growing up gay is difficult. Period. And when you pick up nearly any teen novel that addresses this issue, you'll usually find a very realistic and often heartbreaking depiction of the traumas that go along with it: prejudice, discrimination, teasing and sometimes violence. Most works portray these trials with a careful blend of sensitivity and pathos but are occasionally encumbered with a sense of foreboding and caution.

It was so refreshing to pick up David LaRochelle's ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOT…and find a teen novel that looked at the clammy-skinned, throat-catching horrors of coming out but approached them with a sense of humor and fun. This is dangerous territory. Coming out and simply living life as a gay teen is not often a pleasant experience. Treating the topic with levity could be seen as belittling the problems these teens encounter on a day-to-day basis.

But LaRochelle's skillful approach to the tribulations faced by 16-year-old Steven DeNarski manages not only to deal with Steven's coming out in a respectful manner but also to capture the dread felt by anyone who has spent a second of time worrying what the world would think of them once they were out.

In the book, Steven begins by clearly asserting that he is absolutely, positively not gay. He is able to rationalize with great aplomb his attraction to men, his love of square dancing, and the fact that he's never shown an interest in girls. But when he begins to question his own excuses, Steven launches into a hilarious series of events in an effort to assert his heterosexuality. But everything intended to bring what he believes to be his "latent" attraction to girls to the forefront --- a dismal attempt to bond with the overly-manly hockey team, a series of dates with as many girls as he can round up --- ends in complete failure. When he invents a girlfriend named Kelly to take to a school dance in order to throw his mother off the scent (he ends up taking his best friend's golden retriever named Kelly as a "statement"), he is forced to at last confront the fact that he is gay.

LaRochelle's deft humor and characterization of Steven is what really makes this book special. Although Steven occasionally borders on almost-unbelievably-naïve for a 16-year-old, you never lose your sympathy for what he's going through. The book is peppered with quirky supporting characters (like Steven's mother, who writes popular books on how to be clean and tidy; meanwhile her house is a mess) who offer both obstacles and, ultimately, unconditional support for Steven. There is enough left unresolved at the end to leave one hoping for a follow-up novel in the near future.

ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOT… will please readers, gay and straight, with its sharp wit, flowing story, and endearing take on a difficult subject.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on July 1, 2005

Absolutely, Positively Not...
by David LaRochelle

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0439591090
  • ISBN-13: 9780439591096