William is fine with being just friends for the rest of forever.
Well, not quite.
Not Quite Out by Louise Willingham is a slow-burn contemporary romance with tangible, idiosyncratic characters and messy, complex relationships that tackles real-world issues and questions the norms we have established around our culture of coming out. It’s a sophisticated and complicated novel with characters that are not always likeable and situations that have an uncomfortable resonance, but speaks to our potential to form relationships that traverse the chasms that split between us.
William isn’t straight, but a quiet nervousness and need for privacy makes the words ‘I’m bisexual’ feel like a proclamation of intent, where he’d rather simply finish his coursework.
When he meets Daniel, he’s charmed by his facade but falls for the man beneath. Dan has demons of his own, ones that make Will realize the inherent unimportance of his own internal struggle. But as their friendship blooms, it becomes more and more apparent that the closet Will has made his home is bursting at the seams.
Be very aware of the trigger warnings in this book. The author is very open about the triggers, and they are made available on the description page before purchase. As always, I also have listed the triggers I spotted at the end of this review, so please check before picking up this book that there isn’t a trigger that can cause you an issue.
If you’re looking for an easy, fluffy, feel-good read this is not the book for you. This is categorized as contemporary romance, but it goes much deeper than a book simply about the development of a romantic relationship. It doesn’t fit into a box as cleanly, which I always find refreshing.
If you’re someone who yearns to read books that make you think deeper about our actions and how we form and keep relationships, this is well worth a look. There are real-world issues and messy relationships throughout the novel, and the characters make significant missteps that make them often unlikeable. Yet, that is what I loved about the book. It was real.
I would even go so far as to say if you’re a fan of literary fiction and are thinking of dipping your toes into genre fiction, this could be a place to start. This feels like a contemporary romance and literary fiction hybrid in some ways. It doesn’t have the lyrically heavy prose of some literary fiction, but it does focus on complex themes and messages.
What I Liked
The writing flows and carries the reader along with it, the prose quirky but easy to read. I enjoyed the first-person point of view, giving us up-close and personal insights into Will’s intentions and thought processes. I don’t think the book would have worked as well in third-person; it felt necessary with Will’s anxiety for us to get the reasoning and thoughts behind some of his actions and choices.
I should note, one of the most interesting perspectives that Willingham brings up in this novel is about the need for those around us to be knowledgeable to the point of intrusiveness about aspects of our lives. There’s an undercurrent of the theme of letting people come to their own understandings and share in their own time, or not at all, which is definitely a stance that I haven’t seen much in modern fiction. I think Willingham is trying to say that in our need to tell others that they can share anything with us, we often imply we need to share everything, which is a very different meaning.
The characters in Not Quite Out are flawed, which I think is what makes them believable. William, our protagonist, is young, naive, anxious, wants to help to a sometimes unhealthy degree, and is still coming to terms that he’s not entirely straight. The relationships he forms are not perfect, and often devolve into disasters that he then has to work through re-building. Sounds a lot like real life, doesn’t it?
PTSD, Drug Abuse, Domestic Violence, Abortion, Self-Harm
(Not Quite Out is a novel with a lot to say, and I was excited to be sent an ARC in exchange for an honest review.)