For anyone who’d surprised I’d read and review a book like this, read this post here first. You won’t be so surprised then.
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Out of all the books I never expected to read this year, a romance involving anthropomorphic animals and American football pretty well tops the list. Let’s not go into the story of how I found it, or what I was looking for at the time. Let’s to skip straight to the heart of the matter – this book was really, really good. The kind of good that broke me out of three months of barely feeling like I wanted to read anything at all.
Okay, I’ll state the obvious here: this book will mostly appeal to you if you’re a furry, you’re gay, you like sports, and you like your romance/erotica to have a lot more depth to it than just being about sex or the relationship between the two main characters. The last part is the important part, because even if you’re not a fur and wouldn’t usually look twice at something like this, you might find it’s worth a try anyway if you can tick some of the other boxes.
There’s the real strength of Out of Position – it’s more the characters and the conflict I’m left thinking about, rather than how I finally found a furry writer who can write as capably as a published ‘mainstream’ one (disclaimer, I’m sure there are many more, and I’ve never looked that hard before). The two main characters, Devlin (a tiger) and Wiley (or Lee as he’s usually called, a fox) have a depth to them that goes beyond the basic tropology (closeted jock, gay arts major who’s an activist) and the decision of Kyell Gold to write this book in the 1st person present gives it an immediacy that fits it perfectly (for the record, it’s a pet hate of mine to see authors constantly saying ‘Don’t use present tense because it doesn’t sell.’ This book’s another I’ve added to my ‘If you want to see it done well, read THAT’ list, and who cares if the ‘it doesn’t sell’ thing is true when it can add spice to a story like that!)
Here’s another knock-on plus mark for it: the use of two different first person narrators – another perfect choice, showing both sides of a complex relationship from all the right angles. The angles every conflict in this book get explored from are worthy of any good literary author, without ever straying into too much padding or boring routines. Even when it seems like not a lot is happening besides the daily slice of life, there’s always a feeling that something’s going to happen to the guys whose lives you’re immersed in, and it could be big.
The main antagonist in this book is a strong character in his own right – Brian, a skunk (very appropriate species choice) who gets beaten up by football players, then spends the rest of the book responding to it in a way that ironically made me as the reader want to punch him just as much. The different problems the main fox and tiger face are always compounded by him, delivering exactly the kind of tension a good antagonist should.
I’ve never taken a huge interest in American football despite having an American parent who used to watch the games on TV when I was a kid, and several visits to the USA, but I feel like this book rekindled an interest I sort of had but never really got into. The descriptions of football games and the exposition style explanations are almost as engaging as the story itself. The way different animal species are used in this book for different positions is a masterstroke, and will definitely please the reader who has their own amusing thoughts about what the world might be like if this kind of anthro human-animal cross existed.
There are some brilliant, profound one-liners in this book, peppering a narrative that rolls along at an ideal pace for a slice-of-life story. The only real weakness is that it’s rather obvious what’s eventually going to happen, despite the clever set-up, but this is only a small criticism because the predictability doesn’t make it any less impactful when it does. Even though the relationships in this story involve as much fighting, arguing, depression and problems as they do love and sex, what eventually pulls into focus is that it’s a powerful reminder about being who you are, and that the world might throw all the wrong things at you because of it, the people who will see you right are worth it. It’s a pleasing book and a provocative one all at once, and done in a niche genre which suits it perfectly.