Book Review - Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner with Carlyn Greenwald
What does feel original is Time Out focuses on a basketball star. A decidedly macho kind of character. But since Heartstoppers, it's hard to say this is new ground. Barclay Elliot overcomes adversity. He's the object of affection for much of this small town, and then that's kind of it. There are some elements that are introduced to keep the adventure exciting: a potential love interest, school board corruption and a negligent mother all give the story some depth. But Barclay Elliot is a surprisingly one dimensional character.
It doesn't help that surrounding cast is chock full of stock characters. The homophobic characters are so caricturally homophobic. This is a story that lacks subtlety on any level. The homophobia is immediate and strong, and it never relents. While no doubt this kind of homophobia is present in the real world, it lacks the nuance other novelists handle with such care. There's no sense that this is a gay teen with a phone who would see microaggressive homophobic behavior at every corner of his life. It's either "we want to murder you for who you are" or "we love you for who you are no matter what!" It's just so polarized.
But it doesn't mean Time Out isn't fun. Even though it hits every predictable beat you could imagine, the writing is easy and fun enough that you keep on going. A few key characters elevate the text including his brother, his best friend and his love interest. These characters feel fully formed. They evaluate and speak in ways that feel true. While I wish there was more of this, there's enough moments that the story never feels boring or tired. There's also something to be said for the world of predictability. This book sets out to hit every singly predictable note, and it never misses a chance to miss one. Every note is solved quickly, and you know exactly where the story will end up 10 pages in, but you're no worse for the wear.
Will I remember Barclay Eliot and Time Out? Oddly enough, I think so. In the way predictable 90s movies stick around longer than they should, you will no doubt congeal this book (and this character) with many other similar archetypes. That is to say, this is good enough. More than likely though, you've read this story before. So if you're looking to turn your brain off this pride month and read something that gives you that "good feeling" - maybe (just maybe) Time Out is worth your time; otherwise, there are too many other LGBTQ+ books that do this on a much stronger level.
Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner with Carlyn Greenwald
Release date: May 30, 2023