Seventeen-year-old Max has always been out, proud and just a little spoiled. Frustrated by the lack of romantic options in his small-town high school, during an argument with his lifelong best friend Dean, Max lashes out and says he wishes he had never been born gay.
Max gets more than he bargained for when he wakes up to find his wish has come true – not only have his feelings for boys vanished, but so has Dean.
With his school life turned upside down and his relationship with his family in tatters, Max sets out on a journey of rediscovery to find a way back to the life he took for granted, and the romance he thought he’d never have.
Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true! In Straight Expectations, the debut novel from YouTuber, blogger, and online radio presenter Calum McSwiggan, seventeen-year-old Max ends up learning the truth of this old adage the hard way.
After being left on read by Oliver, the boy of his dreams, Max says he wishes he had never been born gay. But he gets more than he bargained for when he wakes up the following morning with a considerably less exciting wardrobe and a room filled with posters of scantily-clad ladies. More importantly, his lifelong best friend Dean seems to have completely vanished from their school, boy-of-his-dreams Oliver is just another teammate, and Max finds himself eyeing up his friend Alicia in a distinctly ‘more-than-just-good-friends’ way.
Yet the more he gets to know ‘Straight Max’, the more that Max realises that there are more than a few similarities between his former self and this new identity. And as he finds out more about the world of ‘Straight Max’ – and why Dean isn’t in it – he finds himself questioning his own privilege and learning that, whilst being out and proud is an important part of being Max, maybe it isn’t everything.
Straight Expectations is a cute and fun read that has a decent level of depth underneath the apparently light surface. Max’s voice comes across really well on the page which allowed me to sympathise with him and understand his perspective, even when he was acting like an obnoxious teenager! His friendship with Dean is absolutely delightful and I loved that, even though the book has a romance element, the core of the story is centred around friendship and self-discovery (although the romance, when it does happen, is very cute too and handled with just the right levels of teenage angst and giddiness).
There were one or two moments when some of the characters slip into stereotypes but, for the most part, the book plays with expectations in interesting ways, especially once Max has entered the parallel world of ‘Straight Max’. I also really enjoyed the way that Max – who starts the novel very aware of other people’s privileges and bias (and unafraid of calling them out on it) – becomes gradually aware that he still has his own privileges and assumptions.
Overall, Straight Expectations is a fun and heart-warming read that, although unafraid of tackling more serious issues, remains light-hearted and sweet throughout. This is one of those novels that would make a fantastic film or TV series because it’s really easy to picture the characters – they leap off the page – and ‘see’ the action as you read. Offering both heart and humour, Straight Expectations is an enjoyable and uplifting YA read with thought-provoking and informative undertones.
Straight Expectations by Calum McSwiggan is published by Penguin and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 15 May 2023 so check out @The_WriteReads or follow the hashtags #TheWriteReads #UltimateBlogTour #StraightExpectations for more reviews and content!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
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