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Absolutely, Positively, NOT, by David LaRochelle

March 29, 2013

Bibliographic Information (APA): LaRochelle, David. (2005). Absolutely, Positively NOT. Arthur A. Levine Books: USA.

Category: LGBTQ Fiction

Subcategories: Award-winning & Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Summary: When you’re a ‘manly’ man, you buy Playboy Magazines, date lots of girls, and get tattoos of busty women, right? At least that’s what Steven keeps telling himself in a furious effort to deny that he is actually gay. Even though Steven fantasizes about his favorite teacher, Mr. Bowman. And he notices good-looking boys. And he likes square dancing. And he had no actual real interest in girls. But still, Steven is absolutely, positively sure he is not gay!

16-year old Steven DeNarski is just your average, angst-filled teen, with one difference. He is trying to make himself not gay, while also trying to make sure no one finds out his terrible secret in the meantime. What follows all his failed efforts to convince himself he is not gay, is Steven’s roller coaster ride of discovery, and the eventual epiphany that self-acceptance can be one of the most freeing things you will experience in a whole lifetime. Funny, sad, and empathetic, Absolutely, Positively NOT will speak to any teen that has (or is having) a hard time accepting who or what they are.

Book Talking Hooks: Steven is a really, really nice person. One of the better things about his character is that even as he is struggling with a deeply personal issue, he is not unkind to other people and he does not take his frustration out on them. We could all, at some point or another in our lives take a lesson from that, but it is also a device in this book that creates sympathy or even empathy in the reader for Steven (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 41, & 49).

Absolutely, Positively, NOT is really funny in the right places (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 37, 73, 116, 122, & 139). On the very first page, the reader is entertained by Steven’s observation that square dancers’ flannel plaid shirts and goofy shoes make them look like escapees from clown school (Larochelle, 2005, p.1). This immediately amusing observation wins over the reader that wants to hear what Steven thinks of next. Whenever a situation in the novel can be taken too seriously, the sudden interjections of humor keeps things light and breaks the tension.

Steven’s solutions to problems can also be really creative, if a little improvised. When Steven makes up a fake girl he has a date with to pacify his mother, but then she wants to meet his date. Steven’s solution is ingenious and funny, if a little unorthodox (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 135, & 148).

Steven’s initial efforts to justify his behavior to himself, and to overcompensate for his feelings toward other men is comic relief and a little sad at the same time. Apparently, manly men get tattoos of busty women in bikinis, so Steven thinks he should get one of those too, and read Playboy magazines! (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 12, & p. 17). The reader sees him so desperately trying to justify himself and his feelings that it is humorous, but also sad in that Steven puts so much nervous energy in denying who he truly is and no one should have to live like that (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 17, 45, & 113). It is almost a relief when Steven finally admits it to himself and other people that he is gay, and it changes the slightly burdened feeling an empathetic reader might feel for Steven.

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. I really liked this book because of the positive message of the content. Steven is really brave. Steven does not give up. Steven is eventually willing to be different in order to really be who he is inside, and that is a really important message to broadcast to young readers, no matter what their orientation may be.

Steven is strong enough, and curious enough to keep looking for an answer, even when his first attempts at a solution do not pan out (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 25, 64, 67, 105, 173, & 189). Eventually, he comes to accept the one that feels the most right for him, even if it isn’t the one that he wanted to begin with. That takes real courage, and it is a really positive message to present to readers in their formative teen years.

Another really great thing about the content is the portrayal of Steven’s friends and his family. They may not be perfect, or had the best reaction when Steven told them he was gay, but eventually, really crucial people in his life stepped up, and helped and supported him (LaRochelle, 2005, p. 122, 132, 165, 171, 208, & 215). For all their weirdness, his support network is there for Steven when it matters. This emphasizes the importance of those people in a teens’ life who might initially appear marginal or peripheral to personal drama, but are in fact really important in their support during what can be a difficult time in a person’s life.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Absolutely, Positively NOT is issue oriented in its candid portrayal of a trying situation, and angst-filled, but it is also bittersweet, funny, emotional, and very inspirational. Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan, and Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez might also be good alternative reads for teens that are a fan of this book.

Reason for Inclusion: Generally, the review comments were positive. For example Kirkus Reviews, said that, “Gay teen angst has rarely been so funny. . . . this will entertain readers no matter which team they play for” (Arthur A. Levine Books, “Absolutely Positively NOT,” 2013).

Teen Reads also made a very perceptive comment about the subject of teen LGBTQ fiction. Treating the subject of coming out of the closet with humor can be seen as disrespectful to most people’s struggle, “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” (Teen Reads, “Review,” 2013), and I am inclined to agree with this insight.

In 2006, Absolutely, Positively Not also won the Sid Fleischman Humour Award as well being included in the Booklist Top Ten Novel by a New Author, and the ALA selected it for their Best Book for Young Adults list.

Suggested Audience: I would recommend Absolutely, Positively NOT to any young reader who enjoys a good laugh, but perhaps most especially to any young adult who have recently come out of the closet or are thinking about it. Teens aged 13 and up would enjoy this book.


Arthur A. Levine Books (2013). “Absolutely Positively Not.” Retrieved from

Good reads (2013). “Sid Fleischman Humor Award Winners.” Retrieved from

Teen Reads (2013). “Review” Retrieved from

Yalsa. (2013). “2006 Best Books for Young Adults with Annotations.” Retrieved from


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