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With the launch of Not Quite Out by Louise Willingham looming, I managed to get my hands on a pre release copy and of course fell in love right away. The soft building romance between a young gay man and a boy coming to grips with his sexuality had me by page 20. For me, the gentle escalation of two young men, coming of age and discovering love always wins over a novel boasting an aggressive sex line, but it had me wondering… Where did Willingham’s ideas come from?
Every great author will tell you about books that help shape an idea or challenge what they could or couldn’t do with their own work, and it seems that truth is the same for Louise.
I asked a simple question. What books helped inspire Not Quite Out?
Willingham explains she started writing Not Quite Out about seven years ago and many books helped shape the idea and flavour, but a few really stood out for her.
Firstly, there’s Autoboyography by Christina Lauren. A coming-of-age novel about two boys who fall in love in a writing class one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community. I can understand why Willingham found this book inspiring. In fact, it’s probably inspired a hundred others to cast a story line that could capture the following footsteps of two boys at school drawn together while battling obstacles at every turn. Those soft and gentle moments you cling to and compare against every experience you’re yet to encounter.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Another coming of age between two young friends, both discovering the ever deepening bond they have for each other. A story with a darker theme. This journey of boys discovering the reality of the type of people they want to become. Without spoiling Not Quite Out, there is a stream of dark themes that run throughout the book that will resonate with every reader in some way, and if some how they don’t... you may just be grateful.
Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I think many of us know the twisted tail of not being ready to come out yet feeling forced to tell what may just be your biggest secret… your biggest fear! This book tells the story of a closeted young man being threatened by a school friend and the fears Simon experienced through that journey. When Simon’s secret does come out, there is anger with his friends on how it happened and the circumstances around it but not on the issue of his sexuality.
Although you may not have read Not Quite Out just yet, when you do, you’ll understand how these books have inspired Willingham and given her the freedom to push boundaries and challenge opening up about what difficulties so many people fear to open up about.