Book review: Just By Looking At Him

Ryan O’Connell who is the creator, writer and star of Netflix’s Special (an absolutely hilarious series I recommend watching) has published an equally candid and funny novel based on his life experiences as an out gay man living with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and working in Hollywood.

Just By Looking At Him is about falling in and out of love, seeking acceptance, how complicated relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) can be, and coming to terms with loving yourself. Not exactly, new territory, but O’Connell’s experience as a gay man living with CP adds a twist to this tale, and it provides a glimpse into his world and how the world sees him.

The novel is for everyone, but as a gay man, I found it impossible to put down. Frank stories about gay men and their relationships are rarely this entertaining. The book’s opening paragraph reads, “My boyfriend Gus has a beautiful penis. It’s big and thick without being too big or too thick. It has the right number of pulsating veins when hard (the correct number is two). It’s not crooked or bent. It’s not purple or pink. It’s sun-dappled olive.” O’Connell talks about gay sex and gay relationships so matter of factly and always with a sense of humor calling out his own prejudices even as he rails against what he might refer to as an able-bodied bias.

There are some really beautiful insights in this book as well. One of my favorite lines is when he writes, “But the ultimate irony of being insecure is that you’re consumed with your least favorite subject: yourself.” It’s this balance between humor and heart that makes this book a real winner. I loved it from start to finish. If you’re looking for a book that isn’t just fluff and will make you smile (and sometimes laugh out loud), definitely pick up this book.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links. You’ll be able to order the book in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for Just By Looking At Him.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay


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