Book: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Arthur A. Levine Books, On Sale Now
Book Info: YA Contemporary, Review copy provided by the publisher, Available in HC 336 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Openly Straight is a witty and thought-provoking read about identity and the labels that define us. Can you hide an important part of yourself from the world and still be you?
Rafe Goldberg is a high school junior and unapologetically gay. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his supportive, slightly embarrassing parents (Think the parents in Easy A). He came out to his parents when he was in 8th grade, and they took it really well, even throwing a Coming Out party for him complete with balloons and party hats (The party hats said Yay! Rafe is Gay!). He was not bullied at school, and in fact gave talks to other schools about his overall positive experiences. But, he feels like the fact that he’s gay is all people notice about him. He sees himself as more than a gay advocate; he’s into soccer and writing but thinks the gay label is what stands out.
Rafe gets the idea to start over at a new school out of the area. He goes to an all-boys boarding school in Massachusetts. Right away he’s part of the athlete clique at school and loves that they think of him as a jock. Rafe decides that he’s going to keep his sexuality under wraps, and enjoy this new anonymity. One of his teachers, and faculty advisor of the GSA, is in on the secret, though, and encourages Rafe to journal about the experience as a writing exercise.
Things get complicated in Rafe’s social experiment when he falls for his teammate Ben. Ben is smart, sensitive, articulate, and totally dreamy, but he’s straight. Or is he? Their friendship transcends labels, but is it all a lie if Rafe can’t tell Ben the truth?
I really savored this book and loved reading about Rafe’s experiences. Rafe is such an endearing character, and I also really fell for Ben. Their friendship is just too sweet. And yay for Rafe’s wonderfully supportive parents! Even though they and his best friend from Boulder aren’t on board with the going back into the closet plan, they do their best to support him.
This book gave me a lot to think about regarding identity and labels, and it was just so funny and refreshing too. I’m a new fan of Bill Konigsberg, and hope he revisits these characters in a follow-up book.
Openly Straight is an awesome read for LGBT Pride Month (and especially this week with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA). To celebrate Pride Month in fact, 4 gay authors, including Konigsberg, recently went on an Openly YA tour in the Northeast to talk about their latest books.
I think Openly Straight is a must for high school libraries, and anyone who struggles with their own label, whether they are gay or straight, will identify with Rafe.