Thursday, July 18, 2013

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight* * * * *

A funny, honest novel about being out, being proud . . . and being ready for something else.

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.


I first heard about Openly Straight when David Levithan wished Bill Konigsberg a Happy Launch day and recommended it by saying,  ”If you are looking for a pride-month read that you can most definitely take pride in, look no further.”  I actually WAS looking for some Pride-month reads and since I will pretty much do anything David tells me to do, I hopped onto my library account to reserve it and found myself picking it up only a few days later.

Rafe is a teen that has everything going for him.  He’s active and smart.  He has parents that actively support and encourage him in everything.  His mom is the president of their local PFLAG chapter and through her encouragement and passion Rafe has become a spokesperson for the LGBTQ teen community.  But Rafe isn’t nearly as thrilled about that as some may think.  He’s tired of everyone identifying him as the gay kid.  He wants people to see the other parts of him.  So many people are so focused on the gay that they don’t see that the rest of what makes up Rafe.

Rafe’s solution is to attend a private all-boys school on the east coast.  His reasoning to friends and family is that he wants a better chance to get into an Ivy League school – which is partially true.  But the other and more important reason is that he wants to go to school with people that don’t know he is gay.  A place where he can make friends without anyone judging him.  A place where he can just be one of the guys.

At first everything is exactly as he wished.  But as his first semester progresses he finds that being just one of the guys by hiding an important part of himself may not be the easiest or truest thing he has ever done.

I read this book over a month ago and I am still trying to find a way to express my feelings.  Much like The Fault in Our Stars, it left me breathless and without words.  This story makes you laugh and makes you think.  It will make you realize that there is nothing more fulfilling than openly celebrating who we are.  It will teach those that haven’t learned it yet that no matter our mistakes life goes on, it does get better and we will survive.  And most importantly it will teach us that CELEBRATING is so much better than meager acceptance.  Yes, it was a wonderful Pride-month read but it is also so much more than that.  This is a story that EVERY teen and adult can relate to at any time of the year.

This is, hands down, my favorite read of 2013.  I recommend that EVERYONE read Openly Straight and celebrate the amazing writing of Bill Konigsberg.


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