Title: Openly Straight
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: 320 pages
Rafe Goldberg begins his junior year at Natick, an “all boys” boarding school in Massachusetts. He was an openly gay 16-year old from Boulder Colorado where his community had accepted him since he came out in eighth grade, and his parents truly celebrated his diversity. However, he found the gay label got in the way of people seeing him and prevented him from being just "one of the guys". He wanted to take a break from being gay, so he researched other schools and begged to transfer to Natick.
At the beginning of the school year, Rafe is immediately drawn into the soccer crowd and is labeled as a jock for the first time in his life. He relishes being part of a group that had always shut him out . He also becomes friends with his eccentric roommate, Albie, and Albie’s openly gay friend, Toby. As the weeks go by, Rafe develops a tight friendship with a jock named Ben. Ben is different from the rest of them. He is smarter and philosophical and doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks of him. As their friendship deepens, Rafe realizes he loves Ben but doesn’t know how Ben feels. It’s complicated by the fact that Rafe is hiding his true identify from all the students at Natick.
All the while, Rafe’s English teacher, Mr. Scarborough, asks each student to keep a private journal to record his thoughts, so Rafe’s essays are peppered throughout the book.
The book takes place between September and December.
This was an excellent book. It was not only a fun, entertaining read, but I came away with a greater knowledge of the challenges of being labeled as different. (The book focused on gay versus straight, but through Bryce, the only black in their class, you also learn some of Rafe’s challenges are shared by others perceived as “different”.)
Written in first person, the reader gains access to a teenage boy’s thoughts about being gay. Given that Rafe had been openly gay back in Colorado and was now hiding it, he was able to constantly reflect on the differences of being gay versus straight in a way that you may not see in a book told from the viewpoint of a person just coming out or openly gay. Also, Rafe’s parents are very involved in the LGBTQ community, so Rafe is a far more educated gay male than the average 16-year old. Finally, through his essays the reader gets an even deeper view of his experiences.
I am a member of two book clubs, and we read a variety of genres. Plus, as a Young Adult author, I am constantly reading YA books to improve my writing.
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