Openly Straight

openlystraight_cv

Bibliographic Information 

Paperback $8.36
Hardback $11.84
Audio CD $25.57
Kindle $5.99
Associated ISBNs 9780545509893
9780545798655 — Paperback
9780545509909
9781480683051 — Glued Binding
9781520066813 — CD

Rating (VOYA)

3P, 4Q

While the quality of this book is good, and its well written (leading to its 4Q), this is definitely not a book for everyone since there are LGBTQ+ (mainly the G) in this book which gives it a 3P.

Readers Annotation

Rafe doesn’t want to be the “gay” kid anymore and makes a dramatic decision in order not to be.

Summary

Ok. So Rafe is an openly gay kid back in Colorado, but he’s gotten tired of first being identified as the GAY kid. He wants people to just think “Rafe” and not “Gay Rafe.” So he decides to go to a boarding school on the East Coast and go back in the closet (though he doesn’t let himself think about it that way).

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

So, Rafe’s new roommate is an overweight, strange boy named Albie. He’s sort of a survivalist (but not really). Albie’s best friend is the openly gay Toby (who is super weird). After Rafe gets all moved in he gets drafted into a tag football game (he’s never played before) and thus gets drafted into the “jocks” group. They’re all kind of shallow (and exactly what you’d expect from jocks) except for Ben and Bryce.

Rafe is in a creative writing class and his teacher keeps telling him there’s something he’s not quite getting to in his writing and reveals that Rafe’s mother had told him all about her gay son Rafe because he’s the teacher associated with PFLAG. He gives Rafe an assignment to keep track of how things are going with not being openly gay.

Rafe gets close to Ben, but he also gets close to Albie and Toby. He finally starts to mend bridges with his old BFF Clare Olivia in Colorado, though she really doesn’t understand what he’s doing. 

One night, after botching a play in baseball, Bryce doesn’t come back to the dorm. Rafe is the one to realize it because he was playing “Scanner Pong” with Albie and Toby (a completely stupid game where they listen to a police scanner and drink when certain words are said). Rafe goes to Ben to see if Bryce is in their room. When Ben can’t find Bryce, the boys (Rafe, Ben, Toby, and Albie) sneak out in order to try and find him before he misses curfew and gets expelled from school. After a long night of searching, they don’t find Bryce. They get back to the dorm and find out that Bryce was taken to the hospital. 

Bryce, who suffers from depression, leaves school to try and get better. Ben and Rafe start to bond.

The boys go to Boston and terrorize some waterfowl. 

When parents weekend comes around, Rafe must tell his parents about his current predicament of being back in the closet. They don’t really understand, but agree to keep his secret. They bond with Ben and keep hinting to Rafe that he likes him.

Rafe invites Ben home with him for Thanksgiving break. Ben agrees once Rafe says he’ll pay for his plane fare. The boys have a discussion about the budding romantic feelings between them, calling their feelings agape love (transcendent). They hang out with Clare Olivia and go skiing. They also end up necking in Rafe’s room the night before they head back to school.

Ben is weird after that, distant and confused. Rafe is also confused and starting to realize he needs to tell Ben the truth. He’s also starting to realize he doesn’t care much for the jocks that he’s been hanging out with. 

Late one night, Rafe wakes up and feels compelled to go to Ben. He knocks on the door and is let in. The boys spend the night together. After, they talk. Ben opens up about not being able to be with Rafe because he feels like he can’t do it, and he’s adamant about being straight. Rafe tells Ben that he’s gay, and has been the whole time. Ben gets understandably angry, upset that they weren’t on the same page the whole time.

Rafe and Ben’s friendship falls apart. Rafe bonds more with Albie and Toby, and re-comes out. He ditches the jocks and joins PFLAG and meets new people.

Evaluation

This was a nice read. After finishing Falling Angel, I needed a light fluffy piece. My default genre is LGBTQ+, so this was right up my alley. Honestly, I only read this one because I wanted to get to the next one: Honestly Ben (review coming!), but this was a nice little side-read.

Oh Rafe. He’s a nice kid, and I genuinely like him, and I could understand what he was trying to do but… oh honey no. His journey back into the closet and finding his way out again was truly compelling. He did discover things about himself that he hadn’t been able to while the “gay kid,” but it came with a price. The longer this experiment wen on, the more Rafe found himself constricted by what he couldn’t say.

At the end of it all I knew it was all going to blow up in his face. And lo, it did. I can’t wait for the next one (OMG, do Rafe and Ben make up? Can they be friends again or more? Or will they languish apart never being able to reconcile what happened?)!!

The characters were pretty great. You got a feel for the jocks, just a little bit (really their details were just as shallow as they generally were) before we got to the new friends. Albie and Toby are adorable little nerds. Albie is survivalist-ish and a slob, and Toby is gay and just a bit strange. They were a lot of fun and became such great friends for Rafe. Ben was awesome. He was trying to fight labels as much as Rafe, but did it in a much better way. And Mr.  Scarborough was great (even though we only really see him in his comments in Rafe’s journal entries), he really helped point out to Rafe that he should be thinking about things/feelings.

The boys’ school wasn’t super detailed. It wasn’t really important to have a detailed school. We were told what we needed to know (dorms, crazy coach, East Coast) but not much else. The setting wasn’t what was important about this story.

I really believe that this was a believable little story, with some great thinking moments and a great set up for conversation starting. I for one, quite enjoyed myself.

Genre

LGBTQIA+

Realistic Fiction

Readalikes

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jayne Robin Brown

What’s In a Name by Ellen Wittlinger

Significance

A discussion on labels. This book talks about labels and how we use them, but doesn’t offer answers, only the beginnings of the conversation.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think of Rafe’s experiment in not being labeled “gay?”

Let’s talk about Ben.

Who was your favorite character?

Author’s website

Bill Konigsberg

Awards

Notable Books for a Global Society: 2014

Rainbow List: 2014

YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2014

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Why I Chose It

I just really wanted to read a fluffy LGBTQ+ story and the second book caught my eye, so naturally I had to read this one (the first one) first.

Other Information

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