Honestly Ben

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Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $10.51
Paperback
Hardback  $10.58
Kindle $10.99
Associated ISBNs 9780545858267
9780545858311

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

Readers Annotation

Self-discovery is rarely easy for a straight boy in love with a boy.

Summary

Ok. Here we go.

We’re back at Natick, but this time with Ben.

SPOILERS!!!

Ben has spent the winter break at home with his family. He gives advice to his brother that if said brother wants to hang out with Julie (the girl everyone calls “dumptruck”) that he can do that.

Back at Natick, things are weird. He and Rafe are not talking, and Ben feels that loss and the loss of Toby and Albie. However, baseball season is starting. Ben plays for the team and is good but quiet. He gets nominated to be the team leader (I swear there’s a better term for this that I just can’t remember) and wins the vote. 

Ben has also been chosen to receive the Pappas Award slash scholarship, named after a former student who enlisted in Vietnam.

Ben meets a girl named Hannah, and the two are intrigued by one another. They trade numbers and agree to meet up.

Ben is struggling in Calculus. He doesn’t really understand, and his teacher is no help when he tries to talk to her about it (“you just need to study harder”).

So Ben starts dating Hannah, studying Calculus like crazy, tries to lead the baseball team, and eventually reconnects with Rafe. They decided to try being best friends again. There are just some things they can’t talk about: Rafe’s boyfriend J (omg forgot his name) and Ben’s girlfriend Hannah. Ben tells Hannah about the Rafe debacle. She’s cool with it.

A spring fling is thrown. Ben takes Hannah, Rafe takes J. J breaks up with Rafe. Ben feels like he needs to comfort his friend and asks Hannah if its ok. She’s not super on board with the idea but tells him he can but then she’s leaving. So Ben goes to comfort Rafe, but as he watches Hannah leave he thinks maybe he shouldn’t have made this choice. The boys go to the beach and yell at the sky.

When Ben next talks to Hannah she’s pissed at him. She doesn’t like that Ben chose Rafe over her. Ben doesn’t totally understand what she’s saying and she gives him an implicit ultimatum: Hannah or Rafe. Ben keeps putting off calling Hannah after this conversation because he doesn’t want to have the talk with her about what he’s feeling. In the end, Ben chooses Rafe and breaks up with Hannah.

Ben has been learning about Peter Pappas (the boy the award is named after) and has discovered that he was anti-war. He tracks down Peter’s sister and learns that Peter enlisted in order to keep his father’s love/approval. Ben draws a lot of parallels with Peter Papas.

Ben is still struggling in Calculus.

Ben and Rafe go out on a date (to a coffeehouse poetry slam) and spend the night together. The day after Ben and Rafe are splitting up and Rafe says “I love you” but Ben doesn’t say it back.

So naturally, Rafe needs to have a talk with Ben (right before his Calculus test that his award is riding on) about how he can’t be with someone and not be with them again. This sends Ben into a depressive spiral. He goes to Mendenhall (one of the baseball guys) and gets the answer key to the test. After he cheats, he ends up in a depressive funk and doesn’t leave his room for a day.

Ben and Rafe eventually talk, and Rafe realizes he was perhaps pushing Ben too far too fast.

Ben’s award speech is more a confession of how he cheated to get his award, and the truth about Peter Papas than anything. Ben gets suspended. His father is “embarrassed to be his father.” Ben also confesses to loving Rafe. Ben’s dad tells him that Carver men are straight and that if he’s not straight then he’s not a Carver (and no son of his) and that if he may never talk to Rafe again.

Ben goes home with his family, Rafe goes to Boston to wait for his flight the next day. Ben confronts his father, and it goes about as well as  you’d expect (not well at all). So Ben decides to take Rafe up on his offer to go to Colorado together and leaves his family behind.

Rafe’s parents are awesome (though don’t get that Ben isn’t gay/bi). Ben doesn’t know what his life is going to be, but at least he has Rafe.

Evaluation

I’ve got to say, I think I liked Openly Straight better. I really wanted to read this one, but knew that I had to read that one first. I’m pretty sure I just found Rafe and his situation more relatable than Ben’s situation. I mean, this is one of my favorite tropes (OMG I’m totally not gay but I have feelings for this guy!?!!!?), but… I don’t know. I just think due to Ben’s character and his general separation from his own feelings, that the book left me kind of not feeling it.

Not to say that this wasn’t a good read, because it was. This just wasn’t my favorite read.

So, I did like that we got Ben’s perspective on things. Being able to see into his head was a really nice change of pace. His character got more fleshed out than he was in Openly Straight. We also got more of Rafe, and it was really interesting to see him through Ben’s eyes, it gave him some extra depth that he was perhaps missing before.

I liked that we got some more Toby and Albie (though more the former than the later). They weren’t super fleshed out in Ben’s tale, but Toby’s story arc was a nice counterpoint at the end of the story.

I really enjoyed (?!?) getting Ben’s perspective on the baseball dudes (and his confusion on how interacting with them works). Sure, none of them was really fleshed out, but they really didn’t need to be.

Natick, of course, was still as vague as ever. I mean, I don’t need all the minutia of school life (oh god please no), but I sometimes feel it was glossed over just a little much for me. And really, I wonder about the rules on leaving campus…

The point being, I was a little let down, and a little disconnected, but it was still a nice story. The ending is super open ended, and lord knows how Ben’s life is going to turn out, but it wasn’t a bad place to stop the story.

Genre

LGBTQIA+

Realistic Fiction

 

Readalikes

What’s in a Name by Ellen Wittlinger

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

 

Significance

Straight boy in love with another boy and struggling with it.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Let’s talk about Ben’s dad and his relationships with his family.

What do you think of Ben’s conclusion on his own sexuality?

Were there any parts of this book that seemed unrealistic?

Author’s website

Bill Konigsberg

Awards

none

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

 

Why I Chose It

Honestly, I wanted to read this one but figured I should start with the first book first and then get to this one. I’m kind of a sucker for the trope (straight with one exception).

Other Information

There is a possibility of this book bringing up Bi Erasure. Be aware that this is a big thing for Bi people, also be aware that the author has written a blog post in response to this. I happen to agree with him (that for Ben, he’s not Bi, he’s just attracted to one boy), but I can see why there would be controversy and why some people could be upset. Be aware of your own biases, and understand that unless you are a Bi person yourself, you might not truly understand where they’re coming from and why they’re upset.

Also be aware that some people may not be happy that the author never really names or addresses the issues that come up with Ben’s father (Abuse?).

The Blessing Way

Bibliographic Information 

Paperback: $24.81 , HarperTorch (2002)

Hardcover:

Kindle: $9.99, 304 pages, HarperCollins (2009)

Joe Leaphorn Mysteries: $18, 499 pages, Wings Books (1992)

Audiobook: $17.95, 6,5 hours, Audible

 

  • ISBN-10: 051707771X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517077719
  • ASIN: B00XV4MBE0

9780061000010
9780061808357 — Paperback
9780606161749 — Glued Binding
9780914001133 — Hardcover
9780922890095 — Hardcover
9781442079977 — Glued Binding
9780061795206
9780060548131
9780816154319 — Paperback
9780914001140 — Hardcover
9780380399413 — Paperback
9780922890118 — Hardcover
9780816154302 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

Readers Annotation

A Navajo Wolf (witch) stalks the reservation in this Joe Leaphorn mystery.

Summary

Joe Leaphorn is looking for a Navajo man, Luis Horseman, when his friend Bergen McKee comes to the reservation. The two travel to Shoemaker’s to ask about Horseman. At the shop Leaphorn tells the people it would be better for Horseman to come out so Law and Order didn’t have to go in looking for him. 

McKee has come to the reservation to research Navajo Wolves, witches who may be on the reservation. The wolves are said to have cursed the Tsosie family, Horseman’s mother’s family. 

Horseman’s body is found on the side of the road.  It looks like he was drunk and for caught in a cave- in, but the medical examiner said the was no alcohol in his blood and he suffocated. 

McKee leaves Leaphorn to meet with his friend and colleague Canfield to research. They camp in a canyon. The next day McKee goes to meet with Leaphorn to discuss the case. Leaphorn has learned that the Tsosie family are going to have an Enemy Way ceremony. He decides to go and talk with Horseman’s family. McKee goes back to his campsite. 

When McKee gets back to the site he finds Canfield missing. The camper and Canfield’s truck are gone.  There is a note in their tent saying he went to get a Navajo help signed John.  Canfield’s first name is Jeremy.  McKee is then on high alert and hides in the shadows.  Someone is stalking him in the night. 

Meanwhile,  Leaphorn goes to the Enemy Way ceremony and speaks with the shaman, who concludes that while Leaphorn may know the Navajo way he does not believe it.  Leaphorn learns that Billy Nez (Horseman’s brother) has tracked the “witch.” Billy provided the “scalp” of the witch to be used in the ceremony, a hat.  Leaphorn realizes the heat belongs to the big Navajo that was at Shoemaker’s the other day. 

The next day,  McKee waits for Canfield’s assistant to come so that they can go get help.  He fell during the night,  injuring himself and giving himself a bedraggled appearance.  When the assistant Ellen Leon shows up he tries to convince her to leave and get help,  but his appearance makes her suspicious and afraid and thus they get caught by the big Navajo after finding Canfield’s body. 

The big Navajo wants McKee to write a letter saying he and Canfield are moving their camp. McKee cannot write the letter because he damaged his hand. The big Navajo moves them to the Anasazi ruins. The big Navajo’s partner Eddie meets them at the ruins.

Leaphorn thinks he’s figured out the case and sets about tracking the big Navajo’s truck. Some things don’t add up to his theory and he must reconsider. 

McKee tries to think of how to escape. He finds an escape tunnel out of the hole he and Ellen have been put in.  He plans abs eventually takes out Eddie. Ellen had been shot so he tries to find help but the big Navajo finds him first and shoots him. McKee hides under a tree and fashions a means to fight back.  He ends up killing the big Navajo. He drags himself to the man in the desert,  but the man was part of the crime ring. Luckily Leaphorn arrives to arrest the man,  who then committed suicide. 

Evaluation

I liked this book. Its an easy and interesting read. I don’t feel like I got a good feel for Joe Leaphorn, so I might pick up the next book in the series. 

Genre

Western, Mystery

Readalikes

Coyote Wind by Peter Bowen

The Shaman Sings by James D Doss

Significance

Mysteries set in modern Navajo culture. Characters steeped in a culture unfamiliar to most readers.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Discuss Navajo beliefs and the impact of the white man on their culture. 

What do we think about the Enemy Way ceremony? 

Would Horseman have been safe if Leaphorn hadn’t talked to the big Navajo? 

Talk about the idea of the Navajo Wolf. 

Author’s website

Harper Collins site for Tony Hillerman

Awards

None?

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Why I Chose It

I wanted a Western and I loved the idea of having it set in Native culture. It was also a MUST READ in Genreflecting.

Other Information

Devil in Silver

Bibliographic Information 

Paperback: $9.87, 432 pages, Spiegel & Grau (2013)

Hardcover: $9, 432 pages, Spiegel & Grau (2012)

Kindle: $11.99, 434 pages, Spiegel & Grau (2012)

Audiobook: $29.99, Dreamscape Media (2012)

  • ISBN-10: 1400069866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069866
  • ISBN-10: 0812982258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812982251
  • ISBN-10: 1611208564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611208566

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

Readers Annotation

Pepper has been confined in a mental institution and must now fight the devil.

Summary

Pepper has been dragged to a mental institution after assaulting three police officers. They lock him up for a 72 hour watch. He gets questioned by a disinterested panel of doctors and nurses and then shuffled off to a room. He meets Dory, a patient who was the first person on the ward, in the hallway and she explains the situation in the ward. She tells Pepper what each hallway is, and where not to go.

In the morning Pepper is required to take meds which dull his senses. Pepper keeps questioning staff about why he is there and keeps trying to figure out a way out. One night he sees the Devil drop from the ceiling and it assaults him. He sees a chance when Loochie (a teenage inmate) is escorting her family out of the mental ward. Pepper makes a break for it when the door opens, knocking over Loochie’s family (and a nurse), but he does not escape because Loochie tackles him.

Pepper spends a few days doped up in his room and when he finally comes to he discovers that he has “admitted” himself to the ward. Pepper joins the “book club” and teams up with Dory, Loochie and Coffee (his roommate). He learns about the Devil and the group decide to read “Jaws.” The group tries to decide on a plan to take out the Devil and stop taking their meds, but each member of the crew has their own ideas. Dory wants to talk to the Devil, Coffee wants to call the president about the situation in the institution, Pepper wants to escape and Loochie wants to kill the Devil. The group stashes the night nurses in a room. Coffee makes his call and gets upset that it doesn’t work, Dory and Pepper are fighting and Loochie lets out the Devil. The Devil attacks Loochie, Pepper attacks the Devil and Dory yells at all of them. Coffee goes to stab the Devil and Dory attacks him just as the SWAT team breaks into the institution. They shoot Coffee (a lot).

After a long period of restraints and over medication, Pepper finally regains his faculties. He decides to keep his head down in an effort to get out. He avoids Loochie and Dory and starts hanging out with the night crew. There he falls for Sue (Xiu).

One night Loochie and Dory get in a fight which allows Sue to sneak into Pepper’s room. After, they see the Devil try to take the man across the hall and stop it.

Sue is taken the next day to start the deportation process.

Dory approaches Pepper the morning Sue is taken and gives him a note saying she was wrong and that he should help the Devil. When she goes out for the smoke break she climbs the fence and steps off, killing herself.

While the police are cleaning up Dory, the inmates are taken out of the hospital to a pizza place. Loochie and Pepper reconnect, and Pepper tells her to remember the path from the bus stop to the mental institution, implying they would escape.

The inmates plan an escape through the hidden doors in every room, and one night they do. As they proceed to follow the map that Dory had drawn, they turn on one another when confronted with what to do with the devil. One of the inmates swallows the key to the Devil’s room. Loochie and Pepper sneak off. Pepper helps Loochie escape and then goes back to the group. Some of the group had killed the inmate who swallowed the key as the others watched in horror. They opened the Devil’s room and he came for them. Several inmates get hurt and some die and Pepper realizes the Devil is just a man and protects him.

In the aftermath, the Devil goes to the hospital, and Pepper starts to greet new residents just like Dory did.

Evaluation

I liked this book. It kept me guessing. At one point in time I was sure that the Devil was going to be just in the minds of the inmates. It also made me appalled about mental hospitals.

This book was well written and plotted. While the narrative could be deceptive and the reader couldn’t really guess where it was going, it had a clear path and didn’t deviate.

The characters were mostly three dimensional. They were three dimensional if they needed to be. Characters that were part of Pepper’s story were fleshed out, but others like Scotch Tape were not as three dimensional because they didn’t need to be. We knew what Pepper was going through (and were horrified by it), we  eventually understood Dory and felt for poor Sue. The setting was truly horrifying and was a terrible character in itself. The action was thrilling and terrifying.

I found myself on the edge of my seat the whole ride. I found myself gasping several times and shed a tear for Sue and Pepper at the end. It wasn’t an emotional ride the whole way, but there were times when I really felt the story.

I think this is a great book for its audience (Adult horror readers). It has some really great psychological horror that digs deep in your psyche. It has a compelling monster and horrendous setting and enough action to keep the reader going.

I might replace this one with Shutter Island. They both have a psychological horror, but of different types.

Genre

Horror, Psychological Suspence

Readalikes

End of Watch by Stephen King

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

The Dark Room by Minette Walters

Significance

A one of a kind premise that seems supernatural that turns out not to be. A unique look at the patients of a mental institution whose horrors are not only monsters, but the system itself.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think it meant that the patients saw the Devil as a Devil but the staff did not?

What would you have done in Josephine’s situation after the first revolt?

Do you think that the support for the mentally ill is satisfactory today?

Discuss experiences with people with mental disabilities.

Author’s website

Victor LaValle

Awards

New York Times Notable Book (2012), Top 10 Book of 2012

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Publishers Weekly

Why I Chose It

Book Talk book, but also what an intriguing idea! The summary really drew me in and I wanted to know if it was a literal or figurative devil.

Other Information