Openly Straight

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4.5 (2)
 
4.7 (1)
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Openly Straight
Age Range
14+
Release Date
May 28, 2013
ISBN
978-0545509893
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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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

A Great Cast of Characters
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Rafe's entire life has been colored by the fact that he is gay. He is comfortable with who he is, and is proud of what he is accomplished, but he really wants a chance to see what life would be like without the label. He gets his opportunity when he transfers to an all-boy boarding school in New England. Suddenly he is able to fit in with the popular jocks and experience a side of life he never realized he was missing. As Rafe begins to fall in love with one of his newfound friends he must face the predicament in which he has put himself - a lie allowed him to develop a beautiful relationship and the truth may destroy his love and his friendship.

Openly Straight featured a unique perspective. Rafe is "out" and in the public eye. His parents support him, he is an equal rights advocate at his school and even speaks to other youth on what it is like to be a gay teen. But, he often feels that this label places a barrier between him and his peers. He plays sports, but doesn't feel like part of the team. Other students and teachers constantly turn to him to provide "the gay point of view" and, despite his being out and available, he still doesn't have a boyfriend. With his entry to a new school, he finally has a chance to get rid of the label and remove the barriers - but it means leaving a big part of himself behind. I loved getting a chance to see the challenges that can be faced by a teen even if he is supported by his family and is part of a (fairly) liberal school.

This novel featured a lot of fun and unique characters. Rafe and his friends are smart and witty and their comments and conversations often left me smiling, if not laughing. These are the types of characters that could easily carry a novel of their own and I often found myself wondering what they were doing when they were not with Rafe. My absolute favorite scenes were those with his parents. they were fun and quirky and wonderful examples of supportive parents - which is refreshing in a genre where absentee parents have almost become a cliche. I was also quite pleased that Openly Straight showed (if not featured) several gay characters and did a great job of breaking stereotypes.

Openly Straight is not a book with a particularly strong plot. It follows a "will they, won't they" love story that was often sweet and romantic. Rafe did have a tendency to live in his own head and the introspection slowed the story considerably. This was really noticeable in the last 1/3rd of the book and resulted in an ending that was much more of a whimper than a bang. I also wish that it didn't contain quite as much swearing and sexual behavior as this limits me in which students I can recommend the book. However, I really enjoyed the unique perspective that this novel provided and I was entertained by the fun cast of characters.
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Openly in Love with 'Openly Straight'
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
I’m going to start off this review by coming straight out of the closet as a reader who loved Bill Konigsberg’s “Openly Straight.” As an openly gay man, I wish this book had been out when I was a high school student trying to go beyond labels to be seen as a person and not as a sexuality.

“Openly Straight” follows Rafe, an openly gay high school junior from Boulder, Colorado. Rafe has had it pretty easy when it comes to being out of the closet: His parents are extremely supportive and, at times, embarrassingly enthusiastic about his sexuality; he has experienced no backlash from his classmates; and the Boulder community at large makes it loud and clear to Rafe that gay is okay. The only problem is, with all of this support of his sexuality, people forget to acknowledge all of the other aspects of Rafe that make him Rafe. To prove to the world that he’s just a regular human being, Rafe moves across the country to continue high school at a private boarding school where he decides not to tell his new classmates he’s gay. Rafe says he’s not living back in the closet, he’s just choosing not to say either way whether he likes boys or girls.

I enjoyed this book for so many reasons. First of all, as an openly gay male, I can totally relate to Rafe’s exasperation with people who want to focus only on his sexuality. While having people’s support is way better than no support at all, people often times become narrowly focused on subject matter they will discuss with gay people. Konigsberg nails the frustration that can come from heterosexual peers constantly referring to “Will & Grace” or that one gay family member they have as the only ways they can relate to gay men. Rafe is such a well-rounded character that Konigsberg shows readers, whether straight or newly out of the closet, that being gay doesn’t strip you of all other characteristics that make you human.

Konigsberg also explores the need for gay men to have straight male companionship, a theme that is not often portrayed in the media. Rafe’s desire to be seen as just one of the guys, and not the gay kid among all the guys, points to the fact that gay people want to have that gender bond as well. Groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, fraternities, and sororities all showcase the benefits same-sex bonding can provide, and often times gay men and women are portrayed as people that either don’t want that bonding, or as people who could somehow disrupt that bonding for straight individuals. Rafe’s story highlights how that bonding is still needed, especially for teenage kids coming out of the closet, and how same-sex companionship between straight and gay people can better help society as a whole in understanding sexuality differences.

Not only does Konigsberg develop these important themes, but he does so with quick wit and distinct characters. These characters are so varied that I’m confident teenagers of all genders and sexualities could find someone to relate to in this, and enjoy “Openly Straight” for the contemporary love story it is.
Good Points
An unseen portrayal of what it's like once you're out of the closet.
A relatable protagonist regardless of sexuality.
A variety of diverse and distinct characters.
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User reviews

1 reviews

Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0  (1)
Characters 
 
5.0  (1)
Writing Style 
 
5.0  (1)
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Learned a lot from Openly Straight
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Openly Straight addresses the fact that being gay is just one of the traits of one person, and being gay doesn't make that person essentially different since a human being is a human being. Rafe, the main character of the book Openly Straight, transfers to a private boarding school and conceals the fact that he’s gay(or rather not talk about his sexual orientation) to his friends even though his companions doesn’t disrespect homosexuals because he does not want to be labeled as the gay boy. He felt pressured to be named by a his sexual orientation and he wants to be treated like other heterosexuals. Rafe is exasperated by other people who only looks at his sexual orientation, and that's the reason why he does not talk about which gender he likes. Being a girl who doesn't really know her sexual orientation, I don't have a lot of personal relation to Rafe, but I know that when people accept a trait, even though they don't disrespect it, they think that the trait is odd, or it is something negative that needs to be accepted. That's a super bad feeling, and I think no one will feel comfortable with being "accepted" like that.

I’d never wanted anything more in my life, but it see was as distant to me as this tofu beast was from a real pig”

My favorite part of the book is when Rafe relates the tofu pig to himself. It's a terrific metaphor and I feel that it's really a big challenge to act like yourself because sometimes we all feel that we need to change something that isn't bad for ourselves in order to fit in and liked by other people.
It's often that we are driven to change by other people. Rafe is not openly gay anymore because he does not want to have other people knowing "the gay kid" instead of knowing Rafe. Books I have read before urges people to support homosexuality, but Openly Straight tackles the problem differently. It makes me think about homosexuality a different way: when communities says it loud that being gay is ok, when someone reveals that he's gay that draws the attention of other people, and they don't look at the person's other characteristics anymore. Yes, it is hard to be someone who’s being looked at differently:

“I don’t think being gay is a curse. Definitely not. But we all know that being open about it comes with a lot of things that make life harder. Even if you have great parents and a school where you’re treated well, it adds stuff to your life. The worst to me is how everybody looks at you differently. I got so tired of being looked at”

After Rafe feels that being open about his sexual orientation will make him look different since other people will see him as the gay kid, he does not talk about his sexual orientation anymore. This book is one of the best books that I have read: it includes a love story, a different perspective of talking about discrimination of homosexuals while people are all saying being homosexual is ok, and an interesting plot+writing style.

Citations:
Konigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine, 2013. Print.
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