Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

openly straightRafe 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 break 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 feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

Rating: 4/5

A sweet, realistic, at times humorous account of a gay teen boy’s experience at a posh boarding school. And, more importantly, the book tackles the issue of labelling – specifically, once someone comes out, they are always known by their orientation first and everything else second – you know – the gay soccer player, the lesbian chef, the trans actor… Whereas for straight people, we’re so much more than our orientation in the eyes of society – nobody uses the qualifier “straight” to describe a heterosexual.

And for Rafe, our MC, this gets pretty damn frustrating. He wants to be known as more than just the gay soccer player, and have people see him for more than just that one particular label. So, he switches high schools for the new school year, to a prestigious boys boarding school rather far from home. Here, Rafe doesn’t tell anyone about his sexuality, to allow himself the freedom of a school experience without the pressure of labels. Of course, hiding a part of himself, albeit out of frustration, not fear, does tend to make things difficult for Rafe.

Rafe is an absolutely darling. You just want to shake him sometimes for the choices he makes and the lies he tells, but his frustrations and feelings are so understandable that the reader can really emphasise with him. He’s fiercely loyal in his own way, and aware of how lucky he is with an awesome best friend and supportive parents.

If there’s one thing to take away from this book, it’s for us as a majority in society, whoever we may be (white, male, straight) to see beyond the seemingly obvious label that makes people different, and look at them through a lens that affords them the same privilege that we give everybody else.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

  1. How delightful. This sounds like a gem, and I can’t thank you enough for pointing me to it 🙂 There are some interesting issues proposed in it, and if the execution is so good, I’m in for a treat!

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  2. And that’s the unfortunate fact about society nowadays, isn’t it? That sexual distinction that precedes a person’s accomplishment, but somehow only relegated to LGBT. This sounds like a novel of relevance. I’m in!

    Like

    1. I read somewhere that there’s going to be a sequel – which makes me very happy. But this book on its own was fantastic, with a very important message, and a realistically flawed protagonist.

      Like

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