“It’s hard to be different, and perhaps the best answer is not to tolerate differences, not to accept them. But to celebrate them. Maybe then those who are different would feel more loved, and less, well, tolerated.”
Blurb- 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 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.
Review- I have very conflicted feelings on this novel. On one hand, I truly did love it and the extremely powerful message that it portrayed, and yet I didn’t love it.
Openly Straight has to be one of the most thought provoking, powerful, and honest stories I’ve read in a long time. Throughout the entire book we see Rafe battling his inner demons and trying to fight against being labeled again, but we see how this affects his normal life.
The message sent across of being honest with yourself and finding your own identity is so so powerful and I loved how Konigsberg didn’t play down Rafe’s inner turmoil. While gay rights are so much better then they were in the 20th and early 21st century, this book goes to show the type of segregation caused by being overly cautious of even the word gay.
While the overall message and theme really stuck with me, I wasn’t a fan of the story arc itself. The writing style seemed too nonchalant at times where it shouldn’t have been and as someone who has zero interest in sports, I found all the ‘jock talk’ bland. With a few exceptions such as Rafe, Ben, and Toby, I disliked the majority of the main characters, especially Claire Olivia. She was such an awful friend to Rafe, always calling him her gay best friend, instead of just best friend. She never listened to what Rafe was going through and never seemed to accept it.
Plot wise, the story also feels quite unfinished. It ended in an odd spot, without ever have a conclusion between two main characters and felt lacking. There didn’t feel like enough time to go over the main conflict, which came much too late in the book.
Overall, this book creates a wonderful message of accepting yourself and how labels affect current day society, but the story that executed the message simply wasn’t my cup of tea. However, I still believe this is a great novel/advocate for anyone who wants to read a true, achingly honest, LGBTQ+ novel.