Openly Straight, Bill Konigsberg
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: YA, LGBT (G)
Length: 341 pages
Purchase At: amazon.com
“If it were up to my dad, my entire life would be on video.”
Rafe is 16 and gay. Thanks to his parents he is basically the poster child of young LBGTQ rights in Colorado. Everyone knows he is gay and everyone seems to be cool with it. There is a problem though, Rafe is sick of this and wants to escape the thought that the only reason people react to him in the way they do is due to his sexuality.
He sees an escape and takes it, leaving his home town of Boulder to travel to a New England prep school where he is free to reinvent himself anyway he likes. What starts as just removing this one label so as to become ‘normal’ Rafe builds a new image in people’s minds that takes hold and he can no longer control what people think of him. Relationships at home are strained as his family and friends go along with his plan reluctantly.
What Rafe did not count on though was meeting Ben and with this new relationship he fears the day where he has to come out… Again…
Openly For (A.K.A. The Great Parts)
I liked Rafe and Ben, I liked Albie and Toby and Bryce and I even liked good old Gorilla Butt. Why, you may ask? Openly Straight has such a vast array of characters, which while some are only mentioned briefly, who came across as fully intact pictures of a group of 16 year old boys (men? where’s the line?) What is presented on these pages is nothing but extremely well done. The characterisation of these guys is well written and you can feel the roles they play in this society called school.
The environment and labels that are attached to every guy in an all-boys school (yes it exists in other schools, just more prevalent in this variety) are worked into these characters. This was done to the point where I was asking myself whether the label was based off the character or the character was based off the label.
Toleration and Acceptance
The author has created a great representation about the differences between toleration, acceptance and the shortcomings of both these in having a truly egalitarian environment. The term ‘we should celebrate our differences’ came to mind reading the book. I highly appreciated this message.
Great Social Experiment
What Rafe did in creating this new life has been something that I have always been curious about. In a tolerant and accepting society are you still treated differently – as in this books example – for being gay?
In life everyone can say they are okay with someone being homosexual, black, asian, nerdy or female. The great test is presented in Openly Straight where Rafe begins his new start disengaged from this one label, feeling disadvantaged by it. I do understand Rafe’s motive behind this, him being sick of being the perfect gay 16 year old, placed on the pedestal; he just wants to be ‘one of the guys.’
Rafe’s double life has it’s problems and of course this ends up blowing up in his face but all in all it made me really enjoy this very interesting book.
Presentation and Editing
Openly straight has that super high quality vibe come off it. Normally I wouldn’t even mention this in a review however since I would mention it if it was super bad, thought I should mention it if it’s super good :).
The book is amusing. This is nothing to be sneezed at.
Openly Against (A.K.A. What Incredibly Annoyed Me)
What Was the Point?
I am screaming this at the moment. Just screaming.
Yes there is this story of Rafe with it’s progress, challenges and resolutions. However coming to the ending I just kept asking the question above. Rafe’s new start is the main focus of the book and the story that evolves from it is enjoyable to read, but that’s it. There is no point to Openly Straight. Some may try to argue Rafe rediscovering this part of himself is enough, but for me it is not and it feels more like he is forced into it anyway. You can have stories about nothing, yes, but they truly are what they claim to be. This book wants to have a point, but truly does not. Hence I found it annoying by the end.
Which leads us to the……
I hate the ending. There I said it. I don’t need happy endings, I don’t need tragic endings, I just need resolution. Pure and simple. There is none in Openly Straight and it was so incredibly annoying, that’s why this book has the rating it does.
Openly Straight is a book I cannot forgive. While I loved the charactisation and the themes were also highly enjoyable the ending let me down in a VERY big way. However, if you can read books with no resolution and little or no point outside of one psychological experiment then this book is definitely for you and I hope you enjoy it dearly.
“We were dancers and drummers and standers and jugglers, and there was nothing anyone needed to accept or tolerate. We celebrated.”