‘Openly Straight’ by Bill Konigsberg, a spoiler-free review

I don’t always read sci-fi. By far, most of the books I read are sci-fi stories, but I really don’t know why. I like getting lost in those stories, whatever they are, wherever (or whenever) they’re set. It’s my thing, man.

Every once in a while, I’ll reach for something different. I’m always glad when I do. Expanding one’s horizons is always a good thing.

(For the record, I don’t consider science fiction a higher form of literature. It’s just what I prefer.)

openlystraightRecently, I read a couple good ones that weren’t sci-fi. The most recent was called ‘Openly Straight’ by Bill Konigsberg. It’s listed as “Teen and Young Adult,” meant for a high school-aged reader (and older, of course). The protagonist is Rafe, a smart kid with a notion to be “normal,” or rather, to live without labels.

See, Rafe is gay, and he’s been open about it for a while. His school, his parents, his liberal Colorado town, they’re all okay with it. They treat Rafe well, and Rafe himself gives talks at schools about what it’s like to be gay. It sounds like a pretty sweet life, especially in comparison to the sort of lives others live. That age is tough enough, but to figure out you’re something a whole lot of folks don’t approve of, I imaging it’s near impossible. It would require the sort of strength I don’t think I’m capable of, not now, certainly not as a teen.

‘Openly Straight’ doesn’t delve too far into those aspects of being gay. The plot revolves around Rafe wanting to live without the label of “the gay kid.” He transfers to a boarding school on the east coast and simply lives as a regular teenager. No one knows his secret at first, and while he doesn’t consider himself “back in the closet,” those back home who do know him aren’t quite on board with his plan.

And his plan, for the most part, seems to be going well. He’s hanging out with the cool kids, he’s making friends. So far, so good.

Then he falls in love. His name is Ben, and while Ben might not be gay, he takes to Rafe, and they enjoy a close friendship. Of course, Ben doesn’t know Rafe loves him, and he certainly doesn’t know Rafe is gay.

So what can Rafe do? How does he dig himself out of this hole?

Well, you’ll need to read the book to find out, which I recommend you do. It’s a fun read, with plenty of humor and some genuinely touching moments. Ever have a partner (or even just a crush) get hot for you, then go cold the next day? I certainly have. ‘Openly Straight,’ in an honest and (sometimes) painful way, lets us into Rafe’s world while he deals with these sorts of things. So, seriously, go buy it and read it.

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