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Friday, June 7, 2013

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Title: Openly Straight
Author: Bill Konigsberg
ISBN: 9780545509893
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: May 28, 2013
Page #: 320
Source: ARC from the publisher

"Rafe is from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He hates tofu. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since eighth grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all he wants is to be a regular guy. Not that gay guy. To have that be a part of who he is, but not the headline, ever single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to become 'openly straight' - not so much going back in the closet as starting over outside it. The transformation works: Rafe revels in a new group of straight guy friends, and the chance to be 'just Rafe' at last. But things get complicated when he falls in love with one of his new friends... who doesn't even know that's a possibility.

A book for anyone who's ever felt trapped within just one part of who they are, Openly Straight is a funny, smart novel about being out, being real, and all the things 'be yourself' can mean."
First Lines: (quote from the ARC - subject to change)

"If it were up to my dad, my entire life would be on video. 
Anything I do, he grabs his phone. 'Opal,' he'll yell to my mother. 'Rafe is eating corn flakes. We gotta get this on film.'
He calls it film, like instead of an iPhone, he has an entire movie crew there, filming me."
Page 1

I picked up this book soully because the concept sounded very interesting. It seems like many teen books about the GLBT experience are about the coming out process. [Take that with a grain of salt, because I haven't read a ton of them.] This book took a whole different course.

Rafe has an awesome life. Great family, great friends, an awesome speaking gig about gay rights, anything he could ever want. But what he wants is to be a normal guy. Not the gay guy. So when he transfers to a new school, he sees this as a totally clean slate. He can be whoever he wants to be. Instead of announcing his sexual preference, he just keeps it all under wraps. And he finds himself having all new experiences. That is, until he falls for one of his new best friends...

Everyone knows what it is like to have one part of your personality completely define you. At least, to people who are only acquaintances. So I sort of feel like this theme is universal. The book talks a lot about labels and how different people fit into them. I really think the author did a great job handling this while keeping the characters lovable and realistic. When people talk about themselves, they would probably attach several labels to encompass every part of their personality. So it's interesting to think about what your one label would be and what you would have to do to change it.

Honestly, I loved everything about this book. The characters are fantastic. I loved how Rafe's parents were painted - sort of the crazy-loving Colorado hippies. Just really fun. And it was great that they were totally okay with anything. It's nice to see parents painted in a happier and supportive light in teen fic. Of course, there's also the super awesome teacher who knows what is going on. Lots of positive adults in this book!

I also would have loved to get a full view of Rafe's life before the big move. I imagine it would be fairly hilarious - considering the friendships he has.Not only does this book deal with the pressure of being openly gay, it also has several characters who are very closeted. It talks a lot about experimentation and trying to figure out who you really are. There is just so much to chew on that I've still been thinking about everything hours after finishing the book. 

I truly want to hand this book to all of my realistic fic fans. I really think it will resonate with many readers. It's a solid story with lots of food for thought. I really hope a book club or GSA/GLBT club in a school will read this book together. There are so many things to discuss! So definitely get this one for your libraries and be sure to hand it around.
Other Blog Reviews:

Waking Brain Cells
The Pirate Tree
In Bed With Books
The Literary Omnivore
Reading Between Classes
In All Series-ousness
YA Guy
Candace's Book Blog
Pass the Chiclets
Lost in a Great Book

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