This is a quick, fun-with-a-good-message read. It is a celebration of diversity and acceptance.
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He’s gay. But he’s a little tired of being “that GAY guy”. He knows it is important to embrace who he is, but he just wants to try being “that guy”. So he decides to escape his reality.
He transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, and elects to keep his sexuality a secret. It’s not so much going back in the closet, as just not advertising all aspects of himself. Don’t ask, don’t tell. But he doesn’t count on falling in love with a boy who can’t believe it is possible.
Ah, young, tortured, forbidden love. Awesome. And I love the fact there is no love triangle in this story. It is all about learning the importance of being who you are, embracing yourself, and facing reality, no matter how difficult it may be.
Openly Straight is a simple story with a good message. Rafe is lovely and warm, a boy totally comfortable with himself, in large part due to extremely supportive parents and an open atmosphere in the town where he grew up. As he thinks, perhaps too open and too accepting. His “Coming Out” party was a bit much for anyone, even done out of love.
Bill Koenigsberg writes with a lot of humour, but also sympathy. His characters leap off the page; each is real and believable, whether a character you end up really liking, or one that you can’t stand. It is witty and charming, and the cast and crew have distinct, authentic, engaging personalities. Room for all.
You will find yourself laughing out loud at times, and cringing at others. There is happiness and despair, joy and depression. Rafe is definitely a teenager trying to find his way, and his attempt to go label-free just creates a lie that he can’t find a way around. In the end, it causes more trouble than honesty would have from the start. But isn’t that usually the way.
This novel is appropriate for all teens. There are discussions of sex, not graphic, and even the crude locker room humour you expect from an all boys school is somewhat toned down.
The open and frank discussion about the importance of being who you are, and a celebration of all who are different, is front and centre, without beating the reader over the head with it.
Read it and enjoy.
Openly Straight is published by Arthur A. Levine Books.