Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on May 28th 2013
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
The award-winning novel about being out, being proud, and being ready for something else . . . now in paperback.
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.
This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.
The concept of Openly Straight is one that instantly fascinates me: a boy who has already came out of the closet attends a boarding school where he keeps his sexuality a secret. Rafe is sick of being labeled “the gay kid” back in Boulder, Colorado, so that’s why he makes the decision to go across the country to go to school in New England. Once he arrives at his new school, he gets the opportunity to start fresh and even hangout with the jocks. Anyway, Openly Straight is a fabulous book that addresses the subject of stereotypes, fitting in, labeling, friendships, relationships, sexuality, and much more. It’s a beautifully written novel, and I’m definitely embarrassed that it took me so long to pick it up.
Rafe is an interesting main character. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about his choice at first. It definitely seemed to me like he was hiding who he was, but then I slowly realized that his sexuality doesn’t define who he is, it’s just a small part of him. I also completely understood that he desperately wanted to fit in with the other kids. Back in Boulder, though the kids were mostly accepting, they still looked at him differently knowing his sexuality. Ultimately, Rafe was a character that basically every high school student, gay or straight, can identify with due to his need to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, at times I wanted to shake some sense into him and tell him to be honest with certain people about it, but I still understood where he was coming from.
Ben is a different type of love interest. Though he’s on the soccer team with Rafe, he isn’t your typical jock. He’s ridiculously smart and loves thinking deeply about things in a surprising way. Ben is yet another interesting character, and I loved watching his friendship with Rafe gradually grow into something deeper. It broke my heart for him that he doesn’t come from a supportive and loving family like Rafe does. His parents are pretty judgmental and the only reason he isn’t is because of his amazing uncle, who died last year. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that Ben handled his feelings, but it’s also very realistic considering the circumstances.
So the family factor is still a pretty big deal in the plot, even with him being away from them. Rafe’s parents were extremely supportive when he first came out to them. I mean, they even threw this huge embarrassing coming out party involving balloons and party hats saying, “Yay! Rafe is gay!” His mom is also overly involved in PFLAG. You might imagine that his parents aren’t overly thrilled about his plan to go back in the closet while away at school. However, they suck it up and support his choice anyway, which I really respected.
This was an incredibly fast paced novel that I absolutely couldn’t put down. Seriously, I started out reading it, and before I knew it, I was sadly already reaching the end. If you haven’t read this book yet and are planning on reading it, you should prepare yourself for the ending. Obviously I’m not going to ruin anything, but I will reveal that it isn’t a HEA. This was definitely one of the main reasons why I held off on picking it up, but the ending here did make a lot of sense even if it wasn’t all that satisfying in terms of the romance. This was a quick read, and even though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was a solid book that I do recommend. I’m not sure if it sends the right message to LGBT teens, but it’s a unique kind of story that I’m glad was written.