Author: Bill Konigsberg

Divider

Honestly Ben Review

May 26, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

Honestly Ben ReviewHonestly Ben (Openly Straight, #2) by Bill Konigsberg
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on March 28th 2017
Pages: 330
Source: Library
Also by this author: Openly Straight (Openly Straight, #1)
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.
Except…
There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

So I definitely had some high standards for this one. I thought that Openly Straight was a pretty good novel, and I loved Rafe’s voice. Of course, I also loved Ben and wanted to know even more about him and his background. He was just as fabulous as I was hoping he’d be, which is why it hurts me that I was so torn on this book as a whole. I still loved Ben and wanted the best for him, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the love triangle. I never am a big fan of them, but I thought it might work this time just since Ben is such a solid character. While I do feel like the love triangle wasn’t written for no reason, it was still difficult for me to stand behind it. Anyway, I think this was a decent follow up to Openly Straight, but I can’t say that it totally lived up to the first one.

So yeah, Ben was a fabulous character. I wanted to hug him for basically the entire duration of the novel. I loved that he was just trying to figure himself out, and has accepted that he still has a lot to learn about himself. I loved learning more about his family life, it certainly gave us more background on the way he grew up. His dad constantly told him that he wasn’t allowed to show emotions or be vulnerable in any way. I also related to him in the fact that he doesn’t have much money. I understand having to be completely aware of how much money you’re spending at all times. I’ll talk more about the whole Hannah thing later on, but I’ll say that it did frustrate me to an extent, but I also understood why he entered the relationship in the first place. Look, no matter what he does, Ben is still going to be an awesome and memorable character in my book.

I don’t have a ton to say about Rafe since I’ve already discussed him in my review of Openly Straight. I think he’s a fascinating character, and I just really enjoy him all around. However, some of the things that he does here disappointed me a bit. Some of his friends in GSA (gay straight alliance) say things like “bi is a gateway” and it doesn’t seem like Rafe says that this is not an okay thing to say? It just seemed as if he brushed it off as a joke. I also didn’t like it when he kept trying to put a label on Ben when he seemed against it. Other than that, I did like Rafe for the most part.

I’ve read some reviews where people were offended that the author didn’t have Ben identify as bisexual. I’m not an expert on sexuality, but in my own personal opinion, I didn’t have an issue with this. I felt like it was appropriate because Ben felt like he didn’t belong in any box. He’s been attracted to girls his whole life and only been attracted to one boy. I definitely see why people find this offensive. At the time though, Ben is just a teenager who isn’t sure exactly what his sexual identity is yet and that’s perfectly okay as well. View Spoiler »

Ultimately, I am torn on my feelings for Honestly Ben. I think that it’s a great story about a teenage boy who doesn’t have it all figured out but he’s doing the best that he can. It was one of those books that I wasn’t able to put down once I started. I thought the supporting characters were great too. Specifically Toby, who I could read about for days. There’s this hilarious and endearing moment where Toby passes out fliers to his classmate, and I seriously laughed out loud. This wasn’t a flawless book, but I’m so happy that we were able to revisit Rafe and Ben.

three-half-stars

Divider

Openly Straight Review

July 27, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

Openly Straight ReviewOpenly Straight (Openly Straight, #1) by Bill Konigsberg
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on May 28th 2013
Pages: 320
Source: Purchased
Also by this author: Honestly Ben (Openly Straight, #2)
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars
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.

four-stars

Divider