Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on March 28th 2017
Also by this author: Openly Straight (Openly Straight, #1)
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
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.
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 »I didn’t like the fact that he had a girlfriend because it felt like he continually led her on unintentionally. He has a great heart and didn’t mean to hurt her, but I still wasn’t a fan of how things went down. Did he really need to have sex with her? Let’s be real, I’m only salty because I think Rafe and Ben make such a perfect couple. I actually cheered when they finally got their shit together. « Hide 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.