Rating: 4.5/5 stars.
Is it every gay guy’s duty to get out of the closet? Rafe doesn’t want to deceive people, but he hates being “that one gay kid” back in his hometown. When he moves from Boulder, Colorado to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he keeps his homosexuality a secret and pretends to like girls – soon enough, he’s part of the jock pack, and he really likes it. But being openly straight isn’t as easy as Rafe thinks, and he feels the pressure when he develops feelings for his teammate Ben, who might be the only guy who really understands him.
Rafe took awhile to grow on me, but about halfway through the novel I found myself rooting for him. Konigsberg addresses a multitude of real issues: the conflict between ingroups and outgroups, the effects of labeling, the importance of your sexuality in regard to your identity, and more. Konigsberg gives Rafe an honest voice to delve into these topics – his confusion and search for self never felt forced or scripted, and the second half of this novel almost pushed it to a 5-star rating. Contemporary YA fans will love Openly Straight for its quality writing and its quirky, fresh teenage perspective.
I also adored the side characters in this novel. Rafe’s friendship with Claire Olivia improved as the novel progressed, a great feat for a platonic relationship within a YA novel. Many people will appreciate the presence of Rafe’s ultra-liberal parents; his bond with them and how it was sometimes strained but always loving made me smile. Rafe’s relationship with Ben as a whole won me over with great speed – its development and denouement served as my favorite parts of the book. Their bromance triggered most of my fanboy-like squeals of joy.
Overall, highly recommended for fans of realistic YA novels, glbt books, or a well-written teenage voice in general. One of my favorites of this year so far.