Openly Straight (by Bill Konigsberg)

9 02 2014

Because I have noticed how easily my students are seduced by the cover of a book (Winger, Reality Boy and Boy Toy have all been great hits because of them recently and they have one thing in common: bright and lively, and all very ‘simple’) I do want to mention the great looking cover of Openly Straight: it’s simple and clear and an immediate eye-catcher[1]. But what my hardcover-loving heart loves even more about this edition is how beautifully the icons are presented on the hardcover itself. The attention to detail just won this cat over immediately… (the photo may not do it justice):


As for the book itself – which is obviously still the most important thing, don’t judge a book by its cover and all that, even though it does help – this is much more ‘complex’ than the ‘simple’ cover might suggest. Rafe is an openly gay kid. At least he was at his previous high school in Boulder, Colorado (which I didn’t know seems to have this reputation as being very free-spirited?). But when he starts attending a new all boys boarding school he doesn’t want the label ‘gay kid’ to define how people see him anymore and decides to just not mention his sexual preferences. He claims it’s not about going back into the closet but to just try and forge friendships with people (boys) without having to be seen as “the gay guy”. Being “the gay kid” sort of limited his options in Boulder, he knows he’s more than just that (like maybe he could also be “a jock”), but never got the chance to show that to the others, and he fears the same may become true in Natick, Massachusetts. But obviously things are much more complex than just “not mentioning you’re gay”, especially when Rafe forms a really close friendship with a boy, Ben, at his new school.


Openly Straight is a sweet (and sometimes really funny) sort of book about a completely serious topic: how labels can define who you are, and how to defy labels. It’s also a story about a boy who needs to learn how to stay true to himself. Rafe needs to figure out whether he’s ultimately not losing part of who he is by trying to get rid of “the label”. In doing so, Rafe also does some really questionable stuff and it’s hard to not see some of the things he does as openly self-centred…. However, Openly Straight also hosts a great set of secondary characters, which is a nice bonus, even though some of them tend towards the more stereotypically “quirky” (yes, quirky has now also become a stereotype 😉 ).

[1] And made me think immediately of David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, which also had that cool cover!

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