Openly Straight

( 17 )

Overview


A funny, honest novel about being out, being proud . . . and being ready for something else.

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 ...

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Openly Straight

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Overview


A funny, honest novel about being out, being proud . . . and being ready for something else.

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 breaking 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 being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jeff Chu
Characters have worn masks and wrestled with the consequences, in works as similar but divergent as Twelfth Night and There's Something About Mary. Openly Straight is a thoughtful, modern spin on that venerable device, and it works because of Rafe…Rafe feels real. He's convincingly teenage. He's smart but never too articulate. He's searching but not always finding what he thinks he's looking for…Konigsberg's lovely novel invites us to walk with Rafe through his season of assumed identity and his costly emergence into honesty. It's beautiful. It's a story of salvation.
Publishers Weekly
Konigsberg (Out of the Pocket) raises compelling questions about stereotyping and self-actualization through the story of openly gay high school junior Rafe Goldberg. Though Rafe has a supportive family and community in progressive Boulder, Co., he still feels stifled by being known as "the gay kid." In order to try to live a "label-free life," Rafe transfers to an East Coast boarding school with the intention of keeping his sexuality a secret ("The only way I would actually lie was if I were asked directly, ‘Are you gay?' "). At school, Rafe is quickly befriended by a group of jocks, and even kissed by a girl at a party, but he begins to question his experiment when his feelings for a friend develop into something more. Introspective essays Rafe composes about his life for a writing seminar seem overly scripted, and the plot becomes predictable long before Rafe faces a crisis of conscience. Even so, Rafe's story about seeking a different kind of acceptance should spur readers to rethink sexual identity and what it means to be "out." Ages 14–up. Agent: Linda Epstein, Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. (June)
From the Publisher

Now a junior in high school, Rafe, who has been out since he was 14, is thoroughly sick of being labeled “the gay kid.” So he does something bold: he leaves his Colorado school to enroll in a private boys’ academy in New England where no one knows he’s gay and he can be a label-free, “openly straight” part of a group of guys. Does this mean he goes back into the closet? No, he tells himself, not exactly; “It was more like I was in the doorway.” But is he fooling himself? Can you put a major part of yourself on hold and what happens when you then find yourself falling in love with your new (straight) best friend?

Lambda Literary Award-winner Konigsberg (Out of the Pocket, 2008) has written an exceptionally intelligent, thought-provoking, coming-of-age novel about the labels people apply to us and that we, perversely, apply to ourselves. A sometimes painful story of self-discovery, it is also a beautifully written, absolutely captivating romance between two boys, Rafe and Ben, who are both wonderfully sympathetic characters. With its capacity to invite both thought and deeply felt emotion, Openly Straight is altogether one of the best gay-themed novels of the last ten years.

— Michael Cart, Booklist starred review
   

"Rafe has been out and proud since eighth grade, and it was fine: his school friends were cool, his parents threw him a party, and his mother has become the president of Boulder’s PFLAG chapter. All this has become rather tiresome, though, and Rafe longs for a life without labels, where people can see him as Rafe before they see him as the gay kid. He hatches a plan to attend a posh boys’ boarding school out east where he can start fresh. Though initially perplexed, his parents and his best friend ultimately support him as he explores life in boyworld where his orientation is not a barrier to his being fully accepted by the jocks as well as the geeks. He develops an intensely intimate relationship with a sensitive jock named Ben that leads to his falling in love, however, and he realizes that true intimacy has to start and end with honesty. This unusual treatment of the subject of labels, integrity, and the role of sexuality in identity forthrightly explores life after homophobia; no one in Rafe’s life is troubled by his sexuality, but that doesn’t completely answer the question of when and under what circumstances his orientation is relevant. A creative writing teacher pushes Rafe to explore what he’s doing and why, and his comments on Rafe’s writing, while not preachy, offer some clear lessons, as do Rafe’s honest and painful reflections after he and Ben take their relationship as far as it can go in the context of Rafe’s omission. An important but subtle undercurrent here is that Rafe is an introvert in a family and culture that expect him to be more open about everything in his life; this aspect of his character is not explicitly named as such, but astute readers will come to see it as fundamental to all of the things he does explore, such as his tendency to carefully manage his self-exposure in his writing. Readers and discussion groups looking for new and deeper ways to think about what it means to live honestly in a world that sorts by labels will find this fresh and evocative." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred review

VOYA - Christina Miller
Rafe came out in ninth grade and became the well-adjusted and accepted gay kid. Now Rafe does not want his sexual orientation to define him; he does not want to be "gay Rafe" anymore, just Rafe. Hoping to get a fresh start, he opts, for his high school junior year, to leave Colorado for Massachusetts to attend Natick, an all-boys boarding school. Rafe plans not to deny his sexual orientation, but not to flaunt it either. Being evasive works for the most part, and Rafe enjoys being "one of the guys," somewhat to the consternation of his mom, who reminds him that the guys assume he is straight. Although not part of his original plan, Rafe eventually lies outright to keep his secret, "white lies" he initially deems acceptable, but as they proliferate, the reader becomes quite concerned for his wellbeing. Konigsberg (Out Of The Pocket [Penguin, 2008]) tells a good story and explores multiple issues—identity, tolerance and acceptance, fitting in, what it means to be out, and the impact of social labels. The story is realistic and believable and, refreshingly, not filled with the usual young adult tropes; Rafe is a good student with loving parents, but a gay teen trying to navigate two worlds while finding himself. Reviewer: Christina Miller
Kirkus Reviews
Going back into the closet isn't as easy as it seems. Coloradan Rafe Goldberg has always been the token gay kid. He's been out since eighth grade. His parents and community are totally supportive, and his mom is president of his Boulder-area chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. On the outside, Rafe seems fine, but on the inside, he's looking for change, which comes with the opportunity to reinvent himself at the prestigious Natick Academy in Massachusetts. There for his junior year, Rafe cloaks his gayness in order to be just like one of the other guys. He hangs out with the jocks, playing soccer and football, and gets exactly what he wants--until he starts to fall for one of his new best straight friends. Konigsberg's latest (Out Of the Pocket, 2008) might sound like fluff, but it actually works as a complicated, poignant story of a teenage boy trying on a new skin. Rafe's exploration happens in reverse of the traditional coming-out story, and his motives, observations and feelings are captured in mini-essays he pens for his creative-writing professor, who then provides him with life-coach–like feedback on both his decisions and his writing skills. These snippets feel prescriptive, but the rest moves swiftly as Rafe tries to cover his feelings and fit in with his new friends. An eye-opening story of wish fulfillment. (Fiction. 13 & up)
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
Rafe Goldberg is openly gay in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. He even gives speeches encouraging tolerance. His parents are proud of him; he is on the soccer team; he skis; he likes to write; he is not bullied, and he has friends, especially Claire Olivia. But he has convinced his parents to send him to Natick, an all-boys boarding school in New England for his junior year. He has given them many reasons for his choice, but he has not told either his parents or Claire Olivia the real one: he is tired of being known as the gay guy, and he wants to try being known for himself instead of for his sexual orientation. Life at Natick starts out pretty well. Rafe gets into a touch football game his first afternoon, and he is treated like one of the guys. He learns to get along with his messy roommate and the roommate's gay friend without giving up his own secret. And he gradually falls in love with Ben, another member of the soccer team. Ben's smart and sensitive, as well as handsome and athletic, but he is probably not gay. Rafe lets his relationship with Ben deepen without confessing his true orientation, and the tension builds as their closeness increases. Rafe tells his own story, so the reader clearly understands his reasons and also experiences his growing uneasiness with the ways his presenting himself as straight impacts the lives of other people. The surface of the book is often funny, and secondary characters—from Rafe's parents to his mixed bag of classmates and his history-mangling soccer coach—supply the story with lots of lighthearted moments. But Rafe's experiment with living a lie about himself provides a serious and worthwhile basis for the action. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Rafe is gay, but he hopes no one will notice at his new all-boys high school in New England. He's not in the closet exactly. Back home in Boulder, his stereotypically progressive and understanding parents championed his coming out in the eighth grade. Since then, Rafe has been unable to escape being the poster boy for Gay Pride. Tired of labels and limitations, he hides his true self in order to fit in and be just one of the guys. For a while it works, and he plays football, pals around with the jocks, and blends in with the straight guys. His best friend back home is furious with him for changing, and things really get complicated when he falls in love with Ben, the intellectual, brooding jock with whom he experiments one night. In the end, he just can't keep up the charade, and coming out of the closet for a second time results in the creation of some new friendships, but also the loss of some others. The book is peppered with Rafe's journal entries for a class, the only place where he's honest about his sexuality. His teacher's responses, while encouraging, don't add much to the plot. The book tackles issues of sexuality and coming out from an interesting angle, but at times the central message (honesty is the best policy) is a bit heavy-handed. Recommend this one to fans of Brent Hartinger's Geography Club (HarperCollins, 2003), Michael Harmon's The Last Exit to Normal (Knopf, 2008), and Julie Anne Peters's Define "Normal" (Little, Brown, 2000).—Nora G. Murphy, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, LaCanada-Flintridge, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545509893
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 57,628
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Bill Konigsberg won the Lambda Literary Award for Young Adult fiction for OUT OF THE POCKET (Dutton, 2008). Before writing novels, he was a sportswriter for The Associated Press and ESPN.com. He won a GLAAD Media Award for a coming-out essay he wrote while working at ESPN.com, and he blogs at billkonigsberg.blogspot.com. Bill lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his partner, Chuck.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    This book made me cry and laugh, sometimes at the same time. It

    This book made me cry and laugh, sometimes at the same time. It can be relatable for any teen trying to figure out who they are, not just for gay, bi or lesbian teens, in the closet or not. 

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 28, 2014

    I thought the premise of this book was interesting to me as a ga

    I thought the premise of this book was interesting to me as a gay teenager myself. What if I could go somewhere where nobody knew me or my sexual orientation? Rafe was a fun narrator and could easily seeing him be one of my friends. I thought this whole book was fabulous.The ending left me wanting something more however, maybe it was just an opening for a sequel? A guy can dream anyways. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    Jake

    You must've gotten locked out. Go to the next res.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2013

    GREAT

    Great book highly recomended

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    Surprisingly engaging.

    It is an interesting discussion of idetity. Is it possible to be completely and honestly you, if you are not telling people something important about yourself?

    It also begs the question: why does someone HAVE to "come out?" Why is it even a question that we ask, and why do we have to treat anyone differently once we know the answer?

    It is an engaging read and I quite enjoyed it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2014

    This is a fairy tale. The experience for Rafe from the time he c

    This is a fairy tale. The experience for Rafe from the time he comes out in the eight grade is NOT the typical experience in this world. A few
    scenes in Prep school help create some drama. The relationship he has with Ben is fantastic. The ending not so much. Rafe knew who he
    is from the beginning and his attempt to be "straight" and or normal was destined to fail. The support for gay youth in Bolder and at the Prep school was great but seem to good to be true. I  was in the eight grade when I knew I was gay. I 
    did not come "out" until I was 70. I met several Rafe's who were not officially out and struggling to do so. I decided it was time. I soon 
    learned it is no different at 70 than is at 13 or 14. There have been big changes in the last 57 years. There is still a long way to go. I do recommend the book.I also recommend "Two Boys Kissing."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2013

    Despite being an adult (though I fancy myself a young adult stil

    Despite being an adult (though I fancy myself a young adult still) I often search for good teenage fiction to grant myself a reprieve from the heavier reading required of me, or that I do for pleasure. This book was shockingly excellent and will be added to one of my favs. I loved all of the philosophical turns and found the book to be well written and engaging. Definitely a book I would recommend to any teenager regardless of sexuality or gender.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Must Read

    Funny, witty, never got boring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2014

    Darn good book

    I read it last year and i still remember it. It's the kind of book you just don't want to put down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2013

    Really good

    Awesome book, really relatable for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

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    Posted November 13, 2013

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    Posted August 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2014

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    Posted October 18, 2013

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