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Openly Straight

Openly Straight

4.6 28
by Bill Konigsberg

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The award-winning novel about being out, being proud, and being ready for something else. Pre-order the companion novel Honestly Ben now (out 3/28/17)!

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


The award-winning novel about being out, being proud, and being ready for something else. Pre-order the companion novel Honestly Ben now (out 3/28/17)!

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.

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

Praise for Openly Straight:

Winner of the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor
YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
Lambda Literary Award Finalist

"Funny, unexpected, peppered with terrific dialogue -- and best of all, achingly honest." -- Ned Vizzini, author of It's Kind of a Funny Story and House of Secrets

"For anybody who ever wished they could be someone else (and who hasn't?), Openly Straight provides a fun and intriguing, twisting-and-turning romp through sexuality, identity, friendship, and love." -- Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys and Boyfriends with Girlfriends

"Bill Konigsberg hands a great high concept to a really compelling narrator and presents us with a terrific read. Openly Straight is smart, funny, and unflinching. Read this book." -- Chris Crutcher, author of Deadline, Whale Talk, and Period 8

"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." -- The New York Times Book Review

• "Lambda Literary Award-winner Konigsberg 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... Openly Straight is altogether one of the best gay-themed novels of the last ten years." -- Booklist, starred review

• "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

"For a thought-provoking, creative, twenty-first-century take on the coming-out story, look no further." -- The Horn Book Magazine

"An original, thought-provoking, hilarious story about the importance of embracing your true identity, and the cost to yourself and others when you don't." -- Julie Ann Peters, author of Luna and Keeping You a Secret

"Openly Straight sports a sharp plot with a twist, sympathetic (and totally hot) characters, and universal appeal. It's a must-read for openly everyone!" -- Lisa McMann, bestselling author of the Wake Trilogy

Praise for Honestly Ben:

"To characterize Honestly Ben (even though labeling feels so wrong after reading this book), I would first call it hilarious. But also touching! And absolutely necessary." -- Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why and What Light

• "Konigsberg has again done a remarkable job developing characters and inviting readers to consider the meaning of friendship with all its rewards and challenges. Extremely well written, this novel of ideas is deeply satisfying and as honest as its appealing protagonist." -- Booklist, starred review

• "Well-rounded characters take readers from serious, thoughtful discussions to typical teen pranks with ease . . . Equal parts serious and funny as it addresses homophobia, hazing rituals, and cheating while also delighting readers with a slice-of-life tale set at a private academy." -- School Library Journal, starred review

• “Konigsberg again realistically explores what happens when one’s self butts up against . . . the world’s expectations and assumptions . . . The result is a refreshingly honest exploration of modern relationships and an understanding that love can take many shapes and forms.” -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Honestly Ben is funny, complex, joyful, heartbreaking, and exceedingly wise all at once. A teenager with any question about the right way to live couldn't ask for a better read." -- Geoff Herbach, author of Anything You Want and Stupid Fast

"It's hard to write a good sequel, keeping what people loved about the first book, but adding something fresh and new. Not surprisingly, Bill Konigsberg pulls it off wonderfully in Honestly Ben." -- Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club and Three Truths and a Lie

Praise for The Porcupine of Truth:

Winner of the Stonewall Book Award
Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children's/Young Adult
A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection

"Words like 'brilliant' are so overused when praising novels--so I won't use that word. I'll just think it." -- Benjamin Alire Sáenz, author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

"Bill Konigsberg's The Porcupine of Truth is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking, a funny and thought-provoking road trip with remarkable friends Carson and Aisha, who share tough lessons about mending fractures, forging bonds, and discovering grace. Undeniably human and unforgettably wise, this book is a gift for us all." -- Andrew Smith, author of Grasshopper Jungle and Winger

• "Konigsberg weaves together a masterful tale of uncovering the past, finding wisdom, and accepting others as well as oneself." -- School Library Journal, starred review

• "Konigsberg... crafts fascinating, multidimensional teen and adult characters. A friendship between a straight boy and a lesbian is relatively rare in YA fiction and is, accordingly, exceedingly welcome." -- Booklist, starred review

"Equal parts funny and profound." -- Kirkus Reviews

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

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
HL680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Bill Konigsberg is the author of Openly Straight, which won the SCBWI Sid Fleischman Award for Humor and was named to the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list; The Porcupine of Truth, which won the Stonewall Book Award and was named a Booklist Editors' Choice selection; and Out of the Pocket, which won the Lambda Literary Award. Bill lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his husband, Chuck. Please visit him online at billkonigsberg.com and @billkonigsberg.

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Openly Straight 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Nerdfighter133 More than 1 year ago
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. 
ReadingToEscape More than 1 year ago
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. 
MarlenaC More than 1 year ago
Openly Straight was a refreshingly original story of a boy trying to find his place and personality. Konigsberg was spot on with the realities of being gay and how it impacts one's choices. This book displayed very well what it feels like to be gay in today's modern society. This is a humorous and witty version of nearly every gay teens coming out scenario. It's a very real story which makes you feel as though you're right there with Rafe, experiencing what it could be like to have to cover up such an important element in his life. This book is great for gay and straight teens alike because it really covers all aspects of discovering one's self. The end of being gay with Rafe of course, and also a perspective of what it's like to not exaclty know who you are, but wanting to expirement and find out through the situations of Ben. Really a very good read, and kept me wanting more! Hoping for a sequel to find out if more happens between Rafe in Ben seeing as they ended on a sour note, but still have another year of highschool to go! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You must've gotten locked out. Go to the next res.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book highly recomended
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tyleratthedisco More than 1 year ago
I laughed, and I cried. It is such well written that I felt as if these people could go to my school. I just cant wait for the next book to come out. I just need it. its like oxygen to me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Refreshing to see some homosexual books. I've been looking for lesbian fiction and stuff like that. Haven't read yet, but I hope its good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't get past the sample. I really wanted to read this book, it seemed interesting enough at first, but the plot just kinda fell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
saze_says More than 1 year ago
i absolutely love this book it was so honest and i think any lgb teens would be able to relate in some way
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg follows a teenage boy named Rafe who wants to leave his life in Colorado behind him and go to an all boys school on the east coast. Why does he want to do that? Because he is sick and tired of being "that guy kid" and wants to start life anew, in a sense. He is sick of living with labels and wants to see what life would be like to just be seen as "normal". Now Rafe doesn't deal with much bullying in his hometown, even his parents are behind him 100%, but he doesn't like people treating him special. He just wants to see him as he is. It is a very eyeopening book, how our society uses labels like "straight" and "gay",  among others such as "jock" and "nerd", etc, when it comes down to it, and it really makes you think of how a person feels when they are labeled. Why do we have to live with these labels? Bill Konigsberg writes his characters very well. They are believable, funny, honest, and true. No matter who you are, I feel, you can relate to these characters. Rafe is surrounded by many types of friends and many different types of people you would find in a high school. I love his roommate Albie, he is very quirky and smart. As we get to know Rafe, and the not-quite-a-lie he is living at the all boys school, he begins to fall in love with Ben, a guy who does't know the truth about Rafe. As the story progresses, life for Rafe gets a lot more complicated. All in all, I loved Konigsberg's writing and want to read more from him. Although, I felt like the story took a while to really get going drama-wise, and ended way too soon, I really enjoyed it and wished I could read more about Rafe. I give this novel a 4.5/5. Original Review posted on A Bibliophile's Reverie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is brutally honest relatable and funny
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars. Everyone wears labels, we pick them out ourselves and wear them proudly or others slap them on us, grouping us together to make their world more comfortable. There’s labels based on everything imaginable and the list gets longer as our society gets more diverse: race, sex, hobbies, culture, and physical characteristic, I could go on but it’s just a fact that everyone has multiple labels that they wear or identify themselves with. Rafe came out in eighth grade. This label, Rafe is proud of but it’s also smothering him, it’s all people see. They don’t see the boy behind the label, they just see gay. He feels like he’s in the spotlight, singled out because of his uniqueness and he just wants to lead a normal life. Rafe decides to spend his last two years of high school in Massachusetts where no one knows his sexual preference. It’s not like he’s undoing his gayness, he’s just not telling. The minute he hits the campus of this all-boy school, he’s enjoying himself. Playing football, scanner pong and hanging out with the guys, he’s almost enjoying himself too much. He’s like a bird, finally set free. As all this freedom makes its way into Raf’s world, he’s becomes undone. He’s lying to himself and others, it’s a front and these people are buying it. Rafe likes his new identity but he knows the truth will come out eventually and then who will be hurt? It was when some of his relationships start to get emotional that I start to worry about how they will end. Rafe’s covering up the truth, he’s an actor to these guys and I have a feeling that some of them won’t take the truth lightly. I treaded lightly reading the chapters as Raf dealt with his sexuality, it was a huge moment for someone who was escaping his previous life. Raf’s roommate was perfect for him too. From their initial meeting, to their police scanner days, to their deep conversations that they had, you couldn’t have found a better roomie than Albie. It’s an important subject and the author did an excellent job with straightforward characters– great book. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is difficult to put down. Read it and see why.
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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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny, witty, never got boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 More than 1 year ago
Awesome book, really relatable for me.