Review: Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Honestly Ben (Openly Straight #2)
Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books
Published March 28, 2017

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Honestly Ben

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.

Except…

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.

Honestly Ben on Goodreads

My Review

I’ve had OPENLY STRAIGHT for years, but I finally read it recently. While I was looking up links for my review, I noticed that it had a sequel– HONESTLY BEN.

Lots of times when I finish the first book in a series, I’m super excited about the sequel, so I add it to my list, and even then it takes forever for me to read it. This time, though, I bought HONESTLY BEN right away and immediately started reading it. I finished it that same day.

I loved Ben’s character in OPENLY STRAIGHT, so I was really excited that not only was there a follow-up to the first book, but also that the story is told entirely from his point of view. As I read the book, though, I realized he’s kind of a hard character to write from. He spends a lot of time thinking about things, which didn’t always translate very well in a scene. Sometimes I found myself wishing there were more scenes that showed him interacting with someone else and learning stuff by doing it.

I feel like where Konigsberg’s writing really shines the brightest is in scenes with dialog. Those are always my favorite. The characters feel so real, and there’s always some deep thing being unearthed, and often it’s couched in lots of silliness and goofy fun. I love that. Same with scenes where there are arguments or conflict. I found those to be the most compelling.

That said, one of the things I liked about OPENLY STRAIGHT was that it waded into some thoughts about identity and how much or little that is a part of who someone is. How knowing someone’s sexual orientation can change how people treat that person.

In HONESTLY BEN, the story explores the tendency for people to immediately jump to a label for someone based on the current relationship they’re in and how hurtful that can be. I loved that exploration a lot, and I wish there were more books that honed in on that so well.

For Ben, sexual identity is a complex issue. He wrestles with homophobic ideas that come from his family. He wrestles with what his attraction to Rafe actually means. He’s uncomfortable rushing to a label for himself, and frustrated when people around him assume they know his identity better than he does.

I really identified with a lot of the things he went through in the story. I enjoyed it a lot.

Honestly Ben on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Ben, the main character is unsure of his identity. He has dated mostly girls, but has romantic feelings for a boy. Rafe is gay and Jewish. Another friend is also gay and genderfluid.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex. Kissing between two boys. Brief reference to oral sex.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Ben’s father is a domineering person who says things that cut Ben and his family members pretty deeply. Some of the boys on the baseball team make jokes about rape and say homophobic things. Ben challenges them.

Drug Content
Ben drinks alcohol and later regrets it.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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