Arthur A. Levine Books
Published May 28, 2013
About Openly Straight
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 break 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 feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.
This book has been on my reading list for a LONG time, but once I realized it’s by the same author as THE MUSIC OF WHAT HAPPENS, I really wanted to read it.
One of the things that stands out to me about OPENLY STRAIGHT is that it really explores some elements of identity that aren’t often explored in the YA that I’ve read. Not just about coming out or what it means for people to distill a person’s identity down to one thing. I think the thing that really resonated with me and struck me as so different was the idea that sometimes there are parts of us that feel… incongruent? Like we can’t be both those things in the same room with the same people in the same way.
For Rafe, this had a lot to do with how he felt himself perceived by other guys as an out gay kid. When he had an opportunity to connect with other boys without them knowing he was gay, he felt like he had a different kind of experience, one that had value in a different way. I liked that as he explored those ideas, he realized that while there was a barrier between him and other guys if they knew he was gay, not telling them also created a barrier, too. Anyway, I felt like there were a lot of great ideas in and around that conflict that were definitely worth reading.
I also, of course, loved Rafe and Ben. I loved the way their friendship developed, and the fact that they had this beautiful emotional closeness that preceded anything else. Rafe’s roommate and his best friend were lots of fun, too. I really enjoyed the banter between them.
Rafe is definitely a messy character in the process of learning a lot about himself. He’s got some selfish attitudes and doesn’t always do right by his friends, but I think the way things play out in the story show that he’s beginning to turn a corner and pursue healthier ways to relate to people. And healthier ways to think about himself.
All in all, I liked this book. As I put together the links for this review, I realized that OPENLY STRAIGHT has a sequel! And it’s Ben’s point-of-view! So, I will absolutely be reading that book which is called HONESTLY BEN.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Rafe is gay and Jewish. One minor character is Black. Rafe’s best friend, Claire Olivia is Latina. Other minor characters are gay or possibly bisexual.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.
Kissing between two boys. References to sex. References to sexual touching.
Brief references to Rafe being Jewish.
Violent Content – Content warning for homophobia.
At a PFLAG dance, Rafe sees some boys who repeatedly use a homophobic slur. He witnesses another closeted gay boy being harassed and mocked.
Rafe and his friends drink alcohol. Rafe mentions having been high on pot once.
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