As I’m sure y’all are tired of hearing have heard, I had the pleasure of going to ATBF earlier this month with my little sister. It really was an awesome experience (why else can I not stop talking about it?). I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Konigsberg, author of Openly Straight and Out of the Pocket. Before going to ATBF, I had no intention of buying this book. In my head, I was just crossing my fingers that it would show up in a library soon or something (fat chance in Louisiana). I really enjoyed hearing everything he had to say at his panel, so I just broke down and bought it.
My Brief Synopsis
Openly Straight follows a guy named Rafe who is from a small town in Colorado. In his hometown of Boulder, he is openly gay, and has the support of his parents, friends, and peers. Though this would be the ideal case for anyone who came out, Rafe wasn’t satisfied with his treatment in Boulder. People treated him differently, he didn’t have any guy friends, and he was tired of being the “gay” kid. He decides to move across the country to an all-boys boarding school in New England. He sheds his label, and becomes one of the jock guys.
At first, his plan seems to be going great. Other than his best friend in Boulder being mad at him and not understanding why he wants to change who he is, Rafe is living the dream. No one knows his sexuality and none of the guys treat him differently. Rafe starts getting pretty close with Ben, one of his teammates. He develops a crush, and as their relationship forms, things start to spin out of control.
To be honest, I was ready to give up on this book after the first couple chapters, but I’m so happy that I didn’t. After reading all of the background and learning a little more about each of the main characters, the book starts to really pick up. Honestly, I was convinced that I wouldn’t like this book because the main character is a guy. I know. I know. But I promise I’m not sexist. I just usually like to read books with a female main character (of course there are a few exceptions, namely Harry Potter).
Anyway, I found Rafe to be a very relatable character, especially for young adults, but really, for anyone. He’s a guy that essentially just wants to be normal and fit in. Hasn’t everyone gone through that at some point in their lives? Granted, not most people would move across the country just to accomplish this goal. But a lot of people do have that “I’ll do whatever it takes” attitude once they reach the end of their ropes.
I started to get really into the book once the relationship with Ben really picked up. After Rafe starts to hang out with the jock guys less and starts hanging out with mostly just Ben, and his roommate Albie, and Albie’s friend, Toby, I started losing sleep from staying up all night trying to read “just one more chapter” (which obvs turned into 5 or 6). Just like in most YA books with female main characters, I started cheering for Rafe to get the guy. Bill Konigsberg does a really good job with cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. It’s like the last few paragraphs are just teasers, and you can’t not read the next chapter because you have to know what happens.
I really think this book explores the concept of finding yourself. I think I related to it well because when I was having my quarter-life crisis, I was trying to go to Australia for a year to figure some things out. Luckily, I was presented with an opportunity that kept me here, but others aren’t so lucky. At the end of the novel, it’s like Rafe learns 20 life lessons. Not only does he finally come out to everyone at his new school, he embraces his identity, stops being paranoid that people are staring at him just because he’s gay, and realizes that he doesn’t need to be friends with people who aren’t going to embrace every part of who he is.
I give this book a 4.5 out of 5. It really was an excellent read! Everyone should read it – gays and straights alike. You can find more information about Openly Straight and Bill Konigsberg here. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.