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.
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.
Booklist Review - Michael Cart
*Starred Review* 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 10 years. Grades 9-12.
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)