SPOILER ALERT!

So. Much. Win.

Openly Straight - Bill Konigsberg

There are books that will make you think, books that will make you laugh and a book that will change the way you listen to "Hollaback Girl".

 

But only one can give you all that… and moar.

 

I don't think I can write a review worthy of this book's wit and brilliance. I love how I never once stopped functioning as a thinking reader but it didn't cause me serious, debilitating pain in the process. No one got beaten up, no one nearly got raped, there was no crying in the rain while clutching someone's soccer jersey. This was an absolute joy to experience.

 

It's tough to be Seamus Rafe Goldberg. To be openly gay in Boulder, Colorado since his freshman year; to be the only son of the president of Boulder PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays); to have a best friend who calls you Shay Shay; to be a charming, complex and interesting young man boxed in a single word: GAY. Tough enough to leave this sheltered environment, pack his bags to an all-boys school in Natick with the singular purpose of reinventing himself to someone who's not just gay. Not necessarily play the "Pretend Straight" game, just the "Maybe Not Mention" it to anyone.

 

Can you really extricate that part of yourself without losing who you are?

 

I have only read a handful of LGBT books but none of them satisfied what I was looking for as much as this one. Rafe's story is one of self-discovery, one that goes beyond his proclamation that he is gay. I liked that about this book. How a person is a person and not his sexual preference is a topic that should be heavy but the clever presentation of Rafe in this journey kept the drama to a minimum, the LOLs flowing freely and the wisdom in tofu pigs vividly painted.

 

Rafe should've really come across a whiner, a young man who cannot fully appreciate the gift of being gay in the 21st century. But his conflict and the questions he seeks answers from were fitting and valid for someone who is gay in the 21st century: when acceptance can easily translate to isolation, when someone's sexual orientation can be used as a weapon and when a guy just wants to be a guy who just happens to be gay.

 

The secondary characters were absolutely endearing. I covet Rafe's parents especially his mom (the gay guys gets the best moms, I think).

 

"…Nothing that comes from love could ever be wrong."
It was just such a thing my mother would say. Then she started singing 'All You Need Is Love' and I excused myself because there's a certain level of cheese that's too goopy even for me.


I'm torn between Albie and Toby on who to trail in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Albie invented scanner pong but Toby dresses up like Michael Jackson and does a mean Oprah ("You get a car! You get a car!") so I guess I'll have to settle with Coach Donnelly who sounds like a cross between Ron Burgundy and Stephen Colbert.

 

"One day you have a father, and next, you're watching him fly a plane into a ship on Pearl Harbor on television. Those kids didn't do anything wrong. they just lived in an evil country. The axis of evil. That sort of evil is beyond anything you or I will experience in our lifetimes. So be glad. Be glad we live in the US of A. Be glad we get to choose, with our freedoms."

 

 

 

If I have to gripe about some thing it would be that some of Rafe's motives were questionable. Did he really have to transfer to New England in an All-Boys' School to not be just "the gay guy"? Wouldn't that have worked as well in ANY school outside of Rawbridge? I actually liked how things ended, especially the chapter before the last. It was out of left field, very witty. But I'm not sure how I feel about how things ended up between him and Ben. I'm not looking for a HEA between them, It just felt like Ben was collateral damage to Rafe's path to self-discovery. I'm not a fan of how and when after sex with Ben, ofcourse Rafe realized how he didn't like Steve who was depicted stereotypically as the testosterone-fueled jock. For a book with rich, multi-dimensional characters, Steve drew the shortest stick and got just one. I had to pause and think what didn't work for me in this one because it truly was a very well-written, entertaining story.

 

There's always going to be that one book for every genre that you'd auto-rec to anyone who asks. This is the one I'd recommend for anyone who wants to think and laugh while doing it.