Author: Bill Konigsberg
Genre: Young Adult
Review: The first chapter of Openly Straight strongly reminded me of Looking for Alaska. Both novels begin with the protagonist starting a new boarding school far away from home in order to get a fresh start. Both protagonists are left in their un-air-conditioned dorms by their loving parents to face their new strange roommates. Both novels involve characters drinking a fair bit -- if I were a parent, I don't think I'd let my kids go to a boarding school.
The main protagonist's name is Rafe and he decides to go to an all-male boarding school to escape his "gay guy" label back home. In Rafe's mind, everyone thinks of him as gay first and everything else second. So he decides to pretend to be straight, though according to him, he'll just avoid mentioning that he's gay. It's funny how he keeps saying that to himself and his parents and his friends back home, but in reality he lies about who he is almost immediately and continues lying.
From the start, Rafe gets in with the jocks at the school. He plays football and soccer and then feels much more comfortable ogling guys in the shower than he ever did before. He also slowly makes friends with his dorky roommate and his openly gay friend. Rafe also becomes very good friends with Ben, whom he meets playing football.
Of course, his little omission about being gay becomes pretty significant after Rafe gradually falls in love with Ben. I thought the romance aspect of the novel was very well done. It felt natural and realistic, though I have never known a straight guy to behave the way Ben does throughout the book.
There is a secondary narrative in the novel, written in the form of a diary assignment. Rafe is recounting his "gay" experiences in Boulder and each diary has feedback from the teacher at the end of it. While I liked getting the background on Rafe, I thought the whole writing diary thing was extremely unrealistic. I think most teens wouldn't share those sort of thoughts and experiences with an unfamiliar adult. It's just weird.
These details aside, I found the book was absorbing and enjoyable. I read it quickly and late into the night to find out what happens next. I think the ending was reasonable and realistic, even if I perhaps wished for something less realistic and more fulfilling. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA genre.