Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Openly straightSynopsis: 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.

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5 stars

I really enjoyed Rafe’s internal struggle. He had a good sense of who he was.  He just wanted to not be seen as the ‘gay’ kid.  This book was one of the most internal books I have ever read.  I love introspection but this one really went deep.  Every decision was looked at closely with Rafe.  ‘Would they treat me the same if they knew?’  ‘Should I tell anyone that I am gay?’ ‘Should I stand up for the other guys who are out?’ It was all very detailed in his mind and I ate it up.

Rafe comes off as pretty confident in my opinion. He’s aware of his talents in writing and the love he knows he will receive from his family and friends back home.  This new school challenges him in a way he I don’t think he was prepared for, and you see him struggle with his place there.

He just wanted to be accepted for who he was, not who he slept with.

Acceptance.  This word was talked about in the book, a particular scene stands out to me.  And I gotta be honest and say I didn’t think that word had any negative connotation till I read this.


“Actually, tolerance and acceptance are different.  To tolerate seems to mean that there is something negative to tolerate, doesn’t it? Acceptance, though, what’s that?”

I thought about that.  It reminded me of an excerpt from Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story that Mr. Scarborough had assigned us.  White had talked about the strange sort of tolerance his roommates had had for him back at his boarding school in the 1950s.  I remembered underlining the word tolerance.  I mean, if you accept something, you take it for what it is.  Tolerance is different.  Less.  So is acceptance at the top of the pyramid? Is that what everyone wants in the best of all possible worlds? Acceptance? I rolled the idea around in my head.  It didn’t feel right somehow.

No one was saying anything.

Acceptance also has a bit of negative to it, doesn’t it?” I finally asked.

Scarborough looked over at me. “Yes! Tell me more about that.”

My face reddened. I knew everyone was looking at me.  I didn’t want to stand out in this conversation, but I did have something to add.  I took a shot.

“Well, if you need to accept something, that means it’s not like it should be, right? Like you accept something as it is.”

“No,” someone said, from the back.  “You get accepted into college. It doesn’t mean you aren’t as you should be. That’s stupid.”

“Not stupid,” Scarborough said.  “Stay with me here.  That’s a slightly different form of the word. And yet, colleges accept students who are otherwise rejected. Acceptance is an affirmation that you’re good enough.”


“It’s hard to be different,” Scarborough said.  “And perhaps the best answer is not to tolerate differences, not even to accept them.  But to celebrate them.  Maybe then those who are different would feel more loved, and less, well, tolerated.”


I honestly feel like this should be required reading in high school.  Everyone can get something  out of this reading experience.

Curly Carla_small

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