Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Plot Summary:
Rafe is tired of labels. Every since he was a little boy, everyone knew he was different. In fact, when he came out, nobody was surprised and everyone accepted the fact that they live in a community with a gay kid. Rafe: the openly gay student. Rafe: he is gay and smart. Rafe: well liked and gay. Everywhere Rafe goes, he is never just Rafe, but the gay guy known as Rafe. In order to get away from the label that is always attached to his name, Rafe has transferred to an all boy's high school where no one knows his name and the fact that he is gay. It's not that he wants to be locked away with a bunch of privileged and gorgeous boys, he just wants to be seen as Seamus Rafael Goldberg, the ordinary teenager who loves to write and wants to be accepted for who is and not what he is. When Rafe arrived at Natick, he didn't know what to expect, including his roommate, Albie. Albie is not at all what Rafe is expecting (Albie is a pig and Rafe is a neat freak), but, despite everything, Albie and his friend, Toby, are actually not that bad and kinda cool. When Rafe is asked to join in a game of football, by Ben he is given a once in a lifetime opportunity: becoming a jock. As time goes, Rafe has become part of a pack and the more time he spends with his new friends, the more guilty he feels about leaving his best friend, Claire Olivia, behind. Although they didn't part on the best terms, Claire was his confidant and the only person he could be himself around. However, he has learned that his English teacher knows he is gay (thanks to his mother), but, luckily, he is willing to keep to keep Rafe's secret and actually the allow him to express himself in his weekly journals. Life should be absolutely perfect for Rafe, but, unfortunately, when Rafe starts falling for Ben, things are about to become more difficult and even more complicated. Then again, who said being a teen is easy, especially if that teens is harboring a secret that could pretty much change the dynamics of an entire school.

Critical Evaluation:
Rafe never wanted to be the poster child for gay rights for teens. In fact, when he came out to his parents, he knew they would accept him for who he is. What he didn't expect is that his parents would use his sexuality as their latest revolution. Clearly, Rafe's parents are liberals who want nothing but the utmost for their son, including acceptance and respect. In many ways, readers will admire his relationship with his parents because they are more concerned about nurturing his soul and protecting his rights. What his parents don't realize is that they are marginalizing Rafe. Rafe's goal in life is to live a life without labels and, for once, be a normal guy. In his mind, Natick was the ideal place to start over where nobody had to know he's gay and they would actually see him for who he is. However, even at Natick, he is still labeled as a jock and that is why him and Albie had a rocky start. What this story brings to light is the idea that we, as human beings, are separated and lumped together by our similarities that society has designed, which have some serious consequences. For Rafe, being the openly gay student stunted his abilities to be amongst his own peers; everybody knew that it's not okay to bully the gay kid, but it doesn't mean they have to like him. At Natick, everyone knows that being a jock means you are automatically what Claire and Rafe call an FBIT (Frat Boy in Training), which we learn from Ben, is not true. Konigsberg does an amazing job juxtaposing Rafe and Ben because they are both sick of social constructs and want to be recognized for who they are and not what they are. Although Ben is straight, the admiration they have for one another is genuine and that is why their friendships works. However, with every friendship, there has to be an understanding  that honesty is just as integral as respect. Openly Straight is an amazing tale of one guy who wanted nothing more than to "normal" and embarked on a journey where he not only learned about himself, but how to truthful to himself and others.

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Bill lives in just outside of Phoenix with his longtime partner, Chuck. They have an Australian Labradoodle named Mabel, who completes them. She also can jump very high and head a ball like a champion soccer player.
Bill is now a full-time writer of fiction, which is his dream job. Except when it makes him crazy and impossible to live with, which is about 36 percent of the time.
Before Bill was a fiction writer (and long before he ever referred to himself in the third person), he was a sports writer. As a sports writer and editor for The Associated Press from 2005-08, he covered the New York Mets and his weekly fantasy baseball column appeared in newspapers across the country, from the New York Daily News to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In May of 2001, while working for, he came out on the front page of the website in an article entitled “Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays.” That article won him a GLAAD Media Award the following year.
Since then, he has spoken at numerous venues across the country on what it’s like to be a gay person in the world of sports. He has written for The New York Times, New York Daily News, North Jersey Herald and News and Denver Post, to name a few. His work has also appeared in Out Magazine. In 2011, his coming out was named the #64 moment in gay sports history by the website His story was included as a chapter in the book “Jocks 2: Coming Out to Play” by Dan Woog.

Teen LBGTQ Fiction, Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Humor, Teen Sports Lit

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Openly Straight:

Awards & Recognition:
Positive Reviews from:
  • Booklist
  • The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
  • Library Journal

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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