Rating: 4.5 STARS!
Genre: Contemporary YA/LGBT
Standalone/Series: Openly Straight #1
How I got this book: Bought via Audible
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.
While fantasy has always been my top choice of novel, particularly when it comes to YA fiction, I seem to be falling in love with contemporary novels more and more lately. It's strange that this is coinciding a little with my recent love-affair with audio books. I signed up for a 3-month free trial with Audible two-months ago, and so far I haven't looked back.
This book caught my eye as a recommendation from Audible after I'd finished listening to Leah on the Offbeat and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.
I hadn't actually heard of this one before but the sample and the synopsis piqued my interest.
I instantly found the narrator, Pete Cross, really likeable, I love his voice work for all of the different characters, giving each one their own different, distinguishable voice, which really helps the story to flow smoothly.
I love the life he brings to Rafe who is funny and witty, to the point where I found myself giggling away while I listened. The very different mixture of characters is something I really enjoyed, from the enigmatic, quirky Albie, sweet and crazy Toby, troubled Bryce, and Rafe's crazy parents, to the extremely complicated Ben, who is so very wise and thoughtful.
Openly Straight surprised me. There are so many laugh out loud moments but they're woven into a complex story about personal identity and the importance of being true to yourself whilst also containing a bittersweet love story that hurt a little to witness.
My heart goes out to both Rafe and Ben for their stubbornness and naivety, but the true beauty of this story wasn't their friendship but Rafe's journey of self-discovery, something that I think can be appreciated no matter your gender or sexual orientation.
This book made me think. It's something I'm really enjoying about a lot of the contemporaries that I'm reading lately, that they force you to look deeper, to assess your own life and reflect on it, and for the most part, I agree with Rafe, labels shouldn't matter. Whether it's your skin colour, your sexual preferences, your proficiency at a certain skill; that one thing does not define your entire being. But, I also understand the conflict, that you can't push aside an unchangeable, inextricable part of who you are.
What really cemented my love for this beautiful book was the finishing sentence:
"There was nothing anyone needed to accept or tolerate. We celebrated."
Which is exactly what this book felt like. A celebration of everything that makes us different, but how in that, we're all tied together, all connected.
So, if you're looking for a book that will make you smile, laugh and maybe even cry a little, and if you love books like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Running With Lions, I'd highly recommend Openly Straight.
Book two, Honestly Ben is now available, and will more than likely be my next Audible purchase because I NEED to find out what happens next!
A slightly odd, side note, is that this book really made me want to write. I haven't written anything other than my blog (and stuff for work) for a couple of months. I've been stressed, bogged down with life and just not feeling it, but the more I read this book, the more I just wanted to pick up my pen and write fiction. Finally, I did and it feels great again, so fingers crossed the feeling continues.
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About Kayleigh (She/Her)
Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
About Sophie (She/Her)
Sophie loves books (obviously). She has a passion for photography and spotting wildlife, and is interested in anything made with passion and creativity.
THIS BLOG IS SPOILER FREE!
5 Stars - AMAZING!!
4.5 Stars - Almost perfect!
4 Stars - I really loved it
3.5 Stars - I liked it alot
3 Stars - I liked it
(I don't typically review books that I rate below 3 stars)
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