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Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He has won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he is gay. He has been out since 8th grade, and he is not teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that is 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.
Coming from a large family with two gay siblings, and then many gay cousins etc I was quite happy to request a copy of this book to review. I was not sure what to expect, but thought that, even though my youngest sibling has been out for some 15 odd yrs and my oldest sibling has recently came out to the world, maybe this story may give me a little insight into how they think and feel, and what they really have to tend with on a daily basis.
Do not get me wrong, I am not oblivious to society, and the general turmoil of what my siblings face on a daily basis, and although we are all very close, I confess I have never really sat down and asked them to play twenty questions on their life lol
So openly straight is about a teenage boy who comes out to his parents reasonably early in life, and has a heart warming reaction and is accepted for his choices straight away, so he comes out to the rest of the people in his school, hometown etc. Apart from a couple small bumps in the road, his sexuality is basically accepted without thought, and he is a great representative of the gay community. However, as much as he is accepted, he is also known as that gay kid.
So he chooses to go to an all boys collage, and he also chooses to keep his sexuality to himself, and to basically, not lie, but not tell the truth either. He lets others decide what they believe, and as the book title suggests, he lives his life at collage as 'openly straight'. The troubles, arguments, heart breaking decisions that abound from this decision, possibly provide more insight into the lives of people struggling to accept their sexuality, or struggling to come out, than any of the actually gay spoken parts of the book.
I really enjoyed the book. The ending was not what I expected. Far from it in fact. The story leads you to somewhat believe one thing, but twists to provide another ending altogether. In fact the ending was a bit of a let down. The story was full of fantastic twists, turns, curve-balls and then all of a sudden it just ended. No real ending, it just concluded lol I felt very let down and annoyed by this. I wanted to know more. How his friends life went once he left collage, how the two lads who were hiding their gay relationship feared, what the lead character chose to do next? and so much more.
I guess that is what makes for a good story, it leaves you questioning and wanting more, and leaves you unsure of what to think about it all! Openly straight was very successful in leaving me feeling annoyed that my questions were not answered lol and I kind of hope there will be a follow up to it.
The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. That bright blue and the title of course, Openly Straight. It made me think about what that could mean, and what kind of journey the book might take me on. The blurb on the back also peaked my interest.
Sitting down to the first few chapters I found myself drawn into the story slowly at first. I liked Rafe, but I found him a little unbelievable in ways. He is written as many teens are. Intelligent, articulate, with loads of wit and charm. Basically, like a great part for a young break out actor in a movie. But not very teen-like. He doesn't struggle with the things that he should struggle with, and I think that's the point of the book really.
Rafe goes on this journey of self discovery. Or self re-discovery. Having come out as gay very early on, in a pretty safe environment he sees that he didn't really get a chance to be anything but the "gay kid" at school. He feels he limited himself and his relationships as a result. And so, he hatches a plan to change things and on the way manages to totally baffle and upset a bunch of people.
The book covers all sorts of teenage issues. It looks at depression and bullying. It looks at teen sex, though doesn't touch on safe sex at all. It focuses heavily on tolerance and acceptance, but in a way that I never thought of before. It's open and honest about some things and there are a few swear words through-out.
The beautiful thing for me was that the end wasn't what I expected. I had an expectation of this awesome ending where it's all roses and glitter. But it wasn't that at all. It was tied up okay, but it was messy like life can be. There is closure of a sort, but it wasn't what I hoped for the characters which rattled me but in a good way.
In fact the book rattled me to the core. I took a long time to fall asleep after finishing it. Even when I woke in the morning, I was still feeling pretty shaken up by it and how things ended. But at the same time, it was really cool to be on the journey and to learn all the sides of the picture for Rafe and his family. As someone who supported the marriage equality law changes, I thought I got it. But reading this opened my eyes to see that the struggle for equality and celebration of that is ages off yet. It was really well done and I do hope that it gets a movie sooner rather than later.
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"What a whole lot of hoo-ha, this 'let's all be merry' - the dinners, the pressies and fuss! A load of old CODSWOLLOP!" hollered old Jerry. "But leave early then - if you must!" Miserly old Jerry from the Kai Corner Dairy is the New Zealand equivalent of Scrooge. Children will love spotting the odd Kiwi icon in Webb's humorous illustrations.
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