Openly Straight is a witty and thought-provoking read about identity and the labels that define us. Can you hide an important part of yourself from th...moreOpenly Straight is a witty and thought-provoking read about identity and the labels that define us. Can you hide an important part of yourself from the world and still be you?
Rafe Goldberg is a high school junior and unapologetically gay. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his supportive, slightly embarrassing parents (Think the parents in Easy A). He came out to his parents when he was in 8th grade, and they took it really well, even throwing a Coming Out party for him complete with balloons and party hats (The party hats said Yay! Rafe is Gay!). He was not bullied at school, and in fact gave talks to other schools about his overall positive experiences. But, he feels like the fact that he’s gay is all people notice about him. He sees himself as more than a gay advocate; he’s into soccer and writing but thinks the gay label is what stands out.
Rafe gets the idea to start over at a new school out of the area. He goes to an all-boys boarding school in Massachusetts. Right away he’s part of the athlete clique at school and loves that they think of him as a jock. Rafe decides that he’s going to keep his sexuality under wraps, and enjoy this new anonymity. One of his teachers, and faculty advisor of the GSA, is in on the secret, though, and encourages Rafe to journal about the experience as a writing exercise.
Things get complicated in Rafe’s social experiment when he falls for his teammate Ben. Ben is smart, sensitive, articulate, and totally dreamy, but he’s straight. Or is he? Their friendship transcends labels, but is it all a lie if Rafe can’t tell Ben the truth?
I really savored this book and loved reading about Rafe’s experiences. Rafe is such an endearing character, and I also really fell for Ben. Their friendship is just too sweet. And yay for Rafe’s wonderfully supportive parents! Even though they and his best friend from Boulder aren’t on board with the going back into the closet plan, they do their best to support him.
This book gave me a lot to think about regarding identity and labels, and it was just so funny and refreshing too. I’m a new fan of Bill Konigsberg, and hope he revisits these characters in a follow-up book.
I think Openly Straight is a must for high school libraries, and anyone who struggles with their own label, whether they are gay or straight, will identify with Rafe.(less)
Also Known As features Benway’s trademark humor and this time centers on a family of spies. I found it highly enjoyable, witty and fresh, and AKA even...moreAlso Known As features Benway’s trademark humor and this time centers on a family of spies. I found it highly enjoyable, witty and fresh, and AKA even made me LOL at times. ;)
I expected AKA to be a kind of funny Heist Society type novel, with lots of gadgets and dangerous missions. Where this book is a little different is that the main character gets to experience a normal life for the first time. She’s always lived the life of an international spy, never putting down roots anywhere. Now she’s getting her first taste of high school and being around teenagers, and it’s out of her comfort zone but in a good way.
There’s a great cast of characters in AKA. Maggie has a mentor and coffee buddy in the forger Angelo, and Maggie’s parents walk the line between over-protective mom and dad, and stern bosses. Maggie is clever and sarcastic and is used to talking to adults all day. Her new friends are independent and loner types (but the filthy rich kind) like her. But together they click as a band of misfits.
I loved the smart and snappy dialogue in AKA. The novel flows in a conversational and easy way and is a quick and fun read. Benway’s wit shines through the pages, and the story is full of action, friendship, and heart. The New York setting is also used to advantage with several scenes taking place in familiar landmarks. I found it humorous that Maggie has to be a “spy” for her Halloween costume and doesn’t know how to dress the part.
In addition to Maggie torn between the spy world and wanting a normal life, there’s also a mystery to solve and the clock’s ticking. The stakes are high for her family and for the first time Maggie has friends that she doesn’t want to let down.
I think anyone that enjoys humorous YA contemporary books will love Also Known As. The spy twist is fresh and a blast to read. And even though there is a sequel in the works, this book has a satisfying conclusion on its own. I’m looking forward to the next installment.