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)
I started reading Wonder on a whim over the weekend and couldn’t put it down. I’d heard good things about the book for months, and liked the book trai...moreI started reading Wonder on a whim over the weekend and couldn’t put it down. I’d heard good things about the book for months, and liked the book trailer, but for some reason I kept finding other books to read instead. Even though I do like middle grade books, the subject matter of this one gave me pause. Anyway, the story is so engaging and uplifting, much more so than I had expected. Totally a worthwhile read and I’m so glad I finally read it.
10-year-old August Pullman was born with a severe facial abnormality. His parents home schooled him all of his life due to his frequent surgeries and medical appointments. Now, when others August’s age are starting middle school, his parents think the time may be right for August to attend school as well. Auggie is a normal kid inside, smart and funny, and loves Star Wars and videogames. But will his new classmates be able to see past his outward appearance?
Auggie is so endearing- he won me over from the very first pages. I was so scared for him to start middle school. Middle school is terrifying under the best of circumstances! And even though Auggie has seen reactions of strangers around him all his life, it’s hard to prepare yourself for this age group. I, like Auggie, hoped for the best but steeled myself for the worst. His experience has highs and lows and focuses in on a handful of students and teachers and the different ways they interact with Auggie.
There are a few kids assigned to keep an eye out for Auggie at school to show him around. Auggie is very perceptive about others and is a good judge of character- he really is a brave little guy. It’s interesting to see the world through Auggie’s eyes and then later revisit the same scenes through the eyes of his friends when the book shifts to multiple POV. I hadn’t expected the book to shift POV actually, but it does satisfy some curiosity by hearing other characters perspective. Two of Auggie’s classmates, as well as his sister, her friend, and boyfriend all take a turn at the narration. Auggie’s sister Via is a standout character, as she shares the effect her brother has had on her life.
Hearing the different reactions to Auggie made me think about who I would be in the scenario, and I’d react in middle school if I had a classmate like him. My daughter and I had a dialogue about it, and you always hope you’d be compassionate, but it’s hard to know what is the right way to respond in the moment. The book does a great job of making you think about how to treat people fairly and with compassion. The writing is accessible and has a light touch, even though there are some heavy and distressing scenes. It is just perfect for a middle grade audience, and to read aloud for class discussion or at home. But really I think this uplifting story is appealing for all ages.(less)