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Openly Straight #2

Honestly Ben

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Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.


There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

330 pages, Hardcover

First published March 28, 2017

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About the author

Bill Konigsberg

12 books1,915 followers
Bill Konigsberg was born in 1970 in New York City. Expectations were high from birth - at least in terms of athletics. His parents figured he'd be a great soccer player, based on his spirited kicking from inside the womb. As it turned out, the highlight of his soccer career was at Camp Greylock in 1978, when he was chosen for the Camp's "D" team. There were only four levels. Bill played alongside the likes of the kid who always showered alone, the chronic nosebleeder and the guy with recurrent poison ivy.

Early in his life, Bill decided he wanted to be a disc jockey, a professional baseball player, or the Construction Worker from The Village People. None of these career paths worked out for him. Yet. He still holds out hope for a Village People revival and has set up a Google Alert in case it happens.

A B- student throughout high school, Bill was voted Most Likely to Avoid Doing Any Real Work In His Life by a panel of his dismissive peers. He proved them wrong with a series of strange-but-true jobs in his 20s - driver recruiter for a truck driving school, sales consultant for a phone company, and temp at Otis Elevators.

He moved to Denver in 1996 and was voted Least Stylish Gay Guy in the Metro Denver Area (including Loveland!) for each of the years from 1996-98. His fashion-free wardrobe robbed him of prospective dates countless times, as did his penchant for wearing a mustache that didn't suit him.

He worked at ESPN and ESPN.com from 1999-2002, where he developed a penchant for sharing too much information about himself. That character flaw earned him a GLAAD Media Award in 2002, for his column "Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays." That coming out essay made him a household name to tens of people across the country.

He continued oversharing in graduate school at Arizona State, where he added People Pleasing to his growing list of character defects and parlayed that into the title of Most Chill Teacher of freshman composition.

As a sports writer and editor for The Associated Press in New York from 2005-08, Bill once called his husband, who was at the time working a desk job, from the New York Mets dugout before a game. "I'm so bored," Bill whined. He slept on the couch for a week after making that call.

He wrote a novel called Audibles at Arizona State, and sold that novel to Dutton Books for Children in 2007. His editor asked him to change the title so that it would appeal to people other than "football players who read." The resulting novel, Out of the Pocket, received strong reviews from his mother, father, significant other and one girl who had a crush on him in high school. It won the Lambda Literary Award in 2009.

His second novel, Openly Straight, hit the bookshelves in late May of 2013. He describes the novel as "Twilight-like, only without vampires and wolves and angsty teenage girls. Also, set in an all-boys boarding school in Massachusetts. Otherwise, it's like an exact replica."

His third novel, The Porcupine of Truth, was released in May of 2015. He chose to put a porcupine in the title because this is America, and no one here knows what a platypus is. The novel won the Stonewall Book Award and PEN Center USA Literary Award.

Next came Honestly Ben, a companion book to Openly Straight. He wrote it so people would stop yelling at him about Openly Straight's ending. Honestly Ben received three starred reviews and made lots of people swoon over Ben some more, which irks Bill to no end as Ben is loosely based on his husband, Chuck. No one seems to swoon over Rafe, who is loosely based on Bill. Harrumph, says Bill.

The Music of What Happens arrives in February of 2019, and it's a romance between two boys, and it includes a food truck that makes cloud eggs. Bill has an egg phobia.

Bill currently lives in Chandler, Arizona, which is the thinking man's Gilbert, Arizona. He has a husband who is clearly too good for him, and two cute dogs, Mabel and Buford, who complete him.

His bl

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,011 reviews
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
January 12, 2022
"We change. We keep changing. We won’t be finished products ’til the day we die."

Openly Straight is one of my all-time favourite books. No wonder I was hoping for a sequel, especially because the ending wasn't exactly what I had wished for.
Honestly Ben made my wish come true, while not fulfilling it at the same time.

The Good Stuff:
-Ben & Rafe finally end up together.
-Bill Kongisberg's sense of humour is A+ (most of the time)
-The author touches many important subjects such as sexuality and sexual identity and abuse
-It discusses (and disables) the many clichés of what it means to be a "real man". Because making sexist jokes, telling yourself and others to "man up" and thinking that being sensitive and emotional makes you less of a man is bullshit.

The Not So Good Stuff:
-The whole book was somehow less fun and not as passionate as the first one
-Toeing around the word "sex" and repeatedly saying "during" instead of "during sex" or "while we had sex". It annoys me so much that YA authors cover things up so much. I feel stupid saying this but sex is the most normal thing in the world. So why is it so hard write a simple sex scene? It doesn't have to be sexy or erotic, it doesn't have to be perfect or romantic. The problem is, in the YA genre, sex is the stuff for a subordinate clause. It is like a myth, or better, like the elephant in the room that no one likes to address. We all know what's happening but no one likes to talk about it. So listen up authors: We can and we will handle it. We know what sex is. We can handle words like vagina, penis and butt perfectly well, even when they are in the middle of a thing with each other. We are curious and we might even learn from it.
-Ben's POV was less exciting than Rafe's. He is often stuck in his head and his thought process feels staged and simplified, like a lecture. It's like the author is giving you the "Bisexuality 101" talk, or "Privilege for Beginners". A little more subtlety would have made this book seem less juvenile in many ways.
-The plot and pacing could have been improved. Even Ben's relationship to Rafe was less exciting than before. I don't really like huge melodramatic scenes but this book might have needed a pinch of that.

In a nutshell: I enjoyed this, but not as much as I wanted to. Compared to the first book this one was a bit of a disappointment and I even considered rating it two stars but I couldn't do it. It seemed way to harsh and overall Bill meant really well.

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Profile Image for jv poore.
612 reviews207 followers
June 10, 2022
Ben is considerate, thoughtful and enviably introspective beyond his years. He is also an adorably awkward, adolescent farm-boy attending an all-boys boarding school, on scholarship. As the first Junior to be captain of the baseball team, the recipient of a prestigious award (the acceptance of which requires a speech) and a student struggling with calculus; Ben’s mind is full. No time to contemplate how a straight guy could have crushed so hard on a gay dude.

The charismatic, somewhat quirky, and undeniably adorable, Hannah, is the perfect girlfriend, after all. Confident in his heterosexuality, Ben is ready to spend time with his best friend, Rafe, again. Once every single thing is in its respective, proper place; nothing is quite right. As Ben realizes that there can be more than one right answer and certainly more than two options, he begins to speak out instead of turning away. His confidence is inspiring and contagious with unexpected results.

Mr. Konigsberg deftly demonstrates the challenges and misconceptions that so many homosexual, bisexual, and gender-fluid teenagers are forced to face. Honestly Ben is a spot-on, spectacular Young Adult read. I will be donating my copy to my favorite HS classroom, of course. This is too important for a limited audience; I’m hopeful that there will be many adult readers. I can’t be the only one capable of being captivated and compelled by Ben Carver.

This review was written for Buried Under Books by jv poore.
Profile Image for Freakls.
52 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2015
Please pleeeease let them end up together pleeeease pleeeease .
Profile Image for Megan Collene.
21 reviews3 followers
March 30, 2017

After almost an entire book of biphobic remarks, Konigsberg does NOT get to have a character casually drop “bisexual invisibility” into a conversation in the last ten pages of the story.

Like, WHAT?!

Yargh. Okay, let me begin again.

I have been so excited for this book. I loved Ben when I read Openly Straight, and like many, I wanted to see the continuation of his story. I was so excited that, two days ago, I actually went to the book release party, but after reading the blurb at the bottom of the cover and hearing Konigsberg speak, I started to get a bad feeling. During the Q&A portion, I wanted to ask about the author’s research into LGBTQ+ communities different from his own, but I chickened out. Now I’m upset I didn’t; it seems like Konigsberg didn’t do his research or ignored ongoing complaints of the bisexual community.

I read the majority of the book yesterday; it was a polarizing experience to be reading this while #BiTwitter was trending and being celebrated. If you recall from Openly Straight, it is Ben who first questions “Maybe we’re bi?” in an intimate moment with Rafe, so why is the term so taboo in this instillation?

This book perpetuates a lot of bisexual myths, whether through outright discussion or subtle inferences. Many of the characters who claim to be accepting say seemingly ignorant things that aren’t discussed further. A few myths (with corresponding page numbers) are:

1. Bisexual people find every person attractive (p. 52).
2. Bisexuality is a “phase” or a “transitionary period” for one to becoming gay (p. 96).
3. Bi/pansexuality is determined by what genders you have experiences with (p. 143).
4. Bisexuality means you’re half gay and half heterosexual (p. 233, 246).
5. Bisexuals are “confused” or “can’t make up their mind” (p. 134-7).
6. Bisexuals cannot be monogamous (p. 144).

Ben is a smart kid. Readers know from both Openly Straight and Honestly Ben that the character is fond of learning, and he’s often shown reading or studying. However, there is no researching sexuality beyond a brief mention of looking up pictures of buff, naked men. This lack of exploration is actually really out of character for Ben, who I would probably label “heteroflexible,” even though he says he “straight” and just “gay-for-Rafe.” Yes, self-definition is more important than external labels, but Ben seems to have some internalized biphobia that isn’t dealt with in the same way that homophobia is discussed in the book. I wouldn’t be mad that Ben doesn’t identify as bisexual if not for a glaring contradiction in the book. Multiple times in both books, Ben says that he’s never thought about other men, but at the end of Honestly Ben, Rafe says that he’s mentioned it before. Ben’s rationalization about the “fleeting thoughts” are that “[he’s] a human being. [He’s] curious about a lot of things.” THEN WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING THIS STUFF UP, BEN?! Ben saying that bisexuality “doesn’t feel right” is problematic because, as a scholar, he would have actively sought an answer. Instead, we’re left with one resounding conclusion: bisexuality doesn’t feel right.

Was this the intention? I’d hope not. But it’s monosexist and problematic.

Why is this important? Well, first, of course, representation matters. It’s really hard to find good YA with bisexual characters, and I’m actually really sad that I can’t say this is one of them. Additionally, though, it’s important to note that Ben actually deals with issues that many bisexuals deal with. Bisexual youth are more likely to struggle with anxiety or depression than any other LGBTQ+ population, and it’s not explored nearly enough in the book, but Konigsberg shows hints of Ben developing both. Additionally, bisexuals are often marginalized from the larger LGBTQ+ community. The boys of Natick’s GSA apparently believe the myth that bisexuality is simply a phase leading to homosexuality. By not ever labeling Ben as bisexual, Konigsberg misses an opportunity to develop and explore these issues.

As his book release, Konigsberg mentioned the possibility of a third book in which the new information about Toby is explored. After this disappointment, though, I hope that doesn’t happen.
Profile Image for Kristi.
144 reviews21 followers
May 10, 2017
I think I get what Konigsberg was trying to do with Ben, but it still comes off as bi erasure from a character (and by extension, an author) who THINKS he understands what bisexuality is but really, really doesn't. He thinks because he's only been seriously attracted to one boy and only had fleeting thoughts about others, and is still mostly attracted to girls, that means he can't be bisexual. He also falls into some of the false stereotypes about bi people always being interested in more than one person at once. And finally, I am SO tired of bisexual people in books, and ONLY bisexual people, refusing to be "labeled", in a way that ultimately means they reject actually claiming a bi identity. Funny how no one else seems to mind their labels.

This was really disappointing from an author who I usually find to write movingly and convincingly about the gay experience. But he doesn't seem to understand much about the other letters in the LGBT acronym, despite his protestations.
Profile Image for prag ♻.
588 reviews587 followers
April 1, 2017
Bill Konigsberg sure knows how to write an important book. What he doesn’t know, is how to write a fun contemporary. Or maybe it’s just me. Don’t get me wrong—this could possibly be a five star read for you. I just didn’t connect to it at all.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK (even though I rated it 3 stars):

It's hilarious. Ben’s narration is so much better than Rafe’s, I can hardly remember why I gave that four stars.
I am convinced that in many, many ways—buoyancy included—I am a Czech dumpling.
And it’s not only the narration that’s funny. Other secondary characters have grown a lot since we last saw them.
“Come out, Ben. It’s an option. Consider your options, Ben.”

This was no radiator talking. These were words, and they were definitely coming from my closet. I leapt up and grabbed the first object I could find, a history textbook that had lived on my desk all break long. It was large and heavy with the history of the world. I poised myself outside the shut closet door, hefting the book over my head as if it were a weapon. My voice trembled.

“What the hell? Who the hell is in there?”
“Um, go back to sleep, Ben. Never mind—”
This was hands down the best thing I’ve read in 2017. TOBY. TRYING TO SEND BEN A MESSAGE. SUMBLIMALLY. FROM HIS CLOSET. TELLING HIM TO COME OUT.

Harry Potter references. Need I say more?
There’s something delightful about the idea of dressing up for dinner and sitting in assigned seats in the dining hall, like back in the days of yore, or at Hogwarts.
Although, they might be sort of misplaced. There aren’t really assigned seats in Hogwarts, but I’ll let it pass.

It’s super cute. Like, it made me awkward at times because Ben was so adorable.
As I felt myself sagging into sleep, I realized it didn’t matter right now. He was a friend. He was a friend who cared enough to be there for me when I needed it and I was grateful.

Buddy read with Silvia (click to read her review she's linked something you should read)
Profile Image for AMEERA.
277 reviews316 followers
December 7, 2017
Perfect , Funny , all beautiful Things in this book 💜💜💜✨’
Profile Image for Silvia .
635 reviews1,404 followers
April 8, 2017
BR with Prag

TW for: psychological abuse (not acknowledged with this particular name), homophobia.

(maybe 4,5 stars? Idk, the rating system is messing with my brain)

I really enjoyed this book, maybe even more than Openly Straight. It's just that Ben's voice resonated better with me and I was more interested in his background than Rafe's.

Honestly Ben is the sequel to Rafe and Ben's story, but to me it feels like more than that. Sure, it's a story about two boys surrounded by a cast of amazing characters, but it's also a dialogue about something that hits extremely close to home: labels, how to use them, how they define us, if they define us, if they should define us. If you're interested in this sort of dialogue, then you should consider reading both books in this series.

In any case, the plot continues directly from where the first book left us, except now we're in Ben's head. He's under a lot of pressure to keep his grades up in order to receive a big scholarship, which he needs if he's to go to a nice college. He also wants to forget the whole thing with Rafe, but he can't do without his friendship. That's something I liked because it would have been easy to have them ignore each other until a certain point, but it wouldn't have been very believable in my eyes. Ben needs the kind of conversation he can only have with Rafe (and with Bryce, before he had to change schools) and I'm glad we got to see them as friends again.

He also meets a girl, Hannah, and I really liked her character. The blurb already explains that Ben feels conflicted about what he wants, but I really wouldn't classify this as a love triangle at all.
This gives Ben the perfect opportunity to clarify his sexuality though, and since sexuality is not a spoiler, I'll just say it. Ben is straight, except for one boy. He's no bi, because he's not attracted to other boys/men except for that one. If you read this blog post the author explains Ben's sexuality. I think his sexuality is perfectly valid and it's not a case of bisexuality erasure at all. Bisexuality is acknowledged more than once within the book, and if Ben doesn't feel like that's what defines him, he shouldn't be forced to be labelled that way.

Something I loved in both books is that no character is perfect. Ben, like Rafe in the first book, fucks up. He's not always the best he can be, and at one point he fucks up big, let me tell you. But who doesn't? At the end everything is acknowledged and that's what counts.

There's many secondary characters, but all I want to talk about is Toby tbh. Toby is everything we should aim to be, and I'm so glad they got a sub-plot and recognition in Ben's speech.

There's only one thing I didn't particularly like, and ironically it comes down to labelling, in a way. In this case it's a matter of avoiding to put a clear label on Ben's father. His behavior is shown and it's very clear, to me, that his is psychological abuse. That word, however, is never used, and that's something that bothered me. I know that it's not easy to call it that, as Ben, and since we're inside Ben's head, if he doesn't think of that word then it's kinda hard to use it. But. Rafe or someone else could have pointed it out. I don't know. I don't know how it might have worked, but I know that I personally would have wanted to see that particular label applied, since it should also constitute a TW.

Despite this last thing, I'm really happy I read both books. They both didn't manage to be 5 stars for me, but they're still really important books.

I was really excited for this, and I was going to buy the ebook as soon as I felt like it was the right time for reading it (since I'm CR'ing two more books *sigh*), but then I read this blog post and it made me insta-buy it.
I think that's a discussion worth having and I'm hoping that more people will think about this thanks to this book (hopefully it'll be good).
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,402 followers
March 22, 2017
It was really interesting reading this immediately after Ramona Blue, since the two had a lot in common in terms of the approach to sexual fluidity, but coming from opposite ends of the queer spectrum. Both kept the protagonist pretty (but not entirely) firmly in their original ID, preferring to focus on their current partners rather than a label, and both rejected the bisexual label because it didn't feel like the right fit.

I know the idea of "Gay For You" (which ends up being the closest thing to an ID Ben picks up) is sort of an instahate thing for a lot of people, which I get, but to me, there's a huge difference between "That's what I feel I am, after acknowledging that bisexuality exists and considering why the label isn't right for me" and using it in a fashion that feels like a combination of No Homo and bi erasure, and I thought it was very firmly the former here. I liked the process of Ben's consideration of his ID, and while sure, it may change as he gets older, this is YA; all I care about is whether I believe this is how he feels now, and I do.

But anyway, back to the book, which I liked a lot. I read Openly Straight years ago and I remember enjoying it and laughing a ton, but that's about all I remembered from it. I thought this companion did a really nice job bringing back the necessary details for the original book so that it essentially stood on its own with nothing more than knowledge of the first book's premise. It's less laugh-out-loud funny because that's just Ben's humor vs. Rafe's, but I liked being in the head of an introverted, insular guy piecing together what made his nature that way.

Also a running theme I'm seeing in 2017 YA that's cool and was totally present here: a lot more inclusion of other gender and sexuality IDs in the cast, even just under consideration and suspicion - genderfluidity, pansexuality, and asexuality all come up in this one. I dug it.
Profile Image for elias.
90 reviews38 followers
April 8, 2017
Endings are important. They are the lasting impression of the book; most of the time. And sometimes they determine wether I'm up for a reread or not. Here's the thing about the author of this book: his endings are always lacking.
When I first read Openly Straight, I was gutted by the abrupt way the book just seemed to... stop. But upon knowing there's a sequel, I rested assured that it was a single case and that it was actually a cliffhanger, not an ending, and that sucked less. But then I read another book by the author, Out Of The Pocket, and I'm not lying when I say that I thought the copy I was reading was missing pages because the way it ended was just too chopped and raw and not good. And make not mistake; this is a different thing than open ends, when the author lets you draw your own conclusion. This felt like a chopped organ, bleeding and messed up and way too sudden.

Honestly Ben, while not that sudden in the way it ended; left a lot to be desired. The book had several stops in which it would have way too satisfying to say "okay this is where I'm gonna stop narrating this book and let the reader imagine the rest." But the author seemed to build upon those scenes, opening new threads to discuss, like Ben's feelings about Rafe not understanding privilege, or that no one seems to know what gay-for-one-person means. And let's be honest I'm all about not labeling people who aren't comfortable with it, but this whole "gay-for-one-person"? Not a fan. I would have been outright livid if it happened the other way around, as in straight-for-one-person, which would imply that all gay men really haven't found the right person for themselves yet. And since I wouldn't accept that, I don't find it in me to accept it the other way around. And let's talk about Bryce, WHO IS THIS GUY? Like he just talks about how close he was to Bryce over and over again, and I really thought that at some point he'll realize that he's already fallen in love with a guy before Rafe. But halfway through, the mentions of Bryce get less frequent and then, meh, the storyline dies and we don't get why we've been reading so much info about him.

Now on to the positive things, this book had so many:
I loved Ben's character, I had already loved him in Openly Straight, and reading from his perspective was amazing. I felt a lot of kinship with him; and he made me reflect upon past choices I had made and past feelings of underachieving and tearing myself down because I didn't meet the expectations of myself and others around me.
I loved the real dynamics with his father. All too often we see that homophobic parents are all-around evil people, and that's really not the case. As a person who comes from an emotionally distant father, the interactions between them resonated deeply with me. And if anything, I loved that this was left open ended, because I know from experience that sometimes no matter how much you try, some things never change. But I'm glad Ben chose to try nevertheless.
Ben and Rafe's interactions were sweet and adorable, loved every word.

I wish I could another book about them in college; how their thinking changed, and how their relationship developed. BUT, I'm honestly afraid to read any book by this author again, his endings always leave me stunned and gutted, not in a good way.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,316 reviews215 followers
May 13, 2020
What the heck happened between book 1 and 2? I seriously loved Openly Straight and had hopes of loving this one. Maybe even liking it. Unfortunately, after diving into Honestly Ben I was just completely disappointed. Not even the Boston scenes brought me pleasure or happiness because I was just there last year.

Ugh, Ben just annoyed me so much in this one. I have no idea what the heck happened to this cute guy that I liked so much. I'm not mad that he was trying to figure out himself in this book but I didn't agree that he was all about the girls when he couldn't stop thinking about some boy. The way he pushed himself because of what people might think about him based on who he likes drove me nuts too.

I mean, I get it. Some people suck and they wont accept you for you BUT just know that they suck ass and you don't need their approval for anything. That being said, the ending was okay and kind of cute but it couldn't redeem the rest of the book. Ugh, I really wanted to like this one and I'm very happy with my decision to listen to the audiobook instead of reading it.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books353 followers
February 4, 2018
Loved this sequel to "Openly Straight" even more than the first book. Ben is such an interesting character, and it was so great to get a novel from his perspective where his family relationships could be explored. As much as I loved Rafe and the original drama between the two of them, the developments here were even more interesting to read as now things have been taken to a whole new level and Ben has to decide what it is he really wants.

This sequel raised some great questions about language and privilege and how things we say and take for granted that we may not be aware of can be hurtful. My favorite parts were of course all the Rafe/Ben, but I also loved the parts with Toby and co.
Profile Image for Ton.
39 reviews
April 14, 2017

brb dying

Please tell me this this book is a follow-up of what happened in Openly Straight. Promise me there'll be Rafe in it and that he's one of the main characters!!!!

I'll read it as soon as it's released.


Edit: I read it! review to come!
Profile Image for JN.
96 reviews
April 5, 2017
This rating was tough and I feel very conflicted. There were parts of the book I absolutely loved (e.g. Toby being genderfluid, I liked Hannah, discussions on privilege & locker room culture, the friendship between the four guys) and they made me want to give it 4 stars. But there were some major issues for me too.

My main issue with this sequel was the gay-for-you. I've always disliked gay-for-you stories because the bi erasure is incredibly frustrating. I'm disappointed because I honestly expected better from this book.

This book at least mentioned bisexuality, which is an improvement on most gfy stories I've encountered. But Ben never really seemed to learn about bisexuality or understand it...He was under the misunderstanding that bisexuality means you have to be equally attracted to men and women. Which is not true at all. And he's never corrected on this mistaken assumption.

Maybe Ben truly isn't bisexual and Rafe is the only guy he will ever be attracted to. But in that case, I would want more of an exploration into bisexuality for Ben to decide the label doesn't apply to him. Instead he just looks at some buff guys online once and thinks about how the label doesn't feel right. It also annoyed me that Ben frequently said he hates labels, but then kept insisting on labeling himself as straight or gay-for-Rafe.

The biphobia from the GSA was gross. What I hated even more was that it was never challenged or dealt with. Instead they were almost served up to the reader as a kind of funny quip - oh yeah bisexuality is just a phase haha, bixsexuals are so confused lolz. These are comments that come up all too frequently in the real world, and I wish the author had used this book as a chance to shoot them down as bs.
Profile Image for Natasha.
475 reviews378 followers
June 9, 2017
This is a really great sequel and it didn't totally disappoint. I will say that this does use the 'gay for you' trope, however Ben does consider bisexuality and concludes that the label isn't right for him. That's a real drawback for me as I was really hoping he would be bisexual, as that was what I thought when I read the first book back in 2014. However, his feelings for Rafe don't disappear just because he is straight, which I really liked. But I wouldn't recommend it if you want bisexual representation. I'm not bisexual so I can't really speak on whether or not it's harmful, but a bisexual person did tell me that while it does make them feel weird they don't want to invalidate other people's experiences, as this is a thing that does happen. But I am really disappointed Ben didn't end up being bisexual as I am not really the biggest fan of 'gay for you'. I did still really enjoy the romance, even though Rafe was agitating at times.

Another aspect of the book I really liked was that Toby comes out as genderfluid. I'm not genderfluid so I cannot say whether or not it was good representation (if you are genderfluid and didn't like the representation feel free to message me and I'll add it to my review) but pronouns were discussed, as well as respecting pronouns. I feel it was handled respectfully, and it also wasn't treated as a plot twist, Toby tells Ben and Ben is accepting of their identity. It was also explained what it meant to be genderfluid and from what I could tell, I feel it was done well.

Overall, I'm happy this addition exists. I'm not as passionate about the first book as I was in 2014, and I can definitely see problems in the first book, but if you enjoyed the first book I do recommend reading it.
Profile Image for Bookreader87(Amanda).
957 reviews31 followers
July 29, 2019
4 stars for the narrator. He did a solid job. My problem was I just finished listening to another narrator read book 1. So, I had the voices of the characters in my head for how he read them. It was weird having them change on me lol.

2 stars for the story. I did not like this one as much as the first book. In fact, I barely liked it and probably would have Dnf'd if I read it on my own.

This is Ben's story and it was all about the drama going on in his life. I honestly wish it was more of him and and Rafe but you hardly get any of that. Instead we are piled with all the things that are putting pressure on Ben. His family, his grades, his social life, his dating life etc. Of course, this leads to him breaking down and doing something he shouldn't have.

The main issue I had with this story was that after going through all of this with Ben there was no resolution to how it all works out for him. It felt incomplete.
Profile Image for K..
3,686 reviews1,007 followers
April 3, 2017
3.75 stars? I think??

I have been looking forward to this book for a REALLY long time now. Well. For at least a year. I read Openly Straight at the beginning of last year and thoroughly enjoyed it with the exception of the AND THEN THE BOOK ENDS ending, which made me scream rude words about Bill Konigsberg. So when I found out that there was going to be a sequel, I was pretty thrilled.

And for the most part, I enjoyed this. I liked Ben's voice a lot. It's a compelling - if frequently frustrating - story. Konigsberg excels at writing fascinating secondary characters, and I basically want books about each and every one of the secondary characters in this book because I'm so intrigued by their stories.

I loved how much this dealt not only with being uncertain in your sexuality, but with uncertainty about your gender identity, with standing up to authority figures, with confronting misogyny in male dominated environments, with doing your own research and not accepting things at face value. I loved the idea that some of us are on "left handed paths" and the discussion about how we're never done growing and changing as people, much as those around us may wish we were.

I loved Toby's story especially - I don't think I know of any other genderfluid characters in young adult books - and the Q&A leaflets that he handed out were DELIGHTFUL. And I loved the relationship between Ben and Rafe, which gives me a million feelings.


Ben, for all his insistence that he hates labels and that he doesn't want to be labelled spends a decent chunk of the book being like "OH MY GOD, I'M NOT GAY STOP SAYING I'M GAY I'M 100% A STRAIGHT DUDE EXCEPT THAT I LOVE RAFE AND I WANT TO BE WITH HIM FOREVER". Uh, excuse me, sir? I have some news for you about heterosexuality...

Like, I totally get the not wanting to be labelled thing. I was actually pretty on board with it. But for Ben to consistently write off the concept of bisexuality because he thinks it's about being equally attracted to girls and guys was...frustrating. There's a full spectrum of bisexuality, and to effectively erase that just because Ben didn't want to labelled kind of made me want to burn things.

I'm not saying I wanted him to end the book riding on a float in a Pride parade or anything. But would it have killed you to include a thing where someone (probably Rafe's mother) is like "Hey, so did you know that bisexuality doesn't always mean what you think it means? Here's a cool informative pamphlet!", Bill??????

Basically, the gay-for-you thing annoyed the crap out of me. And I desperately wish the ending hadn't been as abrupt as it was. But for the most part, this was pretty damned fabulous and I need for there to be more now. Please and thank you.
Profile Image for gin.
272 reviews
April 17, 2017
I don't know how to feel about this book... I love the characters but I was kinda hurt as a bisexual person at the way the book treated bisexuality. I read the explanation the author gave but it was basically "I'm aware of bi erasure but I'll contribute to it anyway"

so idk. I thought this book would make me happy but it kinda hurt me instead. I'm still giving it two stars bc like I said I love the characters and I appreciate the happy ending but yeah :/

ETA: u know what? i do know how i feel. it was an ugly biphobic mess and the author is a typical self centered white gay
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,514 followers
April 17, 2017
This is the third book in the series (if you count the free short story as second) and I strongly advise reading them in order. Not just because you need to know the events and context, but because each of the novels is written in a single POV. The first book was Rafe's. And you need to have read it for that more-intimate knowledge of Rafe - of his own confusion and insecurities. Because here, only seeing him from the outside, he can appear less than sympathetic in this story. Ben goes through some rough moments, and Rafe's reactions, while perhaps realistic-teen, are not always endearing. I wished, in fact, that this had been alternating POV, with Rafe a bit more onstage.

This is Ben's story, and he's a great character and goes through a lot of self-discovery. His family and teachers and friends put pressure on him in a variety of ways. He has a depth, a kind of integrity that doesn't fail him, even when he's screwing up. As he weighs his attraction to a special girl, and deals with his feelings and risks with Rafe that we saw in the first book, he really tries to do the right thing, if he can figure out what that is.

The secondary characters are interesting. I really liked Hannah as Ben's straight love interest. She felt plausible, both as the girl to catch Ben's eye and in her reactions to him. They felt realistic together, without great swoops of angst, as they worked through what they and Rafe meant to each other. Toby and Albie are also interesting characters, and gain some added dimensions.

I had mixed feelings about Ben's unwillingness to call himself bisexual.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book and definitely fell for Ben. He was a young man in an untenable position, and did his best. I was very glad to have this sequel, to follow on the indeterminate ending of Openly Straight, and give us closure for our guys. And there was some nice humor to it as well, despite a few minor exaggerated details (Mr. G did what?). This author's style makes for a smooth, interesting, engaging read. I'm hoping at least one of the secondary characters gets his own book down the line.
Profile Image for Vernie♡.
182 reviews106 followers
March 28, 2017
*Received from Edelweiss in return for an honest review*
Mr. Konigsberg has done it again, I am even more in love with the story and characters than I was prior.

Honestly Ben takes place a little while after Openly Straight with both characters still dealing with pain and heartbreak. Except for this time, we're following Ben's perspective. Ben is the quiet, history nerd who just wants to play baseball, get good grades and make his family proud. Well, at least that's what everyone thinks.

This book allowed for an insight into who Ben is and what he has both gone through and what he is going through following the end of him and Rafe. Let me say, it is wonderful. Ben is such a great character and following along for the ride as he is both figuring himself out and who he wants to become in the future is brilliant. Along with this book touching on so many important topics including, sexuality, family dynamics, relationships, poverty, privilege, and sexism.

I cannot recommend this book enough, please check it out when it becomes available to purchase.

Full review will on my blog here tomorrow once this book is released!
About a 4.5 IDK, this might be my favorite between the two books.
But guys this book is so flipping good I can't even explain.
I read this book in under 24 hours, I read 90% of it before I fell asleep!!
I loved it so much.

Profile Image for jessica ☾.
742 reviews85 followers
August 15, 2019
Yikes, I don’t know what went wrong here. I absolutely fell in love with the first book, and while I enjoyed getting Bens POV in the novella, I don’t really think his perspective was suited to a full length story. I couldn’t get a handle on his personality and it almost felt like I was experiencing the story through a thick shroud of fog. I’m really happy with the ending though, which is saved it a bit for me.
120 reviews6 followers
June 2, 2017
I was a really big fan of Openly Straight. I thought it was one of the greatest books and so cute and funny.

I re-read it right before this one. After three years, the magic had cooled off quite a bit.

So Honestly Ben definitely didn't recapture that initial magic. It was a slow read. I definitely think it captured Ben's personality. He did spend chapters alone, just thinking. Ben is the type of character who needs a lot of people around him, giving things energy. That's where a character like Hannah comes in. I liked her a lot and I felt bad that she got totally screwed. Ben basically dumped her right after sleeping with her, just like her previous boyfriend and she told him that's what she was scared of. Ugh.

I liked Hannah. She was too good for Ben though, so she'll learn that in the future. But the main thing missing from this book was the chemistry between Rafe and Ben. Ben basically decided he liked Rafe because Rafe "gets him" (even though there are moments when it's clear Rafe doesn't) and because Rafe allows him to let go. In this book there aren't as many silly moments. Only one really made me kind of laugh and I think it involved Toby getting pecked to death by ducks.

Sad to say, not only was the chemistry missing but Rafe was really annoying. He was a brat, spoiled, selfish, whiny... the real Rafe was on full display in this one. So I didn't like that so much.

I kept reading though. The last act was compelling as Ben blew up his life for no reason. And he is interesting. I do hope that everything turns out okay for him and he finds a new boyfriend in college.

I also did like Ben is a huge geek. Another review pointed out why didn't Ben research bisexuality. I thought that was a very valid point. Just because his uncle was bi doesn't mean he knows about it. I am not qualified to comment on bi-erasure but I do know that it wasn't until very recently in my adult life, through listening to the Dear Prudence podcast, that I learned bi doesn't have to mean liking both genders equally. You can only like the same (or opposite) gender once and still choose to call yourself that. From what I understand, I'm no expert. So I think that type of definition and clarification should have been included. Even though it is Ben's choice ultimately what to call himself, it did feel he was so prickly about being called gay. He could just roll with it sometimes... he is dating a boy after all.
Profile Image for Brigid.
Author 35 books14.7k followers
March 31, 2017
I loved this. Well worth the wait to read about the continuation of Ben and Rafe's story. Now I want to go back and read Openly Straight again. (Openly Straight is currently 99 cents for the ebook, and one of my favorite books, so go check it out if you haven't read it!)
Profile Image for Chris.
240 reviews18 followers
November 22, 2022
While I found this extremely enjoyable, I didn't identify with Ben as much as I did with Rafe, which may have hampered my enjoyment slightly. I also felt that the ending was a bit abrupt and could really have done with an epilogue, but other than that it was another excellently well written book with some amazing characters and representation.
Profile Image for Daniel Myatt.
592 reviews47 followers
February 12, 2022
I didn't really enjoy the first book in this series what with Rafe's gaslighting and obliviousness to his own privilege but I did like Ben, with his honesty and desperate need to prove he was more then a poor farm lad - so I was very pleased to spot this book on Audible with Ben as the central character and gave it a listen.

Sadly we have the stereotypical characters we met in book one and this time we had the understanding girlfriend who doesn't really understand etc.

But I liked the issues raised and dealt with in this book, and it made me realise why should we be obsessed with our labels? I liked Ben before and I like him even more after listening to this book. 👍
Profile Image for Tara.
350 reviews92 followers
October 26, 2017
My brain isn't functioning at full capacity today for some reason, so I'm having a really hard time writing this review. lol Bear with me.

Okay, so this one was better than the first, but not by much.

It was not nearly as annoying to be in Ben's head, and I wasn't rolling my eyes every time he spoke, so I count that as a win.

Some things still felt unnecessarily dramatic, especially things with Rafe. He is just not a great person imo (and I still can't stand his family or Claire Olivia), and most of the time he came off as very selfish.

At first I was giving Ben a lot of crap for being so indecisive, but then once I started to really see things from his perspective, I stopped judging him so harshly. As someone with conservative parents, I should've been more understanding of his situation, since I know how mine would react if I ever came out as bi. I guess since it's a book, you just expect the characters to be quicker at making these types of decisions, since the author can (and usually will) write them a happy ending.

This ending wasn't so happy, though (not in every way, at least), but that just makes this story all the more real. Not all situations like this end with kids being accepted by everyone in their lives, and the author did a good job of showing that. However, there were some happy parts , so it's not like readers will be left totally hopeless.

Last thing I want to talk about: I don't really like the way Konigsberg writes women. There's Rafe's mom, who I've already talked about, and there's Claire Olivia, who also rubs me the wrong way. And then there's Hannah. She seemed cool at first, and really open-minded and understanding, but it wasn't long before that started to change.

Also, it almost sort of feels like that relationship (Ben and Hannah) was unnecessary? Like, we already knew that Ben liked girls; he didn't have to date one on page just to prove it.

Anyway, I'm tired of typing now, but I think I got out everything I needed to. This book was better than the first, and I'm really glad about that, because I was curious to know how everything turned out. Still, I'll probably be trading in the audiobook all the same.

3 stars.
Profile Image for Crisanda (Sapphire).
214 reviews28 followers
April 27, 2017
4.5 stars

Don't be fooled by the fun looking cover of this book. Bill Konigsberg excels at writing important must-read books that make you think, but Honestly Ben is a little too heavy to be fun.

Sharing my favourite quotes:

- Misogyny is so pervasive that the idea of being associated with female behavior freaks guys out. I think that it says something interesting about men that they love women so deeply and yet hold them in such low esteem.

- What if your limit is unacceptable to you?

- Complicated is often good. It’s when things get narrowed to the lowest common denominator—hate, fear—that society gets into trouble. The Nazis were the opposite of complicated.

- We change. We keep changing. We won’t be finished products ’til the day we die.

- “He’ll get special treatment too,” Zack continued. “Just watch.”
“Yup,” Mendenhall said. “The freaks always get special treatment. Meanwhile, the normal people get fucked, of course.”
I held the ball and turned to Mendenhall.
“Are you really serious right now?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Do you have any idea what privilege is?”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m sure you’ll tell me, Professor.”
I shook my head. “You’re an asshole. You think he’s lucky to be gender fluid at an all-boys school? That has to be the hardest thing I can imagine.”

- I think that expressing fear was expressing the truth. And it’s hard to express the truth when the world wants you to be someone else.

- When we choose the easy path, where people or society reward us for being what they want us to be, against who we really are, a kind of death occurs. To the soul.

- "I support your lifestyle, by the way. People have the right to choose whatever lifestyle they want.”
“There are so many things wrong with that sentence,”

- If you live outside a box, everyone gets all freaked out and tries to put you in one.
Profile Image for Kelly.
1,312 reviews502 followers
May 15, 2020

What the hell happened between book one and book two?!

Ok so. I shipped Ben and Rafe so hard in the first book and starting this book, while they're not together, I didn't expect Ben to go and get a new girlfriend and denying completely his attraction for Rafe. Or at least not for most of the book!

Ben also mentioned how he wasn't gay or bi because of course, if you're not attracted to random naked guys on Google, it means you're straight... I wasn't sure how to explain some of the things that bothered with this book until I read some reviews speaking about bi-erasure and it was spot-on.

Besides that, I had to listen through most of this book of how happy Ben was kissing the new girl, having sex with her etc. It was horrible. I wanted to dnf it and honestly even though they ended up together, I wish I didn't put myself through that. Also, Ben didn't deserve either of them.

So disappointing to hate this book when I gave four stars to the first one. I didn't sign up for this.
Profile Image for Daniel Carpio.
147 reviews6 followers
June 27, 2018
What an amazing story. Definitely one of my favorite books this year. I found Bens POV a lot more interesting than Rafes. He is such a complex, well rounded character. I just wanted to be his friend! I read the author isn't going to make a sequel to this, which is kind of disappointing seeing as we never learned what is going to happen to Ben. Is his dad going to love him again and learn to accept him? is he going to go back to school? whats gonna happen with his scholarship? Sooo many questions unanswered. Nevertheless, this book was ahhhhmazing!! way better than the first IMO.
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