Rafe Goldberg has moved so far away from his hometown of Boulder to Natick, an all-boys school. Why we don’t know exactly, but what we do know is he’s gay, but he’s hiding it now. He’s back in the closet for this, and he’s keeping it a secret from his best friend in the whole world, Claire Olivia, and his proud and enthusiastic parents. He ends up on the football team and makes friends with his roommates, messy Albie and nutcracker Toby, and then meets a friend in Ben Carver, and the fact I said his last name should be a giveaway that he’ll be important. The only person that knows what Rafe is doing is Mr. Scarborough, his English teacher (Perks of Being a Wallflower reference, anyone?) who gives him the sort of assignment that would cause homicide to anyone who didn’t like English but it’s peaches and cream for Rafe as he tries to get through the still-not-so-peaches-and-cream-even-though-he’s-straight-instead-of-different life at Natick.
So one example of overdoing something in a way I found good was Strange Magic, a movie that had about three songs too many out of its lineup of fifteen but still managed to have amazing animation, characters, and darkness, embracing its pop songs in a way that prevented them from being corny, so I was able to get used to the constant singing. But if I was in an impatient mood, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to. A straight-up bad example of mine is Fallen, a book that thought about the snotty love interest Daniel at least thrice every chapter. In Openly Straight, I had a mixed reaction to Rafe constantly thinking about his sexuality as the days go by. If you want a book that touches on the gay subject thoroughly, Openly Straight might be your desire, because the message this book sends is unique and golden: How when you’re not in the norm, people treat you just…different. Rafe back at his old school was able to win a very important final game for his old school and in the paper, it says the gay guy won as the headline, like he’s a mascot rather than another person. That hit me hard, and the book does not shy away from this message.
Sadly, this book was still easy to put down, and that’s a big catch for lots of books, primarily because despite the message there wasn’t enough of a premise. This book was basically just life, and like the first half of Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, there wasn’t really a timer, like someone after Rafe or anything intimidating to keep desiring the knowledge of what was going to happen next. Rafe mentions in his assignment to Mr. Scarborough how sometimes you have a desire to clean your room but then your mom tells you to do so and then you don’t want to anymore, in that her forcing him to read about being gay made being gay feel like a chore. Well, because of the feeling that the message kept being mentioned, that was the gist I got for some of this.
Don’t worry. It’s still kind of cute, and it touches on not just homophobia/sexuality but also racism, a touch of sexism here and there, and self-identity. Also, it really does feel like an all-boys school. The conversations in the showers, dormrooms and on the fields have dialogue that feels real. Just wish I put the book down appreciating all of that because the way everything rounded up was just meh.
Openly Straight has a good enough almost-all-male-cast and is even cute and funny, and has a message that hasn’t been displayed quite this way before. However, all of that charm couldn’t overcome the spoon-fed feel, and had outside of its message not enough of a premise to make it a page turner. It made me still interested in the sequel, Honestly Ben, but that’s because the ending to this book left me cold.