Openly Straight: Bill Konigsberg (Book Review)
Genuinely heartwarming, honest and a coming of age story people has most likely experienced in their own journey towards discovering one’s true self further.
Not all endings need to be informant for a reader to enjoy. Sometimes, letting them keep on guessing and have their own set of conclusions as to how an author has written it is the best way to finish the story.
This is deemed to be true on Bill Konigsberg’s novel entitled ‘Openly Straight’ where it tells the life of Seamus Raphael ‘Rafe’ Goldberg, a Colorado resident who decided to continue his next life anew on an all-boy’s boarding school, without labels. This of course, includes covering his gay identity as he’s grown tired of being known simply as that and have people assume the worst out of him because of it.
At first, it seems he’s doing a fine job with this plan he got on going, keeping this significant part of his just to himself, thus a blossoming new friendship with the apparent straight guys around school begins. That is, until he starts falling over someone who never thought there are actually endless possibilities love has to offer, once its enveloped ones’ feelings completely.
The aforementioned statement above is what struck a chord to me, which is the prime reason why I consider this book worth reading. I like how the setting and the plot itself is relevant even to this day.
What remains a problem on most countries, still is discrimination of all types, especially on gender. Others, meanwhile are lucky enough to have this looked upon that resulted to same sex marriage being legalized in their state. Whereas, some aren’t so fortunate to have the said law implemented from where they reside. That may be the case, but the inevitable occurs no matter how the increasing number of people begun to show their support on the LGBTQ+ community.
I like how the author was able to acknowledge these and set out realistic examples of typical stereotypes that are often encountered by these people. The usual assumptions of the gays as flamboyant in nature and dresses up in feminine wear all the time is a ridiculous notion to think of.
There’s also the irrational fear the straight people have against gay people wherein they loathe the idea of themselves being romanticized even if no intentions are shown as what happened along the next chapters of Rafe’s story. Homophobic comments are also said throughout the novel and it’s saddening to hear this is still practiced as a term of insult with the perception of gays as mere weaklings.
Genders and sexual orientations aside, what I love the most is the differing opinions each character has that then welcomes the conflict occurring in the story, that also serves as the highlight in making the novel intriguing enough for the readers, they couldn’t simply stop reading in sheer delight not until they got to the bottom of it.
The perspective on both parties (Gays and Straight) is showcased in a well written manner, the option to take sides wouldn’t matter since each opinions stated by each character contradicts in a way that isn’t necessary to debate on, choosing what’s ‘right’ from ‘wrong.’
As much as I’m delighted for this novel, there’s a couple of flaws that marked a dent on some of its chapters. The first would be the unfortunate erasure over bisexuality’s existence in the community. An organization present in the story left out this particular sexuality and is visibly obvious on how it’s written: ‘gay, lesbian or transgender’ in reference to the statistics behind the percentage of these people who identified themselves as such are homeless after families disowned them.
Being closeted myself, it’s disappointing to have people who shares the same identity as I am shunned away from the other sexualities who are also fighting for similar rights as we are now.
Another is not so much a problem compared to the previous one as this is more focused on the minor characters within the story. I believe that even if fictional figures like them didn’t have enough appearance on other parts, they still deserve to have their own spotlight shone onto them, especially if they did made an influential impact to the protagonist.
After all, a background story on their part is also necessary to pique a reader’s interest on other possible favorites aside from the hero. This best applies to finding out the how’s and why’s of an event that led them such outcomes not to be left unanswered.
Whether or not you identified yourself on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, you’d definitely be able to sympathize Rafe’s incoming struggles with his new identity as an openly straight person.
This crisis can be compared on how even an ordinary individual like yourself would have troubles with being one’s true self, you’d be willing to take the risk of becoming a totally different person from who you are supposed to be, in order to gain approval from other people you wanted to befriend or just to simply make a good impression to them.
If you’re one of those people experiencing this sort of dilemma, dread no more for this book is made especially just for you.
As for the rating, I’d give this novel 8/10.
The unprovided details surreptitiously left unwritten on its other characters and it’s rather unnerving abandoned attempt to erase the identity of bisexuality are the cons of this book.
On the other hand, the steady pacing on each character’s dialogue and their own sense of thoughts into expressing them is perhaps a personal favorite of mine on this novel itself. That and how the reader’s capable of empathizing with the protagonist or any of the characters in general upon setting themselves in this story. After all, what’s the use of reading something out of leisure and not feel a connection at all?