There is something terrifying about reading a book that a friend very highly recommends. What if you don’t like it? What if you just find it okay? You then have to not be too critical because this book is important to said friend. I’ve been lucky with the two books I’ve read this year that were recommended by friends because I have loved them. The first was The Book Thief but today I’m going to talk about the second, which is Openly Straight.
Openly Straight tells the story of Rafe, a teenager who is fed up of being the gay guy. He is openly gay at his school and his parents are extremely proud of his homosexuality. His Mother is even the leader of a LGBT support group called PFLAG. And Rafe wants a break, he wants to go somewhere and be Rafe the guy, not Rafe the gay guy. So he changed to a boarding school hundreds of miles away.
At this school Rafe does his best to be a typical straight guy. He gets himself involved in sports, attends parties and drinks, etc. And the whole time he feels this tear. He hates that big deal that is made of his sexuality and is glad to be able to hide it, but no one seems to understand that. Not his parents and not his best friend (and fake Girlfriend) Claire Olivia. Rafe just wants some acceptance as Rafe not gay-Rafe.
The novel is perfect. Literally when my friend and Ii finished reading it – we were reading it aloud together – I was sat there like “perfect novel is person” and longed for a physical copy so I could just hug it and keep it forever. I still want to get a physical copy so I can highlight and underline some amazing quotes.
Throughout the novel Rafe falls for a guy at his school and they end up having a bit of a thing. Ben is a really good friend for Rafe and Rafe falls in love with him but makes the mistake of not being open with him. Ben believes they are both exploring these strange new feelings towards the same gender, so understandably Ben feels betrayed when finding out Rafe new he was gay all along.
Rafe is different to a lot of characters you read about, especially in the first person. Most characters I read in first person, I find understandable and am so manipulated to their point of few that I think I would do the same thing as them. With Rafe I don’t get that. I empathise with his choices and see from his words why he did it. But I never agree, there are times I really can’t stand what he does and genuinely think I don’t like him.
In the end I do and he comes to realise he was an idiot and does his best to right his wrongs. The story is an amazing exploration of being a teenager, being on the LGBT scale and learning to accept yourself. Everyone around Rafe is accepting ad yet he feels the need to separate himself from that because he hasn’t quite accepted himself, even though he thinks he has. And it’s a great story for learning to admit to your mistakes and flaws as well.