Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg [LGBT April]

Openly Straight coverOpenly Straight by Bill Konisberg
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
Release Date:May 28th 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Series: none

 

 

Goodreads descriptionA funny, honest novel about being out, being proud . . . and being ready for something else.

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

 

I was pretty interested in Openly Straight when I saw the description for it when it came out, and I have been meaning to read it ever since. I even saw it at the library a few times and for some reason never picked it up. When I signed up for LGBT April, I knew it was the perfect book to read!

If you read the description, you saw that Rafe has been out since he was young and it’s become a major part of his identity, while he feels like it is overshadowing other interesting aspects. He wants to take a step back from that and be a person without one thing being the focus of his life. So he goes to an all-boys’s boarding school on the other side of the country and decides to not come out there. He just wants to be a boy and make friends and play sports.

I really enjoyed Openly Straight. It was funny, awkward, and endearing. It was heartwarming and wrenching. It made me smile like an idiot. It had good kissing scenes. Rafe always sounded like a real teen, and there were some smart, thoughtful conversations in the book that made me so happy, because teens definitely have those types of conversations.

Rafe is so lovely. I wanted to hug him a lot. He just wanted to be able to see different parts of himself and be free to explore things he couldn’t always experience as openly gay. I was frustrated for him, because it was dishonest and he knew that and had it pointed out to him several times, but he just wanted a chance for something different. I was waiting for the fallout, throughout the whole book. It actually ended up not being as intense as I expected, but it still happened in a believable way. It wasn’t too perfect, it did involve some mess, but it seemed to fit the story really well.

Openly Straight is a genuine look at how labels affect life, even if  they aren’t seen as a bad thing. I loved seeing how Rafe’s parents, friends, and community were supportive, sometimes too supportive by Rafe’s standards. I liked the looks back into his experiences and how they helped or frustrated him. I loved seeing him in his new element and navigating his new persona but also dealing with realistic peer pressures, and how he cared so much about what other people thought and had to deal with that. I liked Rafe’s writing and reading the teacher’s thoughts on his writing, too. That was a really interesting aspect, because you have to wonder how much work that has to be for the author, writing as a teen and as a teacher! I feel like Rafe and several other characters grew and learned a lot in this book.

4 star rating

 

Openly Straight was a fun read without being too light. I can see myself maybe reading it again at some point. I would definitely read other work by Bill Konisberg. I would recommend it to anyone wanting an enjoyable book with an important LGBT message about identity and acceptance!

Fighting Dreamer

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty [Book Review]

A Corner of White coverA Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: September 18th 2012
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Series: The Colors of Madeleine #1

Goodreads description: The first in a rousing, funny, genre-busting trilogy from bestseller Jaclyn Moriarty!

This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot’s dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds — through an accidental gap that hasn’t appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called “color storms;” a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the “Butterfly Child,” whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses…

I completely misunderstood what A Corner of White was about, somehow. I saw it on someone’s blog a while ago and I think I completely missed the other world aspect and thought it was more about Madeleine and her mother running away from life.  I was at the library and they didn’t have all the books I wanted but I saw it and remembered being interested so I got it.

Madeleine, the MC in The World, turns fourteen the day before the story begins. She and her mother are new to Cambridge, England. They’ve lived many places and done incredibly exciting things but they ran away from her father and a wealthy life. Her mother, Holly, is obsessed with game shows. Elliot lives in Cello, which is another world. In Cello, they have Color attacks. They have the Magical North and seasons that roll in and out and last a day sometimes. Elliot is fifteen and his father is missing. He goes on dangerous trips to try and find him. He is popular and well liked in his town and likes to help people.

Madeleine spends a lot of time wanting her old life and wondering why they left. She has two new friends, Belle and Jack, and she likes them but it isn’t the same. Her mom is having issues which might be mental or physical or both and Madeleine isn’t sure how to handle this. She finds a piece of paper on a parking meter and starts writing letters to a boy in a different world. She doesn’t believe it’s a different world, she thinks he’s just a writer or something. Elliot knows about The World, but knows he isn’t supposed to communicate with anyone in it.

There was so much that I wanted to like about this book. Other worlds with Colors that attack and a magical Butterfly Child? Missing people and mysterious disappearances? It sounds great! Unfortunately, there’s so much information and not a lot actually happening. I found myself wondering if I wanted to complete the novel, but I was curious about certain things and I kept reading. In the beginning of the story, I was looking forward to the Magical North because there was talk of dragons and werewolves and a Lake of Spells, but nobody goes there so I was disappointed.

I’m not sure how much I liked Madeleine or Elliot. Isn’t that weird? Not knowing if you like a character? I guess I have no strong opinions on either. I wanted things to go their way while I was reading but I never felt that attached to either one. There were times when I was annoyed by both characters. They had both been through difficult times and it was easy to sympathize with them, but other than that I kind of felt like they were bland. Their letters to each other were annoying, too. I did like Jack, one of Madeleine’s friends, but he wasn’t as involved in the story as I expected him to be, which was disappointing.

Cello is interesting as another world but some of the time I wasn’t really sure what was going on. The Color attacks were fascinating but also confusing. Colors can cause fires and injuries, abduct people, and make people act strangely. There are good and bad Colors. There was also the Butterfly Child, who was supposed to be a big deal, but I thought the everything to do with her was pointless. She was just a convenient fix to a major problem. It felt like every problem in the book was very conveniently fixed, except for the problems meant to lure you into the next book. The end of the book speeds up and slams a lot of “Questions will be answered next time!” on you.

One of the best parts about the book for me is that the cover is actually relevant to the book. Madeleine actually wears that outfit and carries a tangerine umbrella! I did like some of the writing and will share some pretty words:

“Where was she now, the girl with the thunderstorm heart?”

“The Kingdom whispered.
Moonlight sighed across the ice fields of the Magical  North, glinting int he eyes of bears and wolves. It wound through the battlements and turrets of White Palace and glanced off the fishing poles that lined the Lake of Spells.”

“Both Holly Tully and her daughter were oddly compelling when they spoke. Their voices seemed pitched in a way you had to bend your head to catch; in a way that hit Jack in his stomach, then rose pleasantly to the centre of the back of his neck.”

2.5 stars

There were some things I enjoyed about A Corner of White, but as a whole it wasn’t fantastic. I’m curious about one thing that might or might not happen in the rest of the series but I don’t think I care enough to read more about the world. I would not want to reread this book. I don’t see the book as genre-busting, funny, or rousing which is how the description begins. I would recommend A Corner of White if you like strange other worlds, lots of information about Byron and Isaac Newton, and surprising lures thrown at you in the last few pages.

Check out Jaclyn Moriarty‘s website!