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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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Openly Straight

Openly Straight - Bill Konigsberg This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: This cover is ADORABLE. I love the choice of tiffany blue for the background and the emoticon choices. I think this one will stand out on a shelf and is unique enough to intrigue potential readers. The Gist: Rafe's entire life has been colored by the fact that he is gay. He is comfortable with who he is, and is proud of what he is accomplished, but he really wants a chance to see what life would be like without the label. He gets his opportunity when he transfers to an all-boy boarding school in New England. Suddenly he is able to fit in with the popular jocks and experience a side of life he never realized he was missing. As Rafe begins to fall in love with one of his newfound friends he must face the predicament in which he has put himself - a lie allowed him to develop a beautiful relationship and the truth may destroy his love and his friendship.Review:Openly Straight featured a unique perspective. Rafe is "out" and in the public eye. His parents support him, he is an equal rights advocate at his school and even speaks to other youth on what it is like to be a gay teen. But, he often feels that this label places a barrier between him and his peers. He plays sports, but doesn't feel like part of the team. Other students and teachers constantly turn to him to provide "the gay point of view" and, despite his being out and available, he still doesn't have a boyfriend. With his entry to a new school, he finally has a chance to get rid of the label and remove the barriers - but it means leaving a big part of himself behind. I loved getting a chance to see the challenges that can be faced by a teen even if he is supported by his family and is part of a (fairly) liberal school. This novel featured a lot of fun and unique characters. Rafe and his friends are smart and witty and their comments and conversations often left me smiling, if not laughing. These are the types of characters that could easily carry a novel of their own and I often found myself wondering what they were doing when they were not with Rafe. My absolute favorite scenes were those with his parents. they were fun and quirky and wonderful examples of supportive parents - which is refreshing in a genre where absentee parents have almost become a cliche. I was also quite pleased that Openly Straight showed (if not featured) several gay characters and did a great job of breaking stereotypes.Openly Straight is not a book with a particularly strong plot. It follows a "will they, won't they" love story that was often sweet and romantic. Rafe did have a tendency to live in his own head and the introspection slowed the story considerably. This was really noticeable in the last 1/3rd of the book and resulted in an ending that was much more of a whimper than a bang. I also wish that it didn't contain quite as much swearing and sexual behavior as this limits me in which students I can recommend the book to. However, I really enjoyed the unique perspective that this novel provided and I was entertained by the fun cast of characters. Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 16 and upGender: BothSex: Kissing, Masturbation, Sex between TeenagersViolence: NoneInappropriate Language: Lots and Often: ass, shit, dick, shit, faggot, piss, bitch, fuck, retard, whore, slut, prick, cockSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking