Badkittyuno raved about Openly Straight and its sequel Honestly Ben so, despite my old age and the crotchety nature in which I reacted to the last YA novel I read, I picked it up from the library. It was definitely better than The Upside of Unrequited with slightly more believable, fleshed out main characters. Claire Olivia is a bit of a manic pixie dream girl but she is a minor character, and not a love interest, so I’ll let that slide.
Rafe was openly gay in liberal Boulder, Colorado but chooses to go to boarding school in Massachusetts where he presents himself as straight. He doesn’t outright lie, not at the beginning, but he struggles with his new identity when he forms a close relationship with his classmate, Ben.
We learn a lot about Rafe and his initial coming out process through a journal he keeps for school. He was frustrated with his mom’s over enthusiastic reaction to his coming out which prompted his going to school on the other side of the country and back into the closet. The premise of going back in the closet seemed a bit unlikely to me but I loved the slow burn of the relationship between Rafe and Ben which wouldn’t have worked if Rafe had been openly out. And his mom was a bit of a manic pixie dream mother so I’d probably run away too…
“I figured I’d come out to my parents, get my first boyfriend, and then just live my life. No. Instead, it was like this thing had happened, and now we all had to mobilize. (I should have known. My mom is a mobilizer.) Suddenly there were six books I had to read about what it’s like to be gay. I said to her, “Mom, can’t I just be gay, and not read about it?” But she explained — and Dad backed her up — that we need to know history.”