Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Audio : Audio Book
Openly Straight

Openly Straight

Fall 2017 Audio Book
Ages: 14 & Up
CD Price: $39.99

It's fun to find a book that you expect to be good, only to find it even more thoughtful and engaging than you'd hoped. I would have enjoyed Openly Straight just as much if it weren't quite so witty and smart, and if Pete Cross wasn't such a likable reader. It didn't need to be as good as it was, but it is and what a treat.

Rafe, the story's star, is an openly gay teen in the nice progressive enclave of Boulder, Colorado. His coming out was uneventful. At 14 he told his parents he was gay and then he told everyone else. No problem. Well, maybe one problem, at least for Rafe; he became "the gay kid." A beloved one, sure, but still marked.

He suspects his soccer teammates never really treat him like one of the guys. It's assumed he knows the thoughts of all gay people everywhere. And he is the local community go-to gay spokes-teen. He feels a little too$#8230; special.

So Rafe does something unusual. He applies to an all-boys East coast boarding school, far enough away from home and his out history so he can go back in. He wants to see what it's like, to be just like everyone else.

What happens from there is delightful. There's witty dialogue, a colorful cast of characters, and a thoughtful exploration of important adolescent issues such as diversity, identity and relationships. It's poignant, smart and real.

Konigsberg uses a wonderful device of a writing assignment Rafe is given, accompanied by feedback from his teacher, to probe his themes. He mines the story for humor, but it's also equally thoughtful which gives it a nice balance. Pete Cross does an excellent job of striking these different tones in his reading.

Rafe's experiment, as much as his parents oppose it, seems harmless to him. He was entitled, wasn't he, to be just like everyone else? But of course, no one is just like everyone else. And the result of not being true to yourself, no matter how well-intentioned, is usually a mess.

How Rafe and Konigsberg fix that mess, is a graceful cap to a sweet story.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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