Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

A book that's both relevant and meaningful in today's society. Openly Straight discusses the very relevant subject of sexuality and coming to terms with one's identity outside of labels and expectations of who should be. It is about dealing with sexuality and learning to deal how others handle the subject of sexual preferences.

The main character is a homosexual teenager who chooses to go from being open about his sexuality to not telling anyone.

The main character struggles with the concept of living without a label--or at least, without the label he wants. By choosing not to tell others he's gay, he attempts to become someone new. He wants to see what it's like to live a life where being gay is just one little part of who he is.

I love that this book exists. It is so, so important in a world where kids are bullied for being different and where being gay, or bi, transgender, etc. is feared.

That being said, I found the narrative to be a little dry. The writing wasn't very gripping, and I think it was largely because the YA genre kept the story from reading too dark for the audience. This book would have likely been more effective written for an older audience.

My other problem with the book was for a story that gently nudges the reader into becoming a more understanding and accepting person, I was a little offended to see that word "retard" still made it into the text. If the use of word was important to the text or the development of the characters in some way, it would be one thing. However, the word was brandied about in casual conversation by one of the characters and posed no relevance to the surrounding text. It just seemed a little hypocritical and I think it's just as offensive as calling someone a "fag." The editor REALLY couldn't sub this word out? Really?

It's not the most gripping read, but it wasn't bad. A little dry at times and I wish the protagonist let the reader in a little sooner in the novel. The ending is more powerfully written and was a much better read.

Hopefully young readers can take something away from this book. Kids need to realize that their words hurt. That words like "gay" and "fag" can cut like a knife. These words are unacceptable. Get a thesaurus, world. This is 2013.

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