STARRED REVIEW
April 2017

Love and friendship

By Bill Konigsberg

Last semester ended badly for Ben and Rafe. How could they do anything but break up after Rafe lied to him? But the spring semester is about to start at elite all-boys boarding school Natick, and Ben might be ready to be friends . . . or more than friends with Rafe again.

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Last semester ended badly for Ben and Rafe. How could they do anything but break up after Rafe lied to him? But the spring semester is about to start at elite all-boys boarding school Natick, and Ben might be ready to be friends . . . or more than friends with Rafe again.

In this follow-up to Openly Straight, readers see inside Ben’s head for the first time. Ben has recently won a prestigious scholarship, been voted captain of the baseball team, begun a new semester of Model Congress and met a smart, interesting girl. But as Ben struggles with balancing all these commitments, Rafe is always on his mind. Would Ben and Rafe be fine as best friends, or does either of them want more? How can Ben consider himself attracted to girls, yet always be drawn to kissing Rafe? Should he stand up to the casual misogyny of his teammates, or is maintaining a low profile more important to him?

Readers may wish more time had been allotted to addressing one of the novel’s most interesting issues—the conflict between Rafe’s mother’s insistence on labeling Ben versus Ben’s reluctance to label himself. But plenty of humor, often in the form of the comic escapades of Ben and Rafe’s friends Toby and Albie, balance out the serious issues of gender fluidity, emotional vulnerability, economic privilege and the inadequacy of labels that author Bill Konigsberg addresses here.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Honestly Ben

Honestly Ben

By Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine
ISBN 9780545858267

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