A great perspective and an adorable romance.
Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT
No. of pages: 330
Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.
There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.
What a fantastic follow-up to ‘Openly Straight.’ I laughed out loud many times – I love the cookie humour in this series. It was great to break the tension and release the angst and anxiety of the novel.
Where ‘Openly Straight’ challenged the notions of labels, in ‘Honestly Ben’ I felt we got to live in a number of them and discover that they are merely descriptors that make other people comfortable (or uncomfortable) – and what it truly means to carve your own path.
Identity, sexuality, gender are all in different hues, and never too stagnant. People are different and grow and change over time, so it stands to reason that those concepts would evolve too. It was great to get a wider scope of what these terms are, and mean. It was an eye-opener on diversity for me. I got a bit of an education. And I like that I learnt something, but hand in hand with this kind of thing – and that I see in many other novels tackling these same topics – it always saturates the narrative in the world of socio-politics and correctness, and suddenly you find yourself submerged in a world that is less real, and consequently loses its relatable edge. But that is unavoidable – as you need to saturate yourself in something to truly understand it. I commend this novel for the aspects in this area.
The romance was still angsty and steamy. Though at the same time a little stand-offish. I guess because in the first novel we’re dealing with Rafe’s identity, and here, with Ben’s. So the focus is on them finding their place in the world and not so much on a romance. You get a strong sense of Ben exploring who he is. I actually found it compelling and refreshing.
I revelled in the fact that life is allowed to be a big confusing mess, that somethings you just can’t put a label on.
As with ‘Openly Straight,’ I found Koinsberg’s writing style compelling and hard to put down. I completed this book in one sitting and was craving more when finished. There is always a sense of hope and desperation it the tone of the characters that has them practically leaping off the page.
There were issues I had with a bit of machismo in ‘Openly Straight’ which get addressed here – and in such a way it was delightfully surprising. Ben has such a knack for controlling a situation in a positive way and I felt involuntarily drawn to him. If he were a real life person, I’d be pathetically devoted to this young couple, simply because of how they treated the world. Truly inspiring.
Though all the characters are fallible, it was in an endearing way, making them feel like people I knew. Even with their growth through the course of the novel there is a strong note that their journey is far from over at its conclusion.
The general crux of the novel is very predictable, but the way the story is told distracts you from the inevitable, and leaves you with a sense of wonder. I totally felt like I’d been given a great big warm hug – and I wanted to live in that moment for as long as I could.
I enjoyed how Rafe and his mother were challenged on how they labelled people – seriously or not, almost like reverse discrimination I want to say – just because you know something, doesn’t mean you know.
I can only hope we get to visit the world of Rafe and Ben again sometime in the future – I’m completely down for that. So I’m sending out vibes into the universe for Konisberg to get inspired and continue writing for this collection.
Overall feeling: Totally amazeballs.
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