Book 39: Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

4.5 stars! I would probably be more specific and say 4.8 stars.. It was that good. Not perfect but good.

Again, I have not disappeared. I am just now finishing the on-boarding of my new interns from my PLA grant. It has been a busy, busy, busy few weeks. I have continued to read (not as much but still read some), but I have just not been blogging as frequently. Once summer is over, I am sure I will be blogging vigorously.

Now about this book…
I love Rafe and Ben. Openly Straight was one of my favorite books that I read two years ago. I finished it in one sitting. It was just a beautiful story that ended in a way that made my heart break. I was so glad when I saw that Bill Konigsberg was going write a sequel. To be honest, I would be okay if he kept up his Natick School books and focused on Toby or another character after this. I really just want to see Rafe and Ben during their senior year, but I know their story is mostly done as far as high school drama goes.

What can I say about this book. It is a beautiful lament of acceptance, individuality, vulnerability, and openness. Ben navigates his life after Rafe breaks his heart. Rafe is seeing another guy, but Ben has started seeing another girl. As Ben learns to be more vulnerable and open to being himself, he truly sees that he has a choice ahead of him: Hannah or Rafe. Should he open his heart to a guy, even though he isn’t gay, or should he stay with Hannah, who is almost perfect in every way.

The writing of this book is just so true to the characters. I feel that each character has a voice. I do think Konigsberg tries too hard with teen lingo in some areas, but overall, he does a great job at creating timeless dialogue.

The one issue I have with this book is that Rafe has apparently become dumb. I’m not sure why/when that happened, but it really is different from the first book. Rafe is intelligent, maybe not as intelligent as Ben, but he was still a decent student. This book makes him seem a little vapid. I understand that Ben is the protagonist of this book, but that shouldn’t mean that Ben gets to look down on the intelligence of his best friend. It was a struggle for me.

I did like how they addressed gender and sexuality as a spectrum in this book. Nothing is black and white, and we try to put people in boxes because it makes us more comfortable, but it isn’t that easy.

Hannah has a quote that I have been trying to express my whole life: “I sometimes think I could be pansexual, but I’m probably more pansexual in my brain than in reality…” It was one of the few good traits about Hannah. She was open minded and accepting. She was also neurotic and liked to play mind games. Horrible character. “I’m telling you to do something, but then I’m going to get mad at you because you didn’t read my mind.” GAH.

Just a good book though. Every book has those characters that you don’t love, but they are still important. I just want to read both books again. Right now.

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