Honestly Ben is a YA novel by Bill Konigsberg. It’s the companion/sequel to Openly Straight. Now, I haven’t read Openly Straight, but as soon as I saw Honestly Ben on the new arrivals shelf at my town library, I just had to add it to my borrowing pile.
Ben is a student at the Natick School, a prestigious boys’ boarding school in suburban Massachusetts. As an aside, this is vaguely my neck of the woods, so I was quite enchanted by the setting. Anyway, Ben has decided to focus on academics and baseball. He feels that his involvement with Rafe Goldberg the previous semester (chronicled in Openly Straight) was a phase, and as school resumes, there is a notable froideur between the pair. Everything is going well for Ben- he’s even dating a girl from the local girls’ school- but something doesn’t feel quite right. Ben needs to figure out what he needs to make himself happy, and not what will make everyone else happy.
This was a sweet book. I’m reasonably savvy, so I was able to pick up on the dynamic without having read the first book in the series. Ben goes through a lot over the course of the book as he tries to figure out who he wants to be in life; this is so much more than merely sexual orientation, but rather fundamentally who he wants to be and what he wants to stand for. Ben, like all of us, is fallible, but he is also extremely likeable and easy to empathize with.
I would absolutely recommend Honestly Ben. I would suggest that readers begin with Openly Straight in order to appreciate the entirety of the story arc. I enjoyed my reading experience, and I have Openly Straight on my reading list. I know that once I’ve finished with it, I’m going to want to go back and read Honestly Ben again. I’m looking forward to reading more from Konigsberg in the future.