Thursday, March 04, 2021

Teen/YA Review: Honestly Ben

I was searching through my extensive TBR shelves for something appropriate to read for Valentine's Day when I found Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg ... with a heart on its cover! This was the first novel I've read from this popular author, and I enjoyed it very much.

Ben grew up on a farm in New Hampshire and is attending a fancy boarding school in Massachusetts on a scholarship. He doesn't always feel like he fits in, since most of his classmates come from wealthy families, but things are going really well for Ben right now. He was just elected captain of his baseball team and won a prestigious award at the school that will provide a college scholarship ... if he can keep up his grades. Unfortunately, Ben feels like his personal life is very confusing right now. Last semester, his friendship with his best friend, Rafe, grew into something more, until they had a falling out before break. Now, Ben is back at school, and he's met a really wonderful girl named Hannah from the local girls' school. Hannah is smart and funny, Ben really likes talking with her, and he's attracted to her. He misses Rafe, and he knows he still loves Rafe. But, Ben insists he is not gay, and anyway, what about Hannah? He really likes her, too. With outside pressure rising from the award, his classes, and the baseball team, Ben is questioning who he is and what is right for him. And he loves his family, but they don't talk much, especially about things like this; his dad's example has been silent and stoic, which just isn't working for Ben.

This is a warm, funny novel with plenty of emotional complexity. There are no neat answers here, as Ben struggles with labels that don't seem to fit and the judgements of his family and classmates when even he doesn't know what he wants. Obviously, issues of sexual orientation are at the forefront of this novel but also questions of identity, integrity, and being true to yourself. I found out after I read the novel that it is actually a sequel to Openly Straight, which I haven't read, but that wasn't a problem at all; this book stood on its own. I enjoyed getting to know Ben and the other characters and going along on his journey of self-discovery.

326 pages, Scholastic

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun! I talk about this novel in my February Wrap-Up and in my February 19 Friday Reads videos.


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local:


Or you can order Honestly Ben from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

1 comment:

  1. I have read Bill Konigsberg before and thought he was good, but it's been a really long time!