Book reviews

Summer reading #2 – Honestly, Ben

Summer is fast approaching. As I’m working on my slightly dystopian YA novel, I can’t help but look at the books I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. In no particular order I’ll be covering a few of them over the next few weeks.

(Warning: There might be some mild spoilers!)

Honestly, Ben by Bill Konigsberg

My second pick for my summer reading reviews is Honestly, Ben. Again I’ve picked a sequel to a previous novel, in this case Openly Straight. The fate of starting a blog whilst having read previous books a long time ago.

Where Openly Straight dealt with Rafe and his story as he moves to Natick, the story of Honestly, Ben is – not surprisingly – Ben’s story. I’ve never read any of Mr. Konigsberg’s books before Openly Straight so when I picked that one up, it was a pleasant surprise in well thought-out characters who inhabited the preppy world of Natick.

Where the first book in this series had a constant feeling of suspense, in the sense of “Who’s going to find out Rafe’s secret?”, this book had a different pace, a different question to answer. The question this book posed was truly Ben’s: who do I love and how honest can I be about myself?

As it turned out during the big speech towards the end of the book, Ben has the capacity for some inspiring candour.

What I liked about the book

  • The build-up towards the speech at the end was well done. About mid-way through the book I had no idea where the story was headed and how Ben was shaping up as a person. Which was well done, considering how easy it would’ve been to fall into implausible reasoning for his behaviour. But Mr Konigsberg succeeded in providing us with a believable Ben, proper motivations making him into a compelling character. Maybe, dare I say it, even more compelling than Rafe?
  • The supporting cast was stellar, as before. What I liked is that Toby had his own development to go through, something which Mr Konigsberg has already hinted at for a possible sequel.
  • The story shows how even people who are open-minded can be quick to pass judgment when it comes to labelling others. Case in point? Rafe’s parents.

During its closing moments, the book provides enough closure to imagine how things will work out for Ben. At the same time it leaves many things unresolved, which makes me wonder whether the hinted-at sequel will only focus on Toby…

Sidenote: If you haven’t read Openly Straight, please do read that one first before reading Honestly, Ben. Strongly recommended!

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