Author Nick Burd
Publisher Dial Books
Teaser/Reader Annotation Dade is used to being the closeted queer that everyone jokes about but no one really knows; it's his comfort zone. The summer before he goes to college, however, he begins to experience life outside of that cliché.
Plot Summary Dade begins his last summer before college feeling lonely and friendless – trapped in a cyclical pattern of boredom, drugs, and apathy. His home life is an absolute wreck as his parents struggle with the threat of divorce and acknowledgment of adultery. His relationship, if it can be called that, with the extremely popular Pablo is less a relationship and more a convenience when the other's girlfriend is not available. When Dade meets Alex, the drug-dealing kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and Lucy, the LA rebel sent to Iowa for the summer, everything changes for him. After experiencing true love and friendship he no longer wants to be hurt and ignored, especially by his own family. With his new-found self-esteem, Dade finally works up the courage to come out of the closet and be himself. This leads to a whole new set of problems, however, as it draws the attention of Pablo.
Critical Evaluation This book has both its positives and its negatives. The author did a very good job crafting the disconnect of the character of Alex, Dade's love interest. He is written in such a way that readers can see that Alex is a loser who is going no where in life while, at the same time, viewing him from Dade's perspective and loving him. The story itself is both lovely and tragic at the same time, creating a picture of both loneliness and hope. One of the biggest problems with the novel, though, is the portrayal of the female characters. With the exception of the lesbian, Lucy, Burd paints a picture of problematic females as a rule. The mother is a pill popper without a sense of connection with the life she is living while Judy and Jessica are temperamental beyond redemption, making it easy for the readers to hate them. From this theme, I have to wonder if Burd lacks a sense of respect for heterosexual women or if these were simply a series of coincidences. Another issue within the novel is the gratuitous use of drugs. When I first began reading I passed over the issue, believing it would become a plot element later on in the book but was disappointed when it went nowhere. Despite these problematic elements, it was a good first novel and an enjoyable read.
About the Author Because he is such a new author there is not much known about Brooklyn dwelling Nick Burd. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Iowa and got his MFA from the New School in New York. Before publishing his first novel he began working for PEN American Center, an organization devoted to literary and human rights, with which he is still involved.
In 2009, Out Magazine added Burd to the “OUT 100,” which is a list of one-hundred people who made important contributions to LGBTQ culture and politics that year. Since the release of The Vast Fields of Ordinary he has not published anything; however, he has been working on two new novels. One of these, also taking place in Cedarville, Iowa where his original novel was set, is due to be released in 2011.
Primary Genre LGBT
Secondary Genre Issues/Realistic Fiction
Curriculum Ties Sociology
1) Music plays an important role in the lives of the characters throughout the novel. Discuss.
2) The characters in the novel are repeatedly shown using recreational drugs out of boredom and apathy. Do you think this is an exaggeration or is it an accurate reflection of teenagers thoughts on drug use?
Reading Level/Interest Age 16+
Challenge Issues Drugs, homosexual content, non-graphic sexual content
1) Become familiar with book and its content.
2) Refer to library's collection policies.
3) Refer to reviews from School Library Journal, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles.
4) Get reviews from teenagers who are familiar with the book.
5) Refer to the ALA Library Bill of Rights.
6) Winner: ALA Stonewall Book Award - Children's and Young Adult Literature. Finalist: Lambda Literary Award – LGBT Children's/Young Adult Literature
Why is it included? I found it in the local library's OPAC while searching for a copy of Rainbow Boys.