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Rainbow Boys by Alex Sánchez

Title Rainbow Boys
Author Alex Sánchez
Publisher Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Year 2001
ISBN 0689841000

Teaser/Reader Annotation This is the story of three high school seniors struggling to find acceptance both within themselves and from the world around them. It's not easy being different.

Plot Summary Rainbow Boys chronicles the tale of three high school seniors as they struggle to find acceptance with their sexuality and themselves. Nelson is not only out to the world, he blew the closet door straight open. He feels he knows who he is and is proud to be that way; however, his internal struggle over loving his best friend, Kyle, has been weighing him down. While Kyle himself is not openly gay, his perseverance in staying with Nelson through the years has earned him equal harassment, and his sexuality is an open secret. As he struggles with the slow process of coming out to his family and friends he finds himself crushing on a jock who has been with the same girl for two years. It becomes apparent that not all is as it seems with Jason, however, when he appears at a Rainbow Youth meeting, surprising both Kyle and Nelson. The boys must find their way through not only the typical teenage spectrum of problems but deal with the pressure of being different and all that it implies on top of that.

Critical Evaluation Sánchez's daring novel is written in such a way that the drama pulls the readers into the action, dragging them along the emotional roller coaster the characters are experiencing. He portrays secondary characters well, showing reasonable reactions to situations and revelations and conveying a depth of understanding for what the boys, their friends, and their families are going through. One of the key aspects to the success of this novel, though, is Sánchez's writing style which utilizes concise but meaningful, and oftentimes witty, phrases to emphasize important information and make some rather poignant remarks. Rainbow Boys did not pull any punches when dealing with relevant teen issues either – shying away from neither the emotionally draining issues of life-threatening sexual illness nor more general issues such as child abuse. The marked problem found in this novel, however, is the borderline cliché of homosexual teenagers jumping straight into a sexual relationship. It was difficult to believe that Jason, who had just gotten out of a very serious, long term relationship, would jump straight into bed with Kyle, even if he had been curious. If Sánchez had spent more time developing alternatives instead of falling back on the gay stereotypes, then it would have been that much better.

About the Author Alex Sánchez was born in 1957 in Mexico City, Mexico as a child of mixed heritage. They had a quite diverse family: his father was German, his mother was Cuban, and he was gay. In 1962 the Sánchez family emigrated to America where he has lived ever since.

Sánchez is most famous for his Rainbow Boys series, which follows three teenage boys dealing with a variety of issues common to the LGBT community, but he has also written a number of other young adult LGBT books which have been well received. His novels have faced numerous challenges for their content but have been supported by communities impressed with the daring novelist. Counter-protests to the book challenges are not an unusual situation. Though he has not been publishing long, Sánchez and his novels have won numerous awards, including multiple Lambda Literary Awards and the coveted ALA “Best Book for Young Adult” title.

Primary Genre LGBT

Secondary Genre Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties Gender and Sexuality Studies

Booktalking Ideas

1) What are some situations that put LGBT teens at even further risk than a heterosexual teenager?

2) What are some of the additional stresses LGBT teens must go through? What can you do to help alleviate these issues?

Reading Level/Interest Age Grade 9+

Challenge Issues Homosexuality, Language, 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) Reference: ALA selection for “Best Book for Young Adults” and other titles and awards

Why is it included? This is a critical piece of young adult LGBT fiction.