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Out In America Book Review

This Month's Book is...

Rainbow Boys
by Alex Sanchez

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Rainbow Boys

by Alex Sanchez

reviewed by Scott Sherman, Out in America Reviewer

The day that Rainbow Boys showed up on my doorstep I had just been contacted about speaking to a group of gay youth. I had already begun to agonize over what I was going to say that would have bearing on their lives and not make me look like a complete and total idiot. Technically, I'm only 10–12 years older than any of them in the first place, but in gay years I suppose that can be a lifetime. A good friend reminded me that when I was in my early twenties, I referred to anyone in my current age bracket (very early thirties thank you) as a troll. I hardly found any comfort in that thought. What are these kids facing? I know, as someone who is still out there in the dating pool, gay journalism pool, and quiet activist pool that I could give them tons of advice on what not to do. The first step was identifying what direction I could go with them and thanks to Rainbow Boys I got the answer.

In my late teen and college years the only exposure I had to gay literature was that of the Kinsey Report and a copy of Heather Has Two Mommies that I managed to pick up in Harvard Square Boston. I cannot imagine what the world would have been like now had I found a book like Rainbow Boys during those years.

Rainbow Boys takes a brief snapshot of three seniors in a small town getting ready to move on with their lives but still trying to get through the day to day toils of high school. The author Alex Sanchez seems to have been able to take three types of people that you would likely find in a high school and meld them into to very real and likeable characters.

There is Jason Carrillo, who is the jock. Motivated by sports and the peer pressure of his friends, Jason finds that he is torn between what his idea of life should be and what he knows is true. At the beginning of the book, we find that Jason is struggling with being gay and trying to find his way out of the closet.

Kyle Meeks, the second character, reminds himself in the mirror that he doesn't look gay but he knows he is. A member of the swim team and a good student, Kyle is what every mother would want for their daughter. Kyle has already recognized that he is gay and has been taking the first tentative steps of coming out by attending gay youth meetings with his out friend Nelson Glassman. Kyle's worst fear is coming out to his parents and losing his chances at getting into college. Kyle's first crush occurs and it happens to be with the jock of the school Jason Carrillo.

Last and certainly not least my favorite character out of this story: Nelson Glassman. Nelson lives with his mom, and his father plays a minor role in the story. Nelson is probably one of the more complicated people I have encountered in gay literature. There was just something about him that made me want to reach into the book and give him a hug. Perhaps there is more Nelson in me than I am ready to admit. Nelson's life is no fairy tale (pardon the pun), but he faces each day in school with renewed determination as an out and proud gay high school student. Tortured by the jocks, a seemingly indifferent principal, and students who just don't understand he tries to make the best of everything. For all his bravado and sass, Nelson is an insecure little boy looking for love and validation from the people around him. His mom, though supportive, has gone over the deep end in PFLAG and is too busy getting him the right to marry to see some of the pain. Nelson's ideal mate in his mind would be Kyle Meeks and Nelson's mission is just to get Kyle to stop talking about Jason Carrillo just long enough to recognize what's in front of him.

These boys, in the course of a little over two hundred pages, encounter some of the most pressing problems facing gay youth today including: internet predators, HIV scares, gay bashing, school administration indifference, coming out, and that all important first love. It wasn't until after I put the book down that I realized the author had covered so much ground in such a short span and done it seemingly effortlessly. It is obvious that Alex Sanchez has a tremendous amount of experience working with gay and lesbian youth. This talent comes shining through from the first page until the last. This is a rare commodity, in my opinion, in gay and lesbian youth literature.

Get this book! It gives a glance to what the next generation faces and it's an amazing set of new challenges that I never thought about. Things have changed a lot since I was in high school, and that was only a few short years ago. I am encouraged at what the next generation has to offer. This is Alex Sanchez's first novel and thankfully not his last. On his web site, http://www.alexsanchez.com/, Alex mentions that Simon and Schuster has already planned the sequel for publishing in 2003. I, for one, will be at the bookstore looking for it the day it comes out. This book has also been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award this year for the young adult category and frankly, it has my vote.

Last Updated: 4/4/02


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