Thursday, September 6, 2007

Rainbow High

by Alex Sanchez

Book two in the series! ("Rainbow Boys" is first, then "Rainbow High," and last but not least is "Rainbow Road.")

Read more about Alex Sanchez here. And add your review of this book in "comments!"


Anonymous said...

While Rainbow High follows the events that are explored in Rainbow Boys, the book is just as effective on its own. The dilemmas faced by Jason, Kyle, and Nelson aren't new, and Sanchez never treats them as such, but they're real, and they need to be addressed.

GLBT kids, especially those who aren't fortunate enough to live in more tolerant homes and school environments, will find Jason, Kyle, and Nelson's experiences both eye-opening in many ways and reassuring in others. No, there aren't easy answers to being different from everyone else, and Sanchez never once shies away from the grief that may await GLBT kids who attempt to take control of their lives. None of the hateful reactions from others are sugar-coated, and as a heterosexual reader, I find them harrowing. How much more if I happened to be gay and living out these boys' experiences?

Yes, the book might be targeted to young GLBT readers, but heterosexuals could certainly benefit from it. Sanchez's strength - and I've now learned to appreciate his writing style - lies in the clear honesty of his prose. It's spare and direct, and with the issues he chooses to explore in the novel, the effect is uncomfortable at times. That's a good thing, of course, since we're looking at boys struggling to accept themselves and find friendship and respect in a largely hostile environment. One shouldn't become comfortable or complacent when the risks of emotional, mental, and physical pain run quite high.

That said, I'll have to emphasize that the book isn't all doom and gloom. Just as it was with Rainbow Boys, this book serves us a healthy dose of reality. For every step forward, there's a consequence or two, and no one can always predict how people will behave. There are moments of heartbreak, and there are moments of triumph. Jason, Kyle, and Nelson do what they can - oftentimes struggling alone, for in the end, the fight boils down to individual choices - feeling around blindly, blundering here and there, striking gold, and even finding unexpected allies.

The characters in this installment are better developed and more well-rounded than in Rainbow Boys, I find. Nelson, in particular, becomes a much more sympathetic character despite - and because of - his foolhardiness. It's really a sad irony that the character who's the most comfortable with himself and who's long accepted the consequences of his being out and proud would be the one who gets short-changed in his search for a loving relationship. Is this Sanchez inadvertently punishing a gay kid for coming to terms with his identity with relative ease (compared to either of his friends, at least)? Nope. It's just a way of showing how much reality can bite, but in the end, we emerge from our ordeal better and stronger than we were when we first took that frightening step.

And that's great reassurance to give our kids.

J.H. Trumble said...

You'll fall in love with Jason, Kyle and Nelson! And the love scene at the end ... ahem ... wow.