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A friend handed me a book and commanded me to read it. It was “Rainbow Boys,” a novel about three high school seniors in varying stages of coming out. I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a boy, rainbow or otherwise, but this book wound up intriguing me in a bunch of ways.
I can’t say it’s spectacularly written, but I can say Alex Sanchez’s novel for young adults has more real emotion than a month’s worth of “General Hospital.”
The book is precisely the sort of thing I would’ve inhaled as an adolescent. I loved teen-angst novels, presumably because I was a teen with angst. I read about tempestuous subjects that were familiar to me, like peer pressure, and tempestuous subjects that weren’t familiar to me, like heroin addiction.
Homosexuality I would’ve lumped in the latter category. No, I’m not equating gayness with drug addiction — I leave that to politicians. Back then I simply didn’t know much about homosexuality. I certainly had no idea little old me was gay. But I imagine I would’ve been willing to read about the topic. I just don’t remember seeing any young-adult novels that dealt with it back in the ’70s.
Did they really not exist, or did libraries refuse to stock them? Or perhaps I self-censored myself, my unconscious mind whispering, “Oh, let’s wait on this subject. It’ll be much more fun to torture her with it when she’s 30.”
It’s edifying to see “Rainbow Boys” and similar offerings out there now, so the younger set can read them. Gay kids will find out they’re far from alone; straight kids will find out they’re far from a clue, if they’ve been thinking gay kids are either rare or so different from themselves.
I became sufficiently wrapped up in Sanchez’s characters that I’m now reading the sequel, “Rainbow High,” with “Rainbow Road” next. I’m following the author’s rainbow path. It doesn’t matter that I’m middle-aged. I still like to follow the yellow brick road now and then, too.
It’s doubtful that I could write quality fiction for young adults. But I think I could come up with some compelling story lines. I’ll toss a few ideas out there right now, which, for brevity’s sake, I’ll mold into blurbs.
“Boys? Dating? Holly didn’t care about any of that. All that mattered to her was her ambition of becoming a scientist. But one day, while handing Susan Lowery a test tube, their fingers touched, and Holly felt an electric current that her textbooks couldn’t explain. Would she have the guts to try her bravest experiment yet?”
“Jameel had always been happiest in church, singing in the choir, or listening to his father roar and whisper his way through sermons. Everyone expected Jameel to take his father’s place someday. Jameel dreamt of that, too. But in his dream, he stood up there and preached the Lord’s word wearing a dress and high heels, while those he filled with the spirit responded, ‘Amen, sister!'”
“Mason really thought he was on the edge of freaking out. His mother wouldn’t or couldn’t quit drinking, his baseball coach benched him during the last game, and he couldn’t decide whether to go to the spring dance with Jenny or William. Maybe some people thought being bi was cool, but as far as he was concerned it was just one more pain …”
“Stewart was disgusted. They had fought so hard for a Gay-Straight Alliance at Grover Cleveland High School. Now they had it, but the students in charge broke up and refused to speak to each other. ‘Jeez,’ thought Stewart, ‘I wonder if it’s too late to join the photography club?'”