This is part of a series concerned with young adult books with LGBT themes, because I read a lot of such books and want to share them with you.
I find that a lot of GLBT YA is by white writers and concerned with white characters, so I was pleased to pick up Rainbow Boys (2001), which is by one Alex Sanchez and opens from the perspective of Latino lead Jason. The book is split between the perspectives of jock Jason; Kyle, who has a secret crush on him; and Kyle’s friend Nelson, who is out and proud with no apologies.
The three perspectives thing works surprisingly well, mostly because each character picks up where the previous one left off. We don’t have to have every experience wrung out from each perspective this way, but there’s still enough space to reflect on their grudges and friendships and relationships and that which the others have missed. There’s also the space to look to a lot of variations of these experiences; Sanchez is clearly invested in his readers having someone to relate to. There are first relationships and horrible missteps and angry girlfriends and pretty much everything you’d expect.
It centres coming out and coming to terms with the boys’ sexual orientations, and the wonderful and horrible experiences they have around that and people’s reactions. But Sanchez respects that sexuality is just one part of growing up and life, and his book tackles a lot of issues. (Yes, it’s an issues book in a lot of ways, which is fine and necessary as long as it’s not every book, because some happiness and other kinds of storytelling are necessary, too!) Domestic violence and HIV issues loom particularly large.
A side note. My pet hate, as established readers will know, is cutesy genocide references/analogies/jokes, so I almost put down the book when Nelson referred to their school principal, who is admittedly not the most tolerant guy but not incredibly so, as Herr Führer and old Nazi Mueller (Mueller being his actual surname). That’s a problem with Nelson, not the book, and something in which one of the other characters gently intervenes, but something I wanted to note that really took me out of the text. They’re not Nazis unless they’re actually claiming allegiance with Nazis, kids (which is why I did not have a problem with some similar sentiments in Becoming Nancy).
It’s not my favourite LGBT YA book ever, but it does some things differently while fitting the tropes of its genre comfortably. I may well pick up the sequels, Rainbow High and Rainbow Road, when I have time.