Rainbow Boys is a sweet and heartwarming story about three very different high school boys and about first love, finding yourself and coming out. It was published already in 2001, so some parts felt perhaps a bit dated, but it was nevertheless a wonderful and important book about self-acceptance and finding the courage to be true to who you are and learning to love and be proud despite the bigotry and intolerance around you.
The story follows the three seniors Jason, Kyle and Nelson and is told in turns by the perspective of each of them. They are all very different, and have their own problems to struggle with both at home and with accepting who they are. Jason is a jock who won’t hardly admit even to himself that he’s gay, and who does all he can to hide it from his homophobic and violent dad, his teammates and, not the least, his girlfriend. Nelson on the other hand has been openly queer his whole life but is struggling with his feelings for his best friend Kyle. And Kyle is somewhere in between, secure in himself with being gay, but not ready to come out to his parents.
I immediately rooted for Jason and Kyle, but Nelson never warmed to me the same way. I wanted to feel sorry for him, and the bad things that happened to him, but I just couldn’t see past the way he never took responsibility for his own actions and for the way he treated his friends. Sadly, he just came across as selfish, whiney and manipulative. Nelson’s mother was amazing though!
The writing style was perhaps a bit too much telling rather than showing, and I had some problems with a few cringy scenes. You could also feel that it was a bit dated in the way the boys talked, and the technology (like the use of phones and that it was rare to have your own computer etc.), but most of all in the way that the LGBTQ support group initiative was discouraged by school, and how abuse and bullying was tolerated. But sadly, most of the other struggles that Jason, Kyle and Nelson faced are the same today for many high school teens. There is still so much intolerance and discrimination, fear of coming out and show our true selves. This book was such a great reminder that even though we have come a long way, we can’t take things for granted and there is still so much that remains to be done.
All in all, Rainbow Boys was a sweet, fast-paced and realistic coming of age story, and an important reminder of the struggle the queer community has faced and the fight for everyone’s right to be themselves against homophobia and prejudices. I’m so invested in the characters and can’t wait to follow their journey throughout all books in the Rainbow Trilogy!
3.5 stars rounding up to 4 for its important message and how it paved the way for other LGBTQ+ books
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