Tag Archives: Queer Teen Fiction

Author Interview with Alex Sanchez
Author Interviews
June 21, 2009 posted by Nikki

Author Interview with Alex Sanchez

Alex Sanchez is the author of many young adult books featuring queer characters and relationships. His books have won many awards and he is regarded as one of the most popular and influential writers of fiction for gay youth. Some of his titles include The Rainbow Boys trilogy, The God Box, So Hard to Say, and Getting It. His latest novel, Bait, is in stores now. In celebration of Gay Pride Month, Alex was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions. Here’s what he had to say…

What made you decide to write books about gay teens?

I didn’t set out to write Y.A. Lit. When I wrote my first novel, Rainbow Boys, I was simply writing the book I wished I’d had available to read when I was a teen—a book that would’ve told me, “It’s okay to be who you are.” Part of who I was then was a very normal teenage boy trying to sort out love, friendship, sex, and sexuality.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Prior to becoming a full-time author, I worked as a website manager, organizational development consultant, juvenile probation officer, family counselor, scuba instructor, college recruiter, movie projectionist, agent trainee, movie production assistant, theatre usher, stock clerk, and tour guide. Who knows what else I might be doing?

We’re featuring The Rainbow Boys trilogy on our site this month for Gay Pride Month. Where did the inspiration for those books come about?

A lot of the inspiration came from seeing young people nowadays who have the courage and opportunity to come out and be themselves in high school. When I was in high school, the term “coming out” didn’t even exist. The early 70’s was a time when gay people were practically invisible. I thought I was the only one in the world with my feelings. This was back in the dark ages—before Will & Grace.

Which character – Jason, Kyle, or Nelson – came to you first?

I began writing the book in 1993, so I don’t remember which character came first. I wanted to write a love story between two teenage boys—that’s where Jason and Kyle came from. And I wanted to write about the friendship between two boys—that’s where Kyle and Nelson’s story came from. The triangle between the three boys is what makes the story hang together.

Why did you decide to write this series through three different points of view, rather than just one character’s perspective?

I wanted to allow the reader to experience how three very different gay and bisexual teenage boys experience the world differently.

Do you have a favourite out of the three boys?

Each boy captures an aspect of myself—and of universal human drives. Jason struggles to love himself. Kyle wants to find someone to love. Nelson wants to find someone to love him.

Jason loses his college scholarship when he comes out. Do you think this kind of thing is still a common occurrence in modern America?

Unfortunately, homophobia is alive and pervasive in America. I recently received the following words in an email from a boy who came out at his school:  “I ended up getting kicked off of like five activities. And I didn’t make the football, basketball, or baseball team even though I was captain in all three my junior year. And I wasn’t sure whether they’re allowed to do that. I mean, I’m not a bad athlete or anything.”

What do you have to say to teens that might be in Jason’s position?

Keep reaching out.  Never close up.  Never give up.  Hang in there.  You will get through this.  You are a wonderful human being.  Love, respect, and accept yourself for the beautiful soul you are.

While all three boys in The Rainbow Boys eventually come out, and are relatively happy with their decision to do so, not all teens are so lucky. What advice do you have for teens that might be struggling with coming out?

Coming out can be a very freeing thing. You no longer have to hide who you are, censor what your say, and watch what you do. Being honest and open enables you to feel confident about yourself and more able to form closer relationships with people. But because homophobia is so pervasive in our society, you never know how others will react. A big part of coming out is whether you’re prepared to deal with anti-gay reactions that may come from your being open. There is no rush to come out. TAKE YOUR TIME. The most important thing is that YOU love and accept yourself for who you are. Don’t do anything before you feel ready. It’s your life and your choice. Only you can decide if, how, with whom, and when to come out.

Where can questioning or gay teens find information that might help them through their self-discovery?

If you’re a teen and want to talk with someone, contact one of the organizations listed at my website, www.alexsanchez.com. And read all my books! They will help you.

Peace, Alex.

Rainbow High – Alex Sanchez
Book Reviews
June 17, 2009 posted by Nikki

Rainbow High – Alex Sanchez

The Rainbow Boys are back for another compelling read. The second installment in The Rainbow Boys trilogy finds Kyle, Jason and Nelson all struggling to make peace with their own personal issues.

High school is nearly over and Jason can’t wait to start college. Playing basketball at a college level has always been a dream of his; he’s even got a scholarship and all. But then Jason decides that he can’t bear to hide his sexuality anymore and comes out to his team and his classmates. Eventually word gets out that he’s dating Kyle and in a moment of victorious joy after a smashing win on the court, Jason is captured by local television cameras giving his boyfriend a celebratory kiss. Soon after, Jason’s life takes an awful turn and he receives a letter revoking his scholarship. Jason’s folks recently split up and he knows that without that scholarship, there is no way that Jason’s Ma can afford to send him away to college. There go his plans for an awesome college basketball career. And what about Kyle? They were going to college together. How is he supposed to tell Kyle that they’ll be apart next year?

Little does he know that Kyle is harboring a secret of his own. Kyle wants nothing more than to move away and start life afresh with Jason next year. In fact, it’s all he’s wanted since he and Jason started dating. But then Kyle receives an offer of a lifetime: he’s accepted to Princeton University. Kyle applied to Princeton before he started dating Jason, but now things have changed. He loves Jason. He wants to be with Jason forever. More to the point, he doesn’t want to be apart from Jason next year. How is that supposed to happen when they’re both going to different colleges in different states? There are plenty of colleges in the country, but there’s only one Jason. What will Kyle do?

Meanwhile, Nelson is having problems of his own. He’s mad at Kyle, for one. If Kyle accepts his offer from Princeton, all of Nelson’s college plans will be ruined. Kyle and Nelson were supposed to go to Tech together. It’s the only reason Nelson even applied to Tech. What is the point of going to Tech if his best friend isn’t with him?

Like Jason and Kyle, Nelson has finally found love. Jeremy is cute, sweet, and just a little bit older than Nelson. However, Jeremy is HIV positive. At first, Nelson doesn’t seem to care. Much to Kyle’s horror, Nelson isn’t being as careful with Jeremy as he should be. Nelson just wants to be with Jeremy and doesn’t think he should be treated differently because of his illness. But then Jeremy gets sick one day while they’re making out and Nelson gets a first hand account of what dealing with HIV can be like. Is he ready to be with someone so sick? And what kind of person does that make him if he’s not?

Being a teenager is hard enough; being a gay teenager can be hell. But as Jason, Kyle, and Nelson prove, friendship and love can conquer all kinds of hate, all kinds of challenges. Alex Sanchez’s characters are so alive in my mind they could literally walk off the page. Their individual struggles are presented in simple terms, allowing the reader to form their own opinion about the way the events are presented. Sanchez has a real knack for telling it like it is without telling you how you should feel about it. He’s a supremely talented writer and I think all teens should make the effort to read one – or all – of his books.

If you loved The Rainbow Boys then Rainbow High is a must for you.

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Leave Myself Behind – Bart Yates
Book Reviews
June 9, 2009 posted by Nikki

Leave Myself Behind – Bart Yates

I finish my pizza and go upstairs to change clothes before starting work on the attic. My room finally looks like a room. I’ve got a giant poster of Yates on one wall, looking very professorial, and on the other wall are Frost and Emerson and Virginia Woolfe. My books are stacked up on boards resting on milk crates and take up an entire wall; I’ve got the collected works of Dickens, Shakespeare, Wild, Faulkner, Melville and Austen.

Jesus. I guess I really am gay.

I strip off my shirt and open my chest of drawers to get another. Lying on top of the pile is J.D.’s Sierra Club tee shirt. He left it here last week and Mom must have finally got around to doing the laundry. I pull it out and hold it to my face. I can still smell him in the fabric. Damn him. I toss it back in the drawer and get one of my own.

God damn him.

When Noah’s mother packed up their lives and moved them from Chicago to a rural town in New England, Noah never expected to find love, especially not with the boy from across the street. But J.D. isn’t gay. No sir. He’s got a girlfriend, and they’ve even done it and everything. But since when did that mean anything at all? Noah isn’t stupid, and he’s not so completely blinded by his feelings for J.D. that he can’t see how J.D. feels. Even if J.D. can’t, or wont.

It’s not so easy for J.D., though. At least Noah has a supportive mother who loves him regardless of his sexual orientation. J.D. isn’t so lucky. He has a hard time getting any kind of affection out of his mother at the best of times; imagine how it would be for him if he came out…

How long can you deny your feelings for someone, though? J.D. soon discovers that just being Noah’s friend isn’t enough. One thing leads to another and suddenly the whole town seems to know all their deepest and darkest secrets. And in this particular small American town, homosexuality isn’t looked upon favourably. Noah and J.D. find themselves in all kinds of trouble.

Noah’s voice is raw, fresh, and so very real. He tells it like it is: straight up, no BS. He has a real simplistic way of breaking things down, of looking at the world. If there were more Noah Yorks walking the Earth, society would be a better place for all. While Leave Myself Behind deals with some serious, heartbreaking issues, it manages to do so lightly (for lack of a better word). Noah’s sarcasm and his sense of humour shine a little bit of light on an otherwise devastatingly depressing story. I know Noah and J.D.’s story may ring true for some, but I hope that not too many queer readers can relate to the boys’ experiences in this book. No one should ever have to go through what J.D. and Noah did. Not ever.

But this is more than just a coming out story. This is a story about family, truth, and love – all kinds of love. As J.D. so sadly learns, sometimes love just isn’t enough. Sometimes the world throws so much at you, that not even love can heal the deepest wounds.
Leave Myself Behind comes with a tissue box warning, folks. You’ll cry from laughter, but I’m certain you’ll cry from sadness too. A must read for everyone, everywhere.

Rating:: ★★★★★