Alex Sanchez

Rainbow Boys

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Rainbow Boys Summary

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The first book in a trilogy, Alex Sanchez’s coming of age novel for young adults, Rainbow Boys (2001), chronicles the lives of three high school boys struggling with issues of sexuality. The story cycles between each character’s point of view, showing how they respond uniquely to their situations, as well as how they are informed by personal backgrounds that are invisible at school. As the boys’ personal narratives become increasingly entangled in each other, they learn to live harmoniously and deal with the stigma surrounding HIV and the biased perceptions about homosexuality held by their families and peers.

The novel introduces the three characters through short vignettes. Jason Carrillo, who publicly fits into the “popular jock” archetype, has recently been stuck ruminating about his sexuality. Eventually, he decides to go to a gay youth meeting. There, to his alarm, he runs into classmates Nelson Glassman, the class clown who is commonly perceived as gay, and Kyle Meeks, a swimmer who is still in the closet. After the meeting, Kyle offers to help Jason with his math class. Jason soon learns that Kyle has liked him throughout the entirety of high school. They start to talk about various emotions they have kept hidden from everyone, including feelings about going public about their sexualities. Jason begins to open up about the abuse he endures from his alcoholic father, and soon, the two boys develop a romantic relationship. Still, Jason continues to experience doubts about his identity as he struggles to break up with his girlfriend. As he comes to realize his feelings for Kyle are valid, he panics about coming clean to his father, whom he thinks will kick him out of the house.

Jason and Kyle continue to get closer, causing Nelson, who has also fallen for Kyle, to fall into despair. After arguing with Kyle, he reacts impulsively, deciding to lose his virginity to Brick, an adult whom he meets on the Internet. Initially, he is merely disappointed with how little it fulfills him, but he soon panics upon realizing that he chose not to use protection. The public rhetoric around HIV frames it as both a dangerous disease and a symptom of moral illness. Nelson leans on Kyle and Jason for support as he gets tested. The three boys confide each other with their private thoughts about being gay, leading to catharsis; Kyle ends up talking to Nelson about his difficulties being in a relationship with Jason, who is too hesitant about coming out.

Eventually, with the support of Nelson and Kyle, Jason comes out to his friends and family. At the conclusion of the novel, Jason helps kick off an LGBT club at school, going to the first meeting to help educate students about the reality of alternative sexual identities. He looks back on the progress he has made and is thankful for Kyle and Nelson’s indispensable support. Rainbow Boys suggests that even the smallest of solidarities can spur huge amounts of progress in learning to claim and validate queer identities in the overlapping, heteronormative worlds of adolescence and suburbia.