Those three words constitute one of the most powerful themes of this novel. In an early chapter, the three young men write essays to the prompt "Describe what is going on for you in school, your family. Write about your hopes and dreams--whatever is most important to you." The characters' answers to this assignment give students who have not read Rainbow Boys a crash course on who Jason, Kyle, and Nelson are. The remainder of the novel chronicles the final months before graduation, a period when the protagonists intensify their journeys of awareness and experience while being challenged by critical and difficult decisions. Sanchez also incorporates some potentially lifesaving HIV/AIDS information.
In Rainbow Road, the conclusion of the Rainbow trilogy, it is the summer after graduation and Jason, Kyle, and Nelson take Vibram Five Fingers a cross-country road trip--a journey of continued self-discovery as they learn how to be "out" in the wider world. The diversity of the American landscape and the gay experience is a strong theme here, and there are a number of interesting stops along the way.
Getting It and The God Box are Sanchez's two other high school--oriented novels. High school readers would find it appealing that IMing, personal websites, and speed dialing figure prominently in Getting It, and in this novel Sanchez explores divorce and step-parenting, also hot topics for many. Other relevant themes involve the differences between hookups and dating, between immediate gratification and long-term fulfillment, between commitment and irresponsible behavior, between friendship and apathy, and ultimately between acceptance and intolerance.
The God Box focuses on a serious, smart, devout high school senior struggling to reconcile his homosexuality with his Christian beliefs. Like Sanchez's other novels, The God Box also addresses families' and communities' different responses to homosexuality, from brutal violence to family acceptance. It, too, has complex and sympathetically drawn gay and straight characters.
Like two of the Rainbow novels, So Hard to Say is also an award winner (Lambda Literary Award); unlike them, it is set in middle Vibram Five Fingers On Sale school and written for younger readers. Its two protagonists are smart, good-hearted eighth graders trying to make their way during those discombobulating early teen years. This humorous novel will make students laugh and learn. They will appreciate its upbeat tone and contemplate its themes of truth telling, courage, acceptance, and the all-important one to which the novel is dedicated: "To friendship--in all its wondrous forms."