Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Surviving High School: Three out Novelists Talk about the Rewards of Writing Books for Teens Discovering Their Sexuality

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Surviving High School: Three out Novelists Talk about the Rewards of Writing Books for Teens Discovering Their Sexuality

Article excerpt

In high school, Alex Sanchez says, he was "closeted and shut down." But he found comfort in the library. "Librarians know us," says Sanchez. "I've heard from some that when they find a misshelved book that's gay-themed, they leave it where it is--because they know that some kid is coming back to keep reading it in secret." These days, Sanchez and other out writers are breaking the silence with smart novels for gay and questioning teens.

"You've helped change the world," says a lesbian high school teacher to a gay male student who has just come out under difficult circumstances in Sanchez's forthcoming Rainbow High (Simon and Schuster, $16.95). This simple, truthful moment doesn't shout its message, and that's what makes it so moving. "We have power to make social change happen, even if it's in a small way," says Sanchez, who also wrote Rainbow High's predecessor, Rainbow Boys, which in 2001 was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

Both Boys and High focus on three high school senior friends--Jason, Kyle, and Nelson--sharing the burden of college decisions, the fear of coming out, the yearning for love, worry about AIDS, and, naturally, the question of what to do about the prom. At first, it was a tough sell. "A few publishers did not know what to make of it," says the single, Virginia-based author. "They didn't know if there was a market."

Simon and Schuster took a chance on Boys, cross-marketing the novel to both young readers and adults--and the sequel is proof that this move paid off. But, more important, Sanchez is happy to be a voice for kids. "It's been inspiring to me to see [the book] motivating people to take action in their own lives, whether it means they started a gay-straight alliance or came out or .just understood more. I've received E-mails from straight teenage boys who say, 'I always thought gay guys were gross before ... '"

Julie Anne Peters's first lesbian themed young-adult novel, Keeping You a Secret (Little, Brown, $16.95), covers similar emotional terrain but keeps its focus on two girls in love. When Cece, an openly lesbian transfer student, meets Holland, the Stanfford-bound high achiever, Holland doesn't know what hit her. Intense bonding and equally intense conflict ensue.

Initially, the Colorado-based Peters didn't want to write this book. "I have a body of work, children's books, that I've been writing for the past 18 years," she says. …

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