The descriptive bit: Jack is seventeen and gay. He’s come out to his Mom … and it didn’t go perfectly. In fact, he’s sure that his Mom is still pretty sad about the fact that he’s gay. He isn’t out to everyone in his life because they live in a very small town with its fair share of jerks. Then Jack meets Benjamin – a new student at school who is out and proud. Just when things are beginning to look hopeful for Jack… the homophobia in town steps up a notch and suddenly Benjamin is the victim of a terrible crime. This book is a sequel to Shaw’s book Caterpillars Can’t Swim but I haven’t read that and had no trouble with this plot.
My thoughts bit: This is a great book. The characters are well developed and the plot is intriguing while maintaining focus on what it is like to be queer and young in a very small town.
Jack has a couple of pretty unique friends. Ryan lives with Cerebral Palsy and is in a wheelchair. He’s also the guy who pulled Jack out of the river when he fell in. (There’s more to that story but I’m not going to spoil it for you.) Cody is another interesting character. He is a brusque, loud, jock who is on the swim team and has agreed to teach Jack to swim. Cody’s character struck me as quite realistic… I loved the way he grew and changed in the book.
At the root of this story is the fact that Benjamin is out and proud and Jack is out to as few people as possible. Sure, there are some people who know but he just lets the rumors fly and prefers not to draw attention to himself. When Benjamin creates a piece of artwork at school that is a vehicle for him to declare his sexual orientation he becomes the victim of an attack.
The attack rattles Jack. He’s always known that keeping his head down was the best way to protect himself but having something happen to Benjamin is jarring. In response to the attack, Jack decides that he wants to put on the town’s first PRIDE parade. I liked the way the author wrote about how difficult it can be to swim against the tide in a small community. While there are some supportive adults in the novel, there are also some who demonstrate a clear dislike for people who are queer. I think that’s a pretty typical breakdown of what might happen.
This is a novel that will make you feel good about people, it’s hopeful and has a genuine feel to it. I would happily recommend The Stone Rainbow to anyone who enjoys YA with queer characters. In particular, I think this would be a great novel for kids in their early teens who might be coming to terms with their own sexuality or gender identity.
The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: attempted suicide, homophobia, hate crime (violent attack)
I received an ARC of The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw from Second Story Press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.