Cover of SO HARD TO SAY by Alex Sanchez

Cover of SO HARD TO SAY by Alex Sanchez

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org


Publishers Weekly

PW Reviews 2004 November #1

In chapters that alternate between Frederick, a new eighth-grader, and Mar¡a Xiomara Iris Ju rez Hidalgo (“Xio”), Sanchez’s (Rainbow Boys) insightful novel explores the ambiguities of budding sexuality. When shy Frederick transfers to her California school, lively Xio immediately develops a crush on him. They quickly become friends, and he joins her clique, but when they end up in a closet together during a kissing game at a party, Frederick is disturbed that he imagines kissing popular, handsome Victor instead. Readers will find it easy to empathize with both protagonists as Frederick gradually comes to terms with being gay-and shares his secret with Xio. The largely Mexican student body at their school provides an authentic backdrop for the novel (Xio weaves Spanish into her narration, and the boys Frederick plays soccer with call Iggy, another gay student, a “Maricon”). While a subplot about Xio’s father also possibly being gay seems extraneous, and her circle of girlfriends somewhat scripted (Las Sexy Seis: a beauty “with a Barbie doll figure,” a brain, a saint, a jock and a jokester who recently moved away-plus Xio), for the most part this is a well-crafted novel. The author maps out spot-on issues for this age group, from name-calling (“Everyone knows calling somebody gay is just about the worst thing you can say to them,” Xio thinks) to self-questioning (in one scene, Frederick types the word “gay” into his Internet browser) to worrying about what others think (Frederick asks his father if he thinks gay people are “bad”). These believable narrators face realistic and complicated problems-and demonstrate an inspiring model of acceptance. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

PW Reviews 2006 May #5

“In chapters that alternate between Frederick, a new eighth-grader, and Mara Xiomara Iris Jurez Hidalgo, this insightful novel by the author of Rainbow Boys explores the ambiguities of budding sexuality,” according to PW. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2004 November

Gr 6-9-Thirteen-year-old Latina chocoholic-chatterbox Xio can’t keep her eyes off blond-haired, steel-eyed Frederick, the intriguing transfer student just in from Wisconsin. At first, the soft-spoken newcomer, unsure of his new Southern California junior high and maybe his own sexuality, doesn’t know what to make of her pursuits. Slowly and surely, Xio charms her way into his life and soon absorbs him into her group of fabulous girlfriends whom she dubs the “Sexies.” Content with this new niche, and his position on a pick-up soccer team, Frederick gradually becomes aware of Xio’s real agenda: to make him her first boyfriend. All the while he finds he can’t keep his eyes off Victor, his soccer buddy. Frederick’s sexual confusion escalates, as do his dodging techniques when it comes to Xio’s advances. However, when she gets him in a closet with her and at last gives him a smooch, things boil up to crises. Adventurous, multifaceted, funny, and unpredictably insightful, Sanchez’s novel drops melodramatic pretense and gels well-rounded characterizations with the universal excitement of first love. The action is described through chapters that alternate between Frederick and Xio’s points of view, and both voices ring true. The author deftly presents portraits of a boy teetering on the brink of reinvention who must grapple against his own fears that he might be gay and the girl-a high-spirited character whom readers definitely won’t forget-who wants him.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


Booklist Reviews 2004 September #2

Gr. 5-8. Most young adolescents routinely agonize over questions like “Who am I?” and “What am I?” Sometimes, as Sanchez dramatizes in this story of emotional exploration, the answers are difficult to discover. Newly arrived in California, eighth-grader Frederick meets and becomes friends with a girl named Xio. When Xio develops a major crush on Frederick, their relationship takes an awkward turn with Frederick finding it hard to reciprocate Xio’s feelings because he’s attracted to a boy. Is he gay? Can a boy and a girl be “just” friends? By alternating between Xio’s and Frederick’s first-person point of view, Sanchez does a good job of exploring both the evolution of their tangled emotions and the nature of friendship. Ultimately, Xio emerges as the more interesting character, since Frederick is burdened by a bundle of stereotypes: he’s asthmatic, dotes on interior decoration, is a neat freak, etc. Nevertheless, Sanchez understands the inner lives of kids and, in writing one of the few middle-grade novels on this aspect of sexual identity, he does a service for questioning youth. ((Reviewed September 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Spring

Xio likes Frederick, and he likes her back—but not in the same way. The story of Xio’s crush on Frederick and Frederick’s growing awareness of his homosexuality is preachy but disarming and sweet. The voices are nicely differentiated, the sex is limited to chaste kisses, and we’re glad in the end that the two eighth graders each find in the other a friend. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2004 December

Frederick moves from Wisconsin to southern California where Xio, a sparkling and open-hearted Mexican American girl, becomes his first friend-and in her mind, potential girlfriend. Told in alternating chapters by Xio and Frederick, the story follows these young people as they struggle through difficult times, but each has a strong moral upbringing, a sense of compassion, and supportive parents to help them. Sanchez provides a treasure of diversity in this book and deals with the needed acceptance of one’s self and others: Xio says Iggy is nice, but the rumors and name-calling surround him. After Frederick starts playing soccer with Victor and the other boys after school, he questions his attraction to Victor. Too many questions fill his head. Why does he feel special when Victor includes him? Why does he frame Victor’s picture and set it on his nightstand? Will he be treated the same as Iggy Sanchez, author of the Rainbow Boys books, just keeps getting better at his art. This novel is a well structured, beautifully rendered story of two wonderful young people. Readers will come to love them. Sanchez creates a nice story about genuine teens who do not let each other or themselves down. At the beginning of the book, this reviewer wondered how Sanchez could carry off in a middle school book his theme of a gay teen coming out in a homophobic atmosphere. He does so very well.-C. J. Bott 5Q 4P M J Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.

One thought on “So Hard to Say

  1. Pingback: So Hard to Say | Queer Young Adult Literature

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