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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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
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. --Michael Cart Copyright 2004 Booklist
School Library Journal
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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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.