Exploring LGBT Themes in YA Lit & Everyday Library Life

Release Date: 21 February 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 9 & up

Aristotle Mendoza is a bit of a loner—fifteen years old and no friends. When Dante Quintana offers to teach him to swim one summer, an unbreakable bond of friendship is made on the spot. The two boys spend the summer playing in the streets, making up games to trash their tennis shoes, and rescuing injured birds. Their bonds of friendship are tested by love, heartache, separation, and pain, but through it all, they manage to stay friends. A shift in their relationship will leave both of them questioning what’s right and what you should and shouldn’t be ashamed of. Saenz’s writing moves the story along at a leisurely summer pace that despite its slow introduction moves the boys’ relationship along at a believable speed. The ups and downs of being an adolescent boy are portrayed in a very real manner as is the process of self-discovery that each boy undergoes in the progression from friendship to something more. While the book lacks a solid traditional plot, the characters create a beautiful story of what acceptance truly means.

The true message that Saenz’s beautiful book is that of acceptance–both of others and of yourself. This book is a great addition to high school and public library titles and fits the bill when it comes to books that prominently feature diverse characters.  In the case of Ari and Dante, the book includes the experiences of being Mexican-American and being gay. This book would work well in a number of library displays or programs, including diversity, Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15-Oct 15), or LGBT History Month (Oct).  It would also be a great book for teaching tolerance and acceptance in the high school setting.
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