Title: The Stone Rainbow
Author: Liane Shaw
Series or Standalone?: Standalone
Publishing Date: 17 September 2019
“Seventeen-year-old Jack Pedersen is finding life complicated ever since he came out to his mom. Even though she’s been doing her best to be understanding, it’s obvious to Jack that his mom still wants to cry every time she says the word gay. Complications go into hyperdrive when a new student arrives at school, and Jack starts experiencing feelings he’s never allowed himself to feel before. When a near tragedy turns life upside down, Jack realizes it’s time to stop hiding from himself and everyone around him, and he decides to organize his small town’s first Pride Parade.”
- drowning (possible suicide attempt? It isn’t clear)
- homophobia, including homophobic slurs
- m/m relationship
- mixed race side character
- side character with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair
*I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Hoo boy, this book….This book. Hm. I had issues with this one, so much so that I DNF’d it about a third of the way through. Could not stand it at all.
The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw is a young adult contemporary novel that follows Jack, a closeted teenage boy that lives in a small, conservative town. The reader follows him and his life as he goes to school and hangs out with his friends. One day, a new boy shows up at school, and Jack finds himself crushing on him. They both eventually agree to design and create their town’s first ever pride parade.
Let me start this off by saying that I do not have a ton of positive things to say about this novel. Since I did DNF it about 30% through, so maybe it got better, but I did not want to stick around to find out. I…basically had issues with nearly everything about the novel, including the characters, the plot, and the writing.
Almost all the characters are unlikable. Maybe it was just me, but I could not connect to any of the characters, including the protagonist Jack. I just couldn’t stand him; in general, I thought he was annoying. However, specifically, I was fed up with Jack quite early in the novel (even compared to when I DNF’d). He has a friend — whom I forgot the name of, we’ll call him Tom — who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He constantly says that he doesn’t care that Tom uses a wheelchair and that Tom shouldn’t feel bad about it or anything, but like. His actions say the complete opposite. Jack gets annoyed when Tom doesn’t let him touch his wheelchair, but he keeps trying to push him around anyway. On top of that, he gets almost offended at the fact that Tom allows their mutual friend (we’ll call him Zeke because I forgot his name, too) to push his wheelchair sometimes. I don’t know if he ever learns that these actions and thoughts are super ableist, but I didn’t want to stay around to find out.
On top of that, I was utterly confused as to why any of these kids were friends with each other. Like I said, from the amount of the book that I read, Jack does not respect Tom’s boundaries and, along with that, plays into the “wow, he’s disabled, he’s ~so inspiring~” inspirational bullshit. On the other side, Tom doesn’t seem to care that Jack is having issues when it comes to his sexuality and having to stay in the closet. Along with that, their mutual “””friend””” Zeke constantly says homophobic things around the both of them even though he knows Jack is gay. I mean, I understand that it’s a small school and that Jack may not have many options for friends, but still. It didn’t make me feel great at all.
Of course, we also have Jack’s mom, who is that kind of mom that “accepts” her son’s sexuality, but is actually just low-key passive aggressive and homophobic towards him. She doesn’t want him to talk about his sexuality at all around her because it’s ~simply too hard~, and ugh. Y’all. I couldn’t stand her. On top of that, we have the narrative choice in Jack defending her because she “has to get used to it” and that she is “better than before,” which is…an interesting take. But yeah, I pretty much disliked or downright hated most of these characters. I think some of that has to do with the writing itself, though.
What can I say? The writing was…not good. First of all, and this is just a personal thing, the author falls into that trap of not knowing how teenagers today talk. There was just slang and phrases that were used that had me cringing or scratching my head. To be honest, this was the smallest issue I had with the writing.
This may sound a bit harsh, but my goodness, you can totally tell this was a coming-of-age gay book written by a straight person (if we strictly go by the author’s Twitter account, which says they are an “ally”). Here is an exact quote from my notes: “basically a walking, talking ‘be nice to The Gays™️’ pamphlet disguised as a book.”
Some of the things that were said or talked about in the book had me rolling my eyes. The best way to put it would be that if this were to come out in, say, 2008 or 2009 — when there wasn’t a lot of mainstream queer YA novels — it would probably would have been a decent book. However, it was published a decade later, in 2019, and even though we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity, we are in a much better place. To me, this book just doesn’t cut it. It had these cheesy one-liners, such as: “Straight. As if everyone else is somehow crooked.” Like??? Nah, dude, straight just means heterosexual. It isn’t that deep.
This book is (presumably) written by an allocishet author for other allocishet people in order for them to dip their toes into ~gay teen literature~. To me, it is made to be a glaringly obvious “issues” book, and if it was published ten years, it might have been somewhat okay (thought it would still have the obvious issues with ableism). However, with it being published in 2019, it definitely missed the mark, and it falls flat. While I didn’t read all the way through it, I felt like the novel had no substance, and it was simply something to take at face-value. Was not a huge fan whatsoever, and this is all coming from a queer as fuck young adult, so. Make of that what you will.
Obviously, I was not a huge fan of it, and I would urge y’all to find another gay contemporary novel to read instead. But that’s just me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Feel free to follow me!
Want to support me or leave a tip? Here’s how!