The God Box
SUMMARY: In his senior year of high school, Paul feels like he's got the perfect life. He's been dating Angie since middle school and beyond being his girlfriend, she's also his best friend. They sing together in church choir, are active members of Bible club at school, and enjoy just hanging out together. But then Manuel transfers to school and suddenly Paul's life doesn't seem so perfect. Manuel is the first openly gay teen to come to town, let alone attend Paul's high school. But on top of that, Manuel also claims to be a committed Christian--just like Paul and his friends. His increasing conversations with Manuel have Paul questioning not only his faith but also the feelings he has pushed away for years. But others have taken notice of Manuel's openness and their reactions are very different. When the tension at school boils over into a nightmare, Paul must decide who he is and where he stands.
ONESMARTCUPCAKE THINKS: I read Alex Sanchez' Rainbow Boys books a couples of years ago and found them enjoyable and insightful despite occasionally clunky or imperfect writing. My reaction to The God Box goes along the same lines. Sanchez has crafted a very readable book with appealing and relatable characters and good story infused with a keen awareness of current issues in teen's lives. Sanchez's writing is straightforward rather than lyrical but he captures the range of emotions experienced by his protagonist with clarity and compassion. The novel addresses the ongoing tensions between religion and sexuality without attempting to over-simplify or become preachy; instead Sanchez emphasizes the way this conflict affects real kids, like Paul and Manuel. Because of the subject matter, biblical analysis and theological debate play a large role in the story; kids who do not have an interest in such subjects may find these aspects of the novel annoying or uninteresting--although Sanchez has woven them into the narrative quite naturally. The novel also contains an upsetting and violent event (although the attack itself is not graphically described, the aftereffects are), so be just aware when recommending it.
I read this book pretty compulsively, drawn in by my concern and compassion for the likable protagonist and his friends as well as my interest in the larger topic of religion and sexuality. The God Box stands out for its generally unique subject matter in the growing world of LGBTQ fiction for young adults. It gracefully and bravely addresses topics frequently left untouched by other current writers in the sub-genre, such as being gay and religious or coming out within a certain ethnic and cultural context (in this case Mexican and American Hispanic). This novel would be a good fit for interested teens of the high school age range. I also think that it touches on an important but frequently unaddressed topic and so would be a good read for librarians, teachers, or parents as well.
3 1/2 / 5 STARS