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So Hard to Say    by Alex Sanchez order for
So Hard to Say
by Alex Sanchez
Order:  USA  Can
Pulse, 2006 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

After growing up in Wisconsin with a group of friends he's known all his life, twelve-year-old Frederick finds himself in California. Xio lends him a pen his first day at school and invites him to join her group in the lunch room. Her group is all girls, but Frederick doesn't mind. Girls make good friends. His friends in Wisconsin include both boys and girls.

When it becomes apparent that Xio wants to be more than friends, Frederick finds that he is not ready to be a boyfriend. Xio is beautiful, nice, and even hot (so the other guys say), and he likes her. So why is he so reluctant to go out with her? Meanwhile, he is playing soccer with a group of guys and befriends a tall, good-looking Hispanic whose leadership holds that group together. For the first time Frederick begins to question his sexual orientation.

Half the book is told by Xio, who knows Frederick likes her and can't understand why he doesn't want to be more than friends. Her pride takes a tumble as her attentions push him further and further away. Frederick wonders where he can he go with his questions. If anyone finds out, will he could be subjected to name calling and worse? He knows he is hurting Xio and he wants to keep her as his friend. Should he tell her why he's not boyfriend material? He doesn't know for sure and he has a lot to lose by telling anyone.

All of these are hard questions for a middle schooler to handle. Alex Sanchez gives excellent insight into a young man discovering his sexual orientation. Without preaching, Sanchez compares being gay with being left handed. His easy-to-understand explanation of the genetics of being gay should be part of health or sex education classes in every school. So Hard to Say is an interesting read, whether one has or hasn't given this subject much thought.

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