When I read this series back in 2009/10ish, I think it was a summary of a lot of hope and encouragement I needed back then, but both The world, and myself have come a long way since then. I found myself not liking the characters like I remember them, and this last book especially rubbed me the wrong way. See earlier this year, 2021, I purchased Sanchez’s new middle reader book called “The Greatest Superstar,” and because I had such fond memories of reading the God Box and Rainbow boys years ago, I let myself be too lenient with the way Sanchez represents the Trans community, but after re-reading this, I have to say I wish he would stop, because he does not do a good job. I found the entire section involving Trans girl “B.J.” ****Needs a name change. This just seems inappropriate and insensitive as a name for a trans character, even if I kinda like the Britney Jean reference. BJ has too many sexual connotations, and just insensitively brought to mind the idea of sex, and sex work, which while it has ties to the community, it’d be nice to not have such a reference even possibly go there, when with a simple name change it could be avoided**** to be entirely unsettling, and the poor depiction of Trans acceptance was almost exactly the same as Sanchez’s model with the Trans-Father character in TGS… it’s like Sanchez wants to write in a Trans-positive light, but tackles it from the inner thoughts of characters who have no exposure or experience with the Trans community, and unfortunately their inner dialogue is not ok. It was like all 3 boys here were nice to the girl’s face, but even Nelson, who seemed to be on the surface 100% accepting of her, he would refer to her as a “tranny” in his head voice. Jason’s perspective was filled with noticing her Adam’s apple, and then becoming visibly uncomfortable, repeatedly thinking of her as a “she-him,” like it was disturbing him, in a grossed out way, which had to be noticeable to BJ, but it was never dealt with. After taking this look-back, revisiting the Rainbow Bous series, it made me upset with myself for defending Sanchez for trying to tackle Trans representation from a reconstructive approach, dismantling the initially negative reactions of a person meeting a trans person for the first time when I reviewed The Greatest Superpower. While I believe that to be a worthwhile approach, it misses the mark both here, and in Sanchez’s new book. I expect better. It’s not enough to leave a final thought (as summed up in Jason’s speech-reference to the trans girl who just wants to be happy as herself and deserves it) that we should accept Trans people, as well as all other diverse people for who they are for the things that cannot be changed, but never actually have a scene where it is firmly pointed out that having those negative initial thoughts, and referring to a trans girl as a tranny, repeatedly, is not ok at all. This would have ended better for me had Jason actually slipped up and said that out loud, perhaps while BJ was getting herself and Nelson ready for the Britney Competition. She needed that moment of strength, to stand up for herself, and put Jason in his place. The way of thinking of her as a weird in-between that all of the boys seemed to do was extremely off-putting, and such a scene to set them to rights would have also made it more believable when Jason refers back to it at the end, to reflect the growth his speech sums up. In the actual book, we get the growth summed up without a reference point to believe it.
This was only one point, but a major one. Other complaints specific to this 3rd book are that most of the character driven plot points throughout the journey did not match the character of each boy from the first 2 books. It was like all their insecurities were dialed up to 11 so that they could fall apart and kinda patch back up for a third book, but it made me dislike all of the boys in the end. I agree with some other reviews that maybe this should have been better left as a duology.