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So Hard to Say Paperback – May 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9–Thirteen-year-old Latina chocoholic-chatterbox Xio can't keep her eyes off blond-haired, steel-eyed Frederick, the intriguing transfer student just in from Wisconsin. At first, the soft-spoken newcomer, unsure of his new Southern California junior high and maybe his own sexuality, doesn't know what to make of her pursuits. Slowly and surely, Xio charms her way into his life and soon absorbs him into her group of fabulous girlfriends whom she dubs the "Sexies." Content with this new niche, and his position on a pick-up soccer team, Frederick gradually becomes aware of Xio's real agenda: to make him her first boyfriend. All the while he finds he can't keep his eyes off Victor, his soccer buddy. Frederick's sexual confusion escalates, as do his dodging techniques when it comes to Xio's advances. However, when she gets him in a closet with her and at last gives him a smooch, things boil up to crises. Adventurous, multifaceted, funny, and unpredictably insightful, Sanchez's novel drops melodramatic pretense and gels well-rounded characterizations with the universal excitement of first love. The action is described through chapters that alternate between Frederick and Xio's points of view, and both voices ring true. The author deftly presents portraits of a boy teetering on the brink of reinvention who must grapple against his own fears that he might be gay and the girl–a high-spirited character whom readers definitely won't forget–who wants him.–Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Most young adolescents routinely agonize over questions like "Who am I?" and "What am I?" Sometimes, as Sanchez dramatizes in this story of emotional exploration, the answers are difficult to discover. Newly arrived in California, eighth-grader Frederick meets and becomes friends with a girl named Xio. When Xio develops a major crush on Frederick, their relationship takes an awkward turn with Frederick finding it hard to reciprocate Xio's feelings because he's attracted to a boy. Is he gay? Can a boy and a girl be "just" friends? By alternating between Xio's and Frederick's first-person point of view, Sanchez does a good job of exploring both the evolution of their tangled emotions and the nature of friendship. Ultimately, Xio emerges as the more interesting character, since Frederick is burdened by a bundle of stereotypes: he's asthmatic, dotes on interior decoration, is a neat freak, etc. Nevertheless, Sanchez understands the inner lives of kids and, in writing one of the few middle-grade novels on this aspect of sexual identity, he does a service for questioning youth. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416911898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416911890
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm the author of cool, sometimes controversial teen books, including the Rainbow Boys trilogy, The God Box, Getting It, and the Lambda Award-winning middle-grade novel So Hard to Say. My novel, Bait, won the Florida Book Award Gold Medal for YA fiction. My newest novel, Boyfriends with Girlfriends, came out in April 2011. I received my master's degree in guidance and counseling from Old Dominion University and for many years worked as a youth and family counselor. Visit me at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By RaabH on October 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel fills an important niche in young-adult literature, telling the story of one boy's coming out experience through his own eyes and from the perspective of one of his close friends at school. Frederick is just starting the eighth grade as a new student at a California middle school. During his first week he meets Xio, a girl of Mexican descent who is immediately attracted to his "kick-butt blue eyes and sandy blond hair spiked in front." Xio and her girlfriends welcome Frederick into their circle, with Xio clearly thinking of him as boyfriend material. But what does Frederick himself want? At first even he is not sure.

Alex Sanchez writes "So Hard To Say" using the alternating viewpoints of his two main characters, Xio and Frederick. Their individual voices are distinct and go a long way toward establishing them as vivid, identifiable people. Xio is outgoing, sometimes brash. Frederick is circumspect, more shy around boys than he is with girls. He also becomes confused as he realizes that Xio is gradually turning up the heat, trying to nudge him into becoming a proper boyfriend for her.

Someone who causes a different kind of confusion for Frederick is Victor, the charismatic boyfriend of one of the girls in Xio's circle. Frederick doesn't quite know what to make of the easygoing attention he gets from Victor, who like many of the boys at Frederick's new school is not afraid to be physically affectionate with another guy. Victor regularly throws his arm around Frederick, nudges into him when they're walking together, puts him into playful headlocks, and at one point even picks him up to throw him onto a bed. As time passes, Frederick finds himself thinking more and more about Victor.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By RCRogers on November 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just can't say enough good things about Alex Sanchez. I have had the opportunity to meet the author on a few occasions as he swings through Orlando and I must say that getting to know his books is truly getting to know him.

Although his previous books have been about gay youth, this story moves back to junior high, reminding me of all the wonderfully painful moments and realizations made during that time. Fredrick and Xio are two brilliantly written characters who could walk right out of the book they seem so real. There is some very subtle humor written into the plot as Fredrick realizes he is gay and his friend Xio becomes more and more frustrated until the realization hits her as well. A story many of us know all too well. Although the book is written for a much younger audience, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the story, remembering my perspective as a 13 year old. I suspect there will be a follow up to this book as there are just too many possibilities for the transition of this cast as they move into high school.

I don't think I got as involved with this book as I did Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High, but again, it wasn't written with me in mind. I am looking forward to the follow up in the Rainbow series sometime next year.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By annmmar on January 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Frederick has just moved to California from Wisconsin. His first day of school he meets Xio. They immediately become fast friends and she introduces him to her friends called "the sexies". As they become closer it is obvious that Xio wants to be more than friends. Frederick likes her but for some reason he is not feeling the same attraction. So starts this book where one of the main characters (Frederick) battles back and forth wondering why I am not attracted to this young lady but yet when he sees one of his classmates Victor he daydreams about him. It is a coming of age book where each individuals have to face grown up facts. Frederick that this feeling he has makes him a strong candidate of being homosexual, and Xio who has to come to terms with her father leaving the family and her father too possibly being gay. Great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chad Sosna on September 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A well-hewn story illuminating the subtle gradations involved in coming out, So Hard to Say takes on the challenging task of one 13-year-old boy's progress from childhood to manhood.

Frederick is a typical middle-school student dealing with the maze of finding friends, wanting a girlfriend (maybe Xio, a forward classmate who adores him) and trying to understand his role in a rapidly-changing role.

As he explores his feeling for Xio's friend Victor, a confident, handsome, fair-minded athlete, he slowly comes to realize it's not Xio he loves. On the scene is Iggy, an outwardly gay youth who is tormented at school.

While it might sound like a typical young-adult novel, it certainly is not. Author Alex Sanchez thought this through throughly before writing. The evolution of emotions blossoms perfectly, revealing growth and its counterbalancing immaturity at the same time. Most writers wouldn't take on the story of such a young teen's coming out. But Sanchez does it with incredible skill and inimitable grace.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BlueCatShip on February 18, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Kindle ebook formatting for this book was either badly proofread or never proofed. Otherwise, the publisher would have caught very, very frequent lack of spaces between every few words, such that the words runtogether and after a few more words, yet another two words runtogether. My guess is that this is an end-of-line problem in the conversion process. I would hope it isn't in the printed book. The publisher really needs to correct this. It's terribly annoying, and it means no one proofed the results for quality control. How embarrassing!

Alex Sanchez' book itself is probably great. I'll either slog through the ebook or order it in print. His book, The God Box, was very good. The ebook formatting detracts from what is likely a fine story.
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