Leroy (Coming Out series #3) by Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny. August 15, 2015. EPIC Press. 208 pages. Ages - Teen to Adult.
Seventeen-year old Leroy is a quiet, sensitive artist with a deep secret he is keeping from the kids at school, his girlfriend, and most of all, his domineering mother. The only person that knows is his older brother Kendall, who is now in jail and seems to have been written off by their mother.
One day his mother announces they are moving from Dallas to Taos, a small town in New Mexico. Leroy is upset at leaving Kendall behind and fears that keeping his secret will be impossible in such a small town like Taos. Much to his surprise, he finds that despite being a small town, Taos in much more open and tolerant than he could have imagined, and he finds support and friendship from his employer and co-worker at the local coffee shop. However, he still struggles with finding the courage to come out to his mother.
At first, this book struck me as strange, with it's large print and spacing, it reminded me of a beginning chapter book, rather than a teen novel. However, after I finished it and tried to find out more about the series, I found that the publisher specializes in "hi-lo" novels for teens, that is books with a high interest level that will appeal to all teens, but that are quick and easy to read with a lower reading level, so that they will be more appealing to reluctant readers as well. I think this is definitely something that is needed and I would like to see more of, for teens as well as adult readers.
When I first started reading, I was really turned off by what seemed to me as the author portraying the main character with every gay stereotype out there. As a child Leroy dressed up in his mother's shoes and make-up, danced to Beyonce, and wanted a doll to play with. He was very sensitive, artistic, cried about everything, and had girlish mannerisms, all which resulted in the other kids calling him a sissy. It almost seemed like she was confusing gay with transgender at some points. But, once I realized this was one of a 6-book series, each about a different teen struggling with LGBTQ issues, I recognized this was just one portrayal of a gay boy who happened to have some effeminate characteristics, and that the series as a whole provides a more balanced picture.
As I continued reading and Leroy's character became less stereotypical and more well-rounded, I really started to get into the story. It is fairly fast-paced and follows his struggle with being gay and his fear of people, especially his mother, finding out and finally starting to be able to accept himself. The story alternates viewpoints between Leroy and each of the people in his life, so the reader can understand a little more about all the other characters and what they are thinking and feeling.
Leroy's mother is definitely the least sympathetic character in the book, and comes across as an intolerant woman who dislikes men in general, and whose first instinct is to cut people, even her own children, out of her life the moment they show any imperfection. Samantha, the coffee shop owner who served as a surrogate mother to Leroy, was my favorite character. I also liked the secondary story of Leroy's brother Kendall, how even though he tried to have this tough-guy thug image, he was still very supportive of Leroy, and how he was working through his own issues and mistakes.
I would recommend this book (or others in the series) for teens who are struggling with or interested in LGBTQ issues, and especially those who are reluctant readers. I would also recommend this for parents, other family members, or friends of LGBTQ teens in order to help them better understand the emotional struggle coming out can be for teens, and how frightening even the possibility of being rejected by their loved ones is. I think books like this can provide valuable insight for everyone. I would like to read some others of this series for comparison, but unfortunately this is the only one of the books my library currently has.
Other Books By This Author
Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny wrote all six books in the Coming Out Series, but is primarily known as a Spanish-language author.
More About The Publisher
EPIC Press is a brand-new company focusing on easy-to-read, high interest books for teens that they will want to read, released as complete 6-part series. They have books in every genre, including action, drama, sci-fi, sports, and cover many teen topics. I find their approach interesting and I'm curious to see if they catch on. I can see these books being a good addition to a school library or public library with a significant teen demographic, but they do seem rather pricey, at $19 each or $114 for the set of 6 when purchased straight from the publisher's website, retailing for $27 each or $155/set from Amazon.