Title: The Insiders
Author: Mark Oshiro
What's it about?
Hector was determined to make the best of his new home and his new middle school, even though he's sure to miss his friends back home in San Francisco, but his things don't start off as smoothly as he would have liked, because, on his first day, he has his first encounter with Mike, the school bully who all the teachers think is an angel and there's no end in site to the torture Mike and Minions are eager to dole out. That is, until Hector discovers the janitor's closet that's unlike any other he's ever seen before. Because it's not. This closet is full of magic and even new friends who are happy to provide Hector with what he needs and could care less that he's gay. But, little did Hector know that as soon as he stepped through the door of the closet, he was stepping into a world that would change his life forever.
Favorite Character: Hector, with a lot of other people not far behind. I loved Hector's fun personality and how full it was. He was fun, sweet, full of heart and real. It was hard not to love him (and, obviously, I failed)
Least Favorite Character: Ms. Heath. It's not that she's just mean. I just have a low tolerance for adults who are cruel, power hungry and a lack of respect for kids just because they are adults. It's inexcusable, especially when it causes so much damage which it did in this situation.
Favorite Part: The part in the principal's office. I loved seeing supportive adults who helped the kids in their life regain their own power and control and who are willing to stand up to those who mistreat kids and I loved the comradery of Hector, Sal and Juliana and how powerful they are together.
Least Favorite Part: Pretty much anytime Ms. Heath was towering over Hector spewing her authority (or at least I imagined her towering over him like Danny DiVeto in Matilda).
One of my son's big complaints about representation of the LGBTQIA+ community ( which he's also a part of) is that so often the character's entirely personality is wrapped up in their sexuality or gender identity as if their whole purpose is to represent. That is so not the case here! These characters are deep, well rounded and real, just the way characters should be.
The story was heartfelt and full of feeling. Enough so that they made me cry...more then once. While most of the central characters are in the LGBTQIA+ community, many of their struggles are relatable to anyone who doesn't fit in; anyone who is different, too much, not enough or new, even if in not the exact same way. I loved the mix of reality and magic in the perfect blend, even if I did think that Ms. Heath was a little overdone.
I will say that there are a few questions I really wish had been answered, especially because it almost seemed like there was another piece of the story set up to be something really cool. And I do wonders why no one noticed random kiddos in schools and, if they did, never questioned it. But those flaws seemed forgivable when put against my affection for the characters and the story.
What do I rate it?
I give this book a
10 magic doors
But that's just me. What did you think? Who did you relate the most to?