I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I sometimes read books because of how stupid the critics are, and lemme tell you, it doesn’t get much dumber than some of the critics for Rainbow Party, many of whom have never read the book before expressing their horror about such inappropriate subject matter. Teenagers having oral sex! Well goodness me, what’s next, a horseless carriage? Say it ain’t so!
Reading books because the negative reviews came from patently stupid reviewers has served me quite well in the past; I picked up Pat Barker’s wonderful WWI trilogy partly because of the negative reviews I read on Amazon.com, for example. But hoo boy, my decision to read Rainbow Party has really bitten me in the ass. I hate to agree with the hysterical critics, but in some ways, this book is offensive: offensively simplistic in its morality, and quite offensively unreadable.
The plot (if you don’t know it yetâ€”if you don’t, where have been, living under a rock?) is simple: Gin, high-school slut extraordinaire, is throwing a Rainbow Party. This shindig requires each girl to wear a different color lipstick and provide blowjobs to every boy in attendance. By the end of the party, each boy’s swizzle-stick is a rainbow of color.
(Side note: This sounds good in theory, but unless the girl keeps her head completely still AND takes care not to mess up the lip-prints of the girl(s) who blazed the trail before her, I don’t see how this would work.)
Gin invites various classmates, all of whom serve as stupendously wooden archetypes. Here’s a quick run-down of several of them:
Sandy: Good-two-shoes girl who’s best friends with Gin because… actually, I have NO IDEA why she’s friends with Gin. Sandy has no idea either. Neither does Gin. This is one of the book’s many mysteries.
Jade: Skinny, hot, popular, smart, into championing causes such as getting rid of the dress code. In short: a tiresome paragon.
Ash and Rose: GOD. These two are so annoying. Every time they came on the scene, I was overcome by an urge to smack ‘em in the face with a two-by-four. They’re the perfect couple and obviously meant to be the book’s moral center. They’ve been dating for over a year, but they haven’t done more than kiss and they don’t plan to do more for a while yet. They’re supposed to be different and cute and inspire admiration for a) their moral and physical purity, and b) their fearlessness about Being Different and Defying Norms and all that, but really, all they inspire in me is heaving nausea.
Hunter: Handsome, amoral asshole with a peener that burrrrrrns, oh how it burrrrrrrns, but oh boy, he sure loves getting head.
Perry: Closeted gay boy who’s allegedly snarky and smart, but more often than not comes across as petulant, delusional and mumbly. I’m not kidding. Dude mumbles all the time in this book, even when Hunter’s dick isn’t in his mouth.
Skye and Rod: The archetypal Teenage Couple Who Has Sex Before They’re Ready. Teenage Premarital Sex: Don’t Do It! Only marginally less annoying than Ash and Rose.
All these characters have about the liveliness and realism of marionettes being worked by a puppeteer on quaaludes. Their motivations are opaque at best and downright puzzling at worst. Gin, for instance: why is she so sexually precocious? What little we see of her family life seems stable, and we’re never provided with any believable reasoning for why she’s so promiscuous.
Also, all those people screaming about how obscene this book is, how it appeals mostly to the prurient interest? Hate to destroy these people’s lurid suck-n-fuck fantasies involving hot, hard-bodied teenage boys getting blowjobs from barely pubescent girls (oh, you KNOW some of that outrage was fueled by a lethal combination of displaced horniness and the accompanying guilt over that horniness), but Tod Goldberg said it best: “The book is about as titillating as a bowel movement.” Well, assuming you’re not the type to be titillated by bowel movements, that isâ€”there does seem to be a terrifyingly large number of these people in certain newsgroups.
At any rate, rest assured there are no explicit sex scenes. There are exactly two scenes involving oral sex in the whole book. The first one takes place off the page: We basically enter the scene as Hunter is zipping up. The other involves Skye and Rod, and…. OK, there’s no way I can do justice to Ruditis’ deathless prose, so here’s a quote:
Her breathing intensified. She grabbed a clump of the comforter in her hand, squeezing tightly. She was feeling all the things she had read about in the trashy romance novels her mom kept hidden under the bed they were on. Skye’s bosom heaved. Her loins burned with desire. Waves of pleasure washed over her body ready to crash on the shore.
The sad thing is, while that scene deliberately attempts to skewer romance novel sex scenes, the rest of the book is written every bit as clumsily. To give you an idea of how clunky it is: Think of an episode of Saved By The Bell. No, not back when it was even remotely amusing and featured Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani-Amber Thiesen and god knows what other hyphenated teenybopper hottie. I’m talking the recent seasons in which Screech is, like, 42 years old and STILL a creepily underdeveloped buffoon amidst a host of bland Hollywood hardbodies trying their best to look like teenagers.
OK, so can you picture one of those episodes in your head? Good. Because seriously? This book bears an eerie resemblance to one of those episodes. The writing is so goddamn stilted that should all the global warming alarmists prove to be right and Earth is flooded in a sea of melted icecaps in the next few years, the prose in this book will remain high and dry.
And while the book isn’t titillating per se, you can tell that Ruditis tries to be all nudge-nudge wink-wink with the occasional double-entendre, and most of these attempts just don’t work. For instance, check out the opening paragraph:
Gin took the slender shaft of the tube in her palm. She gave a gentle tug along the base and watched as the lipstick extended to its full length.
Admittedly, it’s been YEARS since I’ve worn lipstick, but as far as I know, you twist the base to get the lipstick to extend. I’ve never encountered a lipstick that required you to tug on the base; if nothing else, it makes no sense. Tugging the base would logically mean the tip would retreat, unless the lipstick manufacturer created an unduly complicated and completely counterintuitive mechanism that would extend the lipstick when you pulled. Either Ruditis has no idea how lipstick works, or he knows and decided to describe it inaccurately in an effort to preserve this truly pointless (and execrable) lipstick-as-penis imagery.
The book does get the core messages through, and they’re good messages for teensâ€”or anyone, for that matter: oral sex carries real risks and consequences, and having sex before you’re ready isn’t that great an idea. Too bad the message is delivered by such a boring, clumsy messenger. Several other YA books have dealt with teenage sex and relationships with much more depth, grace and readability; the memorable ones for me were Deenie and Forever by Judy Blume, but I’m sure these are pretty dated by today’s standards.
In short, the book and the subject matter had lots of potential, but ended up with all the depth, believablity and complexity of an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangersâ€”that is, if the Pink Ranger got all humpy with the Green Ranger and decided to give him a hummer between costume changes, then infected the rest of the team with gonorrhea.
(Actually, there’s probably pornographic MMPR fanfic involving just such scenarios. And what’s worse, I’d much prefer to read this fanfic than watch an actual episode of MMPR. Oh, the humanity.)