Book Review

Rainbow Party By Paul Ruditis


Title: Rainbow Party
Author: Paul Ruditis
Publication Info: Simon Pulse 2005
ISBN: 141690235X
Genre: Young Adult

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, 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 yet—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 is—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 teens—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 Rangers—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.)

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    I think there’s a drinking game in here somewhere.  Lipstick as obvious (if clumsy) metaphor, take a drink.  Sex scene where only one partner gets off, take two drinks.  Scene with clueless parent, grab the bottle.

    It’s got potential.

  2. 2
    white raven says:

    You’ve ruined me.  I don’t think I’ll ever sit through a Power Rangers episode and look on it the same way again.  :)

    This sounds like a very stupid book.  The description of the lipstick put me off right away. 

    I loved Judy Blume’s Forever.  I can still remember scenes from that book very clearly, even the detail of how the protagonist’s younger sister was an artist and painted designs that her family latch-hooked.  Wait – that was Forever, wasn’t it?

  3. 3
    Lynn M says:

    Bummer! I bought the book and have it sitting on my TBR pile. Except now I have no desire to waste my time.

    Wonder how much I can get for it on e-bay…

  4. 4
    Jay says:

    The lipstick also doesnt make sense because in order to have the desired rainbow the dude would have to be getting less and less head. And why would he be down for that?

    And why would Gin invite the couple that only kiss? Clearly they’re not going to be all about the rainbow. Party poopers.

    (Clearly I’m taking the plot way too seriously)

  5. 5

    I kinda suspected that was the case, but they do kinda market it to cause unrest.

    Damn, sounds like there was more sex in the Sweet Valley High books.

  6. 6
    Stef2 says:

    Doesn’t Spencer’s or somebody have penis shaped lipstick?  If they don’t, they should.

    Let’s buy some and send it to Mr. Ruditis.

    Loved your review, Candy.  Remind me again why you’re not writing a book?  Funny, witty people really should write books.


  7. 7
    PC Cast says:

    You know what’s really annoying as hell?  The fact that this shitty book is getting so much press that it’s selling like spandex in the 80s.  There are too many excellent YA books out there for this one to be hogging the press (and the $$s of the teenage monsters and/or their mummsies).

    Too bad Annette Curtis Klause and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes can’t whip up a couple good media scandles or whatnot.


  8. 8
    tod goldberg says:

    Actually, PC, it probably isn’t selling like leg warmers in 1982 because you can’t actually purchase it at either Border or Barnes & Noble as both have refused to stock it in their brick & mortar stores. It has a high sales rating on Amazon, but that may well be because that’s the one place people are actively buying it from. I don’t know how many independant bookstores are stocking it, of course, but I do think those Amazon numbers are likely not telling the whole story.

  9. 9
    Sarah says:

    Y’all, remember that one Sweet Valley High where Elizabeth thought she was Jessica and let Bruce Patman touch her breast?

    And the word ‘breast’ actually appeared IN the BOOK?

    Screw rainbow colored successively-smaller blowjobs. THAT is titillation!

  10. 10
    Candy says:

    I think there’s a drinking game in here somewhere.

    Yeah, sure. It’d probably go something like this:

    - Every lame attempt to look relevant and hip by having the kids text-message each other, use their iPod or talk about TRL: 2 sips

    - Every time the characters ruminate on the newness of technology (yeah, kids do this a lot): 5 sips

    - Every excruciating, unfunny joke perpetrated by Ash and Rose in an attempt to look adorable: 2 sips

    - Every copyedit error: 2 sips

    - Every time Ruditis uses an unnecessary dialogue tag: 3 sips

    - Every time Perry speaks indistinctly without having a cock in his mouth: 2 sips


    And why would Gin invite the couple that only kiss?

    Apparently, because she was jealous of the couple and wanted to break them up. Why the couple even CONSIDERED going, however, is another one of the book’s mysteries.

    Remind me again why you’re not writing a book?

    I’m attempting to. Between a full-time job, this site and sundry other projects, I’m not making much headway.

    Too bad Annette Curtis Klause and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes can’t whip up a couple good media scandles or whatnot.

    Hell yeah, a book by Annette Curtis Klause about the dangers of promiscuous oral sex on would actually be, y’know, READABLE.

    THAT is titillation!

    Indeed. And tittirific! And tittilacious!

  11. 11
    Ankah says:

    “Waves of pleasure washed over her body ready to crash on the shore.” (puh-LEEZ!)

    Wow, a teenager having an orgasm, that lucky girl. Are we positive her boyfriend is a teenager? So I haven’t read the book, but c’mon, how common is it that a teenage boy brings his girlfriend to orgasm…does he even know how, or TRY for that matter?

  12. 12
    fiveandfour says:

    Thanks for taking a bullet for the rest of us Smart Bitches and actually reading past that first paragraph, Candy.  I can only admire your powers of endurance for being able to withstand prolonged exposure to such painful prose.  Personally, I don’t think I could’ve done it. 

    Or, to put it more succinctly: you totally rock!

  13. 13

    I just want to know what shore the waves of pleasure were crashing on. Judging by what you said about the quality of writing, I’d say Jersey.

  14. 14
    L.N. Hammer says:

    We bought the book based on the controversy (because, like, we both write on the edgy side of YA), but neither of us got past the first page.  It’s sitting on the TBR shelves.  I suspect, based on this, it will stay there.


  15. 15

    Wow, a teenager having an orgasm, that lucky girl.

    I’m staggered that a teenage girl has “bosoms”[1] and “loins”[2]. Has she been transplanted from the Edwardian era? What is wrong with “breasts” and “pussy”?

    [1]Only large matronly women whose industrially engineered bra have a bosom and then it’s singular – one torso-wide shelf of boob.

    [2]I suppose technically, women/girls have loins but it’s normally a word which makes me think of men’s genitalia.

  16. 16

    I’ve been around teen girls. They do NOT say loins and bosom. Tits or boobs, and the popular word amongst my group for the groin area was cooter or hoo-hoo.

  17. 17
    Rebecca says:

    Too bad Annette Curtis Klause and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes can’t whip up a couple good media scandles or whatnot.—- Amelia had a semi-sex scene in Falcondance. One of those fade to black ones. Here I’ll just quote it, I found it.

    Then she kissed me, standing on her toes and leaning against my body. Tentatively, I let myself put an arm around her back, holding her close, and I felt her lips smile against mine before she drew back just enough to speak.
    “If you want me to go, I’ll go,” she said, softly, blue eyes vulnerable.  “But I would rather stay. And I think you would rather I stayed.”
    She stayed. I stayed. The night was marvelous, and I had one vivid thought before I fell asleep: I could get used to this.

    That’s as much sex as she’s ever put in a book I think. But her latest one, Wolfcry, was about being a lesbian. Can that be scandal? heehee

  18. 18
    Just Curious says:

    * obligatory introductory newbie wave *

    1) Candy, you and Sarah should sooo set up a proactive review service for writers *before* they send their mss off to publishing houses, to keep such poorly written, phallocentric, vapid, caricatured crap from being printed and thus causing the untimely deaths of more innocent trees.  Bleccchhh!!!

    2) What exactly are the symptoms of Ruditis, and is there a cure?

  19. 19
    Jamie says:

    Thanks for this, Candy! As an actual teen, I found the whole “rainbow party” thing absolutely ridiculous- no one I know ever heard of such a thing beyond histrionic news articles written by a media clearly happy to a) have such a salacious subject to write about and b) point out the “moral decay of today’s youth” or some such twaddle. Yeah, because I’m sure people NEVER had unprotected oral sex prior to 2000! *rolls eyes* Thank you for eviscerating this stuff with such enjoyable gusto- if there is one thing I hate, it’s blatantly moralistic teen fic like this. Mainly because it usually comes off like what it is: some middle-aged guy (or gal) with no real concept of today’s youth culture trying to be OMG COOL AND HIP!!! and write a book that These Wacky Kids Today can learn something from and be entertained by!
    I think Willow on BTVS said it best:
    “Someday you’ll be the guy who sweeps the pizza parlor and says ‘Hey, kids, where are all the cool parties at?’”
    This is the literary equivalent of that.

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