August 11, 2021 7:34 AM EDT

Published in 2001, Alex Sanchez’s hugely influential novel follows high school students Jason, Kyle and Nelson as they come to terms with their sexuality and begin to face adulthood. The teens, each at different stages of coming out, contend with first loves, sex, friendship, intolerance and the lingering threat of the HIV epidemic. A thoughtful coming-of-age story that made huge strides for positive queer representation, Rainbow Boys was followed by two sequels, Rainbow High and Rainbow Road, and was selected by the American Library Association as the Best Book for Young Adults in 2002. —Madeleine Carlisle

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