So Hard to Say

So Hard to Say

4.4 37
by Alex Sanchez

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Frederick is the shy new boy, and Xio is the bubbly chica who lends him a pen on the first day of class. They become fast friends — but when Xio decides she wants to be more than friends, Frederick isn't so sure. He loves hanging out with Xio and her crew, but he doesn't like her that way. Instead he finds himself thinking more and more about


Frederick is the shy new boy, and Xio is the bubbly chica who lends him a pen on the first day of class. They become fast friends — but when Xio decides she wants to be more than friends, Frederick isn't so sure. He loves hanging out with Xio and her crew, but he doesn't like her that way. Instead he finds himself thinking more and more about Victor, the captain of the soccer team. But does that mean Frederick's gay? He hopes not — he sees how everyone makes fun of Iggy, a boy all the other kids think is gay. Frederick has to deal with some tough choices: Even though he is curious about Iggy, he's just started fitting in at his new school, and he doesn't want to lose Xio, his best friend.
In So Hard to Say, Alex Sanchez, acclaimed author of the groundbreaking novels Rainbow High and Rainbow Boys, of which School Library Journal said, "It can open eyes and change lives," helps younger readers look at self-discovery, come to terms with being gay, and accept people who are different from them.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Jacqueline Woodson Author of Locomotion So Hard to Say is funny and clever and heartbreaking and, ultimately, healing. Alex Sanchez takes the reader right up into the face of his characters and makes you feel all the angst of eighth grade again. I found myself cheering for Xio and Frederick and for all the cool and crazy kids in their world. I found myself wanting to meet them again in their grown-up futures! Isn't that wild?

James Howe Author of The Misfits What strikes me most about So Hard to Say is the way the author respects the complexity of his young characters' lives and feelings. Frederick and Xio do not run away from the difficult questions their friendship poses — questions about love, attraction, popularity, honesty, and identity. Bravo to Alex Sanchez for this tightly crafted and heartfelt novel. Its readers will recognize in its sympathetic characters the boy who sits next to them in class, the girl who lives down the street, and, just possibly, themselves.

Eric Marcus Author of What If Someone I Know Is Gay? Alex Sanchez writes about the kinds of kids who write to me about their real-life problems as they struggle with their sexuality and each other. In So Hard to Say he expertly captures Frederick and Xio's thoughts, emotions, and language and conveys them with such perfect pitch that you feel like you're right there with these two young people as they talk to you about their innermost feelings and thoughts.

Publishers Weekly
"In chapters that alternate between Frederick, a new eighth-grader, and Mara Xiomara Iris Jurez Hidalgo, this insightful novel by the author of Rainbow Boys explores the ambiguities of budding sexuality," according to PW. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Sanchez's previous novels have focused on older, high school-aged characters coming to terms with their sexuality. With this novel, Sanchez again focuses on a gay main character, but this time it is a younger boy just discovering his sexual orientation. Frederick is the new boy at school, adjusting to more than a few cultural changes after he moves from Wisconsin to a largely Hispanic middle school in Southern California. He has always had trouble making male friends, so he settles in easily with a group of girls calling themselves "the Sexy Six." One of their leaders, the high-spirited Maria Xiomara (her friends call her Xio), falls hard for Frederick's "kick-butt blue eyes," and soon pursues him romantically, determined to have a boyfriend now that she is thirteen. Frederick himself values Xio's friendship but finds himself more attracted to his soccer-playing buddy Victor. In a decidedly gay-unfriendly environment, can Frederick admit his own feelings and come out to the girl who desires him herself? Frederick's sexual orientation will not be a surprise to most readers, although a revelation about Xio's absent father is more unexpected—and largely unnecessary to the plot. Narrated in alternate chapters by Frederick and Xio, the novel's plot unfolds easily and realistically, as both characters arrive at their revelations independently. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 9 to 13.
—Norah Piehl
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Thirteen-year-old Latina chocoholic-chatterbox Xio can't keep her eyes off blond-haired, steel-eyed Frederick, the intriguing transfer student just in from Wisconsin. At first, the soft-spoken newcomer, unsure of his new Southern California junior high and maybe his own sexuality, doesn't know what to make of her pursuits. Slowly and surely, Xio charms her way into his life and soon absorbs him into her group of fabulous girlfriends whom she dubs the "Sexies." Content with this new niche, and his position on a pick-up soccer team, Frederick gradually becomes aware of Xio's real agenda: to make him her first boyfriend. All the while he finds he can't keep his eyes off Victor, his soccer buddy. Frederick's sexual confusion escalates, as do his dodging techniques when it comes to Xio's advances. However, when she gets him in a closet with her and at last gives him a smooch, things boil up to crises. Adventurous, multifaceted, funny, and unpredictably insightful, Sanchez's novel drops melodramatic pretense and gels well-rounded characterizations with the universal excitement of first love. The action is described through chapters that alternate between Frederick and Xio's points of view, and both voices ring true. The author deftly presents portraits of a boy teetering on the brink of reinvention who must grapple against his own fears that he might be gay and the girl-a high-spirited character whom readers definitely won't forget-who wants him.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Frederick, 13, is the new kid; Xio is an astrology-obsessed, spirited, Hispanic girl in his new class. She and her friends adopt Frederick-mostly because Xio thinks he's really cute. Frederick, despite his asthma, starts playing soccer with the Hispanic boys, the counterparts of Xio and her girlfriends. Xio wants to date Frederick, but he's not sure he feels the same way; he's not sure he likes girls that way. He's never thought about it before, but the more time he spends with Victor, the leader of the soccer boys, the more Frederick realizes that he might feel about boys the way most boys feel about girls. The truth comes out privately and, after a rough patch, all remain friends. Sanchez, whose first two titles were for YA, writes for a younger audience quite convincingly. Xio and Frederick alternate chapters to tell their story and their voices are distinct and believable. As with his previous efforts, the prose style is serviceable and coincidence helps tie things up neatly, but many young teens, gay and straight, will see themselves and their friends in these characters. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Xio

My name is (drum roll, please) María Xiomara Iris Juárez Hidalgo, but nobody calls me María. For short, I just go by Xio — pronounced C.O. It rhymes with Leo, my sign. Like most Leos, my best quality is my unfailing loyalty. I'm utterly devoted to my friends....and of course, to me.

Just kidding. Well, maybe it's a little true. Madonna is a Leo. (Yes!) So was Napoleon. We love to conquer and take charge, plus we're generous, fun, openhearted and love to speak our minds.

On the downside, we love to speak our minds. Sometimes it gets me into deep, deep caca. Then if I tell Mami about it, she laughs and says I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.

"But that's totally impossible," I tell her. "When I've got something to say, I have to say it."

My other faults: I can be pretty lazy when it comes to housework. Like on weekends? My all-time favorite thing is to laze in bed, talking on the phone with friends — hopping from one call to the next. I think Call Waiting is the best invention ever.

But then Mami comes in and makes me get off the phone to do chores. "You need to learn the world doesn't revolve around you," she says, which makes no sense.

"If the world doesn't revolve around me," I argue, "then why do I have to get out of bed?"

Mami shakes her head and rolls her eyes heavenward, asking God for paciencia.

"Okay..." Climbing from bed, I give her a big hug. Sometimes I wonder how Mami handles being a single mom. I know I can be pretty high maintenance. But Mami's strong, in a quiet way. I don't know if I could ever be that strong....or that quiet.

Both Mami and Papi are from Mexico, but they met here in California. I remember when I was little Papi used to stand me on his shoes and dance me around the living room as mariachi trumpets blared on the radio. Mami would wave her arms, warning him to be careful. Then he'd reach out for her too, all of us dancing together with me tucked between them.

When I was seven, my little brother — Esteban Jesús Francisco (Stevie for short) — was born. He's a pain in the butt, always getting into my stuff (a typical curious Aquarius), but I love him. He looks a lot like Papi, with lighter skin than mine.

I look more like Mami. We're both morenas — with skin that's golden colored. But I'm more chata than Mami. That means I have a flat, catlike nose — which I hate. My best feature is my hair — thick and black. Mami calls it my mane.

I was seven when Mami and Papi broke up. It came gradually, not with yelling or fights, but with a lot of rumblings and low voices. I remember putting my ear to their bedroom door, trying to figure out what was going on and wondering, Was it because of something I'd done?

I've asked Mami a million times why Papi left. Was he in love with another woman? Didn't he love us anymore? But the only thing she says is, "Your papi and I had differences."

"Like, what's that supposed to mean?"

Mami sighs. "It means that sometimes, no matter how much two people love each other, they just aren't meant to be together. When you're older you'll understand."

I hate it when she says things like that.

Papi moved north to San Francisco. At first he'd phone me every day. I'd run home after school to hear his voice. But slowly his calls became once a week. Then one time a month. Then only Christmas and my birthday. I begged to visit him but he wouldn't let me. Instead he visited us once a year, but last year he didn't even do that.

When I turned thirteen last August I didn't go out of the house, hoping he'd call. As usual, Mami threw a party for me and all my friends came. Every time the phone rang I jumped for it, certain it would be Papi. But it wasn't.

That night after everybody left, I went to my room and stared at my nightstand's Little Mermaid lamp. Mami says Papi got it for me on my second birthday.

Across the shade swim tropical fish, a little faded now. The stem is Ariel with her long flowing hair, sitting on a porcelain wave. Her green tail curves around an empty space where a clock used to be. When it stopped working Papi took it to find a replacement, but before finding a new clock he left.

The lamp looks kind of weird with Ariel sitting on an empty space. I've tried to fill the space with stuff. Once I wedged in a little tray filled with chocolates, but that lasted about two seconds, before I ate them all. I'm a total chocoholic. It's my favorite comfort food.

I could've used some the night of my party. When Mami came in and put her arm around me I burst into tears, burying my head in her shoulder. "He doesn't love me anymore."

"Shh," Mami whispered. "That's not true. You're the daughter he always wanted."

Yeah, right. "I don't care if he never calls again!"

In the month since then, I've rehearsed in my mind every day for when — or if? — he phones. "I don't want you to ever call again!" I'm going to tell him. I really will. I mean it.

Anyway, enough about him. Back to me: I'm in eighth grade at San Cayetano Middle. Classes started two weeks ago. And today a new boy arrived in first period — white, kind of small, with kick-butt blue eyes and sandy blond hair spiked in front that made me want to whoosh my fingers through it. Of course, I didn't. At least not yet. But hello! I'm thirteen already. Where's my boyfriend? I'm waiting!

Ms. Marciano (that's Spanish for "martian") introduced the new guy as Fred.

Big mistake.

"Excuse me," he told her. "But, um, my name's not Fred or Freddy or Rick, or Ricky. It's Frederick."

Ms. Martian stared at him like she was peering out of a spaceship.

"Okay, Frederick. Can you take a seat beside Xio, please?" She pointed to the empty desk next to me. My best friend, Carmen, had sat there till we got split up for talking too much — after only two days. How unfair was that?

While Frederick-not-Fred weaved between rows, Carmen gave me a huge grin from across the room. She kids me because I seem to always go for shorter guys. But can I help it if most boys my age are so shrimpy?

"Hi," I whispered as Frederick slid into the desk beside me.

"Um...hi." A cute little smile crept across his face. He has really pretty lips, too — kind of pouty.

Ms. Visitor from the Red Planet started babbling something for the class to write down. Frederick pulled out his pen but the ink wouldn't come out. He rubbed the ballpoint on his paper till he practically gouged a hole in it, without saying anything. He must be shy. I know if I needed a pen I would've stopped the entire class.

"Here," I told him, holding mine out. "I have an extra."

"Xio?" Ms. Space Alien scolded. "Can you pay attention, please?"

"I'm lending him a pen," I shouted and handed it to him.

Everyone had turned to stare at us, and Frederick was apple red. But after everybody glanced away again, he looked at me and whispered, "Thanks."

Oh, my God, I love his eyes.

Tonight at dinner while scooping some arroz con pollo onto Stevie's plate I told Mami, "I want to get blue contact lenses."

"Oh, don't be silly." Mami passed me the bread. "Your eyes are beautiful just as they are."

"But I'm so bored with brown eyes. They're so unoriginal. Everyone in the world I know has brown eyes."

At least until today.

Copyright © 2004 by Alex Sanchez

Meet the Author

Alex Sanchez spent almost fifteen years working with youth. He is the author of the teen novels Boyfriends with Girlfriends, Bait, The God Box, Getting It, Rainbow Boys, Rainbow High, and Rainbow Road, as well as the Lambda Award–winning middle-grade novel So Hard to Say. Lambda Literary Foundation honored Alex with an Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists’ Prize. He lives in Thailand and Hollywood, Florida. Visit him at

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So Hard to Say 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Giggle, giggle, kiss,kiss.
Raphals More than 1 year ago
So hard to say

Author: Alex Sanches

That¿s my title of my book. This is a good book to read theirs many reason but I am just going to tell u the main ones, well this is actually interesting and not boring like other books I read before. The author of this book is Alex Sanches. The mood of the book is very intense, the conflict was about teens way of life, how do love come among their lifes. the main character was Frederick a new cute boy that the most popular girl in school wanted to go out with him. Type of people that would like to read this book is young people teenagers. If u like to read books about love this would be a good and teenagers this would be a good book to read. There are 230 pages in my book but the pages are real short..
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being 13 is hard for everyone. A beautiful story of the everyday struggles of a boy growing up with thoughts and feelings that are 'so hard to say.' Teaches the lesson that we are all really the same - human.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's a good children's boom. Could have had a deeper storyline but it will suffice for children's book.
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Ava Raddatz More than 1 year ago
I read this book last year and i couldn't put it down!! It is a very good book. :)
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