I read and loved Alex Sanchez’s work when we first came out with the Rainbow Boys series in the early 2000s so I was excited to learn that he was releasing a new middle-grade LGBTQ+ story.
The Greatest Superpower follows our main character, thirteen-year-old Jorge, along with his parents and his twin brother Cesar. One day, their parents unexpectedly announce that they’re getting a divorce. The reason: their father is transgender, and he will soon be transitioning to a woman called Norma. I loved the fact that though they were divorcing, their parents made it abundantly clear that they both really loved each other — they just can no longer live together as a couple.
The brothers are gobsmacked by the announcement, though Jorge adjusts to the news a lot quicker and easier than Cesar, who refuses to have anything to do with their dad. I thought the boys’ reactions to their father’s news was realistic and extremely well done by the author.
Though there were several heartbreaking scenes surrounding their dad’s news and his interactions with Cesar and people in their community, there were also plenty of positive experiences as well, and I thought the balance between them was handled very well. I felt that the author delineated both the positives and negatives of coming out in a heartfelt and realistic manner and showed how coming out can be both frightening and rewarding.
Now while Jorge certainly does struggle with this dad Norma’s newly revealed identity, he steps out of his comfort zone and sincerely makes an effort to understand his dad and what’s he’s going through. I enjoyed the fact that we got to see first hand the struggles that a transgender person endures before and during the coming out process. I also loved the process of Jorge slowly beginning to understand and empathize with his dad.
Jorge then meets a girl at school to whom he’s instantly attracted, but hesitates in telling her about his dad. He also neglects to inform his friends about what’s going on at home, all of which results in plenty of relationship and friendship drama down the road. But at the end of the day, Jorge ends up facing his fears head-on and comes out a more confident person at the other end.
Many hard-hitting themes in this story, such as transphobia, homophobia, racism, racial profiling, fear, acceptance, divorce, and transitioning, all of which the writer handles with finesse and tenderness. Additionally, I loved the diversity in this story as it touched on many different sexualities.
Books like this hit me right in the heart, and I did tear up a time or two due to the emotionally moving narrative. All in all, I thought this was a lovely, compassionate story with plenty of heart and would be well-received by any middle-grade kids going through a challenging or difficult change in their lives.