by Paul Ruditis
Simon Pulse, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 9th 2006
Rainbow Party is a novel for
young adults about the sex lives of sophomores at "Harding High."
The time frame of most of the novel is just two hours in one day, from 1:00pm to 3:05pm. It is a quick read, since the bulk of the writing is in the form of
dialog between the high school students. Author Paul Ruditis provides little
characterization and he does not make the plot either credible or interesting.
It is hard to keep the different teens separate and there's no motivation to
try. The book is far less interesting than Doing It by Melvin Burgess (reviewed in Metapsychology
9:17) because while Burgess captures the excitement and nervousness of
teens exploring sex, Ruditis just seems to be capitalizing on the controversies
about young adolescents and their sexual activities.
Maybe the strongest feature of Rainbow
Party is its readiness to accept the reality of teenage sexual activity and
some of the issues young people face when dating: fidelity, love, reputations,
same-sex experimentation, how far to go, and whether oral sex is really sex.
It also includes of STDs and the importance of condoms, although in the novel
they are used more as balloons than as contraceptive devices. The book doesn't
celebrate promiscuity, and indeed many of the characters find reasons to avoid
the "rainbow party" even though they would get to participate in
group oral sex. Yet at the same time, several characters are ready to despite
their reservations, mainly because they want to live up to a certain image.
There's been plenty of discussion
in the popular media about how shocking and deplorable it is that young people
just out of puberty are doing these things, although it isn't clear how much of
a change there is in overall trends in recent decades. Some evidence has
suggested that while the average age of first sexual activity is still
decreasing in the USA, it is in fact increasing in Europe, where paradoxically
attitudes seem more liberal. It is probably a good idea for young people to be
thinking about their actions beforehand, and definitely they should be making
good decisions. I would not recommend Ruditis' Rainbow Party to teens,
however, because it is not a thoughtful or sensitive book. We can hope that
publishers will find other books that address the interests of today's teens in
ways that do a better job of examining the emotions, rewards and risks that go
with sexual exploration.
© 2006 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long
Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His
main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.