“Delivered with such conviction and grace … fresh … essential.”


A timely and observant début, Celia Laskey’s Under the Rainbow is a YA fiction novel that takes its name from the song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from the film The Wizard of Oz, which has long had connections to the LGBTQIA+ community.
In this interesting novel, homophobia in the United States of America is under the microscope as the fictional town of Big Burr, Kansas is deemed the “most homophobic town in America” after extensive research by AAA (Acceptance Across America) into their attitudes, legislation, and even combing the inhabitants’ social media. In response, AAA decides to send a queer task force to the town, where they will live for two years, in an attempt to influence the town’s people for the better.

A group of queer activists and their families arrive in Big Burr and, as expected, many of the locals are not happy to meet them. Everything is about to change but whether it’s for the best or for the worst, some people can’t agree.

The story of Under the Rainbow spans predominately over the two years the task force resides in Big Burr, while the final chapter picks up ten years later to show the results of the queer task force on the neighbourhood.

Almost every chapter is told through the eyes of a different character, some of which are old residents and some of which are newcomers from AAA. Through this storytelling, the reader gets to understand a diverse range of attitudes and emotions, from acceptance to ignorance to denial to outright homophobia and bigotry. The various characters’ lives and stories overlap and weave together to create a complete picture of the events that unfold during those two years in Big Burr. However, by flicking from one character to another, readers do miss out on the smaller details of the characters’ personal stories, and I would happily have read more about their lives.

A necessary tale of what it is like to be an LGBTQIA+ person living in a place or world that aggressively disagrees with your very existence. Under the Rainbow is an easy-to-read, fresh yet emotional, heartwrenching, and heartwarming novel that sees new friendships and connections blossom, and tensions reach boiling point in this experiment to change hearts and minds.

For some readers, content warnings for this novel include; homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia, biphobia, and discussions of suicidal thoughts.


Reviewed by:

Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog

Added 23rd February 2022

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Catherine Muxworthy