Bell, Eric. “Alan Cole Is Not a Coward”, Katherine Teen Books, 2017.
Coming Out in Middle School
Alan Cole can’t let the cute boy across the cafeteria know he has a crush on him. When his brother Nathan discovers Alan’s secret, he announces a high-stakes round of Cole vs. Cole. Each brother must complete seven nearly impossible tasks; whoever finishes the most wins the game. If Alan doesn’t want to be outed to all of Evergreen Middle School, he’s got to become the most well-known kid in school, get his first kiss, and stand up to his Dad. Alan’s determined to prove himself to Nathan, to the world, and to himself.
We get to know Alan by what he wants to be, what he’s afraid of, and ultimately how he changes during his challenge to prove himself. The reader cannot help but fall in love with Alan. We love his courage and the larger-than-life characters and events that he deals with.
All Alan has ever wanted is to fir in. He takes care not to let his cafeteria tablemates, Zack and Madison, become his friends and stays quiet at the dinner table so as not to upset his father. He tries to avoid his brother, Nathan, who relentlessly bullies him. One day Nathan forces Alan to play a round of Cole vs. Cole, in which each brother must attempt to accomplish as many of Nathan’s proposed seven assignments as possible within a week. The tasks are tough and include learning how to swim, retrieving a slip of paper from inside a broken vending machine, and receiving a first kiss. If Alan loses, Nathan will reveal that Alan is gay and has a crush on one of his male classmates. There are moments that will make you angry and there are moments that will make you happy.
Alan Cole starts out as a coward but doesn’t end as one. He and his band of misfits give us a story that’s as important as it is entertaining and as thought-provoking as heartfelt.