Published September 21, 2021
About The Insiders
San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone.
Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure.
Three kids who don’t belong. A room that shouldn’t exist. A year that will change everything.
This book might break your heart. Not permanently. But. It follows Héctor, who’s just beginning at a new school in a new town. He becomes the target of a group of bullies. Though he’s usually pretty outspoken, he’s vulnerable– still trying to figure out how to find his footing in his new space. He has a supportive family, but worries they’ve got enough other things to stress over without needing to take on his troubles. He worries they’d be disappointed in him for not figuring things out for himself. Or for not standing up for himself or letting someone else’s behavior bother him so much.
His experience is so relatable. So raw and real. I love the gentle way the Room comforts and helps him. In some ways, the Room was my favorite character. Héctor is pretty tough to beat, though! I love his sense of humor and bold personality.
THE INSIDERS is one of those books that has a lot of things happening in the background in an understated way. One of Héctor’s teachers reacts to something he says or does in a way that made me think she knew about the Room, and maybe had her own experience with it herself. I love that it kind of stays ambiguous, too, because it hints at the Room being an ongoing force helping lonely kids without letting the story focus on an adult’s experience.
Some moments in the book were so achingly sad, but so many were also full of triumph and joy. This is a story that celebrates friendship, family, identity and food.
THE INSIDERS is the first book by Mark Oshiro that I’ve ever read, but I’m already thinking I need to go out and find all the other books they’ve written. I can’t wait to see more of their work.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Héctor is gay and Latino. He has several other close friends who are LGBTQ and/or BIPOC.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Reference to a homophobic slur. The word itself is not used.
A girl asks another girl to a school dance and is asked not to DJ the event because of it.
A room appears to Héctor and a couple other kids when they need it most. It transforms into whatever they need, from a janitor closet to a library to a coffee shop to a nap space. Sometimes it hints at solutions to problems they face.
Some homophobia and bullying. Though Héctor is never in critical physical danger, he bears some pretty deep wounds from the way his antagonists treat him, and even begins to experience some depression.
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