If you’re interested in LGBT YA lit, hopefully you’re already following author Malinda Lo’s blog. This has been an especially wonderful month on the blog because it’s National Gay Pride Month, and Lo has hosted a series of YA Pride posts all month long. There are interviews, lists of the queer YA being published this year, and much more. I highly recommend visiting the site and spending some time looking through all the posts.
One of my favorite posts appeared at the beginning of the month. It’s called From Problem to Pride: A Short History of Queer YA Fiction. Written by Daisy Porter, a librarian who blogs at Queer YA, it’s a exactly what it sounds like — a look at the treatment of queer sexuality in young adult literature over the last forty-odd years — and it’s fascinating.
Porter looks at three approaches to queer sexuality: the problem novel, the gaytopia, and the Big Gay Book. In the first type, the problem novel, protagonists are coming to terms with their own queerness or the queerness of others around them. In contrast, the characters in gaytopias and Big Gay Books are comfortable with their sexuality — those are the books I want look at a little more today. In celebration of Pride month, here are five great books featuring queer characters who are out and proud. Happily, books like this are becoming more and more common — if you have favorites that I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments!
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Jesse has no problem being exactly who she is: she tromps around in army boots, cuts her own hair, and is the creator and sole member of NOLAW (the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos). She’s an out lesbian who’s supported by her liberal parents, although they wouldn’t be too thrilled to find out that she’s been secretly making out with Emily in the bathroom — not because Emily’s a girl, but because she’s a Republican. When a Walmart-esque store comes to town, Jesse and Emily find themselves on opposite sides of a heated debate, and Jesse has to decide what she believes and how her feelings for Emily affect her beliefs.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (2011 Best Fiction For Young Adults)
When two guys named Will Grayson have a chance meeting in the unlikest of places, their lives end up entwined. It’s named after the two Wills, but the star of Will Grayson, Will Grayson is Tiny Cooper. Tiny — best friend to one Will Grayson, boyfriend to another — is one of my favorite characters in all of YA literature. He’s loud, he’s funny, he’s writing a musical about his own life. Tiny takes up space. He loves himself, and he loves those around him. His sexuality isn’t an issue for him or, for the most part, for the other characters.
It’s Our Prom, So Deal With It by Julie Anne Peters
When Azure, Luke, and Radhika get the go-ahead from their principal to make-over the prom — not usually the most queer-friendly event — they find themselves up against administrative hurdles and their complicated feelings toward each other. As in the other stories, though, the characters don’t struggle with their queerness. They may struggle with their relationships, but not with their sexuality.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (2004 Best Books for Young Adults)
David Levithan’s 2003 novel is the quintessential gaytopia. It’s a love story set in a world where gender-queerness is the norm and the homecoming queen is also the star quarterback of the football team who goes by Infinite Darlene. There’s no story without conflict, but the conflicts here aren’t about gender identity or sexuality. Instead, the story is about falling in love, making mistakes, and falling in love again.
Putting Makeup on The Fat Boy by Bil Wright
Carlos Duarte has just landed his dream job as a makeup artist at Macy’s. He’s thrilled, but it turns out the world of professional makeup is more competitive that Carlos could have imagined. Throw in a complicated family life and a new crush, and Carlos has his hands full. He faces homophobia (along with a host of other difficulties), but he’s a confident, determined character who believes in himself no matter what.
— Emily Calkins, currently reading In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
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