A Different Light: LGBTQ characters on 2012 “Best of” Lists

lgbtqyalitI love “best of” lists. They’re one of the reasons that December is one of my favorite book months of the year (the other reason is that awards talk starts to ramp up, and if you aren’t already excited for the Youth Media Awards, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore).

If you haven’t already read Kelly’s breakdown of this year’s “best of” lists, go check it out. It’s a fantastic and thorough post. In order to maintain a little Hub-wide consistency, I’ve used the same 5 “best of” lists and data that Kelly did: Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal’s “Best Teen Books for Adults” list. I’ve read many but not all of the books on the best of lists, so I relied on Malinda Lo’s lists of LGBTQ YA published in 2012 (published on her blog) to make sure that I noted all of the LGBTQ books on the lists.

Of the 89 fiction titles on the lists, 7 (or 7.9%) have LGBTQ protagonists or LGBTQ issues as a central story line. While this may seem like a small number, it’s worth noting that there were only 44 novels about LGBTQ characters or characters dealing with LGBTQ issues published this year. That means nearly 16% of those novels ended up on at least one “best of” list — not a bad percentage, and probably a higher percentage than the percentage of all published YA books appearing on “best of” lists. Publishers may not be putting out a lot of LGBTQ fiction, but what they are publishing is good.

The seven LGBTQ novels on this year’s “best of” lists are:

Girl laying on her back, reaching up toward
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (on 4 of 5 lists)

Every Day
Every Day by David Levithan (on 3 of 5 lists)

miseducation of cameron post emily m danforth morris seal
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (on 2 of 5 lists and also a William C. Morris Award finalist! Have you read it yet?)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universeby Benjamin Alire Saenz (on 2 of 5 lists)

The Difference Between You and Me
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George (on 1 of 5 lists)

Between You and Me
Between You and Me by Marisa Calin (on 1 of 5 lists)

Radiant Days
Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand (on 1 of 5 lists)

In addition to those seven, there are several books with secondary or tertiary characters who are LGBTQ and aren’t necessarily struggling with their sexuality. Those books include BitterblueThe Diviners, and The FitzOsbornes at War. It’s likely there are more, but it’s much harder to compile a complete list of these titles, and in a way, that’s almost more encouraging to me than the seven great books listed above. It’s wonderful to have books about teens dealing with issues of sexuality and gender, but to me, it says more about the status of LGBTQ characters in YA fiction that there are so many books where the sexuality of gay, bisexual, transgendered, or otherwise queer characters isn’t an issue.

In a post on the Printz winners written early last year, I noted that there has never been a Printz winner with an LGBTQ protagonist — with seven great LGBTQ books on this year’s “best Of” lists, this might be the year that changes.

— Emily Calkins, who got distracted from the Morris challenge when her hold on The Diviners came in

2 thoughts on “A Different Light: LGBTQ characters on 2012 “Best of” Lists”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s great that we’re seeing a growing number of characters where the sexual orientation of LGBTQ isn’t the defining issue of the book and that so many of the books with overtly queer themes are making the best of lists.

  2. Excellent post! I’m really glad that we’re seeing more GLBTQ books that are well-written and not just weirdly-after-school-special-y problem novel type things. It’s like publishers finally realized that people will read interesting books with gay characters!

    Also? Malinda Lo = awesome!

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