A Different Light: LGBTQ Characters on 2013 “Best Of” Lists
One of my favorite things about end-of-year “Best Of” lists is the chance to see what I’ve read – and what I’ve missed – in YA in the last year. A yearly review of the lists is also a good chance to track trends as they evolve from year to year. As someone who’s particularly interested in the portrayal of LGBTQ teens in young adult literature, reviewing “Best Of” lists is a good way to check in on the status on LGBTQ literature for teens.
Before you read this post, do check out Geri’s wonderful by the numbers breakdown of the 2013 “Best Of” lists. I’ve used the same 5 “best of” lists and data that Geri used in her post and that Hub bloggers have used in the past: Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal’s “Best Teen Books for Adults” list. Using the same lists helps maintain consistency between posts and across years (see last year’s breakdown of LGBTQ characters on Best Of lists here). I’ve read some but not all of the books on the best of lists, so I relied on publisher-provided summaries and Goodreads tags to determine which titles qualifiy as LGBTQ. If I’ve missed something, please let me know in the comments!
There were 64 fiction titles on the lists; just 4 (or 6.2%) focus on LGBTQ protagonists or issues. This is down from last year when almost 8% of the titles on the list featured LGBTQ themes, main characters, or plot lines. Also notable is the homogeneity of the characters portrayed in the four “Best of” titles. All of LGBTQ characters on this year’s lists are cisgendered gay boys; there are no bisexual or lesbian characters and no transgendered characters on this year’s list (again, I haven’t read all of the books, so do please let me know if I’m wrong!)
The four LGBTQ novels on this year’s “best of” lists are:
More Than This by Patrick Ness (2 of 5 lists)
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (1 of 5 lists)
Winger by Andrew Smith (2 of 5 lists)
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (1 of 5 lists)
It’s disappointing, especially given the wonderful diversity of LGBTQ themes and characters on last year’s lists, to see such a meager representation for LGBTQ characters and themes on this year’s “Best Of” lists. It’s vital that fans of young adult literature support these great books so that the message comes across loud and clear: there’s a place for LGBTQ characters in YA lit!
– Emily Calkins, listening to Speaking From Among the Bones