8 of the Best Queer YA Novels of 2018

2018 has been an incredible year in terms of new releases featuring queer characters! I say this every year, but I honestly think there have been more new books featuring LGBTQIAP+ characters during 2018 than any year previously. It’s amazing! More queer novels, please!

I’m just so happy that this year, the majority of the books I’ve read have included explicitly queer characters, if these characters aren’t the protagonist. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined being able to pick off more than a handful of these books off the shelves at stores – and look where we are now! My glittery rainbow soul is singing.

I’m already looking forward to all the glorious queer releases of 2019, but before then, I’d like to share my top 8 queer reads of 2018! I utterly adored all of these and I could have put 100 more on this list, but I had to narrow it down to my absolute favourites. I hope you loved these ones too!

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LGBTQ+ Middle Grade Recs

As much as I’m an avid reader of YA novels featuring queer protagonists, I haven’t actually read that many middle grade books / younger YA novels with LGBTQIAP+ characters. Well, I don’t usually get to read that many middle grade novels, period. But I’ve been wanting to read more of these books recently so that I can recommend them to the younger readers in my life and the tweens that come into the bookstore I work at asking for recommendations. I’m sick of talking about the same hyped middle grade series, and I want to give these people novels that they might see themselves in.

The first book I ever read with a queer protagonist was The Flywheel when I was about 15, and that book holds so much emotional significance to me. It was the first book I saw my feelings represented in. It was the first time I recognised that having feelings for other girls was valid and didn’t make me unnatural or unlovable. If I’d have read more middle grade novels with queer protagonists in my early teen years, perhaps I would have been able to come to terms with my identity as a biromantic asexual sooner.

Although there are undoubtedly a lot more middle grade and YA novels now than there were five years ago, I would still love to hear more buzz about middle grade novels with queer protagonists—and there’s always room for more! So if you have any recommendations for books I should check out, specifically featuring LGBTQIAP+ characters under 14, I would love to check them out. In the meantime, here are three novels featuring younger teens who happen to be queer!

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Boys, Books, and Biographies

AutoboyographyThree years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar–where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester–Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

I’m honestly in awe of how phenomenal this novel was. Wow. Autoboyography is one of the best m/m books I’ve read all year, and I’m so pleased I decided to pick it up. The romance was adorable and realistic, the conversations about and implications of religion on these two boys’ relationship was heartbreaking and powerful, and the intertwining of the bittersweet and the heart-wrenching made this novel one that’s unforgettable. I’m officially in love with my two adorable queer munchkins, Sebastian and Tanner, and I love the way both their sexualities were explored against the backdrop of religion in an often small-minded community. This is the book I needed right now.Read More »

Asexuality & TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY

For the amount of books I’ve read with queer protagonists, Tash Hearts Tolstoy was the first one I’ve read that features a main character on the asexual spectrum, with Tash being romantic asexual. Although there was a demisexual character in Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence and an asexual character in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, these people weren’t the lead protagonists. And so when I heard about Tash Hearts Tolstoy, I immediately added it to my list. I need to seek out more YA novels featuring characters who don’t just fall into the first three letters of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, as I’m sure most of us feel the need to do, and so in this post I want to discuss the importance of representing teens of every sexuality in YA fiction.

It’s undeniable that teenagers and young people need to feel represented in what they read or watch and the art they consume, and thus it’s unquestionable that writers have the responsibility to write in a way reflects the diversity of the world we live in. It’s more important now than ever to show that people who aren’t straight but who may not identify as gay or bi or are transgender that they’re still a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and that their identity is valid.

We live in a world where people on the asexual / aromantic spectrum are sorely underrepresented, so much so that many people even believe that the ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ stands for ‘ally’, which, whether intentionally or otherwise, erases the people who identify in this manner. Additionally, while I’m a big supporter of the #LoveisLove campaign and the gradual ‘normalisation’ of seeing same-sex couples or couples that are not made up of one cis male and one cis female in the film and TV and the novels we read, it’s important to acknowledge that who you ‘love’ is not the defining factor for being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. And the inclusion of characters within the LGBTQIA+ community in movies or books shouldn’t just be seen as the ‘token diverse character’. We’re people, not brownie points.Read More »

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue – book review

29283884Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

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‘Sad’ Queer Stories are Still Important

2017 has already been a great year for new LGBTQIA+ YA novels, and I’d have to guess that at least half the books I’ve read so far have been diverse in terms of sexual orientation and identity. What I’ve discovered from reading so many of these gorgeous books is that they usually fall into one of three categories. They’re either predominantly happy and cute, heart-wrenching and emotional, or a character’s identity isn’t the centre focus. On occasion, they do fall into more than one of these categories. But something I’ve seen a lot of people discussing is whether authors should be writing tragic queer stories, and what that really means.

To the most drastic extent, a ‘tragic queer story’ is one where the a member of the LGBTQIA+ community dies, or is killed. It’s even considered a trope now. Thankfully, I haven’t read many novels that conform to this notion, and I don’t really want to if the person’s identity is a major part in the narrative. Seeing these people have tragic endings isn’t just heartbreaking, but it can be damaging to young queer readers picking up these books. Yes, not all stories should be happy ones, but I think it’s harmful to see yourself represented in a narrative, only to find the character has a tragic ending. I’m not here to read about that.

But does that mean that all the novels with LGBTQIA+ protagonists have to be sunshines and rainbows? I don’t think so. Yes, I adore reading books where a person’s identity or sexual orientation isn’t made a big deal of or where they are able to be who they are unashamedly, but I think it’s important to still have stories where people are struggling to come to terms with who they are, or where others around them are. My experiences as a bisexual young person haven’t all been positive, and we need to see that other people might be struggling with the same things we are. In the end, books help us realise that we aren’t alone, and by erasing all ‘sad’ LGBTQIA+ novels, we could be tilting the scales in the other direction. Read More »