Things in Print Thursday :: 5 young adult books featuring queer protagonists

7 Aug

So this is an important list.  I am not personally qualified to write about it yet, but I myself am learning.  Tonight I present some guestblogging from one of my dearest, she of the brilliant cosplays who is incomprehensiblelentils on tumblr.

Hi there! I was asked to talk about one of my favorite subjects, young adult fiction, specifically queer young adult fiction. These books mostly involve lady queer stuff, just because I haven’t gotten around to reading much of the boy queer stuff yet. (Though a friend of mine really loves Aristotle and Dane Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, which is apparently about two boys who fall in love. I haven’t read it yet but I trust her opinion.) So with that caveat in mind, here are 6 YA books with queer protagonists that I highly recommend.

6. Pantomime by Laura Lam
The back cover copy for this book is gross, so just don’t read it. Basically, the book is about a person,Gene Laurus, who is intersex and uncomfortable presenting female (since it is set in the time of corsets and courtship for ladies), so they flee their home and join the circus under the name Micah Grey. I am not intersex and neither is the author, but I felt like the book was very respectful of Micah’s feelings and struggles and wrote them well. I’m not crazy about the ending, but I’m currently reading the sequel, Shadowplay, anyway. It’s a semi-obscure book from a new publisher, so I feel compelled to mention it often.

5. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
This book is kind of the classic lesbian novel, but I only just got around to reading it earlier this year. It was written in the 80s, so naturally it’s quite dated, but I thought it was a really sweet, authentic, enjoyable story all the same (I stayed up too late finishing it). It’s a quick read, and sucks you in, or at least it did me.

4. Adaptation and Inheritance by Malinda Lo
These books are almost impossible to talk about without spoiling, but basically they involve conspiracy theories, aliens, a bisexual love triangle, interracial romance, and suspense. Basically they’re magic books and I still kind of can’t believe that Malinda Lo got away with the ending.

3. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
I picked up this book on a whim at the library and I’m so very glad I did. On the surface it’s a retelling of The Odyssey set in post-apocalyptic USA, but it’s also a metaphor about being strong enough to face your demons and repairing yourself after trauma. There are also a delightful assortment of queer characters, and the way Block writes is absolutely beautiful. It kind of feels like a dream when you’re reading it, so if you like that kind of book, check it out.

2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Aside from Annie on My Mind, this book is probably the most “cliche” of the bunch that I’m writing about, but I think it’s really important. It’s the story of a girl named Cameron who lives in a small town in Texas and struggles with her sexuality while being surrounded by homophobia. The second half of the novel deals with the fallout of her aunt discovering that Cameron is a lesbian, and her experiences at a conversion therapy camp. I’m sure there are other novels out there like this one, but this one really struck a chord with me. It also recently got banned from a Delaware school district’s summer reading list, so I’m sure the author could use some positive press, as it were.

1. Ash by Malinda Lo
I should probably have tried to make this list without including three books by the same author, but I can’t do that; they’re all too important to me. The other two more so just for the novelty of them, but this one is very important to me personally. It’s a lesbian retelling of Cinderella that I discovered in my freshman year of college, and I’ve reread it at least once every year since then. Sometimes you really just need to read something uplifting and sweet and a little predictable, and that’s kind of what this book is to me. It’s been very comforting. i really can’t talk about this book objectively so I’m not even going to try. There is also a companion novel, Huntress, that is set in the same universe, and while I’m not as fond of that one I do enjoy it and recognize its importance as an original lesbian fantasy novel. However, some people get fed up with the pacing of that one, so fair warning. You can read one without the other, but if you like Lo’s style you’ll probably like both.

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