Exploring LGBT Themes in YA Lit & Everyday Library Life

Archive for the ‘F/F’ Category

Review: Ask the Passengers

Release Date: 23 October 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 9 & up

Astrid’s life in small town Pennsylvania may seem perfect from the outside, but on the inside, it’s a mess of secrets. Astrid spends her days keeping secrets–both her own and those of her friends–and many hours laying on a picnic table sending love to strangers flying through the sky. As Astrid’s feelings for another young woman grow deeper, she is unsure how to deal with them, both internally and externally. Her parents would never understand and her friends might be too understanding, especially when she isn’t sure what it all means yet. Through Astrid’s character, Ms. King deftly portrays those moments when adolescents come to question their sexuality but aren’t necessarily ready to embrace it. Feelings aren’t cut-and-dry and choices aren’t black-and-white.

Ask the Passengers is a frank, honest examination of learning to accept who you are and how you feel.  It’s about rebelling against both conformity and rebellion because you don’t fit in either place.  King’s novel felt like a breath of fresh air that reveals intricate complexities of being a teenager and coming to terms with your sexuality.  It’s not a black and white world, even though many people often try to see it that way, and Ask the Passengers clearly examines the gray areas. Astrid’s questioning of her sexuality seemed very realistic, and I think that many teens will relate to her questioning and unwillingness to define it definitely and put a societally expected label on it.

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Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Release Date: 7 February 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 9 & up

When Cameron Post’s parents are killed in a car accident, her first thought is gratitude that they will never know that the day before she was kissing another girl. Cameron knows that she is supposed to like boys but she would rather just hang-out and party with them, not kiss and date them.  When an evening tryst with a close friend leads to the revelation of her sexuality to her aunt, Cameron is immediately sent to God’s Promise, a religious boarding school that claims to cure homosexuality and its underlying causes.  Through new friendships, Cameron comes to terms with who she is and learns that you can’t always be who other people want you to be.  The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a realistic tale of both prejudice and self-acceptance woven through the common experiences of loss, first love, and friendship.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post sets out to tell a story–not to hit you over the head with its MESSAGE.  The story holds wide appeal because it is well-written and would honestly be just as enjoyable of a story if the protagonist was not gay and was instead sent away because of her drug use. Having Cameron as the narrator of the story makes it all the better because the reader is allowed to struggle alongside her through her journey of self-acceptance. While you don’t always like her and the choices she makes, it is often her mistakes and foibles that make her such an enjoyable main character.

Review: Adaptation

Release Date: 18 September 2012
Publisher: Little Brown BFYR
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 8 & up

When birds begin crashing into planes and planes begin crashing, Reese and David are stranded at the airport with their debate coach after a failed debate tournament. Embarking on a journey that will take any number of unexpected turns, the three leave the airport and all too soon become just two. Reese and David are left alone to navigate the road home and meet their demise in a car accident involving a bird.  Twenty-seven days later the two wake up in classified military hospital with explicit instructions and a non-disclosure agreement that says they can’t tell anyone where they’ve been.  When they get home, both Reese and David experience strange side-effects from whatever treatments they received from the hospital.  When Reese meets Amber, she is just starting to hope that life can return to some kind of normal, but life is never that easy.  Full of government conspiracies, alien DNA, and budding romances, Malinda Lo presents readers with a science fiction novel that will have wide appeal.  Comparisons with X-Files comes easily and fans of government conspiracies and extraterrestrial possibilities will devour this fast-paced novel.

Malinda Lo is one author whose works come to mind automatically when considering teen fiction with LGBT protagonists.  While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read Ash, I’m well aware that it is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella and after getting a taste of her writing with Adaptation, I can’t wait to read it. Adaptation is another novel that doesn’t focus on the LGBT aspect of the character’s relationship.  While Reese’s best friend and conspiracy extraordinaire, Julian, plays the role of gay best friend, Reese herself discovers after meeting Amber that she’s not necessarily entirely straight.  That aspect of the story is woven in seamlessly and doesn’t ever turn the novel into an issue type of book.  Instead, the characters’ relationships are woven into a well-written, fast-paced science fiction novel.  There are a lot of opportunities to incorporate a book like this into programming, whether passively into science fiction or diversity displays or actively into book talks, book clubs, or other science fiction programming.

Review: Crewel

Release Date: 16 October 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 7 & up

Adelice’s parents spent 16 years training her–to fail.  Where other parents would have encouraged her natural talent, Adelice’s parents have taught her clumsiness and purposeful ignorance so that she can avoid the ever-watchful eye of the Guild.  But one slip-up during testing and they find her anyway.  Because her family runs, she’s marked as a traitor, but her raw talent and natural ability make it impossible for the Guild to get rid of her.  As she discovers the layers of control and power that the Guild and the Coventries have over Arras, Adelice unearths stirrings of discontent and begins to discover that the reality of her world is much different than what she was taught.  In a stunning blend of science fiction and fantasy, Gennifer Alblin weaves a fascinating world where power and control are in the hands of a few and the fragile tapestry of the world is susceptible and malleable.  This fast-paced story will have high appeal for fans of dystopian novels.  The world-building is paced perfectly so that the world is revealed in just the right amounts at the right times, and the story is woven with immense creativity that is sure to ensnare many readers.

Crewel was not a book that I started reading with this particular project in mind, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon LGBT themes in this book.  Crewel enters the YA genre as a new entry that incorporates LGBTQ themes in a “non-issue” sort of way.  Included in the narrative of the book is a secret lesbian relationship and combined with that are the dystopian rulers’ views on why this type of deviant behavior is “bad.” I loved the main character’s reaction to discovering the relationship and the actions that follow.  This, I hope, is part of the future of YA literature that incorporates more diversity (including diversity of sexuality!) into stories without becoming a book centered on that specific topic (i.e. not an “issue” book).

*This copy of Crewel was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.com for honest consideration*

Review: The Difference Between You & Me

Release Date: 15 March 2012
Publisher: Viking Children’s
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 8 & up

Jesse stands out at her high school.  With her fisherman’s boots, self-done haircuts, and no nonsense attitude, she almost revels in her outsider status, not caring how the world sees her.  She has no secrets–except Emily.  Emily is you typical star student with her good grades, student government leadership position, and career-woman internship–but Jesse is her secret.  Their secret rendezvous in the library bathroom are a happy moment for both of them, but Emily has a boyfriend and an image to maintain that an entanglement with Jesse would upheave. However, Jesse is starting to grow up and she wants more than a secret library bathroom romance…if you can call it a romance.  They may very well be in love, but their secret and their political viewpoints are tearing them apart. In a quirky story of growing up and learning to respect yourself, Madeleine George has woven a tale of what’s it’s like to be “out” in high school and to come to learn to have the respect for yourself not to hide behind false pretenses.  The Difference Between You and Me offers a good perspective on friendships, acquaintances, and family relationships without every seeming to beat you over the head with a preachy message. The alternating POVs at times seem disjointed due to shifts between first and third person narrative and may detract from the enjoyment of some readers.

The Difference Between You and Me brings an interesting perspective on contemporary romance to the table.  The main character, Jesse, is already out as gay and has been for quite some time.  That fact in itself was refreshing because it turned the table on the story from being a coming-out narrative to a relatable growing-up narrative.  While the story is told from the point of views of both Jesse and Emily, Jesse comes solidly to the forefront as the main character with the most change throughout, while Emily refuses to come out of the closet (or the bathroom, as the case may be) and upset her perfectly crafted image.  Both girls offer the reader a perspective on being gay or bisexual in high school and the personal decisions and potential upheaval associated with that revelation.  Jesse’s family dynamic is worth mentioning as well because this story lacks the absentee parents that are often portrayed in YA fiction.  Jesse’s parents are very much a part of her life, helping her through difficult moments and punishing her when appropriate.  Overall, this was a fun, quirky read but it may need a little TLC and promotion to move off your library shelves as the cover isn’t likely to do it all on its own.

Review: Kiss the Morning Star

Release Date: 15 May 2012
Publisher: Marshal Cavendish
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 9 & up

When Anna and Kate set out on their post-high school road trip, the destination is unknown but that makes it all the more exciting.  They’ll camp and backpack and find their way across the country with little guidance besides a map and Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums to guide their way.  As their journey continues, it hits numerous road bumps (and some road blocks) that give them shaky moments, but along the way they also discover that their journey is as much about discovering themselves as it is about finding God, happiness, friendship, and love.  The openness of the road trip setting paves the way for the novel to explore a variety of topics, from organized religion to drugs and sexual identity to grief.  Anna is dealing with a lot of lingering grief over the death of her mother and attempting, in baby steps, to recover her relationship with her father and Kate. Kate and Anna start off the story with a relationship that is shaky and uncertain and the attempt to make the move to more than “just friends” could be the end of them, but they’re exploring and trying anyway.  Some readers will find the story overwhelmed by the issues it tackles, but others will immerse themselves in the uncertainties and experiences.

Kiss the Morning Star bring to the table a novel of two young women, fresh out of high school, exploring their sexuality.  While the relationship begins as nothing more, it becomes clear fairly early on that the potential for deeper feelings is definitely there. The overwhelming number of “issues” presented in this book make the exploration of sexuality part of a bigger coming-of-age story that is really about a girl dealing with tragedy and finding her way back to some semblance of normal.

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Release Date: 1 March 2012
Publisher: G.P. Putnam & Sons
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 8 & up

Kelsey Finkelstein intends to have the PERFECT freshman year, but the 9 months that follow her foray into the dramatic world of high school are anything BUT perfect. After a long series of mishaps stretch from soccer tryouts to the prom, Kelsey is ready for freshman year to be over. Kelsey’s token sarcasm, humor, and general flair for the dramatic make her a likable character. Zeitlin’s debut novel offers an honest portrayal of the realities of high school: friends, parties, drinking, drugs, dating, family. While drinking and drugs make their appearances, they aren’t glamorized in such a way as to encourage teens to try it out for fun. Drinking is accompanied by nausea and drugs by arrest. A light-hearted read that’s sure to endear itself to many teenage and older readers.

Zeitlin’s debut novel incorporates a coming-out story into the back-drop of a bigger narrative about life and growing up.  The focus of Zeitlin’s story is relationships, especially that of three best friends as they venture into the uncharted waters of high school.  Kelsey, Cass, and JoJo are a tight trio of friends who experience their share of bumps as they begin high school.  Kelsey and Cass suspect that JoJo might be gay but don’t want to rush her when it comes to telling them. JoJo, it turns out, simply couldn’t find the right way to tell her friends her secret.  The portrayal of friendship and the difficult decision to share that kind of secret with them is portrayed well, despite the fact that it comes from a secondary character.  While the potentially larger ramifications of JoJo’s revelation to a broader audience (family, school, community) are not explored, it seems sufficient in this setting and story to know that her friends love and accept her for who she is, no matter what.

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