Exploring LGBT Themes in YA Lit & Everyday Library Life

Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

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: Gone, Gone, Gone

Release Date: 17 April 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 9 & up

A year after the tragedy of 9/11, the Washington D.C. area was hit by a string of shootings later referred to as the Beltway Sniper Shootings.  In the midst of the tragedy of the shootings, Craig and Lio are trying to make sense of their post-9/11 lives. While both of them were affected deeply by 9/11, their experiences were vastly different.  Their new friendship is the one thing holding them together in the midst of this new tragedy–their only true reality is that they are happiest when they are together.  As their quiet friendship blossoms into more, the two boys must find a new path out of their dark pasts. Moskowitz’s well-written prose guides the reader into and through the lives of two boys living through the aftermath and reality of events that we all witnessed.  The story is about both the events after and during which it takes place as well as the beauty and complexity of human relationships and experiences.  Told with quiet intensity, Gone, Gone, Gone will appeal to a wide audience of readers drawn to books with subtle emotional complexity.

Gone, Gone, Gone is another offering from popular YA author Hannah Moskowitz, bringing an LGBT relationship into the forefront of a well-developed story.  The magic of the book is how compelling the story remains, regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters or their relationship developments.  While their relationship plays a central role, it’s portrayed in a manner that makes it a beautiful relationship regardless of sexual orientation.  Their relationship is more about the complexities of their backgrounds and finding the common grounds upon which to stand and the differences and weaknesses where they can and often must rely on each other.  Gone, Gone, Gone strikes me as a book with enduring themes and would incorporate well into displays and programs focused on 9/11 or on diversity.  Take you pick of where and how to promote it but definitely find a way to guide readers to this one.

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: See You at Harry’s

Release Date: 8 May 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Interest/Reading Level: Grades 5 & up

Fern has always felt invisible, even at home with her family. Everyone at home has their own “thing,” from her mom’s meditation and her dad’s restaurant to her sister’s gap year and her brother’s not-so-secret secrets. Charlie, her younger brother, doesn’t help matters either as he’s the baby and the center of seemingly everyone’s world. When an accident rips Fern’s family apart at the seams, Fern struggles with her own grief and feelings of responsibility for the tragedy that has her family moving away from each other instead of together. Despite her friend Ran’s mantra of “All will be well,” Fern can’t fight the feelings that all will not be well ever again. See You At Harry’s tackles the topic of dealing with tragedy quite masterfully. Woven into the tragic story are common themes of adolescence, from starting middle school to bullying to finding yourself among your friends and family. Middle grade students dealing with the roller coaster of emotions that accompanies growing up and tragedy will find this book to be a perfect companion.

 Jo Knowles has woven into her tragic story the story of a boy attempting to discover what it means to be gay and finding a way to deal with the bullying and emotions.  He doesn’t realize that his whole family already knows that he’s gay (with the possible exception of his father) and they’re just waiting for him to talk to them about it. Holden’s personal struggles aren’t the focus of the story. Instead, Ms. Knowles has crafted him into the story as a relateable brother figure trying to find his own way alongside a family who is ready and willing to accept him as he is–he just doesn’t know it yet. See You At Harry’s would serve well as part of an LGBT History Month display or program, especially since it targets a slightly younger audience. The themes of acceptance are once again a prominent part of the story.

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