Exploring LGBT Themes in YA Lit & Everyday Library Life

Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category

Review: The Culling

CullingRelease Date: 8 March 2013
Publisher: Flux
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 9 & up

On Recruitment Day, Lucian “Luck” Sparks is forced to become a pawn in the Trials–a set of tests forced upon 5 Recruits by the totalitarian Establishment.  The penalty for losing a trial–the choice of having someone close to you killed.  For Lucky, that means his younger brother Cole is at risk and he’ll do anything to keep him safe–he’ll be ruthless, brave, and ultimately, deny himself the love staring him in the face the whole time.  With it’s Battle Royale storyline, The Culling is not a story for the faint of heart.  It will tug at each and every one of your heartstrings along the way while simultaneously taunting you to close the book when the going gets tough.  Steven dos Santos’ world is cruel, dark, and dangeous.


When I first stumbled upon The Culling on Goodreads, my first reaction was this: “FINALLY!!!!” There is a lot of room in the dystopian landscape for LGBT characters and yet it is a vastly unexplored possibility.   What I liked most about the LGBT aspect of this book was the fact that the main character’s sexuality was really a non-issue.  It is what it is.  No one harasses him because of it–it’s just an accepted fact.  It’s not the reason that he’s chosen for the Trials.  It’s not used against him during them.  It just is.  He stands solidly in the center of an all male semi-love triangle and that part makes this refreshing.  While the story itself isn’t new (although perhaps a bit darker), the inclusion of an LGBT main character felt flawless.  The author didn’t try to make it more than it was and I appreciated that.

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*

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