Teens: Check Out LGBTQ YA at the Library!
Looking for a book to read this Pride Month? Check out these LGBTQ YA novels, new and old!
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore, published last fall, was one of the best books of the year. It's in a magical realist style (think House of the Spirits or One Hundred Years of Solitude) with lush, enchanting language and magic at work in the world. Like Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl and Lisa Williamson's The Art of Being Normal, it's part of the recent wave of transgender YA fiction (and among the best). The center of Moon is the deepening relationship between Miel, the girl who was found in the old wwater tower from whose wrists roses grow, and Sam, the boy set apart from the town both by his ethnicity and by his gender identity. Moon handles transgender narratives better than any book I can recall reading, young adult or not, with the possible exception of Imogen Binnie's Nevada, and would be worth a read for that alone, let alone the quality of the writing.
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden was published in 1982, but remains a delight to read today. It was the first LGBTQ young adult novel not to end with one of its main characters dead or institutionalized (in fact, it was one of the first LGBTQ novels, young adult or not, to do so) and it's still a classic of lesbian literature. Set in New York, in the then-present, it may seem to follow the conventional tropes of the coming-out story, but that's because it created many of them. While it can feel a little dated in places (societal attitudes towards homosexuality, for instance), the depth of feeling between Liza and Annie is palpable, and it has generally aged well. Because of its subject matter, it has been the subject of several attempts to remove it from school and public libraries, though these attempts don't usually get far.
Ash, by Malinda Lo is a retelling of Cinderella that leaves the Prince almost completely out of it since its heroine is more interested in the King's Huntress and in the enigmatic man from Faerie who steps into the fairy-godmother role. Lo develops the China-inspired setting further in Huntress, a prequel; while not a retelling, it touches on many of the same themes as Ash. The characters in both novels are strongly drawn and compelling, particularly in Ash; the novels are portraits of their characters as much as they are love stories.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is set in a high school in the American South, blending realistic fiction and a coming out story with a comedic tone. The result is rather charming; the titular Simon, struggling to come out to his family, reaches out online to a boy he's managing to fall for despite not even knowing his name, and his narrations along the way mix humor, pathos, and the absurdities of high school to great effect. If you liked Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, you'll probably enjoy this one.
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld gives a metafictional twist to its love story: the narrator's first novel (also called Afterworlds) alternates chapters with her own story, and it's hard not to spot parallels between the two. The slowly developing relationship between the protagonist and her girlfriend - both young adult authors - feels authentic, and dovetails neatly with the story-about-stories that Westerfeld's telling here.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a work of realistic fiction, set near the US-Mexico in 1987 that follows two Mexican-American boys as they come of age, trying to come to terms with their identities and their feelings for one another. It won the Stonewall Book Award in 2013.
Check out library-sponsored pride events online, and look for us at the DC Pride Parade on June 10 and the DC Pride Festival on June 11!