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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Way to Go, happy book birthday and a contest

Today I present you with a guest blog post by debut YA author Tom Ryan.  His debut novel, Way to Go, comes out today.  Read on to hear more about this exciting new addition to the ya field and how it can help teens struggling with their sexual identity find peace in their lives.

 Way to Go, happy book birthday and a contestThis is an exciting day for me. My debut novel, WAY TO GO, has been released into the world, and I couldn’t be happier. Growing up, I always hoped and imagined that I’d one day be a published author. If you’d told me in high school that this day would come, I would have been thrilled.  If you’d told me what the book was about, I would have been shocked.

WAY TO GO is about a summer in the life of Danny, a gay seventeen year old who’s coming to terms with himself and the world he inhabits. It’s a straightforward story, far from revolutionary, but a book like this would have been unthinkable to me when I was a teen. I’ve since learned that there were a few brave books in print back then that dared to describe LGBT teenagers in a positive light, but I wasn’t aware of them. I wish I had been. They might have made a big difference in my life.

Like Danny, I grew up gay in a small town. I didn’t know it at the time, but there were lots of people just like me. There still are. Countless young people from around the world feel unsafe in their communities, their schools, and even their own homes, because of their sexual orientation.

Last week I logged into Twitter and my heart sank into my stomach when I saw that one of the top ten trending topics was #SignsYourSonMightBeGay. Against my better judgement, I clicked on the link and scrolled through an endless list of heartbreakingly ignorant comments. Some people were using the hashtag to fight against stereotypes, which was great, but most of the tweets were sick, sad, small-minded and mean-spirited. We may have come a great distance, but we still have a long way to go.
 Way to Go, happy book birthday and a contest
I’m an adult. I’ve learned to deal with the reality of a world where it’s funny to degrade someone for who they love, where stereotypes and offhand slurs are tossed around as if they don’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m upset about these things every single day of my life, but I’m equipped to handle the negativity, and I’m lucky enough to live an exciting and empowered life despite it. What I can’t handle is knowing that there are so many kids out there who are forced to internalize this crap and continue to feel scared and ashamed of who they are. They need all the support they can get.

There’s no question that we’ve made lots of progress in the last ten years. When I was in high school, back in the 90s, there were very few publicly gay role models. Now it seems as if new examples of happy gay adults and even some young people – celebrities, politicians, characters on TV shows and movies – are springing up every day. Positive messages from gay-straight alliances and the “It Gets Better” project have done a great job of countering homophobic discourse. In the world of YA literature, there have been a number of new and fabulous books about LGBT teens published over the past several years. From WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, to WITCH EYES, to THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, we’re starting to see more great queer titles getting the attention they deserve.
 Way to Go, happy book birthday and a contest
You can download this poster of other GLBT titles for YAs at
http://www.box.net/shared/a1hfi23pue
But we need more of them, and more importantly, we need them to be readily available to the kids who need them most. I was astonished to learn that there were bookstores that chose not to carry my book because they didn’t think the subject matter was “appropriate.” A book about friendship and summer vacation which happens to have a “questioning” MC is somehow inappropriate? The fact that there are still bookstores and libraries in North America that hesitate to carry these kinds of titles completely blows my mind, but it’s a reality. Depressing.

Any avid reader knows that a good novel, arguably better than any other medium, can show you the world in its story, and yourself in its characters. Growing up is tough for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for young people who’ve been taught that they’re inherently flawed because of their attractions. Everyone needs to feel that they belong, to know that there’s room in the world for each of us. Often times books are where we find this space.

Gay kids have a right to see themselves portrayed in literature. Their stories matter. We need to make sure that they can find them when they need them.

You can find Tom all over the Internet, but you might try these places first:
My twitter : @tomwrotethat
Way to Go on Amazon : http://goo.gl/NzdUa

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Way to Go

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Comments

  1. Hollie says:

    Tom, thanks for writing such a valuable book and thanks to Karen and the Teen Librarian's Toolbox for sharing your work! In college, in talking with gay friends, many of whom were coming out to friends and family for the first time, I heard so many stories about how horrible high school was, how much they hated themselves at the time for not being able to be the “normal” other people expected, and just how the people around them generally made life harder whenever they got the chance. I went to high school in a small rural town with a sweet boy who was transgender and no one could have had a worse time in high school, just because of ignorance and intolerance. I think of him often and hope that wherever he is now, it's a kinder place. And I wonder how different life would have been for so many of the people I love, how different they would be today, if they had had even one loving voice in their lives saying, “It's okay. It's who you are. You have the same rights to love and respect and compassion that everyone else has.” I'm happy to know that your voice is there for those kids (and their peers), and I hope they find it and, more importantly, that they *hear* it. Thanks again and congratulations on the book!

  2. Stephanie W says:

    Thank you, Tom, for writing this blog post and for speaking out. I am a huge supporter of GLTBQ books and for rights in general. And I'm a completely hetero female…which blows a lot of my narrow-minded town's minds. Surely you must be gay if you like gay people…umm no. I'm human. And I like everyone. Small towns…it's important to me to make sure that even if there is only one curious teen, that I have a book for them so they don't feel alone and persecuted for wanting to be themselves.

  3. cindysku says:

    Rock On. I put this book in my cart for my library.

  4. allison says:

    Can't wait to put this book in my school library

  5. DawnZ says:

    Thanks! As a gay MLS student, I often do my projects for classes about the LGBTQ community. I am sorry to hear that his book has not been accepted by some stores. I am also sorry to hear that Twitter has been used to promote bigotry. Here in Ridgefield, CT we had a similar problem. Some high school students were using Twitter to bully/promote bigotry. Several students banded together to respond, creating a Facebook page and more to combat the issue.

    Best of luck!
    Dawn
    http://www.flitlit.blogspot.com

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a much-needed book. I have to admit that I'm also shocked that there would be bookstores that wouldn't carry it–I hope it does very well despite that, and the stores that wouldn't carry it can tally up their lack of profits.

    -Tanya, friend of Karen

  7. roro says:

    Can't wait 4 this book

  8. Amy says:

    While it is disheartening to see the voice that social media has given to hateful ideas, the positive of it is that it makes it visible. When I was in high school, the bigotry and hatred was whispered in someone's ear. Others were denied the opportunity to stand up for their friends, to show them they were cared for. No one acted as an outspoken advocate because we didn't always know that we needed to. Now, we can see the hateful things and react just as loudly and publicly. We have books we can display. HRC bracelets we can proudly wear to show just whose side we're on. Good luck with the book!

  9. Amy says:

    While it is disheartening to see the voice that social media has given to hateful ideas, the positive of it is that it makes it visible. When I was in high school, the bigotry and hatred was whispered in someone's ear. Others were denied the opportunity to stand up for their friends, to show them they were cared for. No one acted as an outspoken advocate because we didn't always know that we needed to. Now, we can see the hateful things and react just as loudly and publicly. We have books we can display. HRC bracelets we can proudly wear to show just whose side we're on. Good luck with the book!

  10. I'm so looking forward to reading your book Tom. There are so many, many people in my life that I believe will be able to relate to your book: my father-in-law, my sister-in-law, the boy I nannied, my best friend, and more. Thank you for writing it, we need more gay literature. Thank you.

  11. TLT says:

    Thank you everyone for coming out and supporting Tom and supporting teens everywhere. It is greatly appreciated.

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