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YA A to Z: Let’s Talk About . . . Aromantic and Asexual, a guest post by Bridgette Johnson

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about aromantic and asexual with librarian Bridgette Johnson.

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.

yaatoz

Before we delve too deep into our topic, let’s have some super basic broad definitions:

Asexual: a person who experiences no sexual attraction

Aromantic: a person who experiences no romantic attraction

Asexualflag

It’s important to remember these two terms are only a starting point, an umbrella term, especially in regards to asexuality. For example, two more super basic broad definitions are:

Demisexual: a person who experience sexual attraction only after a strong, personal, emotional bond has been established

Demiromantic: a person who experiences romantic attraction only after a strong, personal, emotional bond has been established

The terms above are arguably the four most broad identities. What some people still don’t realize is that you can experience any range of romantic attraction (hetero, homo, bi, pan, etc.) and be asexual. The terms are not one or the other. They are all that feel applicable to you. You may be a romantic asexual. You can be a demihomoromantic asexual. You can be aromantic asexual (often referred to as aro-ace). These identifiers are for romantic and sexual orientation only, not gender identity, which is an entirely separate topic. For the sake of explicitness and clarity, asexuality is a sexual orientation, just as gay, lesbian, bi, and pan are. For romantic asexuals, it’s not either/or. Sometimes it’s multiple things or all of the above.

People experience varying degrees of romantic and sexual attraction. There is no one way to be and there is no right or wrong way to be. There are many, many terms for attraction and chances are there is a term for whatever way you might feel. For example, you might be lithromantic or lithsexual, which is where romantic or sexual feelings are experienced, but there is no desire to have those feeling reciprocated. It’s all a matter of finding the term that fits you, or ignoring all the terms and labels if that’s what makes you most comfortable. You’re also likely to hear/read the word ace used in regards to asexuality. For example, if someone says “I’m ace,” they mean asexual. For those people who are not asexual or aromantic, a couple of terms you’ll often see used are allosexual and alloromantic, which respectively mean someone who isn’t asexual and someone who isn’t aromantic.

You may identify as gray ace, which usually means someone who is asexual, but doesn’t mind reading/watching things about sex, many know a lot of information about sex, and may have sex in their lifetime. It’s also important to note that having sex does not negate a person’s identity as asexual. If you’re asexual, you’re asexual whether or not you have sex. On the other end of the spectrum, some ace people are sex-repulsed, meaning they want nothing to do with sex in almost any form. Everyone’s comfort level is different.

Like all romantic and sexual orientations, aromantic and asexuality are not new. People have always felt this way. We just didn’t always have the right words for it. And it’s super important to remember that romantic and asexual attraction is a spectrum, and like all communities, is not a monolith. What is true for one person may not be true for another.

All of these varied identities within one part of the LGBTQIAP+ community is one of the many reasons we need more inclusive books in YA. For some kids, reading about a character who is aromantic or asexual or aro-ace may be their first exposure, and if that reader sees themself in that character? It could be life-changing and affirming to know they are not alone in the world and their feelings. To discover there is a community for them and what they’re feeling has a name can mean more than could ever be put into words.

Now that you’ve a brief primer on some ace terms, let’s talk about one of the librarians’ favorite things: books!

The availability of aromantic and asexual characters in YA is, to put it nicely, not the best. As with pretty much every other marginalized identity we’re looking for in books, there isn’t enough asexual rep. There isn’t enough intersectionality within the rep, and there isn’t enough #ownvoies rep. But progress is being made.

lets talk about love

Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love has a biromantic asexual main character, Alice, who is a WOC. The cover is wonderfully designed in the colors of the Asexual Flag. I don’t believe it is #ownvoices in regard to Alice’s sexuality, but the author is a WOC and seems to really care about getting all of her rep accurate. You can read more about her editing process and worries here.

dreadnation

Another book that features POC characters is the upcoming Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. Now, Dread Nation is fantastic for about 80,000 reasons, but it’s even better for one specific thing. It has a character, Katherine, who is (minor spoiler) aromantic asexual. Those words aren’t used (this an alternate history where the Civil War was interrupted by the dead rising again as zombies) and no one really referred to people as asexual then. Through a conversation with the main character, Jane, it is clear that Kate is aro-ace. This is the first time I’ve ever read a character in YA that reads as, without any doubt, aro-ace. And it’s totally fine that she is. She’s reassured by her friend that it’s fine and the girls move one to talking about more important things. It is an impeccable scene.

tash hearts

Of course, there are other YA books with characters who are somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Just from 2017 there was Kathryn Ormsbee’s #ownvoices Tash Hearts Tolstoy (MC is romantic asexual), Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence (secondary character is homoromantic demisexual), Mackenzi Lee’s A Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue (Younger sister of the MC reads as asexual, maybe aromantic, and Lee has confirmed off-page she would be somewhere on the asexual spectrum if she has access to Tumblr. Plus, she’s getting her own spin-off book!), and Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue (a character is homoromantic demisexual).

So, progress, bit by bit, in fiction and in real life.

Again, the information here in barely the tip of the iceberg. It would next to impossible to cover aspect of asexual and aromantic in one post. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about someone who is aromantic or asexual is that they are not broken. They do not need to be fixed. They are not a late bloomer. They are not a robot or someone who can’t connect with another human being. They will not change when they meet the right person. They are not repressed. They don’t need to try “it” to know for sure. They are not celibate. They are not faking it. They are not broken. I’ll say it again for the people in the back

They are not broken.

For more information about asexuaity and aromantic, visit any of the websites below:

http://www.asexuality.org/?q=overview.html (This is part of the Asexuality Visibility Network (AVEN) and has ton of resources along with forums for those who wish to join the site)

http://www.gayya.org/masterlist-aromantic/ (A list of books with aromantic characters)

http://www.gayya.org/masterlist-asexual/ (A list of books with asexual characters)

https://medalonmymind.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/asexuality-in-ya/ (A mock Stonewall book winner blog; this post specifically is about asexuality in YA. Check out their posts for great YA books with LGBTQIAP+ rep)

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/the-asexuality-flag/ (The Asexual Flag)

http://wiki.asexuality.org/Lexicon (AVEN, mentioned above, has its own Wiki with some commonly used terms on the website and the forums)

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/ (An Introduction sections and many, many posts)

http://asexualawarenessweek.com/ (Features downloadable resources, FAQ, and will announce the 2018 dates for Asexual Awareness Week)

Meet Bridgette Johnson:

Bridgette Johnson has worked in Youth Services in public libraries for four years and bookstores for over nine. She received her MLIS from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2016. She writes fantasy for kids and teens and is thrilled to be a Author Mentor Match Round Three mentee with her middle grade fantasy novel. In her spare time, she loves to travel and attend geek and comic book convention. All opinions and thoughts are her own.

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources

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Earlier today guest poster Laura Perenic shared with us an introduction to asexuality (Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic). This really resonated with me because of a recent interaction I had with one of my regular teen patrons. I was sitting in the Teen MakerSpace working on some collection development. Specifically, I had a list of Asexual (or Ace) YA Lit titles that I was checking the catalog to see if we owned a decent number of titles on the topic for our teens. As I sat there, this teen came up to me and saw the word asexuality on my computer screen. “What are you doing?,” she asked. So I told her I was checking to make sure we had some YA fiction titles on asexuality in our teen fiction collection. She then pointed to the word asexual on my computer screen, “That’s me,” she said. She then went on to tell me that she had no idea that there were teen fiction books that featured asexual characters, she said it in a way that clearly communicated that this moment was important to her. For the first time, she knew that there were teens like her in our teen fiction collection. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of titles in her hand in that moment, which is why it is important that we do our due diligence in collection development and can meet the needs of any teen we encounter in our libraries. Here are a few resources for you to check your collections to make sure you have some asexual representation in your YA collection. I particularly recommend the Gay YA as it is curated by members of the GLBTQIA+ community and they really discuss representation and quality. When evaluating the quality of books featuring asexual teens it’s important to listen to members of the asexual community to make sure that the representation is not harmful and does not perpetuate stereotypes.

Masterlist: Asexual – Gay YA

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction – The Hub

Books with Asexual Main Characters – Quiet YA Reads

Not Broken: Julie Daly talks asexual representation in YA

Also, check out this multi-part discussion:

Reading While Asexual: Representation in Ace YA – Gay YA

Jewish LGBTQ Books for a Synagogue Collection, a guest post by Jill Ratzan

fsyalitFor our second post today we are honored to host Jill Ratzan discussing Jewish LGBTQ books for the #FSYALit Discussion.

The Hebrew word mishkan can mean “tent,” “safe space,” or “inclusion.” At my Reconstructionist Jewish synagogue (Congregation Kol Emet in Yardley, PA), the Mishkan committee is charged with building a safe, welcoming space for LGBTQ members and their allies. Recently, the Mishkan committee, together with our rabbi, asked me to assemble a list of YA books with Jewish and LGBTQ content. I was delighted to oblige!

Because this particular ‘tent’ turned out to be pretty large—and because, like many nonprofits, we have a limited budget—I also put together a list of criteria, which evolved alongside the booklist. I considered limiting the list to books whose main characters were queer and/or Jewish, but decided that the term “main character” was too vague. I also wanted to make sure that various genres (historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary realistic fiction) and approaches (humor, adventure, dystopia) were represented. And I wanted to balance books where being gay was easy and accepted (like Wide Awake) with books where characters struggled with expressing their identities within potentially-unwelcoming communities (like Gravity).

I also thought about what level of explicit sex, references to drinking and drugs, and other similar content was or wasn’t appropriate for our collection. Should we, as a religious institution serving a liberal but varied audience, be more cautious toward these issues than a public library might be? In the end, I decided that a wide spectrum of voices on these topics—from the “fade to black” approach of Openly Straight to the few explicit lines in Gravity—would serve our community best.

Here are my criteria, and the titles I chose.

Criteria:

I looked for books with Jewish and LGBTQ content that:

  • were published for teens (ages 12-18) within the past ten years (2005-2015)
  • are of high literary quality
  • include intersectional approaches to Jewish identity (characters are Jewish and gay and ____: African American, athletes, scientists, etc)
  • feature characters who reflect on their or others’ Jewish identity, and/or make decisions based on Jewish values

(This last criterion was inspired by Sarah Aronson’s Jewish Book Council review of The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow.)

Books:

postpic1Wide Awake by David Levithan (Knopf, 2006)

The election of the first gay Jewish president is in jeopardy, and Duncan (who isn’t sure about God but believes in lighting candles for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath) and his boyfriend Jimmy want to help. They’re joined by a tween who’s coming out . . . as Jewish. Like David Levithan’s other novels, Wide Awake embraces the liminal space where realism and fantasy meet.

postpic2Starglass by Phoebe North (Simon & Schuster, 2013)

In a Jewish dystopia in outer space, everyone is told where they will work, how they will live . . . and who they will love.

postpic3Gravity by Leanne Lieberman (Orca, 2008)

Ellie loves the intensity and connection she finds in prayer. She also loves science. And girls. Set amid an Orthodox Jewish family in 1987.

postpic4Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Scholastic, 2013)

Rafe, tired of being defined exclusively by his sexuality, wants to start boarding school with a clean slate . . . but things get complicated. A final reveal (Rafe is Jewish) creates new questions just when old ones are answered. Openly Straight has received significant critical acclaim and is arguably a definitional work of contemporary YA literature.

postpic5Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (HarperCollins, 2015)

Simon and his anonymous email-boyfriend Blue talk about everything, including Blue’s half-Jewish heritage (“Jews . . . are supposed to be gay friendly, but it’s hard to really know how that applies to your own parents”) and—after much drama on and off the stage of the fall play—finally realize who each other really are. Simon… was recently longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award.

We’ll be adding these books to our library collection and publicizing their availability through our newsletter, on social media, and via library displays and programs. We’ll also be intershelving them with young adult fiction, thereby normalizing them and making them easy—but not embarrassing—to find.

YA librarians know that part of building a mishkan (a safe space) is providing a place where everyone’s stories can be told, shared, and honored. I’m pleased that my synagogue library can be this kind of space for Jewish LGBTQ teens and those who love them.

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Jill Ratzan relishes opportunities to combine her passion for YA lit and librarianship with her Reconstructionist Jewish practice. She curates digital resources for her synagogue library, blogs for BookPage magazine, and contributes to School Library Journal, Fig Tree Books, and other review sources. She enjoys dressing up as her favorite book characters (sometimes more than one at a time).

Visit her on the web at http://jratzan.weebly.com, follow her on Twitter at @JillJYA, or check out her new blog If Found, Please Return at http//iffoundpleasereturnblog.blogspot.com.

Fighting for Phoenix

I know that this is a blog about serving teens, but I need to talk to you about Phoenix. You see, Phoenix is a 7-year-old boy who tried to take his life, and sadly this is not the first time. If I’m remembering correctly, Phoenix was 5 when he tried the first time, though possibly 6. Though that difference seems miniscule at this point.

Phoenix is the son of a friend of mine, we were pregnant together and fought through the evil battle that is Hyperemesis Gravidarum in order to bring our children into this world. Phoenix was born a girl and named Phoebe. But early on in life Phoenix began to exhibit some profound unhappiness with life. He struggled with depression. He tried to take his own life. He was hospitalized. He went to counseling. And after counseling the counselor looked at his mother and said, “Do you think he may be transgender?” And then one day Phoebe, as she was identified at that point, said that she wanted to die when people called her a girl because she was supposed to be a boy. And my friend said, I could have a dead child or I could accept that I have a transgender child and she supported Phoenix as he stepped on the path that would bring him better peace inside his own skin.

The struggles, of course, did not end there. It’s not as if embracing the transgender journey is not fraught with its own unique challenges. For one, Phoenix has to go to school with school children who are not always kind. He still struggles with identity and depression and other issues. Even with a loving family, a good counselor, and the freedom to identify as he feels most comfortable, this is still a difficult journey, especially for a child so young.

Life has not been an easy journey so far for Phoenix. And he is only 7. The same age as my Thing 2 (well 4 months older). I can’t imagine her being in such a dark place at this age. And as I have shared, I spent a part of my summer dealing with my own issues of depression and suicide ideation. It was terrible and traumatic and difficult at my adult age – I can’t imagine it happening at the age of 7, when most kids are trying to figure out how to stay up a few minutes later and how to sneak a cookie when no one is looking.

You can read Phoenix’s story here: https://www.facebook.com/fightingforphoenix. Scroll down to the bottom to read from the beginning.

Last night the TLTers and I were discussing what we could do for Phoenix. Amanda MacGregor shared that they had just discussed some of the challenges that transgender children face on MPR: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/09/22/bcst-discussion-challenges-of-transgender-kids-and-families.

We also discussed some books we would recommend. If you want to do something – I know that I want to do something – please consider buying one or more of these titles and donating them to your local public or school library in support of Phoenix. Also, you can tweet a message of support for him at #Fight4Phoenix. I am trying to compile them and send them to him as a reminder that his life has value and that people care.

transgender1Gracefully Grayson by Amy Polonsky

Publisher’s Book Description: Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.

transgender2George by Alex Gino

Publisher’s Description: BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen

transgender3

Publisher’s Description: Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! (Heather Booth informs me that in issue 17 two characters come out as transgender)

transgender4It Gets Better by Dan Savage

Publisher’s Book Description: Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people endure bullying that makes them feel they have nowhere to turn–especially LGBT kids and teens who often hide their sexuality for fear of being bullied. Without openly gay mentors, they don’t know what the future may hold. After a number of suicides by LGBT students who were bullied in school, syndicated columnist Dan Savage uploaded a video to YouTube with his partner, Terry Miller, to inspire hope for LGBT youth. The video launched the ‘It Gets Better Project’, initiating a worldwide phenomenon. This is a collection of expanded essays and new material from celebrities and everyday people who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as new contributors. We can show LGBT youth the happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will have if they can get through their teen years. “It Gets Better” reminds teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone–and it WILL get better.

transgender5Some Assembly Required and Rethinking Normal

Publisher’s Book Description: Two teens. Two struggles. Two unforgettable stories. Now available in one ebook, Arin Andrews and Katie Hill share their personal journeys of undergoing gender reassignment in two inspiring memoirs: Some Assembly Required and Rethinking Normal.

About Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen:


We’ve all felt uncomfortable in our own skin at some point, and we’ve all been told that “it’s just a part of growing up.” But for Arin Andrews, it wasn’t a phase that would pass. He had been born in the body of a girl and there seemed to be no relief in sight…

In this first-of-its-kind memoir, Arin details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. He also writes about the thrill of meeting and dating a young transgender woman named Katie Hill—and the heartache that followed after they broke up.


Some Assembly Required is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship, and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.

About Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition:
Have you ever worried that you’d never be able to live up to your parents’ expectations? Have you ever imagined that life would be better if you were just invisible? Have you ever thought you would do anything—anything—to make the teasing stop? Katie Hill had and it nearly tore her apart. Katie realized very young that a serious mistake had been made: she was a girl who had been born in the body of a boy.


In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world and experience heartbreak for the first time in a body that matched her gender identity.

Told in an unwaveringly honest voice, Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of “normalcy” to embody one’s true self.

For other books, please check out this SLJ post on evaluating transgender picture books.

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ This Spring

Every other month I’ll be doing a roundup of new and forthcoming YA books (and sometimes some non-YA books) featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. I’ll try to include as many titles as possible. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers April 2015 and May 2015 titles. All annotations here are via WorldCat or the publishers. My previous post, from February, can be found here.

 

APRIL 2015

Weathering the Storm by Caitlin Ricci (Harmony Ink, April 2, ISBN 978-1-63476-000-3, ebook):

Robbie’s dad has always been hard on Robbie and his brothers, but when their mom dies on Robbie’s sixteenth birthday, he becomes downright abusive. Robbie doesn’t understand why his dad is so mean to him or why his brothers resent him for their mom’s accident, but he desperately tries to hide the bruises. On top of that, after his dad’s horse training jobs run out, he moves them to Colorado to their uncle’s ranch in the mountains.

At Uncle Caleb’s cabin, Robbie meets Sam, a boy whose family also lives on the property. Finally he has a real friend who shares his love of horses, but Sam is black and openly gay. Both traits incur Robbie’s father’s rage. When his dad attacks Robbie in front of Uncle Caleb for standing up for Sam and himself, all of their secrets are thrown out into the open, and Robbie’s life is changed forever

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (HarperCollins Publishers, April 7, ISBN 9780062348678):

SEE MY REVIEW HERE

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

 

Changers Book Two: Oryon by T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper (Akashic Books, April 7, ISBN 9781617753077):

Changers Book Two: Oryon in the four-part Changers Series for young adults finds our hero Ethan/Drew on the eve of her second metamorphosis–into Oryon, a skinny African American skater boy with more swagger than he knows what to do with. Enter a mess of trouble from the Changers Council, the closed-minded Abiders, the Radical Changers (RaChas), and his best friend Audrey–at least she was his best friend when Oryon was Drew–and now, it’s complicated.

But that’s life (and life, and life, and life) for Changers, an ancient race of humans who must live out each year of high school as a completely different person. Before next summer, Oryon will learn what it means to be truly loved, scared spitless, and at the center of a burgeoning national culture war. Most of all, he will learn again how much the eyes of the world try to shape you into what they see–and how only when you resist do you clearly begin to see yourself.

 

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (HarperCollins Publishers, April 7, ISBN 9780062335319):

SEE MY REVIEW HERE

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she’s intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

 

 

Slaying Isidore’s Dragons by C. Kennedy (Harmony Ink, April 9, ISBN 978-1-63476-003-4, ebook):

Follow the burgeoning love of two teens during the worst year of their lives. Irish-born Declan David de Quirke II is the son of two ambassadors, one Irish and one American. He is ‘out’ to his parents but to no one else. French-born Jean Isidore de Sauveterre is also the son of two ambassadors, one Catalan and one Parisian. His four half brothers have been told to cure him of his homosexuality. Both teens have lost a parent in a London car bombing.

Declan and Isidore meet at the beginning of their senior year at a private academy in the United States. Declan is immediately smitten with Isidore and becomes his knight in shining armor. Isidore wants to keep what is left of his sanity and needs Declan’s love to do it. One is beaten, one is drugged, one is nearly raped, one has been raped. They are harassed by professors and police, and have fights at school, but none of it compares to running for their lives. When the headmaster’s popular son attempts suicide and someone tries to assassinate Declan’s mother, they are thrown headlong into chaos, betrayal, conspiracy, allegations of sexual coercion, even murder. And one of them carries a secret that may get them killed.

 

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid (Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited, April 14, ISBN 9781551525747): 

School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck!

But train wrecks always make the front page.

 

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History… And Our Future! by  Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl (Illustrator) (City Lights Books, April 14, ISBN 9780872866836):

SEE MY REVIEW HERE

Like all A-Z books, this one illustrates the alphabet—but instead of “A is for Apple”, A is for Angela—as in Angela Davis, the iconic political activist. B is for Billie Jean King, who shattered the glass ceiling of sports; C is for Carol Burnett, who defied assumptions about women in comedy; D is for Dolores Huerta, who organized farmworkers; and E is for Ella Baker, who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King and helped shape the Civil Rights Movement.

And the list of great women continues, spanning several centuries, multiple professions, and 26 diverse individuals. There are artists and abolitionists, scientists and suffragettes, rock stars and rabble-rousers, and agents of change of all kinds.

The book includes an introduction that discusses what it means to be “rad” and “radical,” an afterword with 26 suggestions for how you can be “rad,” and a Resource Guide with ideas for further learning and reading.

American history was made by countless rad—and often radical—women. By offering a fresh and diverse array of female role models, we can remind readers that there are many places to find inspiration, and that being smart and strong and brave is rad.

Rad American Women will be appreciated by various age groups. It is Common Core aligned for students grades 3 – 8. Pre-school and young children will be captured by the bright visuals and easily modified texts, while the subject matter will stimulate and inspire high-schoolers and beyond.

 

 Taking the Stand (Crossfire #3) by Juliann Rich (Bold Strokes Books, April 21, ISBN 9781626394087): 

There’s a time for justice. Then there’s a time for action. And Jonathan Cooper knows exactly what time it is.

It is time to lie. To his parents, who think he’s on a ski trip with Pete Mitchell when he’s really gone to Madison to search for one person willing to testify for his boyfriend, Ian McGuire, who is facing the charge of assault and battery. To Ian’s parents, who have erased him from their lives. Even to himself. Because admitting his feelings for Mason Kellerman isn’t an option.

It is also time to face the truth. That Jonathan may have lied for nothing. That he may be powerless to save Ian from a guilty verdict. That whether he likes it or not, it is time for taking the stand.

 

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (Random House Children’s Books, April 28, ISBN 9780385744652):

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

 

MAY 2015

 

Flesh and Bone by William Alton (Luminis Books, May 1, ISBN 9781941311455):

Told in a series of images and fragments, Flesh and Bone is a raw and real portrayal of a teen struggling to find love in his life. When Bill’s father leaves and he and his mother move far away to live with her parents, his whole world implodes. His grandparents are cold and distant, his mom is distant both physically and emotionally as she deals with her own struggles, and his dad is just gone. Bill explores his sexuality with multiple partners as he searches for love and compassion and turns to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of loneliness. Flesh and Bone is a powerful tale that sheds light on the dark places of the soul.

 

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum (Penguin Young Readers Group, May 5, ISBN 9780670016792): 

That’s the Stonewall.

The Stonewall Inn.
Pay attention.
History walks through that door.

In 1969 being gay in the United States was a criminal offense. It meant living a closeted life or surviving on the fringes of society. People went to jail, lost jobs, and were disowned by their families for being gay. Most doctors considered homosexuality a mental illness. There were few safe havens. The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run, filthy, overpriced bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, was one of them.

Police raids on gay bars happened regularly in this era. But one hot June night, when cops pounded on the door of the Stonewall, almost nothing went as planned. Tensions were high. The crowd refused to go away. Anger and frustration boiled over.

The raid became a riot.

The riot became a catalyst.

The catalyst triggered an explosive demand for gay rights.

Ann Bausum’s riveting exploration of the Stonewall Riots and the national Gay Rights movement that followed is eye-opening, unflinching, and inspiring.

 

This is Not a Love Story by Keren David (Atom, May 7, ISBN 9780349001401):

Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that’s impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father’s unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn’t take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?

In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.

But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone’s heart survive?

 

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (Random House Children’s Books, May 12, ISBN 9780553496864): 

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

 

Vanished by E.E. Cooper (HarperCollins Publishers, May 12, ISBN 9780062293909):

Friendship. Obsession. Deception. Love.

Kalah knows better than to fall for Beth Taylor . . . but that doesn’t stop her from falling hard and falling fast, heart first into a sea of complications.

Then Beth vanishes. She skips town on her eighteenth birthday, leaving behind a flurry of rumors and a string of broken hearts. Not even Beth’s best friend, Britney, knows where she went. Beth didn’t even tell Kalah good-bye.

One of the rumors links Beth to Britney’s boyfriend, and Kalah doesn’t want to believe the betrayal. But Brit clearly believes it—and before Kalah can sort out the truth, Britney is dead.

When Beth finally reaches out to Kalah in the wake of Brit’s suicide, Kalah wants to trust what Beth tells her. But she’s swiftly realizing that nothing here is as it seems. Kalah’s caught in the middle of a deadly psychological game, and only she can untangle the deceptions and lies to reveal the unthinkable truth.

 

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler (Indigo, May 14, ISBN ISBN13: 9781780622095): 

Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling – that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It’s enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents’ marriage troubles. There’s just one thing bothering her . . .

Shouldn’t it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way – not Miss Murray, her English teacher?

 

 

 

 

The First Twenty by Jennifer Lavoie (Bold Strokes Press, May 19, ISBN 9781626394148):

Humanity was nearly wiped out when a series of global disasters struck, but pockets of survivors have managed to thrive and are starting to rebuild society. Peyton lives with others in what used to be a factory. When her adopted father is murdered by Scavengers, she is determined to bring justice to those who took him away from her. She didn’t count on meeting Nixie.

Nixie is one of the few people born with the ability to dowse for water with her body. In a world where safe water is hard to come by, she’s a valuable tool to her people. When she’s taken by Peyton, they’ll do anything to get her back. As the tension between the groups reaches critical max, Peyton is forced to make a decision: give up the girl she’s learned to love, or risk the lives of those she’s responsible for.

 

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton (Scholastic, Inc, May 26, ISBN 9780545709545): 
When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend.  For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

 

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsburg (Scholastic, Inc, May 26, ISBN 9780545648936):

The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.

 

 

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ this (late) winter

Every other month I’ll be doing a roundup of new and forthcoming YA books (and sometimes some non-YA books) featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. I’ll try to include as many titles as possible. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers February 2015 and March 2015 titles. All annotations here are via WorldCat or the publishers. My previous post, from December, can be found here.

 

February 2015

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton (ATOM, February 5, ISBN 9780349002064):

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months. Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out. Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter. Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

 

Promposal by Rhonda Helms (Simon Pulse, February 10, ISBN 9781481422321):

Prom should be one of the most memorable nights of your life. But for Camilla and Joshua, some elaborate promposals are getting in the way. Will they be able to land their dream dates in time for the dance?

Promposal (n.)—an often very public proposal, in which one person asks another person to the prom, eliciting joy or mortification.

Camilla can’t help hoping her secret crush, Benjamin, might randomly surprise her out of the blue with a promposal. But when she’s asked to prom by an irritating casual acquaintance—who’s wearing a fancy tux and standing in front of a news crew—she’s forced to say yes. However, all hope is not lost, as a timely school project gives Camilla a chance to get closer to Benjamin…and it seems like the chemistry between them is crackling. Is she reading into something that isn’t there, or will she get her dream guy just in time for prom?

Joshua has been secretly in love with his best friend Ethan since middle school. Just as he decides to bite the bullet and ask Ethan if he’d go to prom with him, even if just as friends, he gets a shocking surprise: Ethan asks Joshua for help crafting the perfect promposal—for another guy. Now Joshua has to suppress his love and try to fake enthusiasm as he watches his dreams fall apart…unless he can make Ethan see that love has been right in front of his eyes the whole time.

The road to the perfect promposal isn’t easy to navigate. But one thing’s certain—prom season is going to be memorable. (SEE MY REVIEW HERE)

 

Dark Rites by Jeremy Jordan King (Bold Strokes Books, February 17, ISBN 9781626392458):

The actors in the 1922 production of Weinstein’s Wonderacts have a secret: they aren’t just performers, they’re members of a Circle, a coven dedicated to enlightenment through magic. To enhance their power, they have their eye on the new girl in the cast, Margarite, a natural witch. But the coven’s leader, Vincent, isn’t satisfied. He’s hungry for more, to become a Complete Man. He turns to a mysterious wanderer for counsel, but could the teacher’s intentions and rituals be malevolent? Being the only one with true gifts, it’s up to Margarite to save her friends from enacting these dark rites.

 

 

March 2015

Top 250 LGBT Books for Teens: Coming Out, Being Out, and the Search for Community by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins (Huron Street Press, March 2, ISBN 9781937589561):

Identifying titles that address the sensitive and important topics of coming out, being out, and the search for community, this catalog spotlights the best gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and questioning books written for teens. The authors cover fiction of all kinds, as well as graphic novels and general nonfiction aimed at readers in middle school and high school, and include recent publications as well as classics that continue to be read and enjoyed by 21st-century teens. Information on how to find library programs, services, and additional resources for LGBTQ teens is also provided, making this a one-stop sourcebook for LGBTQ teens, their families, friends, and classmates, as well as teachers and librarians.

 

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (Simon Pulse, March 3, ISBN 9781481405966):

From the award-winning author of Break and Teeth comes a raw and honest exploration of complicated identities in a novel about a girl living on the fringe of every fringe group in her small town.

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself? (SEE MY REVIEW OF THIS TITLE HERE.)

 

Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman (Sky Pony Press, March 3, ISBN 9781632204257):

How to survive California’s hottest surf spot: Never go anywhere without a bathing suit. Never cut your hair. Never let them see you panic.

The year is 1972. Fifteen-year-old Haunani “Nani” Grace Nuuhiwa is transplanted from her home in Hawaii to Santa Monica, California after her father’s fatal heart attack. Now the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Nani struggles to adjust to her new life with her alcoholic white (haole) mother and the lineup of mean girls who rule State Beach.

Following “The Rules”—an unspoken list of dos and don’ts—Nani makes contact with Rox, the leader of the lineup. Through a harrowing series of initiations, Nani not only gets accepted into the lineup, she gains the attention of surf god, Nigel McBride. But maintaining stardom is harder than achieving it. Nani is keeping several secrets that, if revealed, could ruin everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Secret #1: She’s stolen her dad’s ashes and hidden them from her mom. Secret #2: In order to get in with Rox and her crew, she spied on them and now knows far more than they could ever let her get away with. And most deadly of all, Secret #3: She likes girls, and may very well be in love with Rox.

 

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles(Candlewick Press, March 10, ISBN 9780763663872):

Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles’s revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

 

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan (Penguin Young Readers Group, March 17, ISBN 9780525428848):

Especially for those of us who ordinarily feel ignored, a spotlight is a circle of magic, with the strength to draw us from the darkness of our everyday lives.

Watch out, ex-boyfriends, and get out of the way, homophobic coaches. Tiny Cooper has something to say—and he’s going to say it in song.
Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, Hold Me Closer is the no-holds-barred (and many-bars-held) entirety of the beloved musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the award-winning bestseller by John Green and David Levithan.

Tiny Cooper is finally taking center stage . . . and the world will never be the same again.

 

Fifty Yards and Holding by David-Matthew Barnes (Bold Strokes Books, March 17, ISBN 9781626390812):

Victor Alvarez is in serious trouble. Now seventeen and flunking out of high school, he’s been chosen as the leader of the violent street gang he’s been a member of since he was thirteen. Riley Brewer has just broken a state record as the star of their high school baseball team. When Riley and Victor meet by chance, a connection begins to grow. When friendship turns to love, both young men realize their reputations contradict who they really are. Once their secret relationship is discovered, Victor realizes their lives are at risk. Refusing to hide in order to survive, Riley vows that only death can keep him apart from Victor.

 

 

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy, (Simon Pulse, March 24, ISBN 9781442495739):

A heartfelt, humorous story of a teen boy’s impulsive road trip after the shock of his lifetime—told entirely in lists!

Darren hasn’t had an easy year.

There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.

Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.

Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:

1. painful
2. unavoidable
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.

 

Half Wild by Sally Green (Penguin Young Readers Group, March 24, ISBN 9780670017133):

Half Bad Trilogy series book 2. 

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he’s on the run—but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.

 

Playing a Part by Daria Wilke, Marian Schwartz (Scholastic, Inc. March 31, ISBN 9780545726078):

The first young adult novel translated from Russian, a brave coming-out, coming-of-age story.

In June 2013, the Russian government passed laws prohibiting “gay propaganda,” threatening jail time and fines to offenders. That same month, in spite of these harsh laws, a Russian publisher released PLAYING A PART, a young adult novel with openly gay characters. It was a brave, bold act, and now this groundbreaking story has been translated for American readers.

In PLAYING A PART, Grisha adores everything about the Moscow puppet theater where his parents work, and spends as much time there as he can. But life outside the theater is not so wonderful. The boys in Grisha’s class bully him mercilessly, and his own grandfather says hateful things about how he’s not “masculine” enough. Life goes from bad to worse when Grisha learns that Sam, his favorite actor and mentor, is moving: He’s leaving the country to escape the extreme homophobia he faces in Russia.

How Grisha overcomes these trials and writes himself a new role in his own story is heartfelt, courageous, and hopeful.

 

Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit: GLBTQ YA and Issues of Faith, a guest post by Robert Bittner

Writing about spirituality is a really complex thing and includes myriad ways of looking at the world and at institutions that purport to nurture the spiritual lives of youth, since we’re getting specific. My own history within institutionalized Protestant Christianity left me feeling marginalized, especially due to my identity as a young gay man (though not out at the time, at least not to my youth group friends.) Institutionalized religion is—rather unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned—guilty of creating an environment of conflict and self-hatred within the LGBTQ community, and in my early teens, there was little support for queer Christians available. Now there are fantastic organizations available for teens to find a space of freedom and acceptance within Christian communities (Gay Christian Network is one very prominent example.) But I digress. This is supposed to be about books, after all!

When it comes to LGBTQ literature for youth (referred to as Queer YA from here on), there has been a history similar to that discussed briefly above in relation to queer individuals in the church. In early Queer YA, Christianity was treated as the enemy, often in the form of stereotypical preachers screaming about fire and brimstone, or in the form of conservative congregations refusing to allow queer individuals to attend Sunday morning services. More recently, queerness within Christianity has been dealt with through various takes on the degayification camp. These are camps in which young people are supposed to learn how to be straight again (The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Thinking Straight, Caught in the Crossfire.) The other consistent plot point throughout almost all YA with queer Christian themes is the engagement of a protagonist in debate with an anti-gay (often religious) character, during which biblical scriptures are tossed back and forth in an effort to prove that homosexuality is or is not okay in the eyes of God, Jehovah, or whatever omnipotent being is under scrutiny within the novel.

In an effort to understand more popular views on queer Christianity through YA publishing, I used the topic of Queer YA with Christian themes as the focal point for my MA thesis in Children’s Literature. I studied three books (though I wish I had been able to include more recent books, like Cameron Post and Caught in the Crossfire) in order to get a better understanding of trends within these books: Thinking Straight, The God Box, and Nothing Pink. These three novels featured gay male characters (at the time, I had to keep things simple, for brevity, but I wish I could have included more female protagonists), and had some element of Christianity that affected the protagonist’s identity as a queer individual. In the end, I was able to find two main types: Novels of abandonment and novels of reconciliation.

Novels of reconciliation are those in which the protagonist was able to find a way to make their queerness fit within the framework of Christianity, which novels of abandonment often rely on a rhetoric in which Christianity is a polar opposite to queer identity and the two can never be a part of one single identity construct. Both of these are interesting perspectives, of course, but the most damaging, I feel, is the one that does not allow, in any way, for queerness and Christianity to coexist, and the reason I feel this is harmful is because it makes Christianity the enemy, which, while often shown as such in the media, is not always the case, and also because queerness is then seen as superior simply because of its status as not Christian.

I believe the exclusion, or the either/or nature of the novel of abandonment creates an unhelpful dichotomy between those who are queer and those who are Christian (or, in some ways, spiritual in any sense of the word). Unfortunately, there are few novels with the subtlety to create an identity that is both queer and Christian. The conclusion I came to through my research was the need for novels in which teens are allowed to develop their own individual (queer) theologies.

Queer characters in YA literature exemplify the struggle of youth against social institutions, in this case, they transgress the boundaries of the conservative, American Protestant church.  Roberta Trites perhaps says it best in Disturbing the Universe: “The chief characteristic that distinguishes adolescent literature from children’s literature is the issue of how social power is deployed during the course of the narrative” (2). In Queer YA literature, the social powers are sometimes those of a political or religious nature that are deployed in such a way as to deny the character his or her ability to develop a sexual identity with which to be comfortable. Often, “a major developmental crisis can occur when gay and lesbian adolescents attempt to establish an identity in a society that devalues their sexual orientation” (Vare and Norton 190).

Family, socio-political ideology, Christian institutions and dogma, and current events all play very influential roles in the lives of queer teens as they attempt to create personal identities in a rapidly changing world. The difficulty for most queer youth is the expectation of conforming to the heteronormative assumptions displayed so prominently in much of daily life, in family relationship dynamics, in Christian dogma, and in ideologies of advertising and pop culture such as film, television, and music. Many teens become frustrated because of the ways in which they differ from the hegemonic expectations surrounding them. Nothing Pink, The God Box, and Thinking Straight show this clearly within their narratives and in the process each protagonist undergoes to accept a queer (Christian) identity through the erasure of heteronormative and religious boundaries.

All of the main characters display their transgression and reclamation of Christianity through an interrogation of scripture—what Patrick Cheng (2011) refers to as talking about, and talking to God—and with specific dogma set forth by churches and Christian ministries within the texts.  Each character confronts the “clobber passages” that right-wing conservatives (often under the guise of Christian proselytizing) use to claim homosexuality as morally reprehensible. What I would love to see more of in Queer YA with Christian sub-plots, is the ability of characters to reimagine their spirituality—their faith—in ways which incorporate gender and sexual identities, instead of feeling the need to abandon all religious and spiritual components of their identities as opposed to abandoning all faith and spirituality.

I hope this very brief look at issues related to spirituality and religion in Queer YA helps to broaden and enhance future readings of similar YA literature. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement even as there are more novels available now than were available in my youth.

Meet our Guest blogger:

Rob Bittner is a PhD candidate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, and he has a history of working with children’s and YA literature in various contexts, including his MA degree and various award committees through the American Library Association. I love queer lit and I especially love when it engages with topics that are “out of the ordinary.”

For more on Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit check out our series index/hub

Publisher’s Book Descriptions of Books Discussed

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

Thinking Straight by Robin Reardon

When he is shipped off to Straight to God, an institution devoted to ”deprogramming” troubled teenagers, Taylor Adams learns valuable lessons in love, courage, rebellion, and betrayal in a place where piety is a mask for cruelty and the greatest crimes go.

Caught in the Crossfire by Alan Gibbons

Set in a northern town where right-wingers are determined to stir up hatred and racial prejudice, six teenagers’ lives are woven together by a series of shocking and tragic events. A British Muslim brother and sister, two Irish brothers who take different sides, and two lads out looking for trouble: all of them get caught in the crossfire. Inspired by the Oldham riots and the events of September 11th, this is a chilling account of current events in Britain, but written with humor and understanding.

The God Box by Alex Sanchez

How could I choose betwen my sexuality and my spirituality, two of the most important parts that made me whole?

High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they’re good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he’s also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel’s interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel’s outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.

Lambda Literary Award-winning author Alex Sanchez tackles a subject ripped from the headlines in this exciting and thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be both religious and gay.

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ this winter

Every other month I’ll be doing a roundup of new and forthcoming LGBTQIA+ YA books (and sometimes some non-YA books). I’ll try to include as many titles as possible. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers a couple November titles I missed, December 2014, and January 2015 titles. All annotations here are via WorldCat or the publishers. My previous post, from October, can be found here. Lots of great titles.

 

November 2014

Unicorns and Rainbow Poopby Sam Kadence (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, November 6, ISBN 9781632164179): Vocal Growth series book 2. Ex-boyband member Dane Karlson is struggling to overcome an eating disorder and a body dismorphic disorder. His fall through a glass table puts him in rehab and on the road to recovery. Then a friend dies. Bas, an openly gay high school student who’s recently lost his grandmother, is trying to survive his last few months of school before escaping to Stanford. Having just lost the only person in his family to care for him, he is victim to the cruelty of the others. His younger brother bullies him, and his parents are suing him for his gran’s inheritance. Together Dane and Bas find a middle ground, supporting each other through the lows, dancing together during the highs.

 

Always Leaving by Gene Gant (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, November 13, ISBN 9781632165879): When Jason Barrett wakes up, he remembers only one thing: his name. Frightened and driven by paranoia, Jason keeps moving, going from town to town working odd jobs and making no friends. When he stumbles onto an emergency in New Hanover and saves a fellow teenage boy, it offers him the first connection he’s felt in a while. To return Jason’s kindness, Ravi wants to help solve the riddle of Jason’s missing past. As they work through clues, Jason begins to feel settled. He finds a place he belongs with Ravi—maybe something more.

 

Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus by Rachelle Lee Smith, forward by Candace Gingrich (PM Press, November 15, ISBN 9781629630410): A photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages 14–24, identifying as queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning), Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus presents portraits without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than 65 portraits photographed over a period of 10 years, the book provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth and gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle.

 

If You Knew Jack by MC Lee (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, November 20, ISBN 9781632166883): Sequel to You Don’t Know Jack. Jack Carlisle has returned to the Center after an assignment designed to push him to the edge of his limits—and beyond. He is given just a few short days to get used to a new identity and a new team. He’s been trained to assume a new identity, but working with a new team is more difficult, especially since it throws him back in the path of Leo McCormack, the boy who stole Jack’s heart and handed it back broken into tiny pieces.

 

December 2014

Driving Lessons by Annameekee Hesik (Bold Strokes Books, December 16, ISBN 9781626392281): Abbey Brooks has recovered from her end-of-freshman-year heartbreak and has vowed that this year, her sophomore year at Gila High, will be different in every way. Her to-do list: get her driver’s license, come out to her mom, get (and keep) a girlfriend, and survive another year of basketball. As always, though, nothing goes according to plan. Who will be there for her as her plans start to unravel? Who will bring her back to life after another round of heartache and betrayal? These remain a mystery—even to Abbey. But one thing is for sure, she’s not confused about who she is. And that is going to make all the difference.

 

Asher’s Shot by Elizabeth Wheeler (Bold Strokes Books, December 16, ISBN 9781626392298): After uncovering the truth about his parents’ divorce and his brother’s death, fifteen-year-old Asher Price is ready for a shot at happiness. Armed with a Canon camera borrowed from his nutty neighbor, a date to homecoming, and revitalized relationships with family and friends, Asher’s on the right track. Even though Asher’s black-and-white view of the world has shifted to color, he still believes the only way to protect the people he loves is by keeping their secrets. His candid pictures capture the truth, but what if his success as a photographer requires exposing an enemy? In the end, Asher discovers protecting the people he loves can have devastating consequences, and his only shot at happiness involves revealing secrets of his own.

 

 

January 2015

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books, January 1, 2015, ISBN 978-1910200322): UK BOOK: Two boys. Two secrets. David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year 11 is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long ….

 

Sienna by Helen Eve (Macmillan Children’s Books, January 1st 2015, ISBN 9781250054593): UK BOOK: Prequel to Stella.

Worshipped, envied, desired, and feared by all, Siena Hamilton reigns over Temperley High. Nothing can shake her place as the head of Temperley’s elite – not even that unfortunate incident at the end of last term . . . Siena is her mother’s daughter: she knows how to be perfect, and she will not disappoint. There is only one person who could possibly get in her way…. Romy, former Starlet, and Siena’s ex-best friend is back. And no one is happy about it, least of all her. Romy has changed after her term away in France, and is trying hard to be normal, to blend in and to keep the secret of what really happened that night safe and hidden. But when you’ve betrayed your former best friend, you don’t get to come back without a fight.

 

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January 13, 2015, ISBN 9780316261043): In the town of Fairfold, where humans and fae exist side by side, a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives awakes after generations of sleep in a glass coffin in the woods, causing Hazel to be swept up in new love, shift her loyalties, feel the fresh sting of betrayal, and to make a secret sacrifice to the faerie king.

 

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman (Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), January 20, 2015, ISBN 9781627790147): Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.

 

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon Pulse, January 20, 2015, ISBN 9781481403108): Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night, just like the rest of his family. Now he lives in the hospital, serving food in the cafeteria, hanging out with the nurses, sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him. His only solace is in the world of the superhero he’s created—Patient F. Then, one night, Rusty is wheeled into the ER, half his body burned by hateful classmates. Rusty’s agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together though all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside of the hospital, and away from their pasts. But to save Rusty, Drew will have to confront Death, and life will have to get worse before it gets better. And by telling the truth about who he really is, Drew risks destroying any chance of a future.

 

Love Hurts compiled by Malorie Blackman (Corgi Children’s, January 29, 2015, ISBN 978-0552573979):  UK BOOK: Malorie Blackman brings together the best teen writers of today in a stunningly romantic collection about love against the odds. Featuring short stories and extracts about modern star-crossed lovers from stars such as Gayle Forman, Markus Zusak and Patrick Ness, and with a brand-new story from Malorie Blackman herself, Love Hurts looks at every kind of relationship, from first kiss to final heartbreak.

 

 

National School Climate Survey results about LGBT students’ experiences in school

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its biennial National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBTQ students from across the country, in late October. If these statistics shock you, you clearly haven’t spent much time talking to gay students or hanging out in a high school or a middle school.  The good news is that things have improved slightly from their 2011 survey. The bad news is that it’s still really ugly out there.

168 page report (which is available as a PDF and as an hour-long webinar) looks at discrimination, harassment, assault, biased language, school resources and support, and more, and examines how these factors affect educational performance, safety, and mental health of LGBT teens. The report is filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBT students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported.  Being knowledgeable of their potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction. As GLSEN reports, “The survey has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.” This report should be required reading for anyone who works with teenagers. 

 

Findings of the 2013 National School Climate Survey include: 

Anti-LGBT Remarks at School

•  71.4% of LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 90.8% reported that they felt distressed because of this language

•  64.5% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often.

• 56.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or often.

• 51.4% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 55.5% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.

 

School Safety, Harassment, and Assault at School

• 55.5% felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% because of their gender expression.

• 74.1% were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 55.2% because of their gender expression.

• 36.2% were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 22.7% because of their gender expression.

• 16.5% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 11.4% because of their gender expression.

• 49.0% of LGBT students experienced electronic harassment in the past year (via text messages or postings on Facebook), often known as cyberbullying.

 

The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely, if ever, intervene on behalf of LGBT students.

 

• 56.7% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most often believing little to no action would be taken or the situation could become worse if reported.

• 61.6% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.

 

The report goes on to discuss: 

*absenteeism (“Many LGBT students avoid classes or miss entire days of school rather than face a hostile school climate. An unsafe school environment denies these students their right to an education.”)

*academic achievement (“School safety affects student success. Experiencing victimization in school hinders LGBT students’ academic success and educational aspirations.”)

*psychological well-being (“Experiences of harassment and assault in school are related to poorer psychological well-being for LGBT students.”).

 

Additionally, it looks at discriminatory policies, discriminatory discipline, restrictions, and prohibitions regarding public displays of affection, attending dances, forming a GSA, writing about LGBT topics, etc. It breaks the data down by race, ethnicity, school type, location, region, and more.

 

GLSEN offers many recommendations for turning these statistics around, such as giving students more access to LGBT-related information (literature, history, etc), forming GSA groups, providing professional development to increase the number of supportive teachers and staff, ensuring school policies are not discriminatory, having anti-bullying and harassment policies that make it clear that they provide safety for LGBT students, and teaching an inclusive curriculum.

 

Previously at TLT:

Check out my previous post GLBTQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens, which compiles articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your library collections and how to support GLBTQ youth.

 

Also check out:

The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Project, which “is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.”

 

HRC’s Time to Thrive conference (Februrary 13-15, 2015, in Portland, Oregon, “where nearly 1,000 educators, social workers, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals are expected to attend.” You might remember that it was at this conference earlier this year that actress Ellen Page gave a moving coming out speech)

 

Unfamiliar with GLSEN?

From their site: GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

@GLSEN on Twitter

What’s new in GLTBQ this fall

by Amanda MacGregor

Every other month I’ll be doing a roundup of new and forthcoming GLTBQ YA books (and sometimes some non-YA books). I’ll try to include as many titles as possible. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers September, October, and some November 2014 titles. All annotations here are via WorldCat or the publishers.

September

The Boy I Love by Nina de Gramont (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 2): Fifteen year old Wren has fallen in love with the most sought after boy in school, but his secret will both bring them together, and keep them apart.

First Time for Everything anthology edited by Anne Regan (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, September 4): There’s nothing like the first time. Whether it’s a first crush, first date, first kiss, or finding tolerance and approval for the first time, for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans teens—or those still exploring and discovering their sexuality and identity—these important firsts can shape the rest of their lives.

No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (Flux/ Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., September 8): Told from separate viewpoints, two seniors at an elite girls school grow close as they work together on a project and Zoey, a scholarship student, begins dating wealthy, troubled Olivia’s twin brother Liam, but romance blossoms between the girls, threatening both of their relationships with Liam.

God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Juliana Neufeld (Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited, September 9): Vivek Shraya’s first book is a collection of twenty-one short stories following a tender, intellectual, and curious child as he navigates the complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging.

This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids: A Question and Answer Guide to Everyday Life by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo (Chronicle Books LLC, September 9): Written in an accessible Q&A format, here, finally, is the go-to resource for parents hoping to understand and communicate with their gay child. Through their LGBTQ-oriented site, the authors are uniquely experienced to answer parents’ many questions and share insight and guidance on both emotional and practical topics. Filled with real-life experiences from gay kids and parents, this is the book gay kids want their parents to read.


Key of Behliseth by Lou Hoffmann (Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner Press, September 11): On his way to meet a fate he’d rather avoid, homeless gay teen Lucky steps through a wizard’s door and is caught up in a whirlwind quest and an ancient war.

Dark Tide by Greg Herren (Bold Strokes Books, September 16): Ricky Hackworth lands a job as a lifeguard at the Mermaid Inn in Latona, Alabama, on the beautiful Gulf Coast. But once he moves into the Inn, he starts hearing stories about the lifeguard from the previous summer and how he vanished without a trace. Before long, Ricky realizes the Inn and the town are hiding some dark secrets.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial, September 16): Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. (Reviewed 6/3/14 on TLT)

Everything Changes by Samantha Hale (Bold Strokes Books, September 16): Seventeen-year-old Raven Walker has never had a boyfriend. She’s never really been interested in boys. But she was always too afraid to examine what that might mean. Until she meets Morgan O’Shea and finds herself inexplicably drawn to her.

Searching for Grace by Juliann Rich (Bold Strokes Books, September 16): Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home—to life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say, to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy, to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at Bible camp.All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.

Wet Paint by Will Parkinson (Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner, September 18): Transitions book 2. Although Addy’s heart and body bear the scars from his life before he was adopted by the Deans, he’s ached for something he thought he would never find. Until he met Benny. He isn’t sure how anyone can care for someone as broken as he is, even though he wants it desperately. High school senior Benny Peters has his whole life planned out for him, until a chaste kiss at summer camp opens a new world of possibilities.

God’s Play by H.D. Lynn (Curiosity Quills Press, September 18): Sixteen-year old Toby was trained by a family of hunters to kill shape-shifters — but he has a unique weapon in his arsenal. With a touch of his hand, Toby can lift the magical protection shape-shifters use to disguise themselves as human. It’s an unusual skill for a hunter, and he prefers to kill monsters the old-fashioned way: with a blade. Because of his special skill, Toby suspects he may be a monster himself.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, September 23): Told in alternating chapters, eighteen-year-old Darcy Patel navigates the New York City publishing world and Lizzie, the heroine of Darcy’s novel, slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack and becomes a spirit guide, as both face many challenges and both fall in love.

Just Girls by Rachel Gold (Bella Books, September 23): Jess Tucker sticks her neck out for a stranger—the buzz is someone in the dorm is a trans girl. So Tucker says it’s her, even though it’s not, to stop the finger pointing. She was an out lesbian in high school, and she figures she can stare down whatever gets thrown her way in college. It can’t be that bad. Ella Ramsey is making new friends at Freytag University, playing with on-campus gamers and enjoying her first year, but she’s rocked by the sight of a slur painted on someone else’s door. A slur clearly meant for her, if they’d only known.

Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (Twenty-First Century Books, September 28): Meet Katie, Hayden, Dean, Brooke, David, Julia, and Natasha. Each is transgender, and in this book, they share their personal stories. You’ll learn how they each came to better understand, accept, and express their gender identities, and you’ll follow them through the sorrows and successes of their personal journeys. Transgender Lives helps you understand what it means to be transgender in America while learning more about transgender history, the broad spectrum of transgender identities, and the transition process. You’ll explore the challenges transgender Americans face, including discrimination, prejudice, bullying and violence, unequal access to medical care, and limited legal protections. (Reviewed 8/12/14 on Cite Something)

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 30): In this revolutionary memoir, Arin details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. In his captivatingly witty, honest voice, Arin reveals the challenges he faced as a girl, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes—both mental and physical—he experienced once his transition began. Arin also writes about the thrill of meeting and dating a young transgender woman named Katie Hill…and the heartache that followed after they broke up. (Reviewed 9/16/14 on TLT)

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 30): In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world and experience heartbreak for the first time in a body that matched her gender identity. Told in an unwaveringly honest voice, Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of “normalcy” to embody one’s true self. (Reviewed 9/16/14 on TLT)

Beauty of the Broken by Tawni Waters (Simon Pulse, September 30): As if her parents’ heavy drinking and her father’s abuse–which nearly killed her half-brother, Iggy–were not enough, fifteen-year-old Mara is caught kissing her girlfriend Xylia by the preacher’s son and becomes terrified that her own life is at risk.

Winterspell by Claire LeGrand (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 30): To find her abducted father and keep her sister safe from the lecherous politicians of 1899 New York City, seventeen-year-old Clara must journey to the wintry kingdom of Cane, where Anise, queen of the faeries, has ousted the royal family in favor of her own totalitarian, anti-human regime.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (Harlequin, September 30): Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.” Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another. (Reviewed 9/30/14 on TLT)

October

All the Devils Here by Astor Penn (Harmony Ink/ Dreamspinner Press, October 2): Brie Hall, a sheltered and privileged teenager, is in her final year of boarding school in New York City when disaster strikes. While journeying to find her family, Brie meets another wanderer, a girl with a past she can’t or won’t divulge. Circumstance force them together to escape notice of government-issued hazmat vehicles sent to deliver them to unknown conditions. While struggling to answer the question of how to survive a plague, they must also ask how they can survive the version of themselves they’ve become.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, September 7): High school junior Leila’s Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates at Armstead Academy, and if word got out that she liked girls life would be twice as hard, but when a new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual, so she struggles to sort out her growing feelings by confiding in her old friends.

Under the Stars by Geoff Laughton (Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner, October 9): Ethan Tanner is an out and proud, fastidious, and fashionable sixteen-year-old vegetarian who likes theater and musicals. This year, it’s his sister’s turn to pick the vacation destination, so he ends up on a dude ranch he knows he is going to hate. Jason McCoy is the closeted sixteen-year-old son of the ranch owners and is trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit him. He takes an interest in Ethan, shows him around, and gets him to ride a horse. When he invites Ethan camping, Ethan thinks Jason must be joking. But Ethan takes a risk, and the two boys bond under the stars.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (Cinco Puntos Press, October 14): Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez chronicles her senior year in high school as she copes with her friend Cindy’s pregnancy, friend Sebastian’s coming out, her father’s meth habit, her own cravings for food and cute boys, and especially, the poetry that helps forge her identity.

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot (HarperCollins Publishers, October 14): When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about her. Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she dives headfirst into the larger-than-life new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian. But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy.

Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara (Bold Strokes Books, October 14): Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked. As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret.

Maxine Wore Black by Nora Olsen (Bold Strokes Books, October 14): Maxine is the girl of Jayla’s dreams: she’s charming, magnetic, and loves Jayla for her transgender self. There’s only one problem with Maxine—she already has a girlfriend, perfect Becky. Jayla quickly falls under Maxine’s spell, and she’s willing to do anything to win her. But when Becky turns up dead, Jayla is pulled into a tangle of deceit, lies, and murder. Now Jayla is forced to choose between love and the truth.

When Ryan Came Back by Devon McCormack (Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner, October 16): Steven’s life changes forever the day he discovers his childhood friend and lifelong crush, Ryan Walters, standing in his bedroom. The problem? Ryan Walters committed suicide just days earlier.

Zhukov’s Dogs by Amanda Cyr (Curiosity Quills Press, October 27): A good dog doesn’t ask questions, especially when The Council holds their leash. Lieutenant Colonel Nik Zhukov never disappoints—never questions the orders given to him—even as each mission further reveals how corrupt his handlers are. For the sake of national security, the desensitized prodigy pretends he’s just like any other seventeen-year-old living in the year 2076. At least until it comes time to pull the trigger.

Compulsion by Martina Boone (Simon Pulse, October 28): After the death of her disfigured, shut-in mother, Barrie Watson moves to her aunt’s South Carolina plantation, which is guarded by an ancient spirit who cursed one of the island’s three founding families and gave the others magical gifts that become compulsions.

Beau, Lee, the Bomb, and Me by Mary McKinley (Kensington, October 28): In high school, there are few worse crimes than being smart or fat. Lucky me, I’m both. But when Beau Gales blows in to town, it takes about two minutes for the jackasses at our Seattle school to figure out he’s gay, and that makes him an even bigger target. Have you ever heard the saying: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’? There’s something to that. When the bullying gets violent and Beau decides to run away to San Francisco to ask his Uncle Frankie for advice, we all go. Beau, me, Leonie (designated class slut), and a scruffy rescue dog called The Bomb–a tribe of misfits crammed into my mom’s minivan.

November

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (Disney-Hyperion, November 4): Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body. The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Stranger (The Change #1) by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown (Viking Juvenile, November 13): Generations after an unknown Change eliminated electricity and gave people unusual powers, the Southern Californian town of Las Anclas must deal with the consequences when a teenage prospector comes to stay

The Melody of Light by M.L Rice (Bold Strokes Books, November 18): Siblings Riley and Aidan Gordon are survivors. Together, they survived an abusive childhood, and when a fiery accident incinerates all they have—except for each other—they survive that, too. The tragedy leaves them with burdens and pain beyond their years, but it also sets them free to forge their own paths. Aidan’s road to happiness seems smooth and carefree. But Riley continues to struggle, her only saving grace being a passion for music that helps soothe her damaged soul.