I’m reading LGBTQ books and only LGBTQ books this June for Pride month. Here are my thoughts on my third week of reading; all titles are linked to their Goodreads synopsis.
Between June 14th and 20th, I read:
Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT people in the United States by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, & Kay Whitlock (2011)
Queer rep: real-life gay, lesbian, and trans people
Thoughts: This was a sobering read. From the title it’s obvious it’s dealing with a heavy topic, but jeez. It amazed me how recent some really egregious examples of systemic homo/transphobia are. (Arresting 300 people at a queer nightclub for “loitering inside a building”?! I had no idea that was even a thing.) I’d half like to read an updated edition (it’s hard to believe 2011 was already more than half a decade ago) and I’m half terrified of what an updated edition would look like.
The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic (2013)
Queer rep: An important supporting character is gay
Thoughts: Book 1 of the All for the Game trilogy. These books pop up on so many LGBTQ YA lists that I was expecting more queer rep, but it turned out that (like in the Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater, another perennial presence on those lists) the LGBTQ characters/themes become more important as the series progresses.This was a quick read, a little confusing or unrealistic at times, but I was interested enough to read book 2 if only to figure out what was going on.
Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (2015)
Queer rep: One MC is gay, another is bi; one MC’s parents are gay; a supporting character and a minor character are lesbian. Bonus: the author is queer.
Thoughts: The format of this book was interesting. It’s told from three perspectives, but each one uses a different POV. Jeremy is first person, Mira is third person, and Sebby is second person. This book made me think of How to Say Goodbye in Robot and like that book I’m left wanting everyone to be happy but knowing that it’s not that easy.
Playing a Part by Daria Wilke; trans. Marian Schwartz (2015)
Queer rep: main character and an important supporting character are gay
Thoughts: Translated from the Russian, this is an intriguing glimpse into the homophobia that is pervasive in that country. The story is a little disjointed and the MC is much younger (about 13) than the cover led me to believe; this is almost more like a mature middle grade book than a YA book.
The Raven King by Nora Sakavic (2013)
Queer rep: Two important supporting characters are gay
Thoughts: Book 2 of the All of the Game trilogy. Both the LGBTQ content and the drama are ratcheted up in this one. In addition to the out character from book 1, we learn that another character is closeted; there is also some insight into the MC’s sexuality, although it is still not actually defined. Overall this book was miles better than book 1: more coherent, more interesting, faster-paced, and also much, much darker. It got seriously heavy (rape, abuse, self-harm) and I got so caught up I stayed up till midnight to finish it. I almost can’t believe all of the plot threads are really going to wrap up in just one more book.
The King’s Men by Nora Sakavic (2014)
Queer rep: Two important supporting characters are gay; the MC’s sexuality is never explicitly labeled but IMO he’s demisexual.
Thoughts: Book 3 of the All for the Game trilogy and overall a very satisfying conclusion to the series. It stays dark like the second book and again warnings about abuse and torture, but despite all of the violence it manages to work around to hope for the future. I thought the MC’s relationship was done well; his confusion about his attraction and his statement that he still “doesn’t swing either way” but is definitely interested in one and only one specific person makes me think he’s demisexual, so yay ace-spec rep. This series does have its flaws in terms of realism, but within that universe all the character motivations and behaviors ring true, so if you can handle a bit of willing suspension of disbelief (and all the violence) this is a worthwhile series.
With or Without You by Brian Farrey (2011)
Queer rep: The main character and at last five important supporting characters are gay; one supporting character is lesbian. Bonus: the author is queer.
Thoughts: A Stonewall Honor Book. Like a not-insignificant percentage of young adult books, a lot of the drama could have been avoided by the characters talking to each other. Despite my annoyance with that, I liked the book. It was fairly sobering, although I was expecting that from the back copy and tagline.
Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer (2010)
Genre: contemporary/historical (alternate viewpoints)
Queer rep: Both main characters and several important supporting characters are gay.
Thoughts: A Lambda literary award nominee. This was both fascinating and disturbing, a look at Britain’s neo-Nazi movement through the POVs of Tony, a closeted skinhead in the 70s and 80s, and James, an out writer in 2003, who is researching the gay subculture of that movement. There are excerpts from real newspapers, fanzines, and the like in between chapters and some real people are fictionalized into the story, most notably Nicky Crane.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee (2017)
Queer rep: The main character is asexual; a supporting character is gay and another is bi.
Thoughts: Loved the ace rep. Loved loved loved it. The story was fun and very 2017 – Tash’s web series going viral is the backbone of the plot. I liked the portrayals of friendships and family relationships and the different ways people can love each other. A fun quick read.
Every Time I Think of You by Jim Provenzano (2011)
Genre: historical/coming of age
Queer rep: Both main characters are gay, a supporting character is bi. Bonus: the author is queer.
Thoughts: Lambda literary award winner. This was short and sweet. Set in the 70s, it looks at the budding romance between Reid and Everett, which is disrupted when Everett suffers a serious spinal injury. It was a bit insta-love (at least in one direction) initially but then it portrayed a more realistic look at their relationship and its ups and downs, as well as how their families react to their coming out. I just learned there’s a sequel, which I plan to get my hands on at some point.