Category Archives: Under the Gaydar

Under the Gaydar: Bi-ding Their Time

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This edition is dedicated to YAs coming up in 2017 with bi main characters but no hint of queerness in their blurbs – extra key for collections that need for whatever reason to remain a little more discreet!

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno – the blurb from Cotugno’s excellent fourth novel focuses on the main relationship in the book, i.e. the BFFs-maybe-turned-more situation between Gabby and Ryan, but inside the book, Gabby is not only openly bi, but still in touch with (and flashing back to) her ex-girlfriend, Shay.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston – all I know about this one is that there’s definitely main bi and intersex rep, it sounds killer, it’s got a gorgeous cover, and everyone I know who’s read it thinks it’s freaking fantastic. So, there’s that.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – of course, if you’re at all familiar with Adam Silvera, you know all of his books have main characters under the rainbow umbrella, but this is his first with a bi MC, and spoiler: it’s great.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – as with her past books, this one is m/f with a female main character who is clearly interested in more than one gender but doesn’t use the word on the page. I must bitterly admit I haven’t read it yet, but if there’s anyone I trust to do everything from rep to prose gorgeously, it’s the author of When the Moon Was Ours.

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Under the Gaydar: YAs with Underrepresented Identities in Secondary Characters

OK, so the title’s a little clunky, and the books themselves mostly aren’t Under the Gaydar (*indicates cishet allosexual MC), but bear with me. While LGB are pretty frequently found in YAs these days in both primary and secondary roles (YAY!), other IDs under the rainbow umbrella…not so much. You’ll see plenty about those characters here when they get starring roles in books, but for those seeking some more representation in significant roles, here’s where you can find some:

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Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee – trans guy BFF, who’s also the MC of the upcoming sequel, Not Your Villain  (MC is bi)

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson – BFF character is genderfluid, uses alternating pronouns (MC is gay)

On the Edge of Gone* by Corinne Duyvis – MC’s sister is transgender and bisexual

Lunaside by J.L. Douglas – on-page asexual secondary (MC is a lesbian)

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – BFF is on-page demisexual in m/m relationship (MC is bi)

Honestly Ben* by Bill Konigsberg – asexuality, pansexuality, and gender fluidity are all represented in secondary characters (Note: while book is m/m, MC does not ID as queer; you can see my personal thoughts on that execution here. Tl;dr: they are positive.)

You can find love interests using the word pansexual on the page (though some are still considering their labels) in Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (bi MC), Looking for Group by Rory Harrison (gay MC; LI is also trans), and Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (trans MC)

Coming in 2018: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake – love interest is genderqueer (MC is bi); Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp – BFF is pansexual (MC is asexual)

Under the Gaydar: Asexual Rep

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This time around we’re looking at books with major characters on the ace spectrum that don’t have that info in the blurb (and haven’t been on every post about this since the beginning of time; at this point I assume most people have discovered books like Quicksilver by RJ Anderson) – hopefully this will help expand your library a bit!

Depositphotos_40057967_s-2015This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin – Though the book doesn’t include the label “asexual,” discussion of being a romantic asexual (and finding your place in a romantic relationship) is a significant portion of this 2016 contemporary YA.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate – Redgate’s debut is delightfully infamous for being the first mainstream YA to feature an on-page Pansexual main character, but among the 7 POVs is another queer character on his own journey to figuring out he’s aromantic asexual. As with the above, you won’t see the word on the page, but you won’t be able to miss it, either.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire – Portal fantasy with ace rep and atmosphere to spare, from one of SFF’s most popular prolific authors.

Overexposed by Megan Erickson – M/M NA Romance with an on-page demisexual main character. I think that’s maybe all I need to say about that?

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – I don’t usually feature books in which the character in question isn’t a POV character, but the presence of a major on-page demisexual character in YA is just too great to ignore! If you’re not in the UK, where it released in 2016, make sure you nab this one as soon as it’s available where you are.

27 Hours by Tristina Wright – Coming out in October 2017, this sci-fi YA features a host of underrepresented POVs, including one who’s ace.

Before I Let Go by Marie Nijkamp – Releasing in January 2018, this fabulous Alaska-set contemporary YA I have read and you have not (#CPlove) features an (#ownvoices) ace MC.

For some more instances of on-page labels in non-POV characters, check out Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, Lunaside by JL Douglas, and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg! And do check out this interview with Erica Cameron, to see which of her books apply as well!

Under the Gaydar: YA Fantasy Worlds

While most of books you’ll see on this site are strictly LGBTQIAP+ MC, I’m going a little outside that box for this post. (Not to worry; there’ll be plenty of posts on that too.) Most of these books do have at least one queer primary character too, but this is sort of a bigger-picture look, because these are the series that wouldn’t necessarily come up if you searched for LGBTQIAP+ YA fantasy, and, well, this is Under the Gaydar; what else do you think we do here but build your TBR list with stuff you didn’t know was actually bleeding rainbows?

(N.B.: every book listed is the first in the series, but that’s not necessarily the book with the greatest amount of Rainbow Rep.)

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The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine Not only is the premise of this book, about a girl who’s supposed to become a queen with massive powers and then just kinda…doesn’t, pretty epic on its own, but the main character is also quite besotted with her handmaiden. As per usual in Fantasy, the word “bisexual” isn’t used, but the differentiation of her feelings from simply being friendly is done clearly, and the guy she ends up with never feels like a romance she settled for. Next year will bring the sequel, The Cursed Queen, which according to the author similarly has a bi MC, this time with f/f endgame.

And I Darken by Kiersten White – This historical fantasy is one of my biggest obsessions of the year, and features two narrators: a bloodthirsty girl named Lada and her brother, a softer, more beautiful boy named Radu. Oh, and both are in love with Mehmed, the son of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire in which they’re effectively being held captive.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – The voice in this one alone could kill me, but one of the best things outside of the main character, macaron references, and NYC love is the amazing haters-to-lovers banter between Jasper and Dorian, two of the guys in her gang, who bring yet more wittiness to the series, along with some gayness and pansexuality.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu – One of my favorite fantasy series so far (two books down, one to come this fall) is all about villainy origins, but I’ll take a spin off on the queer romance that edges in through the cracks any day.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I have to cop to that this is the one series on the list I haven’t started yet, but the absolutely glowing comments on varied representation in Shadow Scale, the second book in the duology, won’t allow me to leave it off the list until I do, especially since it’s the only mainstream-published fantasy I know of with trans representation.

Under the Gaydar: Heartbreaker Edition

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This week we’re looking at some f/f YA heartbreakers – books that will totally kill your soul, but are so good, you need to read each and every one anyway.

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Far From You by Tess Sharpe Part murder mystery, part tragic love story, and a whole lotta excellence in Sharpe’s debut. Not only does main character Sophie possess one of the only (very well-done) examples of invisible disability in YA, but she was also the first character many current readers had ever seen self-ID as bisexual in a YA novel. (Also one of very few examples of an on-page sex scene in YA between girls. Basically, this book broke a lot of molds, and we’re very grateful for it!)

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – Plenty of people are aware of This is Where it Ends; after all, it is a New York Times bestseller, and it’s kiiiinda hard to ignore that cover. That tagline. That premise. That…everything. But not everyone knows that two of the four POVs present in the book belong to two halves of a lesbian couple, Sylv and Autumn, and they’re at the center of the hunt.

Paperweight by Meg Haston – When people argue about sexuality being a spoiler, this is the kind of story I imagine they mean, but at this point, if you haven’t picked this one up, then allow me to use this to steer you in its direction, because I also know it to be one of the best representations of an Eating Disorder in YA.

Beautiful by Amy Reed – Cassie is in a major downward spiral, shifting into a life of popularity and beauty in her new town that’s as alien to her as her new skin, her new friends, her new capacity for adventure. And in that journey, Cassie only truly gets close to one person, but Sarah is every bit as full of pain and not quite as thoroughly numbed.

Under the Gaydar: Bad Girls Edition

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but should definitely have on your radar. This edition is all about some great “bad girls” in YA who, in addition to loving lying, petty crime, bullying, and more, also quite love the ladies. (Or at least one lady!)

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Winning by Lara Zeises DelozaMean Girls meets Election, with multiple POVs, including Sam, best friend to the Regina George-esque lead, who’s easily manipulated into helping her BFF get on top… or is she?  (my convoluted little review here)

Trust Me, I’m Trouble by Mary Elizabeth Summer – The second in a series about a teen girl con artist sees her going from a male love interest in book 1 to a female love interest in book 2, and it does so with zero sexuality angst while also not ignoring that sexual angst about your first time having feelings for someone of another gender can be a Thing. This series is so voice-y and fabulous and these girls are hands-down one of my favorite YA pairings ever. I ship it so hard, and so will you.

Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul – Uggghhhh homoerotic toxic friendship novels are my crack, and Mattie and Jolene in this one are basically, like, “Match, meet gasoline. I think you guys are gonna hit it off super well.” Don’t go in thinking this is a Romance – it isn’t – but when I say “Homoerotic toxic friendship novel” I mean every single one of those words to the max.

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten – My thoughts on this one are similar to Underneath Everything, but whereas UE is sort of dreamily lyrical and introspective, SNFBG is rife with plot twistiness, and I still think about that ending and wish I were in a book club just so I could discuss it with other people.

Vanished by E.E. Cooper – Kalah isn’t really a bad girl, per se, but she’s gone ahead and fallen for one, who also happens to be one of her best friends…who also happens to be missing. There’s a whole web of lies and twists, and all that’s cool, but the best part of this book is Kalah herself, how she comes into her own sexuality, and finally seeing some intersectional diversity in “cool girl” YA.