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.

Fave Five: Contemp f/f NA

Black Iris and Cam Girl by Elliot Wake w/a Leah Raeder

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

The Good Girls by Teresa Mummert

Take Them by Storm by Marie Landry

Out on Good Behavior and Under the Lights (YA/NA) by Dahlia Adler

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TBRainbow Alert #1

For those of you who feel like you’ve already read every LGBTQIAP+ book in existence, not to worry – there’s plenty still to come! Every TBRainbow Alert will have a mix of five LGBTQIAP+ titles to make sure are on your radar, along with three reasons why you should know them. Here are a few coming up in 2016! (Title links to Goodreads; Author links to book pages for preorder.)

Title: Roller Girl (July 25)
Author: Vanessa North
Genre/Category: Contemporary Romance
Rainbow details: f/f, trans woman and cis woman
Why put it on your radar?
1. Ummm roller derby? Did you not catch that?
2. This is actually gonna be my first Vanessa North read, but far as I can tell she’s pretty great!
3. Mainstream f/f Romance is still reasonably rare, and including at least one trans woman even more so.

Title: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit (August 30)
Author: Jaye Robin Brown
Genre/Category: Contemporary YA
Rainbow details: f/f, both MC and LI are lesbian and cis
Why put it on your radar?
1. Super fun, cute, and hot f/f YA with an HEA; all the things I almost never find together in one space.
2. Really great exploration of the intersection between queerness and religion.
3. It’s set in the south, where queer teens could especially stand to see their stories in happy contexts right now.

Title: As I Descended (September 6)
Author: Robin Talley
Genre/Category: Paranormal YA
Rainbow details: f/f, bi MC
Why put it on your radar?
1. This is a freaking Macbeth retelling. In boarding school. With ghosts. I MEAN.
2. I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve heard rumblings of a much A+ representation in this book, in addition to queerness.
3. Robin Talley is maybe the author most frequently and consistently publishing LGBTQ YA with a big house right now, and always does so with an eye on intersectionality; she’s just generally a fabulous person to support.

Title: Last Seen Leaving (October 4)
Author: Caleb Roehrig
Genre/Category: YA Thriller
Rainbow details: Questioning/Gay boy
Why put it on your radar?      1. Thrillers are my crack. Willing to bet I’m not alone there.
2. Debut author! Love getting in on the ground floor of a potential great new voice in LGBTQIAP+ YA, and all signs (and reviews)(and, if I’m being honest, his tweets) point to him being someone to watch
3. It’s just so…interesting. And resonant. And the representation is every bit as beautiful as the writing.

Title: When the Moon Was Ours (October 4)
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre/Category: Magical Realism YA
Rainbow details: m/f, queer cis girl and straight trans boy
Why put it on your radar?
1. The writing is melt-your-brain beautiful.
2. QPoC are incredibly rare in YA, as are romances between PoC (and especially interracial romances between PoC), and this is between a Latina girl and a Desi boy.
3. It’s just so…interesting. And resonant. And the representation is every bit as beautiful as the writing.

Stay tuned for the next TBR Alert, coming soon; in the meantime, please spread the word about these!

Quick LGBTQ Reads News Roundup!

There’s a lot happening today in the world of LGBTQ Reads, so a quick catchup for anyone getting overwhelmed by it all!

First, there’s some new stuff on the site: in addition to a brand-new Fave Five post, the SFF section has been updated to include YA as well, so that SFF for all ages can be found in one spot. There’s also a new page that is very much in progress, so that you can now find LGBTQIAP+ Manga, comics, and graphic novels as well. Thanks to everyone who’s been helping provide recommendations!

Second, two new gay Contemporary YA releases today, both dealing with mental health:

Jerkbait by Mia Siegert

Keywords: gay, hockey, twins, tw: suicide, online predators, GAY ATHLETE in case you didn’t catch that

Rec to: I mean, there’s almost no gay sports anything in YA, so.

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Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Keywords: gay, agoraphobia, friendship, literal LOLs

Rec to: Fans of mental health YA and Everything, Everything and also just funny, feelsy YA in general

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Aaaaand finally, a cover reveal for an upcoming YA that is an f/f Robin Hood. Yes, you read that correctly:

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 Marian by Ella Lyons releases on November 3rd, and you can add it on Goodreads here!

Quick reminder that LGBTQ Reads is also on Tumblr, and if you need a rec or twelve, you can always Ask!

Fave Five: Dystopian LGBTQ YA

Dystopian can be a tough genre to track down these days, especially because it’s usually mashed up with another genre. But for those who’ve been on the hunt, here are five to get you started!

The Culling by Steven dos Santos (G)

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (B, f/f)

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen (G)

Coda by Emma Trevayne (B, m/f)

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (GQ)

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Fave Five: Mental Health LGBTQ YAs

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, check out these excellent LGBTQ YAs featuring main characters dealing with mental health issues:

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (B, Eating Disorder)

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (G, Agoraphobia)

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (G, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (GF, Anxiety)

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (L, Depression w/suicidal ideation and self-harm)

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Better Know an Author: Rebekah Weatherspoon

A002_C005_0514C7.0001771FIf you read f/f NA/Romance, it’s pretty impossible not to know Rebekah Weatherspoon, but how well do you really know Rebekah Weatherspoon? (Also, not to brag, but I just got to see her on several panels at RT and she was freaking fantastic; if you ever get the opportunity to hear her panel somewhere, DO IT.) How could I not beg to pick the brain behind not only a seriously epic collection of diverse romance, but the entire #WoCInRomance site? (PS she also had a new release just this past weekend: check out So Right, the sequel to So Sweet, which share a bi heroine in an m/f relationship!)

I usually avoid asking authors about their inspiration because I know it gets asked to death, but you have a paranormal lesbian sorority series, and I’m sorry but I must know where the idea for that came from. Must. 

Ha! I don’t know where the idea came from, I remember exactly where I was when the idea came to me. I was driving down Wilshire Blvd and I hit the intersection at New Hampshire Ave (I’m from New Hampshire, you see). The idea popped into my head and I remember thinking this is so ridiculous and over the top I’ll be kicking myself if I don’t run with it. So I did.

You’re one of very few writers of f/f NA, and bless you for it. What have been the biggest challenges and awesome moments of publishing it?

Honestly, I don’t see any challenges. I think a lot of my work is outside of the mainstream. I write a lot of women of color and being a woman of color I face the same challenges walking down the street or going to the bank. It’s just another day.

What’s a particularly conscious choice you’ve made in your representation?

I’ve made the choice to write women of color, particularly young black women. I feel like young women of color (tween-25) almost NEVER seen themselves on screen or in literature. And if they are screen they are sometimes played by an adult. I love Arden Cho something fierce, but she was like 28 when she started playing a 17-year-old on Teen Wolf. I know that sort of thing messes with the teen mind. In writing NA, I wanted to give younger women a most realistic portrayal of themselves. Even if there are vampires involved.

What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Oh man, I really have to think. When I was growing up none of the LGBTQ terms were in my vocabulary. My parents just had friends that were married to other women, but they didn’t tell me they were lesbians so I didn’t have the words for it. BUT I think Ricky on My So-Called Life stuck with me. Ricky was gay and out and Latino and living in a mostly white town, but he was also so cool. I remember really wishing that Ricky could find his own happiness outside of Angela and her family. I’m sure he’d have it by now.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Uh, there’s a lot of racism. That kinda sucks. Also a lot of different flavors of misogyny and transmisogny and transphobia that sneak in. When I came out I remember being really excited and then extra bummed that a lot of what I was seeing in the straight/cis community was presenting in every aspect of the LGBTQIAP+  community as well including our literature.

Which of your books has queer representation?

Main characters? So Sweet, So Right, The Fling, Treasure, SATED, At Her Feet, Better Off Red, Blacker Than Blue, and Soul to Keep

What’s your favorite of your covers, and why?

You can’t make me choose. I won’t choose. (Blogger’s note: This is legit; her covers are fanfreakingtastic. You can scroll through them all here.)

What are some of your favorite queer-centric things on the Internet?

Tumblr. Aint nothing queerer than my tumblr feed.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Watching TV. I’m super boring, but I’m also kind of obsessed with consuming media. To be a writer or to work in entertainment you have to know what’s going on. I watch a ton of TV and a lot of movies.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

A lot less of the crud I mentioned before with the bigotry, etc. and I NEED more queer New Adult reads, and I would sell my grandma for more erotic queer lit of every kind. Queer erotic fairy tales, queer erotic sports romances, queer erotic romantic comedies. Make ’em queer, and sweet, and extra porny.

What’s up next for you?

Self-pub wise, after I wrap up the Sugar Baby series in the fall I’ll be working on some space lesbian erotic romance. There’s not enough erotic romance in space, featuring lesbians.

Ain’t that the truth. You can buy any and all (preferably all) of Rebekah’s books here! (If you’re a Kindle person like I am, I’ll make that even easier here.)

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.

Backlist Book of the Month: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

This month’s Backlist Book of the Month is The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, a gay YA hybrid novel by Shaun David Hutchinson, whose work also includes the hiiiighly acclaimed gay YA We Are the Ants. Here are three reasons this one’s a Must Read:

  1. FEEEEEEELINGS. You like feeling things, don’t you? Sadness and pain and sympathy or maybe empathy but also friendship feelings and caring and that spark of discovering someone new? I’m not gonna pretend this book won’t crush you, but…come on. Isn’t that what books are for, really?
  2. The art. As I mentioned, this book is a hybrid – the main character is a comic artist, and the actual art in the book was done by illustrator Christine Larsen. The comic panels add so much to the work, not just because they’re beautifully done, and not just because they encompass so many emotions, but because they allow you to get that much further into Andrew’s head and the swirl of emotions that come with it.
  3. The universality. You might not be gay, or have lost your family, or be in the hospital, or have a friend who’s dying, but this isn’t just about those things individually – it’s everything that comes with survivor’s guilt, with your life turning upside-down, with considering a new future when you know it won’t look anything like you thought it would. It’s finding beauty in ugly places and strength through your weakest times. And I’m pretty sure we can all relate to that.

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Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps 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.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.

Barnes & Noble * Indiebound * Amazon

New Release Spotlight (+Interview!): If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

This month’s new release spotlight is one of my absolute favorite reads of the year, and if you haven’t already heard me gush to death about it, well, here I am doing it again! 

Russo’s debut centers around Amanda, whose new life at her new school sees her finding cool friends and a great boyfriend, none of whom know her secret: that she used to be Andrew. One of my favorite things about the book is the way flashbacks are integrated, taking the reader back through the milestones of Amanda’s emotional and transitional journey, but the present day is excellent too. Rather than me babbling on and on about it, though, I’ve asked Meredith Russo to answer some interview questions, so, here she is to do just that!

23947922If I Was Your Girl is your debut novel; what have been the coolest and most surprising parts of your debut experience so far?

The coolest thing by far has been the people I get to talk to. I’ve become friends with one of my idols because of this book, for one, and I’ve met loads of other amazing people I never would have met without the book. I think the most surprising thing is that a lot of my job right now isn’t writing fiction! I’m always thinking about promotion, I just finished recording some things for the audiobook, I’m making travel plans for conferences, and, well, doing interviews.

What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Lieutenant Einhorn in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. In case you haven’t seen it (don’t see it), Einhorn, the villain, is a trans woman who used to be a pro football player and had a nervous breakdown after losing the Super Bowl, after which she transitioned and went stealth. She kills someone because they discover her “secret” (watching it now I guarantee it was probably self defense because a guy freaked out or whatever) and then when Ace reveals she’s the killer at the end of the movie he tears her clothes off, exposes her genitals in front of all her employees (while the song from The Crying Game plays and the men she slept with puke), and beats her senseless. Needless to say that movie screwed me up as a kid.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

A huge number of trans books I’ve read aren’t really about the trans character but, rather, about a cis narrator’s feelings about the trans character’s transition or existence, and I hate it. Maybe it’s because I’m trans, but I care way more about how the trans character feels than any cis characters.

You’ve got a gorgeous cover, the first I know of in YA to feature a transgender model. What was the process of creating that cover like?

I wasn’t super involved, but when I met with Flatiron they actually asked for my advice on ways to make the book as positive as possible, which blew my mind, so I suggested we keep trans people as involved as possible at every step and they actually listened, which is how we got Kira Conley for the cover and Samia Mounts for the audiobook!

What are your favorite writing snacks?

I’m a total pickle lesbian (well, bi, but whatever). Look it up, it’s a Thing.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Parenting, of course, but I also play a lot of video games, board games, and D&D, as well as consuming way too much anime when I should be, you know, reading like a real grown-up.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

Two of my favorite books of all time are Nevada by Imogen Binnie and A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett. They’re both adult fiction, so maybe not appropriate for my audience, but if you want to know what it’s like to be trans in your twenties these are the books you read.

What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

I want to see queer trans people. I feel like we’re still in a place where people are only ready to grapple with the idea of trans girls who like boys and trans boys who like girls but, I mean, trans people self-identify as bi much, much more than cis people do, and that’s way underrepresented.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on two new books! They’re both about trans girls; one is a YA romance, while the other is a darker, more adult examination of what it means to be bitter, lonely, and burned out as a trans woman in her early twenties.

If I Was Your Girl releases May 3rd! Buy it:

Amazon * B&N * Indiebound * The Book Depository

Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!