In my novel The Last Beginning, the main character Clove is going through a lot. She gets rejected after kissing her best friend Meg in the same week that she finds out she’s adopted. She relies on a sassy artificial intelligence called Spart for emotional support – and a girl from the future called Ella keeps interfering with her life and telling Clove that she’s her girlfriend. She’s having a pretty hard time of it, so I thought I’d recommend some books to help her chill out a little bit.
Clove’s future girlfriend Ella is a Classics major, and as Clove is more into computer science, she doesn’t know much about Greek myths. This retelling of Achilles and Patroclus’ love story will give her a starter in all things Classical, to help her keep up with Ella.
Clove’s adoptive parents, Tom and Jen, are both scientists working on building the world’s first time machine. Clove has been listening to their discussions about time travel since she was a little girl, so she would feel right at home reading this gay love story set in a world where time can stop and start at will.
In this book, Thaniel falls in love with Keita, a Japanese watchmaker with clairvoyant powers. Just like Ella, Keita has knowledge of his future relationship with Thaniel. I think this book would help Clove deal with the crazy frustrations of dating someone who thinks they know more about you than you do.
Clove knits while she’s waiting for code to compile, and to calm her nerves. She also woos Ella by giving her a green scarf she makes – so this lesbian love story about girls meeting over yarn would be perfect for them both!
In Radio Silence, British teenagers Frances and Aled are facing a breakdown of everything they thought they knew about themselves and what they wanted from life. Clove goes through something similar in The Last Beginning, so she would definitely relate.
Ella is from the future, so she and Clove face the prospect of a long-distance relationship across several centuries. She would probably like this novel about the internet relationship between two girls, told through their messages and emails, just like the conversations between Clove and Ella.
When Clove travels back in time to 1745, she feels the need to hide her sexuality, because she knows people will react badly if they found out she liked girls. In her time of 2054, sexuality isn’t an issue, and she proudly wears a rainbow wristband given to her by her dad Tom. She would probably find it comforting to read this historical novel about boys on a grand tour of Europe, which shows that there is a place for LGBT characters throughout history.
When Clove kisses her best friend Meg and gets rejected, she feels like her life is over. She doesn’t think their friendship will ever survive Clove’s advances. She would love this graphic novel series about a group of freshman girls at a British university, whose tight knit friendship group constantly faces the strain of fighting over romance, school and sexuality – and survives.
Clove would love all of these books, although she’s probably too busy to read them during The Last Beginning. I would apologise, but giving my characters tough things to deal with is one of the best parts of being a writer.
Lauren James is the author of Young Adult science fiction, including The Next Together series and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. The Last Beginning was published by Sky Pony Press in March. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.
*The demisexual character in Radio Silence is not the narrator, but he’s the second biggest character in the book, and as far as I know, the only character with this label in mainstream YA, so I opted to include it here
*Having read this since initially posting, I see I was misinformed, and the MC is not in fact biracial; she’s in a mixed-race family. (She and her mother are Black, her stepbrother and stepfather are white.) However, the book does have her dealing with being Black and Jewish, so perhaps bicultural would be a better adjective here.
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:
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.)
“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!
This 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!
This is one of my favorite posts (courtesy of Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner) to do on my personal blog, and I thought it’d be fun to bring it here, using just the LGBTQIAP+ books I’ve read this year, and hear what your answers would be in the comments! (Note: a few of these answers on my personal blog were LGBTQIAP+ books anyway, so those have been copy-pasted here.) So, let’s see how this goes:
2016 Reading Stats
Number Of Books You Read: 64 books w/LGBTQIAP+ protags
Number of Re-Reads: Just Out on Good Behavior, for obvious reasons!
Genre You Read The Most From: Contemporary YA
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Pretty much any book I expected/hoped would have better representation than it does.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Best surprises are the ones that had queer POVs in books I definitely did not expect to see them in, and wouldn’t necessarily have read this year (if ever) if bloggers didn’t push me to! So: Cherry by Lindsey Rosin, Winning by Lara Deloza, and This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin.
4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
Series Ender: Pretty sure Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo’s the only one I read with any queer POVs!
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Santino Hassell – picked up one book, continued to read four more of his throughout the year.
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
The Abyss Surrounds Usby Emily Skrutskie! I know that conceptually that book is so many people’s dream, but it’s not my usual thing and I found it totally unputdownable. AndNot Your Sidekick by CB Lee – not usually a superhero-book reader but this was so much fun, and I’m so psyched it’s gonna be a continuing series.
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis. That’s one of my favorite LGBTQIAP YAs of all time now and people were talking about its greatness for SO LONG, but I was slow to it for no good reason.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
To the boys who get called girls,
the girls who get called boys,
and those who live outside these words.
To those called names
and those searching for names of their own.
To those who live on the edges,
and in the spaces in between.
I wish for you every light in the sky.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. It didn’t even happen immediately, but as the book sank in, I just completely lost it.
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
I feel like in LGBTQIAP+ lit almost everything is a hidden gem because they rarely get decent marketing budgets, but I have such a soft spot for Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, for quietly delivering both (explicit) pan and (implicit) ace rep in a mainstream YA. While both of those words pop up a bunch in 2017 YA, 7WWL was the only mainstream 2016 YA I saw to contain either one. (And yes, it’s also a good book!)
Queer Lit on my Mind, which isn’t exactly a book blog but it’s a (now-) friend’s Tumblr I think posts great reviews.
2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?
I’m actually a terrible reviewer, and since I keep needing to remind people this isn’t a review site, I’m going to abstain from this question so I don’t send the wrong message!
3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Not that I can take any credit for it, personally, but gotta go with Casey Lawrence’s “Goodbye, Bad Bi“!
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Only did one LGBTQ panel this year – with Adam Silvera, Jenn Marie Thorne, and Kenneth Logan – but it was great! Also attended a good one featuring Rebecca Podos, Kenneth Logan, Cordelia Jensen, and I.W. Gregorio.
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
Kicking off this site, I’d say!
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
Thank you to guest-posting author Casey Lawrence, whose “Goodbye, Bad Bi” was by far the most popular post on the site this year.
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I did hope more people would share the post of Trans Lit Under $5 – most of those books are #ownvoices titles that could definitely use some love!
9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
The LA all-Romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice is amazing, and so great for queer romance. And I’m not just saying that because they made Out on Good Behavior their book club pick one month, but I’m also not not saying that? Because choosing an f/f NA for book club is pretty damn awesome.
10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Finally launching this site! (And my personal Goodreads challenge of reading 175 books.)
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon – I’ve been saving that series for myself forever!
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. I freaking loved Pointe and this character is bi and Jewish, so, no-brainer! But absolutely highly anticipating Noteworthy by Riley Redgate and Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee, both of which sound super clever and fun, and by authors I’m really curious to see more from as well. Redgate did something really fantastic for YA by bringing it its first mainstream on-the-page pansexual character, and Tash reportedly contains fantastic on-the-page ace rep, so, lots to look forward to!