Tag Archives: YA

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.

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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!

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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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

Fave Five: LGBTQ YAs by Latinx Authors with Latinx MCs

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (Contemp)

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (Light Sci-Fi)

When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (Magical Realism)

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Doyle (Contemp)

 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (and presumably its future companion, There Will Be Other Summers) by Benjamin Alire Saenz  (Contemp)

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Better Know an Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! To kick it off, I am so delighted to present my beloved critique partner, Marieke Nijkamp, whose debut, This is Where it Ends, is a freaking New York Times bestseller for five weeks running!

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How badass is hitting the New York Times bestseller list? Spare no details.

Well you got my super ineloquent texts, so I can hardly pretend I was calm and collected. Truth is, after I got the phone call, I sat on the couch and watched my Twitter explode and my hands were shaking so hard I could barely lift a drink—or respond to the social media outburst. It took me three days just to get caught up on the tweets and the emails. It was, and is, the most surreal and the most wonderful experience and I’m deeply grateful to my publisher and to my fantastic readers for getting the book there. It’s extremely badass, and I love that it means the book will reach even more readers. 

What music do you write to, if any?

It depends! For TIWIE, I had a fairly specific (and super sad) playlist, with a lot of poppy songs. With my current WIP, my playlist is far more classical and instrumental, with an additional and rather eclectic collection of Dutch songs. I’m not entirely sure how that happened either. 

Beyond that, I recently discovered the magic of Noisli. I love writing to the sound of rain and wind and thunder. (I need something vaguely winter-y to get me through these summer months. Ew.) 

What’s your ideal way to spend fifty-four minutes?

Doing something that involves stories. So writing, ideally, but also reading. Or traveling/adventuring. J

What’s a particularly conscious choice you made in your representation in This is Where it Ends?

Gah. There was one very conscious choice I made very, very early on, but sharing it is such a spoiler. That thing that happened. Or didn’t happen, depending on your point of view. That was a very conscious choice. 

Vague answer is vague.

tiwieWhat’s something about one of your leading characters in This is Where it Ends that didn’t make it on to the page?

Most everything I wanted to have on the page is there, but because the time frame is so limited, I had to make choices when it came to showing backstory. Which means there were always more scenes I was aware of or that I wanted to explore. One of those things is how and when Autumn fell in love with Sylv. Slower, more gradual, than the other way around. While Sylv fell for Autumn’s glow and her passion, Autumn fell for Sylv because Sylv steadies her world and makes her feel safe, when she needs it most. (Even if that terrifies Autumn.)

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

Hm, I think the first rep that really stuck with me was seeing Willow and Tara in Buffy. I think it might have been the first time I saw queer characters in any medium, period. And there was so much about it that was incredibly empowering. Badass queer witches? Yes, please. Characters I could identify with? Wow.  

Unfortunately it was also my first introduction to Dead Lesbian Syndrome. Or as TV Tropes so classily calls it, Bury Your Gays. I loved the positive aspects of Willow and Tara’s relationship, but I didn’t realize until much later how pervasive it was to see that “model” relationship come to a bad ending. To see so many queer couples not get their happily ever after (or even a happy for now). It took me a long time to realize queer relationships should not be hidden and deserve a happy ending as much as anyone else.

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

The first time I saw queer characters in a story that wasn’t just about being queer was such an eye opener to me. I think that was Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series (gay thieves for the win) and I loved that eureka moment of “we can have adventures too!”

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

I keep finding more and more favorites! So obviously, Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series is still high up there. All of her books, really. I also still love Annie on My Mind for being my first f/f YA. But in terms of recent books, I loved Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and when Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars comes along, it’ll blow you mind. I would recommend Alex Gino’s George to everyone and Malinda Lo’s Huntress is so gorgeous. Oh, and Robin Talley’s As I Descended is going to terrify you. I’m so excited for Fox Benwell’s Kaleidoscope Song to hit shelves because it’ll tear your heart out beautifully. And of course, I’m happy to declare my love for Otherbound and Under the Lights and Far From You everywhere ❤

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

More great ace rep. More characters exploring their gender identity. More queer casts (because we really do flock together). And more intersectionality in terms of race, disability, but also culture and religion. I think we have some fantastic lit out there already, and I’m so excited to see it continue to grow and expand. But there is such a vast spectrum of LGBTQIAP+ experiences, and I’d love to see more, more, more of it.

What advice do you have for teens who come to you for advice on how to come out?

I usually tell them two things. One, be proud of who you are, regardless of what the world tells you. And two, safety first. It’s unfortunately still the case for all of us queer folk that being out can be dangerous, whether it’s because of family, work, or living in a bigoted environment. So while I understand the need to be out – I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they can’t be who they are and I will support anyone who wants to take that leap – it’s so, so important to start with people you know you can trust and to consider safety nets, support systems, and your own well-being. Because you matter so much.

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

TWITTER. Okay, but it actually is at that. I practically grew up on the internet. As a baby queer, I found a lot of information and a good part of my community online, through forums, writing groups, and fanfic. But never before to the extent and scope of (my corner of) the queer community of Twitter. These days, I find myself going more private again too, but knowing it’s out there and we’re not alone is invaluable. 

Macarons or stroopwaffels?

…stroopwafel-flavored macarons. 

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What’s up next for you?

A story with an ace main character. And I’m *so* excited about it.

CANNOT WAIT. Marieke’s book, This is Where it Ends, is on sale now, and here’s where you can buy it!

Sourcebooks Amazon US The Book Depository
IndieBound Amazon UK iTunes
Books of Wonder Barnes & Noble Target

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.

Fave Five: Winter YA 2016

Fave Five will generally be a little less…well, general, but since this is the first edition of it for the site, I’m gonna use it to quickly catch up on what are in my opinion the most noteworthy LGBTQIAP+ YA titles of the year so far!

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate (P, Contemp)

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (L, Sci-Fi)

This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin (A, Contemp)

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (G, Contemp)

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

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (G, Spec Fic)

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(Yeah, I slipped in a sixth. You gonna fight me? I didn’t think so.)