This is the other category that demands more than three books. Because if we want to represent as many of the letters as possible, well, we have to open the field. Not all the full spectrum of the rainbow is here. I am sure the books exist, I just didn’t have a chance to track them down, and read them all, unfortunately. But two others that I also loved include Girl Mans Up by M E Girard (September 2016)and The Other Pants by M G Hennessey (more of a middle grade book, which is excellent in itself) (also September 2016).
This Song is (not) for you by Laura Nowlin (January 2016)
I read this almost a year ago, and still have strong memories of it being different and more socially conscious than a lot of teen novels. Ramona wants to save the environment, bring peace to war torn countries, and she acts locally too. Big dreams. Sam and Tom add their narrative voices, and this threesome is quirky and eventually learn to care little for how others define them. I love how they refuse to adhere to labels, and find spaces for each other. The parents in this novel play positive, and supportive roles which is great to see. It’s unusual and challenging. I know I haven’t explained how it fits into this category, but I wanted it to be spoiler-free. If you want to know more, my long review is at Goodreads.
Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self (April 2016)
Nobody dies in Drag Teen, and TJ’s theatrical identity crises are more angsty fun than dark drama. Also road trip!! On his way to take part in a drag competition for teens (what else?) to win himself cash to help attend college, TJ works through his lack of self-belief, deals with the fragile bonds of friendship, and strengthens his love with Seth. Celebratory, offering a different type of queerness, it’s bold and big (as the wigs) and sparkly (as the diamontes), and says much to kids who have flamboyant and dramatic dreams. An off-beat adventure.
If I was your girl by Meredith Russo (June 2016)
Russo’s story of a transitioning teenager is a bit darker. There are issues with bullies, requiring Amanda to move in with her father in another state. She tries to keep under the radar, and hide her secrets, but they always have a way of getting out. Lucky by this time, she has support, she has gained confidence, and there’s even a boy who likes her. So, even though there are difficult times to navigate, it offers more hope than hurt. Which is good, because there needs to be more happiness in these sorts of books.
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan (June 2016)
Another celebratory novel, full of queers across all points of the spectrum, working out ordinary everyday teen issues – friendships, unrequited love, built up expectations, getting in underage to a dance club, basically experiences all teens (should get to) face. These kids just happen to be mostly gay. It’s glorious. I really appreciate the philosophy about living in the present. Too often teens books point readers to the future. The dual narrators work seamlessly and aren’t *shock! horror!* romantically linked. It’s so great. Platonic love is just as important here as romantic love. I enjoyed this a lot. Here is my review at Reading Time.
It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt (September 2016)
The darkest and saddest LGBTQIA book I read this year. I know I shouldn’t give away spoilers, but seriously we need to move away from the trope of death to make a point, and for people to see they need to mend their ways. Mike’s narrative is quiet and seemingly ordinary, but the gaps are large and horrifying. Gay conversion centres are an actual thing, and in today’s political climate, it’s timely to make them part of the YA literature conversation. Another one that I reviewed at Reading Time.
Here’s the Thing by Emily O’Beirne (October 2016)
An unexpected pleasure. O’Beirne is Australian but publishes with Ylva Publishing, a European company focusing on women’s literature, particularly lesbian fiction. It’s a good fit, and this book, Emily’s fourth, is excellent. Zel’s voice is wonderful, confident yet hesitant. She’s a photographer, and Art pretty much dominates the discussion between characters, and drives the plot. It’s terrific. The settings alternate between New York and Sydney, and nice contrasts are set up between seasons and destinations. There are also a range of well developed secondary characters that are integral to Zel’s character development. The tone is fresh and appealing. Because I snagged it from Netgalley, I wrote a long review at Goodreads.
On Friday, I want to highlight my three favourite Australian YA novels (sooo hard to pick).