I was fishing around for ideas for a book list this month, and C pointed out that Obama had proclaimed June LGBTQ Pride Month. She suggested I should do a list of books with good LGBTQ characters. I don’t read them often, but I thought that was a great idea.
Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour: The story of a Southern California girl who has recently graduated and is trying to figure out what to do next. She just happens to like girls. “I loved this book. Wholeheartedly and unabashedly. I loved the peek into the way movies work, the facts behind the fantasy. I loved the way Emi thought about characters and set design. And I loved how sometimes she let fantasy overtake her reality. The characters were so real, so deep, so complex, that I couldn’t help but be drawn into their lives.”
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan: The story of two boys with the same name, one who is gay, and one who isn’t (but whose best friend, Tiny, is gay). I’m rereading this one for my John Green book group, and thoroughly enjoying it. I think it’s not just that Tiny Cooper is a wonderful contradiction, he’s a person who has thoroughly accepted himself for who he is. And that’s so refreshing.
Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray: “On the surface, the book is terribly shallow and stereotypical. Bray has lumped every single cultural reference and stereotype she could think of in this book: there is a lesbian, transgender, bisexual, stupid Southerner, aggressive Texan, Indian-American, black contestant. Honestly: none of the characters are likable, and the plot was fairly simplistic, which almost made it hard to get through.But, when you read it as a satire, the book works brilliantly.”
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz: A story of two boys in south Texas who realizes that their friendship is something more. I didn’t have a very good first reaction to this one, partially because it was so very guy, I think. I did like, however, the acceptance of Dante’s parents to his coming out. And the juxtaposition of that with the violence done to Dante by others in his down. I’m still not sure it needed to be an 80s book, though.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brun: The one adult book on this doesn’t have a gay main character, but a beloved rather a beloved uncle who died of AIDS and the way that effects the family. “What I did like, however, was the exploration of June’s relationships. Not only with her uncle and his boyfriend, but also with her mother and sister as well. June’s perceptions of all those relationships were — partially because she’s 14 — off, sometimes drastically. And it’s a growing process for her to realize that everything isn’t quite how she perceives, that the truth of everything is multilayered and complex.”
On the Count of Three (aka The Bermudez Triangle), by Maureen Johnson: I’ve been trying to get people to read this one for a while now, because I remember it being a good book about friendship. There are three friends, one of whom is gay and is dating one of the other friends, and keeping it secret from the third. “It’s a good book; not my favorite of Johnson’s but a good, solid story, one where friends stick it out through thick and thin, and realize that sometimes being friends — just being friends — and having friends is the most important thing.”
Better Nate than Ever, by Tim Federle: Okay, so Nate isn’t openly gay; he’s just interested in musicals. And that’s a stereotype that drives me nuts; you can be straight and like musicals just like you can be gay and hate them. But I’m throwing it in, anyway. “Even with all the cliches and stereotypes, this wasn’t a terrible book. I think what saved it, for me at least, was Nate himself. Federle caught the voice of an awkward, insecure, hopeful kid someone who has been beaten down his whole life, and yet still remains optimistic about everything. He’s adorable, and heart-warming, and just plain fun. It was this that kept me reading, and when I finished, it was this that made the book a good one for me.”
Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, by Bill Wright: A gay teen with a troubled life makes good. Sounds cheezy, but “even though this boy faces more challenges than you can shake a stick at (being a gay teenin NYC isn’t the cakewalk that you would suppose it is…), he is hopeful and optimistic and confident that he can do what it takes to be successful. It was ….well…. if not inspiring, then at least affirming.”
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith: I’ll be up front here: this book is not for everyone. I didn’t particularly like it. BUT there are some positives: “That said, there were things to admire: actual sentences that made me laugh aloud. Or the fact that Austin’s (and Robby’s for that matter) sexuality was just a thing, and not an “issue”. Or six-foot-tall unstoppable praying mantises.”
Ash, by Malinda Lo: A retelling of Cinderella, where Cinderella doesn’t fall in love with the prince. “It’s similar enough to the fairy tale that you can recognize it for what it is. But Lo has created a world that is unique on it’s own, from the weaving in of original fairy tales and folk wisdom, to the twists on the love story.”
And as a bonus, some books with LGBTQ Parents:
Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins. “Lola’s two dads are also a delight: it’s nice to have a gay couple shown as stable and loving without making a big deal about it. (Additionally: they’re great characters in their own right.) “
Penny Dreadful, by Laurel Snyder. It’s a smallish part, but one of Penny’s friends, Twent, has two moms. Again, it’s just presented as a way to live life, and even though it’s small, it’s meaningful in that it’s just a fact of life.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, by Dana Alison Levy: I haven’t read this one (yet). But from what I’ve heard about it — it made this summer’s Indie Next list — it sounds delightful. And they just happen to have two dads. “Peppered with life lessons about learning to admit you were wrong, trying something new, and standing up for your family, this book will make you feel like you are inside a group hug.” —Sara Hines, Eight Cousins, Falmouth, MA”
What did I miss?