Mostly because if there’re believable characters like LGBTQ+ teens in easily accessible YA fiction, we won’t have to go out of our way to find characters like us in badly-written fanfiction on the internet!
Seriously, though. We need queer characters in YA fiction especially, not just novels, but comics and television and movies. And we need these characters to be ALL KINDS of queer characters. We don’t just need your white, cisgender, gay boys. These aren’t bad characters – David Levithan’s novel Boy Meets Boy is fantastic! I loved David LaRochelle’s Absolutely, Positively Not! Alex Sanchez’ Rainbow Boys series is also really, really awesome! But white/cis/gay dudes aren’t the only people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum – although, reading queer YA fiction, you wouldn’t guess it.
It’s the same with most YA lesbian novels I’ve read. Novels like Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters and Empress of the World by Sara Ryan are very much tales of the middle class, and once again, although they’re not necessarily bad stories, they’re also not the only stories that need to be told.
The only time I came close to finding YA fiction about someone like me was the short story Standing On The Roof Naked by Francess Lantz, about an outcast tomboy, and even that wasn’t enough. Where are the butches and the high femmes and the trans* kids and the queers of colour? It sucks when the only representation of queer characters in the mainstream aren’t the type of queer you are.
People talk about how great it is that gay is becoming a mainstream thing, and it is! It’s really great! The fact that I can walk into the young adult section of my local library and grab five books with gay main characters is awesome! But these books are all LGB centered. I want the TQ! Sometimes I want to see butch-meets-girl, or the shy trans*girl win prom queen AND the popular boy’s heart, or even just the flamboyant gay boy have a storyline that doesn’t have anything to do with being, you know, gay.
But I mean. I’m a writer. If you won’t give me what I want, I’ll just do it myself.
Some recommendations (yes, 2 by me):
Butches: Pretend You Love Me by Julie Anne Peters, The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George, Ash by Malinda Lo (MC is not butch, but her love interest is)
Queer kids of color: Sister Mischief by Laura Goode, Huntress by Malinda Lo, Boyfriends With Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (coming this October),
Trans: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (coming this October)
More Queer POC (girls specifically) : Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole, M+O 4EVR by Tonya Cherie Hegamin.
More trans*: Luna by Julie Anne Peters (mtf), Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (mtf), Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger (ftm), I am J by Cris Beam (ftm, poc), stories in How Beautiful the Ordinary: 12 stories of identity
Some more recs:
Queer kids of color: The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (one-third of the love triangle is Hispanic), Geography Club and sequels by Brent Hartinger (Min doesn’t narrate till the third book), Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie (coming this September, more of a queer adult of color, but it is a YA book), Hero by Perry Moore (Goran is from a fictional country but explicitly not white), The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce, In the Wake of the Lorelei Lee by L. A. Meyer (eighth in the series, minor character), The Letter Q edited by Sarah Moon and James Lecesne (nonfiction)
Asexual: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Trans*: I Am J by Cris Beam, Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, Luna by Julie Anne Peters,Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (not the narrator)
Please note that my intention (and likely Malinda Lo’s as well) is not to disprove the essay but to recommend books to the people looking for them.
Some more resources:
Holy crap! Reboggling for both the essay and the recs!
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