As briefly alluded to in this blog, I’ve been getting into a queer YA niche lately. While it’s not a genre without its problems—the predominance of the gay cismale experience, for example—the best queer YA fiction I’ve read has been gratifyingly good with intersectionality; David Levithan might be a white gay guy and thus best equipped to write about that experience, but his books are full of trans drag queens and multiethnic characters. It’s a refreshing change from a lot of mainstream fiction, in which even when heterosexuality isn’t necessarily a rule, there’s still the assumption of queer as something other, not quite there. All of which is to say, as much as I respect many within the #literaryestablishment, it’s the more niche writers—the fanfiction authors, the zinesters and independently published poets—where we’re seeing a lot of diversity popping up, the new vocabulary we’re putting together for a new way of interacting with the world and ourselves. Support your small presses, in other words.
Queer YA, apparently, hits one of these breeding zones for diverse fiction. As a genre geared towards teenagers, much of YA inevitably focuses on questions of identity; also as a genre geared towards teenagers, YA has less room for the kind of self-indulgent philosophizing a lot of serious literary writers seem to mistake (sorry, but if I have to read one about novel about being in your early 20s and wandering around New York trying to find yourself…) By virtue of its audience and the demands of its genre, YA is seemingly the perfect genre for exploring queer issues in a manner that is serious without being didactic. Which is not to say that queer YA can’t be didactic or dragging because oh yes, that’s totally out there as well—out of politeness and also because I couldn’t actually bring myself to finish these books, I’m not going to name names, but believe me, I’ve had experiences.
So then! If you’re new to this very particularly niche subgenre, then boy is this post ostensibly for you—ostensibly because I am in no way an expert and also because this is very definitely a way for me to just rant on about books I love. So let’s cut to chase—in proper fanfic manner, five queer YA novels that ruined me and one it would be criminal to leave out: