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:
Continue reading “Another listicle: 5 queer YA books that killed me, and one it would be criminal to leave out”
(if you don’t get the joke, click here)
Two books came to mind while I was reading The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Meddling Kids and the Gemma Doyle trilogy (okay, that’s technically three books, but whatever). Meddling Kids I’ve talked at length about, mostly about how fantastically trope-y yet earnest it was as a pastiche/affectionate parody; there’s a similar vibe to that in TGGVV, which takes a decidedly Hitchhiker’s Guide/Monty Python attitude to genre conventions. Gemma Doyle I haven’t talked about, mostly because I read it way before I started this blog, but in essence it’s a YA series about secret magical societies and all-girls boarding schools in fin-de-siècle England. The Gemma Doyle connection is partially stylistic, but it’s also more thematic: both are YA period fiction, both have magic, both discuss how the past was real cool aesthetically but also awful for people who weren’t straight white cismen.
Mostly, though? The vibe I got was fanfiction. Continue reading “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Sounds Gay, I’m In”
(Yes, I’ve sat in the kitchen and eaten straight honey from a spoon. Don’t judge.)
The last few months, I’ve been really getting into queer YA. So far, it’s been a good ride: while (as with any genre) there’s been some meh stuff (mostly due to writers either not understanding how teenagers act or letting characters be defined by their queerness), as a whole, it’s delivered on the promise of fun, decently well-written fiction that’s thoughtful without being too self-indulgently navel-gaze-y. Plus, as someone who (as a teenager) got most of her queer representation through fan projects or the internet, I can’t help but get excited about books that feature non-straight people, even moreso when they’re YA—it’s fucking difficult to be a teenager even without the queer thing in the mix, and anything that tries to alleviate that I am 100% behind.
All that said then, Boy Meets Boy. BMB is a book from David Leviathan, an author who’s contributed a lot to the rather niche queer YA genre—he’s written twenty-three books and worked with multiple YA authors, including John Green, with whom he co-wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Boy Meets Boy was Leviathan’s first novel, in 2003, and its premise is as simple as its title: a boy (Paul) meets another boy (Noah). They fall in love. Their parents and the small town they live in are incredibly accepting of their non-straightness (background characters include a drag queen star quarterback and the straight football player still bitter over getting rejected by her), and yet high school has a way of getting in the way of even the best of romances go awry.
Continue reading “Boy Meets Boy: The Literary Equivalent of Eating Honey Out of the Jar”