Book review: Top 250 LGBTQ Books for Teens, by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins

Cart Top 250 LGBTQCart, Michael and Christine A. Jenkins. Top 250 LGBTQ Books For Teens: Coming Out, Being Out, And The Search For Community. Huron Street Press, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2015. Paperback. 164 p. $21.95. ISBN 978-1-937589-56-1

Compiling a list of the “top” or “best” of anything is an activity automatically fraught with potential conflict and angst. But when the topic is LGBTQ books for young adults, with veteran experts like Michael Cart and Christine Jenkins at the helm, one can feel confident that their “best” do indeed meet high standards and justifiable inclusion. This particular list includes fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels.

After an introductory essay outlining the history of LGBTQ literature for young people, beginning with John Donovan’s 1969 novel I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip up to the “present day” (2013, per this book’s scope), Cart and Jenkins offer their choices in alphabetical order by author. Each title’s plot is described, followed by a one- or two-sentence analysis, the latter often displaying wit but also honesty, if some aspect of the book in question falls a bit short in the authors’ estimation.

Every print and graphic novel included is also earmarked by a combination of abbreviation “codes” created by the authors, and standing for “Homosexual Visibility,” “Gay Assimilation,” and “Queer Consciousness”—-in order to, as they put it: “place [them] in the larger community of young adult literature with LGBTQ content”. They also offer a list of “Professional Resources,” a full index by author and title, and a concluding essay on “Fiction Codes: Tracking Trends Over Time”.

Obviously, many fine recent books for LGBTQ teenagers are not included here due to unavoidable time lags in the publishing process, leading us to hope for future updated editions. But Cart’s and Jenkins’s current selections nevertheless offer excellent reading from first page to last.
This book would clearly be a fine tool for young adult librarians, collection developers, teachers, and anyone with an interest in materials for this age group. Even those who believe themselves fully familiar with the LGBTQ YA literary landscape will likely unearth a previously-unknown gem or two. I know I did.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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