Less & More: Spring/Summer 2015 Trends in YA LGBTQIA fiction
With the beginning of 2015 come a lot of changes from previous years in YA literature. Being a fan and avid reader of YA titles, I’m used to seeing a few standout titles here and there, but this year looks more promising. Here’s why you need to be excited:
Less Emphasis on “Coming Out” Stories
A lot of the titles being published this year are not focusing on the coming out process (thank goodness!) While it’s an important milestone in someone’s life, it isn’t the mandatory experience that all LGBTQIA teenagers must have in their stories. Some young adults struggle with their sexuality or gender throughout their lives and do not reach that point of coming out until later (think Transparent) or some teens just know early on how they feel and want to identify. Plus, after a certain point, doesn’t the same plot point get old?
A lot of the titles that we’ll see coming out will home in on how LGBTQIA characters deal with life situations. The focus is on how they react to the event themselves (tragedy, death, relationships, etc.) and their growth as a person rather than their LGBTQIA lifestyle, which is refreshing. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, for example, deals with a gay teen who must deal with death and loss. Guilt, pain, death, and relationships are the focus, not his sexual preference. These characters will also be easier to relate to for teens because they are not constantly coming out of the proverbial closet.
More (and Bigger) Publishers Want In
More stories with LGBTQIA themes and characters are being published by bigger publishers and their imprints. I applaud this, mainly because with a bigger publisher, the book can get out there and make its way into the hands of teens and librarians everywhere a lot easier. St. Martin’s Griffin, Atom, Simon Pulse, Dutton Juvenile, and others are hopping on the diversity train, and hopefully they won’t leave anytime soon. But we shouldn’t forget about smaller, independent publishers, too! They are the ones who paved the way for more published LGBTQIA YA lit in the first place.
More and more of the featured characters are not only LGBTQIA but also nonwhite. In Not Otherwise Specified, the protagonist Etta is bisexual, black, and being treated for an eating disorder. She doesn’t know where she fits in, and her journey of dealing with multiple issues at once makes for an excellent narrative. We also have stories featuring more categories of the LGBTQIA spectrum, especially intersexed and transgendered individuals. The Art of Being Normal explores a boy named David who secretly wants to be a girl and the trouble that follows him.
Hopefully these trends continue to improve over the year. But for now, here’s a list of titles to watch out for and add for your TBR list:
About a Girl by Sarah McCarry
Kudos to the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin! It’s not every day that we see a cover of a YA book where two young women are publicly displaying affection, and I hope over time that this changes. About a Girl is the third in the Metamorphoses series where Tally, daughter of Aurora, learns about her mother and herself as she falls in love with Maddy. Fantasy fans will like this book for its magic, romance, and detailed narrative. Releases 7/14/15.
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun Hutchinson
This is an LGBTQ meets John Green meets Gayle Forman novel. Our main character, Andrew, is the lone survivor of a terrible accident. He is dealing with survivor’s guilt, pain, and other emotions on top of being a teenager. But when he finds solace and hope with a burn victim named Rusty, Andrew wants to see what his future will bring. It’s dark, and even Hutchinson has stated that “this is probably the darkest [he’ll] ever write.” However, do not let that deter you. Bonus: there’s a mini graphic novel inside! Released 1/20/2015.
Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman
It’s 1972. Nani has moved from Hawaii to Santa Monica with her alcoholic mother. Being a surfer, she desperately tries to get on the good side with the mean girl squad of State Beach, and falls for the leader, Rox. Secrets abound and Nani tries to keep her head above water. Issues of race and sexuality are heavily explored, and the premise sounds great (who didn’t love the 70s?) Releases 3/17/15.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
If you were lucky to attend ALA Midwinter this past month, you may have heard Silvera talk about this book and received a copy of the galley. But if you didn’t, let’s play catchup: Aaron’s life changes when he meets Thomas. His whole world literally gets thrown upside down. This leads to Aaron wanting to erase his memory via methods of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind variety. In reviews, Silvera is constantly praised for his raw characters and vivid descriptions of the Bronx, as well as his storytelling ability. This means you should probably pre-order this NOW. Releases 6/16/15.
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Kristin has everything going for her: a scholarship, a great boyfriend, and she was even voted homecoming queen. But when she learns at a doctor’s visit that she’s intersexed, her whole world starts to crumble as her new secret is revealed. Acceptance, bullying, intersexed persons, romance, and gender identity are just some of the several topics explored. I think it’s great that an intersexed teen is the main character, since normally we don’t see a lot of stories from this point of view in YA literature. Releases 4/7/15.
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
As mentioned before, Etta is black, bisexual, and suffering from an eating disorder. But she doesn’t know where she fits in since she’s not gay enough for the gay clique or skinny enough for the teens with other eating disorders. I think that while some may question the plausibility of such an intersectional character, I applaud and embrace it. Adolescence is a stage of life where you learn not everything is in black and white, which includes sexuality, race, and class. This book will probably resonate with teens who might deal or cope with multiple issues growing up. Releases 3/3/15.
Other titles to note:
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
Anything Can Happen by Will Walton
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Bleeding Earth by Caitlin Ward
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan
Me and You and Him by Kris Dinninson
Playing a Part by Daria Wilke
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
Promposal by Rhonda Helms
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler
– Judi Tichacek