Guest post by Rebecca Peters-Golden
Hello again! I’m so glad to be back with the second installment of Queer Young Adult Fiction To Curl Up With. In the first installment (which is HERE), I shared a list of my all-time favorite queer YA fiction. In this installment, I’m bringing you the queer YA that tops my to-read list. Some of these are at the top of my list because they’re by authors I’ve read and loved in the past; some come highly recommended from reviewers and friends I trust; and others just tickle my fancy in general. As with the first installment, I’ve stuck to recently published books (and a couple that are coming out soon, no pun intended). Also: there’s a special surprise at the end. You’re welcome.
Note: all plot descriptions come from Goodreads
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (2013)
“Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write. And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time. So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret—not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.
Openly Straight just came out last month and it’s gotten great reviews. Also, look at that cover: charming!
Proxy (Proxy #1) by Alex London (coming out June 18th, 2013)
“Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death. Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own. Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.”
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012)
“Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl. As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives—and her own—for the better.”
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (coming out August 27th, 2013)
“David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.”
David Levithan has a great track record, so I trust that this will be poignant and thought provoking, as opposed to melodramatic. The story of the cover photo is also awesome. Levithan got in touch with one of his fans whom he knew was a photographer and asked if he’d be interested in taking a photo. This fan got two friends of his who were a couple to kiss for the photo. The kicker: this fan was a senior in high school!
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (coming out October 22nd, 2013)
“From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak? In razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.”
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea, with illustrations by Jason Polan (2013)
“Everyone in the broken-down town of Chelsea, Massachusetts, has a story too worn to repeat—from the girls who play the pass-out game just to feel like they're somewhere else, to the packs of aimless teenage boys, to the old women from far away who left everything behind. But there’s one story they all still tell: the oldest and saddest but most hopeful story, the one about the girl who will be able to take their twisted world and straighten it out. The girl who will bring the magic. Could Sophie Swankowski be that girl? With her tangled hair and grubby clothes, her weird habits and her visions of a filthy, swearing mermaid who comes to her when she’s unconscious, Sophie could be the one to uncover the power flowing beneath Chelsea’s potholed streets and sludge-filled rivers, and the one to fight the evil that flows there, too. Sophie might discover her destiny, and maybe even in time to save them all.”
The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Ilsa J. Bick (2013)
“People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was . . . you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy. I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn't understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them. Jimmy's dead now, and I definitely know that better than anyone. I know about blood and bone and how bodies decompose. I know about shadows and stones and hatchets. I know what a last cry for help sounds like. I know what blood looks like on my own hands. What I don't know is if I can trust my own eyes. I don't know who threw the stone. Who swung the hatchet? Who are the shadows? What do the living owe the dead?”
I’ve quite liked Bick’s other work—she’s dark and a bit sinister, which I love. The Sin-Eater’s Confession has been on my list for a while, and it’s gotten very controversial reviews, so of course I can’t wait to read it.
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz (2012)
“It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives. Craig’s crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him . . . and if he’ll do it again . . . and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody. Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable . . . and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.”
I read the first few chapters of Gone, Gone, Gone but then had to return it to the library (curse my library responsibility!) and it is excellent. Beautifully written and heart wrenching, just like everything Moskowitz writes. You’ll remember her Teeth in the last installment (my review is HERE) [http://crunchingsandmunchings.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/oceanic-gothic-teeth-by-hannah-moskowitz/]
Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz (2013)
“Thirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco onstage to confess his love for (and hopefully steal the heart of) Benji, the adorable exchange student and bass player of the prom band. Of course, things don't always go according to plan, and every heist comes with its fair share of hijinks.”
Here’s another by Hannah Moskowitz—dang that girl’s prolific! Marco Impossible is technically a middle grade novel, but it looks delightful.
Rise of Heroes (Masks #1) by Hayden Thorne (2008)
“Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and high school goth boy Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There's a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he's wreaking havoc on the town, and on Eric's life. The new super hero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that's right between his nose. Peter is Eric's best friend, and even if he does seem to be hiding something most of the time, he finds a way to show Eric how he feels in between attacks on trains and banks and malls. The two boys decide to start dating, much to the chagrin of their other best buddy, Althea, who has a terrible crush on Peter, and a secret or two of her own to keep. As the fight between the villain, known as the Devil's Trill, and superhero Magnifiman picks up, Eric's relationship with Peter almost ends before it begins when Eric finds out about Peter's special talents, which might just rank Peter as a superhero in his own right. When the Trill takes an interest in Eric, too, Peter and Althea, along with Magnifiman and Eric's normal, middle-class family all have to work together to keep Eric, and their city, safe. Can they figure out the super villain's plan in time?”
Suicide Watch by Kelley York (2012)
“18-year-old Vincent Hazelwood has spent his entire life being shuffled from one foster home to the next. His grades sucked. Making friends? Out of the question thanks to his nervous breakdowns and unpredictable moods. Still, Vince thought when Maggie Atkins took him in, he might’ve finally found a place to get his life—and his issues—in order. But then Maggie keels over from a heart attack. Vince is homeless, alone, and the inheritance money isn't going to last long. A year ago, Vince watched a girl leap to her death off a bridge, and now he's starting to think she had the right idea. Vince stumbles across a website forum geared toward people considering suicide. There, he meets others with the same debate regarding the pros and cons of death: Casper, battling cancer, would rather off herself than slowly waste away. And there’s quiet, withdrawn Adam, who suspects if he died, his mom wouldn't even notice. As they gravitate toward each other, Vince searches for a reason to live while coping without Maggie's guidance, coming to terms with Casper's imminent death, and falling in love with a boy who doesn't plan on sticking around.”
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (2010)
“Kendra, fifteen, hasn't felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can't remember the most important detail—her abuser's identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it's her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who's becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra's abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences.”
Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen (2012)
“The world's going to end in fire . . . and it's all Kyle's fault. Kyle Wolfe's world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle's two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle's friends aren't all that dead anymore. Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it's Shira who's alive . . . and now they're friends with benefits. Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he's not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He's pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents' marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world . . .”
First Spring Grass Fire by Rae Spoon (2012)
“This first book is a candid, powerful story about a young person growing up queer in a strict Pentecostal family in rural Canada. The narrator attends church events and Billy Graham rallies faithfully with their family before discovering the music that becomes their salvation and means of escape. As their father's schizophrenia causes their parents' marriage to unravel, the narrator finds solace and safety in the company of their siblings, in their nascent feelings for a girl at school, and in their growing awareness that they are not the person their parents think they are. With a heart as big as the prairie sky, this is a quietly devastating, heart-wrenching coming-of-age book about escaping dogma, surviving abuse, finding love, and risking everything for acceptance.”
Rae Spoon’s music is amazing (check out THIS gutting cover of “I Want To Dance With Somebody”) and I’m so, so impressed by people who are artists in multiple media.
Ok, so I know that this has been the To-Read edition of Queer Young Adult Fiction To Curl Up With, but I simply have to tell you about a book I read yesterday, which would absolutely have made it into the first installment of favorites, had I read it sooner:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012)
I am not posting the Goodreads blurb here because it cannot possible express the awesomeness of this book. I read Sáenz’s other YA novel, Last Night I Sang To The Monster, and it, too, was amazing (full review HERE). Aristotle and Dante are both antisocial, though for different reasons, but when they meet the summer they are fifteen, they become best friends—the only friends each of them have. Aristotle is angry and terse; he desperately wants to know about his brother in prison, but his parents aren’t talking, and he wishes he could know about the war that his father carries inside him. Dante is smart and loquacious and his English-professor father and psychologist mother gave him a sense of unconditional love, even if he feels like growing up with them made him feel like he’s not Mexican enough for the rest of his family. This isn’t just about Ari and Dante’s friendship; it’s also about their relationships with their parents, their ethnic identities, and what it means to be an adult. This is seriously one of the most beautiful books I’ve read (Sáenz is a poet, and you can definitely tell), so I feel honor-bound to tell you: put this one on hold from the library RIGHT NOW!
Till next time, Housequeers! Tell me in the comments if you have any favorites to recommend.
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