Yearly LGBTQ Book Review, Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1 of my year-end/year-start exhaustive book list-turned-reviews, this is quite long. At least I saved the better part for later, or however that saying goes. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there is going to be a Part 3 as well, so brace yourselves.

These have also been added to the ever-growing up-to-date LGBTQIA Reading List.

LGBTQ-themed Fiction (YA – Young Adult)

Beauty Queens, by Libbra Bray

A group of teen beauty queen pageants get stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes. At first they primp their eyebrows waiting for rescue to come, but eventually they use their various talents to live off the land and ward off the mysterious dangers the island has to hold. One of the characters is transgender (no spoiler there, you see it coming a long ways off), one of them is Black, one is a lesbian, one is deaf, one is Asian, one is Texan, one is a feminist Jew – token diversity is nothing to make fun of, though this book certainly does. Somebody online recommended this book to me, and it wasn’t bad. While it’s quite long, and the satire is just too obviously tongue-in-cheek for my tastes, and the social commentary is a little ambiguous, it still makes for decently entertaining YA book, although this is one of those that a 14 year old girl would enjoy more than an adult like me.

Debbie Harry Sings in French, by Meagan Brothers

A good book deserves a good review. A good writer would write one, and I will! For now, this mini-summary should be enough to entice you.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan

Another one with a review! Oh goody!

Eon, by Alison Goodman

Dragons, a boy who is really a girl, a strict but endearing master, a morally ambiguous prince, ancient traditions, new revolutions, castle storming and sword fighting – you get the idea. And the girl-dressed-as-boy part, which is what I was most looking forward to, was an excellent plot element. Though my idealist self would have loved it to play out differently, the character’s thoughts and confusions around gender satiated my initial intrigue, and fit well with the overall story arc. A definite action-packed gender-bending fantasy. Did I say dragons?

Now, there is a sequel to this book called Eona. Upon reading the multiple reviews of this second book, My growing suspicions, fueled by the ever-so-slightly dubious character development, were confirmed. I could definitely see the tiny holes in Eon, and I can so clearly imagine how these holes could grow into such a disappointing nadir, that I did not even attempt to read so much as a few pages of this sequel. The first book was quite good, and I don’t want to ruin that.

I Am J, by Cris Beam

I’ve been promising a review of this book since I read it – almost going on a year now. Yikes. The fact that I want to write a review that does it justice says enough about my positive inclinations towards it. Go read it!

Jumpstart the World, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Here’s the complete review of this one.

Huntress, by Malinda Lo

The more I read other YA, queer, fanstasy, or any combination thereof of books, the more I appreciate this one. The author’s evolution and growth as a writer are very evident if you’ve read Ash, Malinda’s previous novel. The world which she creates lingers on long after you close the book – a telltale sign of the richness of the characters, the suspenseful action, and the enchanting fictional universe they inhabit. Learn more in the mini-summary here.

How Beautiful the Ordinary, by Various

A collection of short stories tied together by a queer youth theme. The stories are ehh to okay, though I did enjoy the last one, which not suprisingly was not so short. Don’t buy this on an eReader, because it has a few comics and graphic novels. Well, don’t exactly buy this book. Rent it at the library, maybe. Or read it at the bookstore. Or just give it a shot if you’re curious.

Empress of the World, by Sara Ryan

Another standard queer YA book. Though this one is by no accounts the best of them, it’s also definitely not the worst of them. It takes place during a summer camp for nerds – err.. overly enthusiastic budding minds – some of whom are happy to study, some of whom would much rather be partying and hooking up. There’s friendship, awkward crushes, the obligatory betrayal and subsequent making up (or out), all the sweet-and-sour pre-high school drama. If I remember correctly (I might not), there was a lack of “identity crisis” or sudden realization of “of course I’m a lesbian, I’ve been like that all my life” tropes that often abound in coming of age queer stories. Instead the slant was more of “yep, I’m a girl who likes a girl, certainly not the norm but that doesn’t mean I’m a [label],” which is honestly much more enjoyable. Since it’s a bit simplistic, it’s probably suited for a younger audience.

Kissing Kate, by Lauren Myracle

This book is your standard contemporary fiction lesbian YA story, with a lot of build-up and a somewhat disappointing ending. Although when I sat down to think about the ending later on, I realized it subtly touched upon an important point. I can’t say what it is because it’ll ruin the ending, but it’s a positive message, one which books – especially queer youth books – rarely carry. Once again, I did appreciate that it didn’t become an “I kissed a girl so I must be a lesbian” kind of book; rather, it was much more focused on the discovery and exploration of feelings and friendships. However, I’m not so sure a less perceptive audience would pick up on the same conclusions I did, whether consciously or unconsciously. Still, it’s nice to know that these days a teenager can pick up a book and read about realistic scenarios with a little gay sprinkled in.

Map of Ireland, by Stephanie Grant

Another in my “recommended” pile, for which I’ve also written something about already.

Morning Rising (Guardian of Morning), by Samantha Boyette

Don’t ask me where I find books like these, but it was only $0.99 at the Kindle store. It’s a dystopian fantasy novel, which is already not my usual cup of tea, even if it does involve two girls who love each other. It’s just not very good – it just doesn’t hold up writing-wise, plot-wise, character-wise, fantasy-world-wise. But there is potential; I really hope the author gets this revised by an editor and works on it some more.

My Invented Life, by Lauren Bjorkman

In a nutshell, Roz is obsessed with theatre and Shakespeare, and she finally lands the lead for the school play – written by Shakespeare, obviously – which should make her ecstatic, except her sister Eva is acting all weird, mysteriously holing up in her room, crying, and reading some telltale (aherm, lesbian) books, which leads Roz to suspect Eva is a lesbian who is afraid to come out. (A nutshell = a run-on sentence. It’s no fun otherwise.) So Roz defiantly plots a sneaky scheme, and fake-comes-out as a lesbian herself. Except that kind of stuff only works in plays, not in real life. Now Roz is stuck in a situation she didn’t quite think through all the way, and must somehow fix everything.

I have to say that within a few pages this book had made me laugh out loud, which is what prompted me to buy it. Definitely a good sign, since I’m quite stoic when I read. For a YA book, this is a long one. After a while it drags on, and the premise gets weaker and weaker. Still, ’twas enjoyable.

RAGE: A Love Story, by Julie Ann Peters

Oh, Rage. Oh, Julie Ann Peters. Oh Rage.

If you’ve ever read one of her books you know exactly what I mean, and if you haven’t, then you are not yet worthy of the “secretly-expectant-but-always-disappointed-(sigh)-when-I-read-JAP-books club. The main theme of the book is domestic abuse and abusive relationships. This important issue definitely needs more face time among young people just starting to learn about relationships, and most especially among the LGBT crowd, who often gets ignored when talking about relationships. Yet I still haven’t decided whether the book is passable or not. (C’mon, it’s not all that bad – frustrating as her plot lines are, JAP can hold her own as a writer.)

Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger

Another one which thankfully has a review already, so I don’t have to repeat my thoughts.

Once More With Feeling

After a grueling Part 1, where I covered Transgender Non-Fiction and General non-LGBTQ themed books, and an enthralling Part 2 reviewing all LGBTQ YA lit, I’m sure you need a break, after which you’ll anxiously await Part 3, the last installation of this ginormous list-with-reviews of all books I read last year. You must be all aflutter wondering what the final category will be.

8 thoughts on “Yearly LGBTQ Book Review, Part 2

  1. I ended up writing a term paper last year on young adult novels with lesbian characters, and I was mostly left with a sad feeling that a) there’s so little to choose from, and b) what exists tends toward the mediocre. (And I always want to like David Leviathan, because I loved “Nick and Norah,” but his other collaborations never live up to what I’m expecting!) But some of these sound really good, definitely adding a couple to the “to-read” list.

    1. Agreed on all counts.

      Thankfully, the past 2 years have definitely seen an influx in better than mediocre to – dare I say – pretty great, gay and lesbian YA lit, and transgender themes are not too far behind. Though this collection only constitutes a handful of books. Hopefully in 2 more years there will be a more sizable repertoire.

  2. Hiya maddox, thanks for the follow over on my blog! I am collecting books these days and I appreciate seeing this list – had no idea this particular genre existed. Good to know as my children grow up. Thanks.

    1. Awesome! There are some great LGBT-inclusive books for very young children to not-so-young children. I suggest checking out Lee Wind’s site for an extensive list of age-appropriate books. Some of these might be making history!

  3. “the satire is just too obviously tongue-in-cheek for my tastes”

    That was what annoyed me in Beauty Queens, too. It kept crossing the line of being too over-the-top. (Like, why would a commercial actually say that? That doesn’t make any sense…) I still liked the book a lot, but I would have preferred if she had given the reader a little more credit in getting the sarcasm, instead of spelling it out so that it kind of accidentally breaks the fourth wall.

    1. That’s why I think a younger reader, one who is new to sarcasm and satire, would enjoy it more (and these days, that’s like, a 10-year old?). I also didn’t get whether it was ironic or not that the whole book is a critique on girly-girls-who-drool-for-boys, yet that’s what they all end up doing. The most enjoyable storyline was about the two girls in love – very natural, organic, and like life, with an ambiguous ending. All in all, I wouldn’t re-read the book (it’s way too long) but it did keep me entertained.

      Thanks for stopping by and reviewing my review!

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