Last week we received the following email:
My best friend's little sister is in 9th grade and going through a lot of issues lately - mainly with her sexuality. I'm pretty sure she is gay or might even have some transgender identity issues. The second part aside, I'd like to recommend to her some good books with young gay characters, male or female, just so it might normalize it a little more for her. (Her mother is really conservative Christian and not really helpful in this department). Y'all got any good recommendations? - J
First of all, props on you for taking an active role in your friend’s sister’s life. Teenage years are tough, whether you’re questioning or not, and it’s great to know this girl has an awesome role model outside of her immediate family. Even with the best families there are sometimes topics and that can be easier to broach and advice easier to ask from someone a little more on the outside.
The YA shelf is fast becoming the best place to find diverse and inclusive characters. A while back Dr. FYA gave recommendations to a sister who teenage brother had come out to her family. While that included many great reads, today we will keep our focus on positive young women's stories. And while it’s obvious that we here at FYA HQ are active supporters of the homosexual steamroller, it may not be the best idea to give this girl any books that outright scream TOTES GAY, since you mention both her and her parents' possible discomfort. But the following recommendations are fairly subtle in both their covers or jacket blurbs.
Ask The Passengers tells the story of a young woman who is initially uncertain if she's gay or straight. It is a book about being human, and having the freedom as a human being to be who you were born to be, and to love whomever you fall in love with -- no matter their gender or yours.
What if you changed bodies, and therefore genders, every single day? This intriguing premise, combined with David Levithan's signature whimsicality, makes for a wonderfully compelling exploration of love unlimited by sexual orientation or gender identity. Every Day has a powerful message without actually being a "message" book.
In this retelling of Cinderella, the heroine of Melinda Lo’s Ash finds herself falling not for the prince, but the brave and beautiful King’s huntress instead. And Lo’s companion prequel novel Huntress is also filled with fantasy adventure and romance.
The classic coming-out novel Annie on my Mind has been banned so often, it's hard to remember it's a sweet story of first love, and (ironically) the consequences of small-mindedness. Annie and Liza meet and fall in love at the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- who wouldn't fall in love there? -- but not without consequences for them and for people who support them.
Almost Perfect gives us realistic perspectives from a transgender youth, and the young man who falls in love with her. It is the kind of book that prejudiced people don't want you to read, because, hello! it makes you empathize, BECAUSE WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS!!!!
The Difference Between You and Me isn't the greatest book to recommend if you want to let this 14 year old pretend that being a lesbian is going to be all sunshine and roses, but it's great for letting her live through someone else's identity crisis for a while. Out and proud Jessie and confused and identity-fraught Emily meet in secret every week to make out like crazy in the library bathroom. But how long can Jessie remain Emily's dirty little secret?
In A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, young Cass (who is a Quaker, so, authentically religious!!) is mourning the death of her best friend while also wondering just why her feelings for her weren't just friendly. On an epic bike ride to the coast to scatter her friend's ashes, paralleled with helping the drama club stage the world's greatest miracle, Cass will come to terms with who she is and just who it is she wants.
Those listed above are just the ones that FYA can personally recommend. There is still a wide world of LGBTQ friendly teen lit that we haven’t had the opportunity to read for ourselves. For those reading this, please feel free to leave your personal recommendations to the letter writer in the comments.
Have a question for Dr. FYA? Book related or otherwise? Send it to foreveryoungadult [at] gmail [dot] com!