I Loves Me Some Subversion

John Clark looking at how young adult fiction is in a sea change, one that, if widely known, would have the book banners crapping their undies. As regular readers of this blog know, I read and review a lot of YA fiction.

Let me preface this post by making some observations. First, I think the frenzy to ban books and terrorize people on the LBGTQIA spectrum, plus the whole anti women fiasco, are reminiscent of the death spiral of a rabid animal. The closer to death, the more frantic the fight. Anyone who doesn’t think teens and those between twenty and thirty aren’t aware of how insane politicians and religious leaders on the right have become, lives in a happy bubble. Those in those age ranges who are not already registered voters can’t wait to become one and I can assure you they’re not voting red.

Current YA fiction reflects this mindset. The number of authors getting published who are on the spectrum is impressive and the books they’re writing reflect their way of looking at the world. I’m listing below some of the books I’ve recently read and reviewed that have characters whose gender orientation would shock conservative adults, but is easily accepted by the target audience. Consider a recent poll result among Maine teens. 25% described themselves as other than heterosexual. Reading between the lines, I suspect what’s happening is teens feel more comfortable thinking about sexuality on a sliding scale, something unheard of even ten years ago. On to the books.

Maid of Deception / Jennifer McGowan features a Maid Honor for Queen Elizabeth 1 who is a lesbian.

The Wicked Unseen / Gigi Griffis features a lesbian attracted to the daughter of a cult minister in a town where religious bigotry runs rampant.

Mortal Follies / Alexis Hall features a lesbian whose job is to break curses in the early 1800s.

Something Close to Magic / Emma Mills features a baker with magical powers in love with a princess who masquerades as a bounty hunter.

Venom and Vow /Anna-Marie & Elliott McLemore features two transgender princes who are on opposing sides in a war.

Court of the undying seasons / A.M. Strickland features a lesbian vampire.

Imogen, obviously / Becky Albertalli. Features a girl whose best friends are lesbians, but she’s so buried in the closet, she can’t dig herself out without an intervention.

I Was Born For This / Alice Oseman features a transgender frontman in a rock band.

In the Lonely Backwater / Valerie Nieman has a main character who questions her sexuality and whose best friend leaves home because his rigid parents can’t accept him being gay.

Becoming a queen : a novel / Dan Clay. Is about a teen who deals with heartbreak and depression by becoming a drag queen.

I kick and I fly / Ruchira Gupta Is an excellent story about sex trafficking with a gay character.

Bianca Torre is afraid of everything / Justine Pucella Winans has a protagonist who is questioning her sexual identity.

The immeasurable depth of you / Maria Ingrande Mora has as its main character a lesbian struggling with social anxiety.

I will find you again / Sarah Lyu is about two teen lesbians involved in a disappearance and the ensuing mystery of what happened.

Forget me not / Alyson Derrick is about two teen girls in love who are planning to leave their small conservative town when one suffers a head injury and can remember nothing of her past, including her girlfriend.

This is the tip of the iceberg, but know this, teens regardless of book banning efforts are reading about gender diversity every day and many books where the main characters are straight feature other players who aren’t and this is handled as though it’s the norm. (funny how that is)

Here are some online lists of more YA books that are similar.





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4 Responses to I Loves Me Some Subversion

  1. Kaitlyn Dunnett says:

    Good to know, John, and gives me hope for the next generation of voters coming up. I wonder, though, about how often the books you’ve mentioned actually reach teens in, say, Texas or Iowa or Florida. They’ve been published but how readily are they available?

  2. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Thank you for spotlighting these books, John. It’s true that younger people accept and appreciate things about gender and sexuality that older folks find confusing and upsetting. On this issue, the elders should listen to the kids. The fact is, LGBTQI folks have always existed, they’ve just been intimidated into hiding. I’m glad YA literature is a leading force in breaking that dynamic.

  3. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    I hope you’re right about the last desperate gasp of the rabid animal. I find current “conservative” policies so dismaying–it’s like we’re going back in time to witches (and books) being burned.

  4. jselbo says:

    So glad to read this and that EVERYONE gets to read whatever they want/need/supports their being themselves.

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