Beyond Judy Blume: Four New YA Books with LGBT Characters

Ashley McAllister
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Logo that says Beyond Judy Blume: Identity and Sexuality in Young Adult Literature across a red banner with white flowers below it

Author Malinda Lo did some sleuthing last year and concluded that less than 1% of YA books published from 2000-1011 contained LGBT characters. Take a look at the charts that she created, which show who publishes LGBT novels, and also look at LGBT novels that are published and break them up by gender (only 4% of LGBT YA books are about transgender or genderqueer characters).

Here's what Lo took away from all that number crunching:

1. I often hear people saying that publishers aren't willing to publish LGBT YA, or that each publisher only publishes one LGBT YA per year. This, statistically, isn't true. Every one of the big 6 publishers (and plenty of smaller ones) publish LGBT YA titles, and several of them do publish more than one per year.
2. However, the proportion of LGBT YA to non-LGBT YA is so tiny as to be laughable.
3. The good news is, the numbers have continued to increase over time, and other than the dip in 2010, the increase has sped up since 2000.
4. The bad news is, the G in LGBT far outpaces L, B, or T.

Lo has continued to track the number of LGBT YA books published in 2012, and you can follow along on her blog. This year, Lo estimates that 1.6% of YA books published will include LGBT main characters. An improvement, but we've still got a long way to go.

Have you been keeping on top of 2012's YA lit with LGBT characters? Which books have you liked? Which ones are you excited to read when they're out later this year? Here are four YA books with LGBT characters out this year to get you started:

Cover of the Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

Cameron Post's parents die in a car crash, and her first thought is relief, as she'll never have to tell them that she'd kissed a girl that same day. Cameron is forced to deal with a conservative aunt who moves to Miles City, Montana to take care of her, while simultaneously falling in love with Coley, the new girl in town. This coming-of-age YA novel, set in the early '90s, follows Cameron as she explores her sexuality while living in a small town with family members who want to "fix" her.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post recently made it onto Autostraddle's list of 20 Best Young Adult Novels For Queer Girls, which they published after NPR polled its readers for their favorite teen novels and came up with a list that had very few queer books on it.

And Jacqueline Woodson, author of The House You Pass on the Way (which we discussed on the blog last week!) had this to say about emily m. danforth's first novel: "A beautifully told story that is at once engaging and thoughtful. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an important book—one that can change lives."

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Malinda Lo's third YA novel, Adaptation, is a teen sci-fi thriller set in a North America where "flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded."

I'm not usually a book trailers person, but I like this one:

Says Lo: "I also admit that I did want to invite readers who weren't looking for an LGBT read to pick up the book because being gay isn't the big story here. It's a sci-fi thriller." As discussed in a recent Beyond Judy Blume post, the plot of every YA book with a queer character should not be structured around that character's sexuality, and Malinda Lo's books remind us that they don't have to be.

It's Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters

Julie Anne Peters is known for writing YA books with LGBT characters, and for doing it well, with novels such as Keeping You a Secret and Luna under her belt. Her newest title, It's Our Prom (So Deal With It), was inspired by real-life stories of queer teens who have been denied the right to take a date to the high school prom (remember when a Mississippi county school board actually went so far to cancel a prom after a lesbian student petitioned to bring her preferred date and wear a tuxedo?). Peters says this about It's Our Prom:

Taking a current event and expanding on it, in the novel, It's Our Prom (So Deal With It), Azure and Luke, the two narrators, petition their administration to allow them to put on an all-inclusive prom. They want everyone to feel welcomed, and to make it affordable to all. It's a Herculean task, as they come to find out. But even more problematic is the fact that both Azure and Luke are planning to ask the same person to prom. Yikes!

This book deals with tough issues while remaining lighthearted and fun. Peters says, "I hope one day we'll see high school proms embrace every student. We should all have the chance to look back on our prom pictures and shriek, 'Oh, my God! Look at my hair.'"

Cover of ChulitoChulito by Charles Rice-González

Chulito (published in December of 2011) is the first novel from Charles Rice-González, an LGBT activist who serves as the Executive Director of The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!). This novel, set in Brooklyn, follows Chulito, a 16-year-old Latino high school dropout who struggles with asserting his masculinity while coming to terms with his sexuality.

Lamba Literacy posted a wonderful review of this book:

Though Chulito's "queer's dilemma" might come across as familiar territory to connoisseurs of queer lit, what makes this young man's journey particularly compelling is that he discovers ultimately that his choices are not as limited as he once believed—a great comfort to young readers who don't have the choice to escape and reinvent themselves away from their beloved, though troubled, ethnic and/ or working class neighborhoods.

What new YA books with LGBT characters have you read this year? Let us know in the comments!

Oregon Humanities logoThis program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Brendan Halpin novels

"Donorboy" - way before "The Kids are Alright," Halpin wrote about a kid with lesbian moms meeting her sperm donor dad. In this version, the moms die in a car accident (hit by a truck carrying turduckens), and the kid ends up living with her donor dad. The whole thing is told through emails, texts, faxes, etc. It amazingly works, and is really funny.

"Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom" - Also inspired by the "gay kids being left out of proms" news stories in recent years. In this one, Tessa has a straight best friend (male) who has to come to terms with the crush he had developed on her after Tessa comes out to him, and even more he has to deal with guilt over his first reaction.

YA novels with queer

YA novels with queer characters are great, especially for kids who grow up in "sheltered" and queerophobic communities.

Wasn't there a YA novel about Hades and Persephone (and Hades is depicted as a woman)? I heard good things about it.

The Hades/Persephone book is

The Hades/Persephone book is called "The Dark Wife" by Sarah Diemer. I enjoyed it! I wish it was twice as long as it was, but what can ya do. The author actually writes a lot of lesbian ya/fantasy, but that one and "Cage the Darlings" (written by Sarah Diemer as Elora Bishop) are the only ones I've read.

So, if the rates of inclusion

So, if the rates of inclusion of LGBT characters are so minimal, why are we still lumping them together? Also, it appears as though none of these books represent LGBT characters- so why is this article referring to the unspoken/unseen "T"?

Thanks for bringing this up.

Hi Anon,

Thanks for bringing this up...and sorry I didn't catch your comment until just now! We've talked a bit about and are going to continue to talk about trans characters in YA lit during this series, so I've been including T in with LGB, but you're right, I shouldn't have done that in this post. I'll make sure to be more careful about that. While this series is focused on discussing the importance of LGBT characters in YA lit, I definitely don't want to ignore the fact that trans characters are much harder to find in YA lit. I hope you'll join in for upcoming discussions...we'll be talking a lot about trans teens in YA lit in upcoming weeks!

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