Yesterday a friend asked for recommendations for some lesbian/bisexual YA fiction. She knows some teen readers struggling to find books featuring queer girls with fun, good relationships, that are not depressing or preachy. My immediate reaction was to think “Of course there are awesome queer girl YA books!” But when I thought about the ones I loved the most, well, let’s just say they are often long on angst. Still, I could think of 6 or 7 off the top of my head I wanted these teens to read.
I gave her links to some sources for queer book recs (besides Twitter and what friends are reading, which are where I find a lot of my TBRs) so she and her young readers could do some research of their own: ALA’s Rainbow Book List (current nominations are always of interest); Malinda Lo’s blog is becoming a great resource on current lgbtq YA books (from the categories pull down menu choose “YA Pride” for this years YAs with significant lgbtq characters); Daisy Porter’s QueerYA site; GayYA.org (and their Ultimate Reading List); Lee Wind’s site; and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s annual Choices list and bibliographies, to name just a few. (And I’m sure there others out there).
And then I recommended some of my favorite YA novels featuring queer girl characters. (I’ll get to those below).
Typing out those recommended faves made me antsy to read them all over again, and it reminded me to order the new reissue of one of my all time faves – Empress of the World, by Sara Ryan – which has been reissued with new, exciting, added content. (Immediately after hitting send on the email to my friend, I dashed off another email, this one to my local indie about ordering the reissue of Empress).
When I tweeted about the recs, and Empress news, I got a lot of @s asking for my recs. So, here are some of my favorite lesbian/bi/queer girl centric YAs (in no particular order):
Sister Mischief, by Laura Goode – What I especially love about Sister Mischief is the way it’s modern, in a GSA, gay-in-the mainstream world, but the teen characters are still dealing with those who haven’t caught up, and family and social expectations. And the examination of Hip Hop culture adds to the story and gives it a modern focus. Plus, Esme is an awesome character, a “Jewish lesbian lyricist” who performs as MC Ferocious.
Ash, by Malinda Lo – An updated and enchanting queer retelling of Cinderella, with fabulous characters. And it’s beautifully written. Good fantasy with queer girls is especially hard to find, I think.
Down to the Bone, by Mayra Lazara Dole is a book that many would pass over, thinking it will be a real downer. But it’s not. The main character faces adversities that would break many teens, but she maintains a certainty about exactly who she is and that the problem is not her. And she is funny. It’s one not to be missed. Plus, Laura is Cuban American, and I am always on the lookout for good YA of all kinds with characters of color. [Note: I also see that Down to the Bone has been republished, and that the story may have changed some - the note in the original is now text messages in the new version].
Far From Xanadu, by Julie Ann Peters – every budding lesbian/bi/queer girl needs to read about crushing on the girls who might break your heart. And I love the way Mike’s town seems to get and accept her just as she is. She is a fantastic character! Sadly, I think new copies of Far From Xanadu might be hard to come by, but I’m sure there are copies in many libraries.
Empress of the World, and the sequel The Rules for Hearts, by Sara Ryan, are two of my all time favorite queer girl books. Empress speaks to that time when so many girls first realize the world is bigger, and more exciting, and maybe more complex, than they originally thought. And Rules follows up with a great book about that bridge between high school and college, about growing into yourself now that you are figuring out who you are. (Plus, now with the added content in the reissue, it’s a great time to read , or even reread, Empress).
Hard Love, and the sequel Love & Lies: Marisol’s Story, by Ellen Wittlinger are books I have read several times each. Hard Love was one of the first YAs I read as an adult that made me want to write YA. It is one of the books of my heart. And while it is from the POV of a straight male character (who in and of himself is worth the read), Marisol, the object of his unrequited affection, is an awesome queer girl character – a young lesbian who knows exactly who she is, and is looking to make the word what she needs it to be. The sequel follows Marisol, and like Far From Xanadu, it has some good things to say about being true to who you are while navigating the dating world.
The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson is another great book about those years of first questioning who you might love and want to love, the first steps toward being the person you are meant to be, and how those revelations affect your other relationships with family and friends. It’s also a great book about how friends and friendships change and test the ties we carry over from childhood.
So, those are by far not all of my recommended queer girl books, but they are some of my favorites, and the ones that came to mind for those teen readers yesterday. But there are more out there. I’ve already read and heard about several other great 2012 books featuring queer girl characters, The Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George, Starting from Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Kiss the Morning Star, by Elissa Janine Hoole, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth, and 37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon are all new this year, and I know there are others, some of which probably haven’t even crossed my radar yet. And two of my most anticipated fall releases are Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King and Adaptation, by Malinda Lo.
If this trend continues, readers should have no trouble finding good YA fiction featuring queer girls.
What are some of your favorites?