Coming out - whether smooth or traumatic - is a massive turning point in someone's life, and there's nothing like a good story (be it film, tv or literature) to help you through it. A surprisingly common question we're asked for recommendations is 'my teenage niece/nephew/friend/acquaintance has just come out - what would you recommend they read?', and with the holidays fast approaching, a gift idea might be just the thing. This week's list: the best gay YA books for someone who just came out.
Pretty much 2015 - and any year's - essential reading for the recently out young adult, This Book Is Gay is frank, informative, funny, unpatronising and hopeful. Plus it's already in some hot water with right-wing parent groups, and that's practically a stamp of approval in our book...
And while you're at it, you could do worse than checking out the rest of Dawson's catalogue of work...
You couldn't have a list aimed at QUILTBAG teen readers without having David Levithan on it. Boy Meets Boy is the gold standard of the genre, set in an ideal world where gay relationships are universally accepted and the star quarterback is also a drag queen. But for our money, How They Met - a diverse selection of short stories featuring LGBT protagonists, is our favourite.
Red Caps by Steve Berman
Steve Berman's Vintage frequents many a list of best gay books, and Red Caps continues his sterling storytelling of queer youth with a collection of fantastical short stories all of which feature gay protagonists. Talking about the collection, he says he set out to create stories in which the sexuality of the character is both front-and-centre but a non-issue in the story, and there are precious few other YA collections that treat the subject as such. Plus, the collection is beautifully illustrated throughout.
Buy Red Caps here.
Adult authors writing high school with any sense of authenticity is notoriously difficult (we're looking at you, Glee) but The Geography Club is an early cornerstone of of LGBT YA, telling the story of a school's first LGBT club led by Russel Middlebrook (the protagonist of a continuing series of novels.) We've got all the essential ingredients: the uniting of the outsiders for survival and acceptance, the strengthening and testing of friendships and the personal journey of self-discovery and sexuality. Plus, there was a 2014 movie featuring a whole host of familiar faces.
Speaking Out came out at roughly the same time as Dan Savages It Gets Better campaign...and unfortunately did not receive a tenth of the attention it deserved. These are stories about LGBT and Q teens--inspiring stories of overcoming adversity (against intolerance and homophobia).
Cub by Jeff Mann
It's easy to imagine that the coming-out story of every young adult revolves around the usual high-school stories and settings, but there are many more stories in the world to be told. Just listen to Out In Print's review: "It's a book for those boys out there who have discovered that they are different from many of their friends, but who also feel the division within the subculture they thought they could identify with. Cub lets them feel there's room at the table for them." And, as OutSmart says, "Finally, a young-adult romance that features Bears and their friends."
Buy Cub here.
At its best, coming out enters you into a community of LGBT people ready to give support and joy, and like any community, it has its stories -- stories about the long history of the community and the people that have gone before you. Hear Us Out! tells the story of each decade from the 1950s, describing exactly what it has meant to be young and gay in America in the last sixty years.
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
A break-out YA novel of 2014, Saenz's novel tells the story of two unlikely friends, Aristotle - an angry teen with a brother in prison - and Dante - a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. The novel is lauded by critics who praise it for everything from it's "tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality", to its "authentic teen and Latino dialogue" and its core friendship that "widens and twists like a river, revealing truths about how hard love is, how family supports us, and how painfully deep you have to go to uncover an authentic self."
The central question of our adolescence is always the defining of our own identities, and this collection tackles that question head on, with twelve stories from a range of well-known writers - including David Levithan, Gregory Maguire, Margo Lanagan, Emma Donoghue and Ariel Schrag - that spin a diverse set of stories taking in the LGBT experience with subtlety and vigour.
The Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
One of Lethe's missions is to ensure good gay books are revived; Rigoberto's wonderful YA novel about queer Latino friends at high school who band together to support one another as the Mariposa Club was published by Alyson (and featured all white boys on the cover). The largest growing ethnic population in the U.S. is Latino--thankfully this book is perfect for those embracing diversity.
Buy The Mariposa Club here.