It’s Pride Month in Vancouver. To celebrate, here are five very different LGBTQ titles for teens, ranging in setting from 1980s Texas to modern day Iran, and in genre from realistic fiction to high fantasy.
Everything Leads to You / Nina LaCour
A sweet, fairy tale romance in which the two lovers just happen to be girls. Everything Leads to You is a refreshingly positive coming-of-age story which subtly suggests that books about lesbian relationships don’t always have to be angst-filled, coming-out “problem novels”, but can be just as happy and mushy and fluffy as any other teen romance novel. One of the most positive aspects of this book is that fact that Emi, the lead character, is totally comfortable with her sexuality – it’s a non-issue to her and the people around her, which is really as it should be. This isn’t so much a lesbian love story as it is a story about two lovers who just happen to be lesbians, which is hopefully something we’ll see more of in the future.
LGBTQ teen novels tend fall into the “contemporary fiction” genre. For fantasy fans, there’s Huntress, a sweeping novel of world building, adventure and destiny. Two 17-year-old girls, Kaede and Taisin, must embark on a perilous mission to save their land, and as they face mounting dangers with only each other to lean on, the girls begin to explore their feelings for each other. Lo’s characters are beautifully developed and complex, and her world-building is expansive and intricate. The slowly developing relationship between the two female leads is natural and sensitive, and is written seamlessly into the story. This is another excellent example of the ways in which homosexual or bisexual characters can be written into novels in which their sexuality is an aspect of their character, rather than their only defining quality.
Imagine if something as natural and beautiful as falling in love could be punishable by death. 15-year-old Farrin attends an Iranian school for gifted girls where she meets a vivacious new girl, Sabira, who encourages Farrin to express herself through her writing. As Farrin and Sabira grow closer, the two girls must keep their burgeoning relationship a secret at all costs, because if anyone were to find out, they could lose their very lives. While the subject matter is upsetting, Moon at Nine does help underscore the fact that LGBTQ youth live and love in cultures and countries all around the world, and that while it may feel isolating and lonely to be “different”, LGBTQ youth are not in this alone.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe / Benjamin Alire Saenz
15-year-old Ari is an angry loner who has never had a real friend, and who carries a burning secret. His closely guarded world is turned upside down when he meets Dante, a boy from another school, who helps Ari learn to trust again, and encourages him to question his own deep-seated fears, desires and hopes. This beautiful, honest, authentic account of a relationship between two damaged souls is also notable in that it features Mexican-American characters, who strive to reconcile both their cultural and sexual identities and discover who they are really meant to be.
If You Could Be Mine / Sara Farizan
Another novel of lesbian love in Iran, If you could be mine tackles a number of complex issues, including religion, homosexuality, arranged marriages, and gender reassignment. 17-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin have been in love since they were children, but they have had to keep their love secret, because homosexuality is punishable by death in their country. When Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her with a wealthy doctor, she encourages Sahar to continue their relationship in secret, but Sahar longs to love Nasrin openly and without fear. While homosexuality is illegal in Iran, being transgendered is not, and gender-reassignment surgery is openly available. Sahar is willing to do whatever it takes to be with Nasrin, even if it means risking everything she has and everything she is. If you could be mine is an eye-opening look at the brutal realities of life for LGBTQ teens in Iran, who face losing their very lives for the crime of being in love.
What are some of your favourite LGBTQ novels for teens?
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