Five Finds – LGBTQ YOUNG ADULT FICTION

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.

FIVE (3)

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.

Huntress / Malinda Lo

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.

Moon at Nine / Deborah Ellis

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?

On My Shelf – My To-Read List

Confession time –  I don’t really read YA fiction. I never have. Even as a teen I had no interest in YA – they all seemed to be the same book, with different covers. Boy meets girl in high school. Boy meets girl in the past. Boy meets girl in the future. Boy meets girl in space. Boy meets girl in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. Angst, hormones, angst, whining, predictable ending. Yawn…. There have definitely been a couple of titles I enjoyed, but on the whole it’s never been a genre I immediately reach for.

Fast forward a few years and I now work with teens and help maintain a YA collection. What better time to give YA lit another chance?

I took a quick walk through the teen section today, and here are a few titles I picked out to try.  I’ve never been a big fan of realistic fiction, but there seem to be enough sci fi / fantasy YA books out there to keep me occupied.

Divergent / Veronica Roth

Divergent

Better late than never? I wasn’t a big fan of the film so I’m not holding my breath, but I’ll try and keep an open mind…

The Forest of Hands and Teeth / Carrie Ryan

forest

Zombies? I like zombies. There’s potential here.

The Rithmatist / Brandon Sanderson

rithmatist

I loved Warbreaker, so here’s hoping Sanderson’s YA novels are just as good!

Alanna / Tamora Pierce

Alanna

There are a lot of Tamora Pierce fans at my book club, and I’m always looking for series with strong female leads, so I’m excited to give these books a try.

We’ll see how it goes….!

Five Finds – Manga for Teens

I have a confession to make – I am a somewhat-reformed otaku. While I watch anime almost every day (thank you Funimation, Netlfix and my local library for fueling my addiction!), I’m definitely not as connected to the anime/manga scene as I was in my student days. We have an anime club for teens here at the library, and part of my role as a youth services librarian is helping maintain the YA graphic novel/manga section, so I’ve been familiarizing myself with our collection, as well as the reading habits of our teen manga enthusiasts.

I had a young adult come to the desk recently looking for some manga suggestions (in particular for some more action-oriented titles), and here are a few options I pulled from our collection – most of these manga are pretty old, but they’re still pretty decent titles, and worth checking out. They’ve all also been adapted into anime, which could be worth suggesting as well.

Note: While these titles have all been classified by the library as “young adult”, they may not be appropriate for all teens. These manga may contain violence, nudity or suggestive content (wherein lies much of the appeal to teen audiences), and as always, reader discretion is advised.

Annotations are taken from the library catalog.

1. Attack on Titan / Hajime Isayama

 Attack

For the past century, what’s left of mankind has hidden in a giant, three-walled city, trapped in fear of the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming human-kind, but the sudden appearance of an enormous Titan is about change everything.

2. Bleach / Tite Kubo

bleach

Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach , has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.

3. Naruto / Masahi Kishimoto

Naruto

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with a need for attention, a knack for mischief and, sealed within him, a strange, formidable power. R to L (Japanese Style). Naruto is a ninja-in-training with a need for attention, a knack for mischief and, sealed within him, a strange, formidable power. His antics amuse his instructor Kakashi and irritate his teammates, intense Sasuke and witty Sakura, but Naruto is serious about becoming the greatest ninja in the village of Konohagakure! Believe it!

4. Trigun / Yasuhiro Nightow

Trigun

Vash the Stampede, the galaxy’s deadliest gunslinger, emerges after two years in hiding to help his beleaguered desert homeworld, Gunsmoke. But the Stampede’s many enemies have kept their motors running, and they’re back on his trail and determined to bring Vash to ground – hard! And a new crowd of bounty hunters, badasses, and brain-cases are also looking to cash in the astronomical price on his head!

5. Fairy Tail / Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tale

Cute girl wizard Lucy want to join the Fairy Tail, a club for the most powerful wizards. But instead, her ambitions land her in the clutches of a gang of unsavory pirates led by a devious magician. Her only hope is Natsu, a strange boy she happens to meet on her travels.

Note (2): My partner and I are currently making our way through the Fairy Tail anime (I think we’re on episode 102 or something like that. We’re really enjoying it!

Five Finds – Spy Thrillers for Teens

“I like books that are exciting, because my life is really, really boring.” One of the teens I work with is really into thrillers, particularly spy novels and mysteries, and she summed up pretty neatly why so many of us love to read action-packed books. Here are a few twisty-turny spy novels that might appeal to the budding secret agents in your library.

All annotations are taken from the library catalog.

1. W.A.R.P. : The Reluctant Assassin / Eoin Colfer

reluctant

In Victorian London, Albert Garrick, an assassin-for-hire, and his reluctant young apprentice, Riley, are transported via wormhole to modern London, where Riley teams up with a young FBI agent to stop Garrick from returning to his own time and using his newly acquired scientific knowledge and power to change the world forever.

2. The Recruit / Robert Muchamore

recruit

A terrorist doesn’t let strangers in her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place. The terrorist doesn’t know that one of these kids has bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The kid works for CHERUB. CHERUB agents are aged between ten and seventeen. They live in the real world, slipping under adult radar and getting information that sends criminals and terrorists to jail. For official purposes, these children do not exist.

3. Stormbreaker / Anthony Horowitz

storm

After the death of the uncle who had been his guardian, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is coerced to continue his uncle’s dangerous work for Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6.

4. The Eye of Minds / James Dasher

eye

Michael is a skilled internet gamer in a world of advanced technology. When a cyber-terrorist begins to threaten players, Michael is called upon to seek him and his secret’s out.

5. A Girl Named Digit / Annabel Monaghan 

digit

After identifying a terrorist plot, a brilliant seventeen-year-old girl from Santa Monica, California, gets involved with the young FBI agent who is trying to ensure her safety.