Janii Yazon ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
February is the month of love, and what better way to celebrate than by bringing attention to a genre of books often ignored? Here is a list of YA novels that beautifully explore the complexities of human sexuality and accurately portray queer relationships.
The first thing people try to decipher as soon as they see someone else, whether they’re aware of it or not, is that person’s gender. Are they a boy or a girl? If you ask Riley Cavanaugh, they’d say both. Or, on other days, neither. Their anxiety, gender identity, family status, intolerant environment, and growing crush on a mysterious classmate push Riley towards the terrifying point of no return. Symptoms follows Riley as they start building up the courage to face themselves and the world head on. Garvin tastefully and accurately portrays a variety of gender nonconforming identities within this novel, creating a welcome new addition to the LGBT canon.
Two Boys Kissing follows the story of Harry and Craig, two seventeen-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour kissing marathon in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record. The two boys slowly become the center of attention for other teen boys struggling with gender identity, teetering long-term relationships, coming out, and the myriad hook-up opportunities the Internet provides. The most striking aspect of this story is that it is told by a chorus of queer men who had lost their lives to AIDS. Two Boys Kissing acts as a testimony to the tragic history of the LGBT+ community, as well as a heartfelt, optimistic shout-out to anyone else going through a similar struggle.
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This coming-of-age novel follows Aristotle, a young boy with a brother in prison and Dante, a bookworm with a unique perspective of the world. The time they spend together cultivates a relationship that lasts a lifetime and changes lives. Through their friendship, the boys discover who they are and who they want to be. This novel dives into cultural tensions, familial ties, and romantic hardships. The focus on the boys’ relationship is not the common worry over being in love with another man, but being in love with one’s best friend. Aristotle and Dante is a beautiful story that discovers the characters slowly, creating a rich, earnest tale of first love and self-love.
Emi is a young, successful set designer who has begun to make great strides in the competitive Hollywood film world. But, failing in the romance department of her life, Emi has gone back to the same girl too many times. So when she is led to Ava, a beautiful actress with an enigmatic personality, Emi is uncontrollably drawn towards her. Everything Leads to You is an enjoyable read with a well-crafted, multiracial, queer main character. LaCour taps into the excitement of true love in this contemporary novel. A much-needed addition to the rather empty collection of lesbian-related fiction, Everything Leads to You stands out as in-touch with the progressive world, as well as with the timeless conventions of romance.
Often described as an alternate universe re-imagining of Harry Potter where Draco and Harry fall in love with each other, Carry On offers another level of angst in the lives of these teen magicians. Rainbow Rowell’s tale is full of her signature romance, engaging comedy, carefully crafted mystery, and a new spin on magical worlds. Possibly the most satisfying aspect of this novel is the refreshing way Rowell treats Baz and Simon’s relationship, weaving in sexuality as a contribution to their anxiety, in addition to all the other chaos, as opposed to making it the focus as most LGBT-related novels do.
Twins Jude and Noah were incredibly close, and got along well, until they turned thirteen. The differences between them were emphasized by their struggle as adolescents. Tensions between the two siblings grow further as a terrible tragedy occurs within their family. Two years later, the two are recklessly advancing through the complications of their familial and romantic lives. Nelson beautifully channels the minds and hearts of teenagers in love, and portrays brilliant accounts of both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. I’ll Give You the Sun is a poignant exploration of the multifaceted complications of adolescence.