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From author Malinda Lo, to publisher Arthur A. Levine, to librarian Arla Jones, eight Young Adult Lit experts give us 8 trends to look for in LGBTQ Teen Fiction. The results show a slight evolution in the way American teens are reading from how they consume their texts (download anyone?) to Vampire fatigue (shh, don’t tell Little, Brown) to Coming Out as pansexual, bisexual and asexual. Oh, you’re gay? That’s so last year.
MALINDA LO, author of “Ash,” a finalist for the 2010 William C. Morris Award.
I think that paranormal is still really hot, even if some people are getting vampire fatigue. One thing that is starting to hit is fallen angels, and there’s also been a steady stream of post-apocalyptic/dystopic sci fi. But honestly, the biggest trend that will never die is teen girls’ continuing love for romance — romance is huge. For LGBT teens — at least the ones I’ve spoken to — they also love these genres, but of course, they love them even more when there’s a solid LGBT main character in the book. I don’t think a coming-out story is necessary, but a realistic (even in fantasy or sci fi!) LGBT character is.
NICK BURD, is the award-winning author of “The Vast Fields of Ordinary”
I think we’re going to see gay characters represented like real people. No more cliches; no more flaming best friend who’s there solely for his witty remarks about eyeliner. I think it’s becoming clearer that gay hardships are human hardships, and there are beautiful ways that they inform each other. This sort of emotional recognition is at the foundation of all great literature.
SARA RYAN, is the award-winning author of “Empress of the World” and “The Rules for Hearts”
I’m not sure if two books qualifies as a trend — but two excellent and very different YA titles I’ve read recently feature queer characters you could nominate for Best Supporting Actor: Dylan from Nina LaCour’s “Hold Still,” and Paul from “Tales of the Madman Underground” by John Barnes. Both Dylan and Paul are fully three-dimensional characters, far more than stereotypical “gay best friends” — though in both books, their friendships with the protagonists are important to the plot. I think and hope that we’ll see more YA books with both main and supporting queer characters whose sexual identity is significant, but not central to their role in the story.
LEE WIND, maintains the award-winning blog, “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What
the Hell do I Read?”
Teen novels are so much about the character’s “coming of age”—and because figuring out who you are attracted to and what that means is such a part of coming of age, I think we’re always going to have “Coming Out” novels. What we are starting to see in the last couple of years are stories where Coming Out is not the only thing going on — it’s part of a bigger story. Genre stories like Hayden Thorne’s Gay superhero series “Masks,” Steve Berman’s Gay Ghost story “Vintage,” and Alex Sanchez’ Do-I-Have-To-Choose-Between-Being-Gay-And-God “The God Box” are pushing GLBTQ Teen Novels in new directions, all while still telling gripping coming of age/coming out stories. As a writer, I think it’s great to ask yourself, “Where can I take this that’s new — where I can put my own unique voice into it?” That’s what Ellen Hopkins did with including Queer main characters in “Tricks,” and what Malinda Lo did with her retelling of Cinderella, “Ash.”
ALEX SANCHEZ, author of the award-winning books “Bait” and “The God Box”
I believe the wave of gay-themed YA lit of the last decade is cresting. As teens become more comfortable with gay issues, the gay and lesbian coming out story will become less significant. And as teens become more accepting of gay people, they’ll become more open to exploring their own same-sex attractions and less willing to box themselves in as either gay or straight. I believe the new trend will be coming of age stories that explore more deeply bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality, and being label-free, period.
ARLA JONES, ALA Rainbow Project member and Lawrence High School Librarian
Trend begins with “T.” The LGBT teens in my high school library are more interested in the “T” than ever before. How lucky are they that since the publication Luna, more and more young adult and children’s books are being published with a transgender theme? Each year I have a number of students self-identify as “trans.” This has been a bit surprising to an old lezbrian like myself, living in Kansas. But, thanks to the help of the Rainbow List, the new Stonewall Book Award for children (and Lambda of course!) there are sources for finding recommended youth-appropriate titles. I am very thankful for the hard work of those intrepid librarians in the past who have helped make it possible for today’s young people to grow up with libraries that can and will buy lgbt books. After serving three years on the Rainbow List committee, I am currently chairing a new committee, that will put together a recommended list of lgbt books for adults. We are calling our new bibliography Over the Rainbow. Our mission is to help librarians and others who buy lgbt books locate the best in publishing each year. Although lgbt publishing is in a bit of flux right now, it is exciting that there’s lots of good stuff out there for all ages of readers.
ARTHUR A LEVINE, publisher Arthur A. Levine Books
I think the increasing access to books via download to a personal device means that the process (of buying books) is even more private than before, which may make it more comfortable for kids interested in reading books with LGBT content to get what they want. And what that is, is timeless: everyone wants books with characters who live and love and struggle for happiness in ways that are recognizable and feel real.
DAISY PORTER, maintains the blog Queer YA.
I’ve been so pleased to see more fluidity and ambiguity in gay YA in the last couple of years. Books like Last Night I Sang to the Monster, Liar, and Beautiful demonstrate the rejection of labels without being explicit about it. All three leave the reader thinking they don’t know what the hell is going on, which mirrors many teens’ identity struggles as well. I’m also seeing a lot more “drive-by gay” books, where a character’s sexuality is not a big part of the book and is mentioned ony in passing, like the uncles in Project Sweet Life or the band camp guy in If I Stay. Ever since David Levithan’s groundbreaking Boy Meets Boy, gayness hasn’t had to be a Big Problem in teen fiction, but now it’s so normal it sometimes barely scores a mention. Don’t get me wrong – this is great news, because we’re also still seeing a lot of center-stage sexual identity, but it’s good to have these characters woven into the background of other books as well.