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Since its inception in 1969 with the publication of John Donovan’s I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, LGBTQ literature for young adults has been dominated by contemporary realism. Of the 798 titles with LGBTQ content published through 2015, there have been only 25 genre titles: 15 historical, 5 horror, and 5 mystery. I exclude romance, because by far the lion’s share of LGBTQ realistic novels contain elements of romance but are not romance novels per se.
But what about speculative fiction and LGBTQ? That’s a different and interesting story. Consider that, through 2004, only 1 such title appeared, but then further consider that since 2005, 54 more have been published. Why this remarkable disparity? Two words: Harry Potter. Just as the series about the bespectacled young wizard sparked a global renaissance of speculative fiction, so it also impacted the field of LGBTQ fiction. Interestingly, while the primacy of speculative fiction has begun to wane in the last year or so, it continues to flourish in the realm of LGBTQ fiction, with a robust 10 titles appearing in 2015. The total of 55 novels of speculative fiction with LGBTQ content since 2004 is 30 more than all the other genres combined! So the quantity is exceptional, but what about the quality? Well, here are annotations for 11 of the 55 (arranged chronologically).You decide.
coming-of-age story of Thom, a closeted teen superhero. He keeps his emerging
superpowers from his father, a disgraced superhero himself. Nevertheless, Thom
decides to try out for membership in the League, the prestigious coterie of
aspiring superheroes. But will his father discover his secrets?
Ash, by Malinda Lo. 2009.
This one is a beautifully imagined retelling of the traditional Cinderella story. When her father dies, Ash is left with her evil stepmother and sisters as a family. Yes, she goes to the ball, where the prince falls for her, but that isn’t the end of the story. Instead of the prince, Ash falls in love with his huntress, Kaisa.
Huntress, by Malinda Lo. 2011.
In this prequel to Ash, Taisin and Kaede are chosen to make a perilous journey with the prince to the kingdom of the Fairy Queen. On the way, the two young women realize they love each other, but Taisin is destined to become a sage, which means taking a vow of celibacy. How will the two be able to forge a lasting relationship?
The Culling, by Steven dos Santos. 2013.
In this dystopian novel, America has fallen, and the Establishment now controls everything. Sixteen-year-old Lucky must compete in the Recruitment Trials or face the prospect of having to choose which of the two people he cares most about will die. A Top 10 Rainbow List selection.
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith. 2014.
Is Austin in love
with his best friend, Robby, or with his girlfriend, Shann? While he’s trying
to make up his mind, his small Iowa hometown is being overrun by an infestation
of giant, flesh-eating praying mantises. Worse, it turns out that the two boys
may have been partially responsible for the plague. Smith’s wildly imaginative
adventure takes no prisoners, except, perhaps, for Austin, who is a prisoner of
love.But who will win his bisexual heart?
Willful Machines, by Tim Floreen. 2015.
This one is set in the near future and is the story of Lee, a closeted teen who is the son of the U.S. president (talk about an awkward situation) and who falls in love with Nico, the new boy, just as their school is attacked by sentient robots.
The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black. 2015.
Here’s a magical story about a girl named Hazel; her gay brother, Ben; and a prince who has been asleep in a glass coffin for eons and with whom Ben is smitten. What will happen when the glass coffin is shattered and the prince wakens?
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. 2015.
This is the story of teenager Mikey, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and whose best friend, Jared, is not only openly gay but also one-quarter god—the god, as it happens, of cats, which explains why he can cozy up to mountain lions. Meanwhile, beings called the Immortals are attempting to infiltrate Mikey’s town in order to take over the earth. Yikes!
Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. 2015.
Simon and Baz have been roommates at a school for the Magickal Arts since they were little boys. Simon is arguably the most powerful mage in history, while Baz may be a vampire. The two boys hate each other . . . or do they?
More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera. 2015.
Here is the hard-edged story of a closeted gay boy, Aaron, who comes out in his rough New York neighborhood. Things do not go well, and Aaron decides—in a paranormal twist—to go to the nearby Leteo Institute for a dangerous procedure: he will have his memory erased, hoping he can then be straight.
We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson. 2016.
Gay, self-hating Henry is caught in an existential trap: finding life to be absurd, he thinks humans are not the apex of civilization; on the contrary, they are no more significant than ants. Are they even worth saving? A relevant question, for Henry has a secret: he knows when the world will end because the aliens who have abducted him have told him. But, strangely, they have also given him the choice to prevent doomsday. He can simply press a button, and the world will not end. Yet will he take that action? Maybe not. For his boyfriend, Jesse, has committed suicide, and Henry, blaming himself, doubts that life is worth living.
So, quality? I think so. I hope you agree.
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