November 18, 2017

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LGBTQ in Genre Fiction | SLJ Spotlight

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While coming-out stories will always be necessary in teen lit, it’s refreshing to see that LGBTQ protagonists are taking center stage in mysteries, sci-fi, romance, and other genre fiction. These latest titles offer engaging narratives with nonheteronormative leads that all young adults will find fun to read.

Coulthurst, Audrey. Of Fire and Stars. 400p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062433251.

ya-spot-coulthurst-offireandstarsGr 8 Up –In this fantasy world of kings and magic, Princess Dennaleia has been groomed for her most important task: to marry Prince Thandilimon in order to solidify the relationship between their kingdoms. It is a future that she fully embraces, hindered only by her secret magical affinity for handling and creating fire, which she has kept hidden and cannot control. Upon her arrival in the kingdom of Mynaria, Denna is paired with Princess Amaranthine (Mare), who is to give her riding lessons in preparation for the wedding day. Mare’s standing in her own kingdom is somewhat tenuous, as she has very little interest in her duties as a princess and prefers to spend her time riding and training horses. The two strike up a friendship amid a series of royal murders and terrorist acts supposedly orchestrated by renegade magic users and separatists. The real focus is on the attraction and love that soon develop between Denna and Mare. As they work to solve the murders and mysteries, the teens fall in love and begin to question their predestined roles. Same-sex love is neither forbidden nor controversial in Mynaria, so the novel’s theme does not center on LGBTQ issues. It is simply a love story that just happens to be about two women, and the setting and plot are tangential. Some mild sexual scenes make this appropriate for older readers. VERDICT Those looking for a complex sci-fi/fantasy may be a little unsatisfied with the narrative. However, the gentle LGBTQ romance will win over many teens.–Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD

Devine, Eric. Look Past. 288p. ebook available. Running Pr. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762459216.

PrintGr 9 Up –Avery is gutted when Mary, the first person to truly accept him as transgender, is brutally murdered. He’s barely had time to process his grief when the killer begins sending him grotesque messages threatening that Avery will be the next victim if he doesn’t atone for being transgender and start presenting as female. The protagonist’s supportive girlfriend and BFF have his back, and they use their combined interest in amateur forensics to help solve this whodunit. Unusual for this genre, Avery is comfortable going to his parents and the police for assistance, which the adults provide. While it’s refreshing to read a novel about a transgender teen where gender identity isn’t the sole focus, Avery’s overall characterization feels slight and the secondary characters fail to develop beyond their initial stereotypes, particularly the saintly girlfriend and best friend. This book contains strong language, and Avery’s interest in forensics leads to graphic descriptions of Mary’s mutilations. VERDICT This will appeal to readers seeking titles with LGBTQ protagonists, but the pacing may be too slow for fans of teen thrillers.–Ann Foster, Saskatoon Public Library, Canada

Evangelista, Kate. No Holding Back. 256p. ebook available. Feiwel and Friends/Swoon Reads. Oct. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781250100627.

ya-spot-evangelista-noholdingbackGr 9 Up –The sequel to No Love Allowed follows Nathan and Preston as they take the European summer vacation meant for Nathan and his cousin, Caleb. While Caleb and Didi spend their summer in Dodge Cove, Nathan plans to distract Preston from his busy swimming schedule while also using the trip as an opportunity to confess his true feelings for him. Reluctantly, Preston joins Nathan on the extravagant trip but almost immediately dashes Nathan’s hopes and completely ignores his not-so-subtle romantic messages. Convinced that his feelings are unrequited, Nathan becomes withdrawn and considers returning home to pursue his own career goals. However, his twin sister, Natasha, suddenly arrives in Greece to give the protagonist the support he needs to follow through with his decision. Readers will need some familiarity with the first book to fully understand the characters and the plot. Unlike its predecessor, this title exists solely in the jet-setting world of ultrarich teenagers whose worries center primarily on their love interests. Preston’s anxiety about making the Olympic swim team and Nathan’s worries about pulling off the party of the year for Dodge Cove’s social elite are some of the characters’ concerns. Teens interested in LGBTQ romances may overlook the wealth-filled setting in favor of the characters’ internal struggles. VERDICT Purchase where the previous volume is popular.–Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD

Roehrig, Caleb. Last Seen Leaving. 336p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250085634.

ya-spot-roehrig-lastseenleavingGr 9 Up –This thriller follows Flynn as he tries to solve the mystery of his missing girlfriend, January. The more he discovers, the more confused he is as he uncovers the secrets she has been keeping from him. January had been distant ever since her mother remarried and moved her into her politician stepdad’s fancy house and switched her to private school. Though the couple tried to stay together through the changes, Flynn’s own secret was a source of strife, and January broke up with him after a fight right before her disappearance. That she’s no longer his girlfriend doesn’t stop Flynn from caring about her, and he doesn’t give up looking for answers. His search for January leads to his own revelation as he is forced by circumstances to come out to his parents and friends. Learning the truth about January leads Flynn and his new friend Kaz into danger and intrigue as they find themselves falling for each other and solving the mystery. The characters are believable, the mystery is interesting, and the action is often fast-paced. Flynn’s internal struggle to open up about his sexuality carries weight, and readers will be drawn into his emotional journey and his adventures in amateur sleuthing. VERDICT A fun mystery with a credible emotional pull; a general purchase for most YA collections.–Genevieve Feldman, San Francisco Public Library

Sim, Tara. Timekeeper. 368p. ebook available. Sky Pony. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781510706187.

ya-spot-sim-timekeeperGr 10 Up –The first installment in a steampunk trilogy by a debut author focuses on the power of clocks. In an alternative Victorian London, time is kept in check by clock towers that were put in place so long ago that their origins have become part of mythology. Seventeen-year-old Danny is a mechanic tasked with keeping the clocks running smoothly to prevent time from fracturing or being stopped. Having time stop has been Danny’s biggest fear ever since his father became trapped in a stopped town. The teen is assigned to a clock tower that keeps breaking down where he meets a strange and attractive young man claiming to be his new assistant. As Danny falls in love for the first time, he realizes that love can make people selfish or selfless, and he must decide between the two. In the book, homosexuality is no longer illegal but still weighs heavily on Danny’s mind and plays into his other insecurities as the youngest mechanic on record. Part mystery and part romance, this fantasy novel delves into what it means to grow up and make important decisions. With an easily relatable main character struggling to fit in, the novel has a realistic and contemplative voice. Several chapters focus on the world’s mythology, providing a secret history of the domain the characters inhabit. VERDICT A must-have richly written fantasy novel that will have readers eagerly anticipating the next volume. For fans of Cassandra Clare’s “The Infernal Devices” or more mature works like V.E. Schwab’s “Shades of Magic” series.–Rebecca Greer, Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, FL

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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Comments

  1. Liz Wright says:

    Such an excellent collection of books! But for whoever’s in charge of titles: LGBTQ is an adjective, not a noun. Saying “LGBTQ in Genre Fiction” is akin to saying “The Lesbians/Gays/Bisexuals/Transgenders/Queers in Genre Fiction,” which is not good.