25 LGBTQAI+ Titles for Pride Month—and Onward

The 25 books here have received glowing reviews from SLJ throughout the previous year.

During the last 12 months, School Library Journal has reviewed a wide range of titles with LBGTQAI+ characters or themes in a variety of genres, from realistic fiction to fantasy, and including nonfiction and graphic novels, too. The 25 books here have received glowing reviews from SLJ—several landed on our Best Books 2017 list. All will enhance elementary, middle grade, and YA collections, whether in June for national Pride celebrations or throughout the year.

Middle Grade Fiction

BELL, Eric. Alan Cole Is Not a Coward. 272p. HarperCollins/Katherine ­Tegen Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062567024. Gr 4-6–All Alan Cole has ever wanted is to blend in. He takes care not to let his cafeteria tablemates, Zack and Madison, become his friends. Alan stays quiet at the dinner table so as not to upset his irascible father, and tries to avoid his brother, Nathan, who relentlessly bullies him. One day Nathan forces Alan to play a round of Cole vs. Cole, in which each brother must attempt to accomplish as many of Nathan’s proposed seven assignments as possible within a week. The tasks are tough and include learning how to swim, retrieving a slip of paper from inside a broken vending machine, and receiving a first kiss. If Alan loses, Nathan will reveal his biggest secret to the whole school: Alan is gay and has a crush on one of his male classmates. With its well-developed characters, juxtaposition of supportive adult educators and aggressive parents, and message of hope, this novel feels like a contemporary version of Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. Many of the book’s most memorable scenes involve its lovable supporting characters, including Zack, a sweet kid who brings new meaning to the phrase free spirit, and Madison, who is named after three U.S. presidents and feels that his name comes with a responsibility to speak as eloquently as possible at all times. VERDICT A strong debut; recommend to tweens who enjoy realistic fiction, particularly readers looking for ­stories about LGBTQ kids.–Shira ­Pilarski, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

redstarBLAKE, Ashley Herring. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World. 320p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316515467.

Gr 4-6–A sweet story of a first crush and being stuck in the middle. In the aftermath of a tornado, Ivy and her family find themselves without a home and dependent upon the kindness of others. Already often overlooked as the middle child, Ivy feels even more invisible now that her family of six shares a small hotel room. What’s worse, Ivy is developing feelings for another girl at school; but after hearing the way her older sister reacted when her best friend came out, Ivy doesn’t know who to talk to. Filling a much-needed gap in middle grade literature, this story addresses not just the topic of a first crush, but also the invisibility frequently felt by middle children. The protagonist struggles with the disappearance of a beloved journal after a tornado and a lack of privacy while sharing one room with her entire family. She is too young to help care for her twin brothers but old enough that she is often forgotten about. Ivy doesn’t feel comfortable discussing her blossoming romantic feelings with her family but is able to find a trusted adult in whom to confide. Young readers will find Ivy’s challenges very real and will sympathize with her choices, both good and bad. Give to fans of Tim Federle’s Better Nate than Ever or Barbara Dee’s Star-Crossed. VERDICT Relatable and engaging. A first purchase for public and school libraries.–Jenni Frencham, Columbus Public Library, WI

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

redstarCALLENDER, Kheryn. Hurricane Child. 224p. Scholastic. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338129304.

Gr 4-6–Twelve-year-old Caroline and her father live on Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Caroline, known as a “Hurricane Child,” since she was born during a hurricane, is plagued with bad luck. She sees a spirit—the woman in black—that no one else can see. She is bullied daily at school by both children and her teachers who make cruel remarks about her dark skin tone. Her feelings of loneliness are compounded by the fact that her mother left and never returned. When a new student from Barbados named Kalinda joins her class, Caroline is drawn to Kalinda’s confidence and disinterest in befriending the bullies. The two girls soon become close friends. Caroline realizes her feelings for Kalinda are more than platonic and when she expresses them to Kalinda, they are unfortunately met with resistance. Nevertheless, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline find her mother in the midst of a terrible storm. By the end, the protagonist is able to feel more at peace with herself, her family, and her complex relationship with Kalinda. The novel moves at a substantial pace and contains intermittent flashbacks. Told solely from Caroline’s perspective, readers get an in-depth understanding of her experiences and feelings. Lush descriptions bring the Caribbean environment to vivid life. VERDICT An excellent and nuanced coming-of-age tale with a dash of magical realism for readers who enjoy character-driven novels, especially those with middle grade LGBTQ+ characterizations.–Jess Gafkowitz, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

PETRO-ROY, Jen. P.S. I Miss You. 320p. Feiwel & Friends. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250123480. Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Evie’s world is shaken when her teenage sister Cilla becomes pregnant. Rather than stay and face her strict Catholic parents’ reaction, Cilla goes away to give birth. After she places her child up for adoption, Cilla attends a boarding school. Evie misses Cilla terribly and writes to her regularly, which provides the epistolary format for the book. Seventh grade is a challenging time for Evie; her best friends seem more interested in performing in the school play and trying to get boyfriends than in being supportive. Only Evie’s new friend June provides solace. June is unlike anyone Evie has ever known. She comes from a family of atheists and openly talks about girls she thinks are cute. As Evie starts to wonder if she and June could be more than just friends, she finds she needs her big sister’s advice. Unfortunately, Cilla seems unwilling to respond to any of Evie’s letters or to come home for school breaks. The emotional conclusion will resonate with middle school fans of contemporary realistic fiction. VERDICT A strong additional purchase for libraries serving middle schoolers, particularly those seeking more inclusive LGBTQ+ titles.–Shira Pilarski, Farmington Community Library, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

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redstarFRANKLIN, Tee. Bingo Love. illus. by Jenn St-Onge & Joy San. 88p. Image. Feb. 2018. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781534307506. Gr 7 Up–Franklin’s first full-length graphic novel follows a love story between two black women. Hazel and Mari meet as teenagers in 1963 and become fast friends. A kiss in front of a church turns their relationship into something more. Their romance blossoms until Mari’s grandmother catches the couple and her homophobia tears the two apart. As time passes, Hazel marries James and starts a family, and her sexuality becomes invisible to all but her. A serendipitous night out at the bingo hall reunites Hazel and Mari, who are now in their 60s and have a second shot at love. Equally heartwarming and heartbreaking, this roller-coaster romance is a powerful tribute to social change across generations—and a reminder to today’s teens about the long struggle for LGBTQ rights. When Hazel comes out to her family as bisexual, James starts to reveal his own hidden past. The text directs readers to online bonus content to find out his secret—an unnecessary distraction from the honesty of the moment and the otherwise sharp characterization. St-Onge’s art is cinematic and expressive, brought to vivid life by San’s rich colors, and seamlessly connected to Hazel’s emotional states. Scenes from the past have a rosy quality in comparison to the stark present. VERDICT This tender, beautifully rendered coming-out tale deserves a place in all graphic novel collections.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.

HOCKING, Amanda. Between the Blade and the Heart. 336p. Wednesday Bks. Jan. 2018. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781250084798. Gr 9 Up–Valkyries take center stage in this Norse mythology–inspired fantasy series opener. Malin is a Valkyrie in a reality far different yet very much the same as our own. The setting of this book is not very clear but readers will be able to surmise that it takes place in a futuristic alternative world. Hocking gives her setting a unique element in which every type of creature and being coexists in a contentious and not-at-all peaceful organization. The work’s themes include a discussion of how the choices one makes can very much dictate one’s future. An LGBTQ love triangle involves Malin, her ex-girlfriend Quinn, and Asher, the attractive rogue blue-eyed son of a slain Valkyrie. A revenge subplot adds intrigue. The story is fast paced, well developed, and fresh. VERDICT Give this to readers who love Rick Riordan, Sarah J. Maas, Marie Lu, and Hocking’s previous series.–Margie Longoria, Mission High School, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2017 issue.

HOWARD, Greg. Social Intercourse. 320p. S. & S. Jun. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481497817. Gr 9 Up–Beckett Gaines is an out and proud teen who is obsessed with The Golden Girls, singing, and losing his virginity. He flies under the radar as much as he can while being only one of two out gay students in his school in a small rural Southern town. He lives with his father after his mother mysteriously left the family. Jaxon Parker is the star quarterback of the high school football team, the envy of everyone in his school and town, and dating the head cheerleader. He lives with his two mothers who are experiencing relationship strife of their own. When one of Jax’s moms suddenly starts dating Beck’s father, Beck and Jax decide to put their differences aside and try to throw a wrench in the relationship before it creates issues for both of their families. As they work together on organizing their town’s first Rainbow Prom, they encounter resistance, hate, and acceptance in various forms. The feelings Beck already has for Jax intensifies while Jax comes to terms with his own sexuality. Howard has crafted an amusing portrayal of life as an LGBTQ person in a small town. Sex is a very real thing to many of the characters; it is described in somewhat explicit and, at times, gratuitous detail. The voices of the characters and the dialogue often feel adult. Fans of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda who are looking for something more mature will gravitate toward this story of unrequited first love. VERDICT Purchase where stories of humorous family drama and relationships are popular.–Christopher Lassen, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue. JONES, Adam Garnet. Fire Song. 232p. Annick Pr. Mar. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554519781. Gr 9 Up–Shane is a gay Anishinaabe high school student. His sister, Destiny, has just committed suicide for unknown reasons. Shane’s mom holes herself up in Destiny’s room in a deep depression. At her memorial service, Shane goes emotionally adrift. The only person that truly makes Shane happy is David. Everything else about his life sucks: the teen has to pretend to have a girlfriend while sneaking around with David because he doesn’t think his community would accept his sexuality. Shane decides that he must leave the reservation and wants David to go with him. He even tries selling drugs to get some escape money. After his girlfriend, Tara, commits suicide, Shane withdraws further within himself and begins to wonder if his life is worth leading. This complex, well-written debut will resonate with young people. The primary and secondary characters are fully developed and the pacing will keep readers engaged. Despite the dangerous turn of events, the two boys eventually find love and acceptance. VERDICT A great coming-out novel with Native American protagonists; recommended for all teen collections.–Jill Baetiong, Kaneville Public Library, IL This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.
redstarKARIM, Sheba. Mariam Sharma Hits the Road. 320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062445735. POP Gr 9 Up–The past year has brought its share of woes for Mariam Sharma and her best friends, Ghaz and Umar. The remedy? A summer road trip. After their freshman year of college, Mariam, reeling from a recent breakup and in search of answers about her absent father, and Ghaz, who leaves behind a family apoplectic about her foray into modeling, join recent high school grad Umar on his cross-country trip to New Orleans for the Islamic Association of North America convention. High jinks involving pot brownies, mechanical bulls, and karaoke ensue. Ghaz and Umar ooze drama, keeping up witheringly sarcastic, at times raunchy commentary, while introspective Mariam takes it all in. However, like its characters, this breezy, irreverent romp has a deeply thoughtful side. Though devoted to his religion, Umar contends with the knowledge that there are Muslims who see him as a sinner because he is gay, while Ghaz expresses frustration with Islam and anger at her repressive family. Karim offers a nuanced perspective on the road trip novel, centering the experiences of three South Asian American teens who also encounter racism and Islamophobia on their journey of self-discovery. VERDICT This joyously exuberant tale will speak to readers who enjoy a blend of barbed humor and poignant reflection. An excellent choice for all YA shelves.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

redstarKISNER, Adrienne. Dear Rachel Maddow. 272p. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250146021.

Gr 8 Up–Brynn Harper had a cute girlfriend and a spot on the school newspaper, both of which she loved, but she began having troubles concentrating on either after her brother died. When her teacher tells her to start writing to her hero, she chooses her ex-girlfriend’s instead; Brynn isn’t the type of girl to have heroes. But slowly, it morphs into something genuine and she continues to write—and not send—missives about her life to political commentator Rachel Maddow. What unfolds is a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful tale of a struggling student who sees an injustice and steps in. She does so unwillingly, but still, she does. Brynn is realistically depicted and even though this novel is epistolary, the supporting characters are well fleshed out, too. Lacey, Brynn’s tutor and best friend who is a wheelchair user, is never tokenized as a disabled sidekick and has her own arc and love interest. There are some depictions of abuse and the aftereffects of a loved one overdosing, so some may find it a hard read. It is an underdog story, not necessarily of triumph, but of perseverance against terrible odds. VERDICT A necessary purchase wherever there are teens.–Kathryn Kania, Pelham Public Library, NH

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.
LAUREN, Christina. Autoboyography. 416p. S. & S. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481481687. Gr 10 Up–Tanner’s family moved from California to Provo, Utah, almost two years ago. They are one of the very few non-Mormon families in town, with a mother who left the Mormon church in college and a nonpracticing Jewish father. Although Tanner’s family is exuberantly supportive of his bisexuality, they all agree it’s safest to keep it to himself in the ultra-conservative town. With only one semester until graduation, Tanner plans to keep his head down and escape unscathed. Then Sebastian Brothers walks into his life. Sebastian is mentoring the school’s legendary novel writing seminar, after having his own class novel bought for publication. Tanner is in lust at first sight, but Sebastian is the son of the Mormon bishop. As Sebastian begins to return Tanner’s flirtation, questions arise about how far he’s willing to push his faith and how satisfied Tanner can be in the shadows. The duo writing team (Christina Hobbs & Lauren Billings) brings an impressively balanced approach to writing about the conflict between sexuality and strict religion. Members of the Mormon church are not painted as one-dimensional villains, but as multifaceted individuals with merits and faults. Sebastian is a devoted Mormon even as he struggles to justify his attraction to the same sex. Occasionally, the major characters are too effortlessly talented and popular, with their flaws only emerging when narratively convenient. Regardless, the teenagers are modern and relatable and the plot is emotionally engaging without becoming dark. VERDICT A thoughtful variation on the traditional high school LGBTQ+ romance that will enhance public library collections.–Amy Diegelman, formerly at Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.

redstarLENO, Katrina. Summer of Salt. 272p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062493620. Gr 8 Up –The Fernweh family has lived on the island of By-the-Sea—where the two smells you can always be sure of are “salt and magic”—for generations. Almost 18-year-old twins Georgina and Mary are the latest in a long line of Fernweh women with magical gifts ranging from teleportation to potion-making (the sisters’ mother Penelope can brew a mean hangover cure). Every summer, By-the-Sea also hosts 300-year-old Annabella, an Eastern Seaborn Flicker bird who may be a Fernweh herself, and the influx of tourists who come to see her. But when Annabella is found violently murdered, suddenly the island doesn’t seem so magical, and more than one dark secret must be uncovered. A magical realist YA book is still a relatively rare sight, and Leno expertly crafts this example of the genre with atmospheric prose and subtle feminism. The real heart of the novel is the exceptionally well-written female characters and relationships. Leno’s way of writing Georgina’s blossoming first love with island visitor Prue Lowry is so sweet and purely devoid of the “problem novel” overtones that accompany so many LGBTQ+ relationships in fiction. Her examination of the trauma of sexual assault and the “imperfect victim” is sophisticated and complex. VERDICT A necessary novel that is, at the same time, so enjoyable to read that teens will have to fight the urge to crawl into the pages. Buy multiple copies.–Ann Santori, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

redstarMCLEMORE, Anna-Marie. Wild Beauty. 352p. Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250124555.

Gr 7 Up –Set in an undisclosed time period, this new magical realism story featuring characters of color across the gender and sexuality spectrum draws on Latin American culture and language. Relying on lyrical prose, McLemore weaves an intricate tale of family, love, loss, and flowers. The Nomeolvides women have lived on and tended the enchanted gardens of La Pradera for generations. They are also hiding a dangerous secret: when those in their family fall in love too deeply, their lovers suddenly vanish. When Estrella and her four cousins (the youngest generation of Nomeolvides women) realize they are all in love with the same girl, they offer a desperate prayer to the gardens to save Bay Briar from nothingness. However, instead of protecting Bay from disappearing, they conjure up a strange and mysterious boy who knows nothing about his past or even his identity. As Estrella helps Fel discover the truth of his history, the Nomeolvides women learn more and more about their family’s legendary curse and the terrifying power of La Pradera. While somewhat confusing at times, the leisurely plot flows smoothly and elegantly. The well-crafted characters add to the vibrant and magical tale that readers will not easily forget. VERDICT A solid, must-have addition to McLemore’s growing body of work, this fantastical tale will delight her fans and entice a new audience.–Ariel Birdoff, New York Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2017 issue.

MITCHELL, Saundra, ed. All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages. 384p. Harlequin Teen. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335470454. Gr 9 Up–From witch trials to Y2K, this short story anthology tells fictional tales of LGBTQ teens throughout history. Though most entries are realistic, there are a few magical tales based on legends scattered throughout. The diversity is refreshing: it’s not just white history being told and there is a deaf character fighting alongside Robin Hood. However, the queerness trends toward lesbian and gay teens. There are a few asexual characters, showing a variety of people on the ace spectrum, and a few trans boys, but no trans girls or nonbinary characters. The short stories are well written, as can be expected from the well-known contributors such as Anne-Marie McLemore and Shaun David Hutchinson. One standout piece is “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” by Nilah Magruder, which tells Dee’s story as a black, roller disco–loving teen coming to terms with her asexuality. Malinda Lo’s “New Year” really captures the slow discovery by young Lily on Lunar New Year of an underground of queer folk like her. Fans who are loyal to these authors will be pleased by the entries. Some teen voices feel more authentic than others, and at times, the more modern settings felt a bit heavy-handed. VERDICT Give to those teens who don’t read full novels but still long for LGBTQ representation. A strong choice for most collections.–Kathryn Kania, Pelham Public Library, NH

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

SHIMURA, Takako. Sweet Blue Flowers. illus. by Takako Shimura. 400p. Viz Media. Sept. 2017. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781421592985. Gr 10 Up–These collected first volumes of Shimura’s manga tell an honest, poignant story about the joys, pains, and loves of gay and bisexual young women. Fumi Manjoume moves back to her hometown with her family after being away for several years. She’s troubled because her first love recently married, but she reconnects with her old best friend, Akira Okudaira, who allows Fumi to be herself and helps ease her pain. During her first days at her new, all-girls school, Fumi falls for a popular, beautiful third-year senior, Yasuko Sugimoto, and the two begin dating. Shimura’s art varies depending on the mood of the scene. During comedic moments, the designs lean toward the exaggerated, but during important dramatic scenes, Shimura adds layers of appealing detail. Since these shifts occur only during high points, they will be comfortably familiar to fans of anime romances such as the webcomic Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun and “Toradora!” At first, characters may seem a bit archetypal, but Shimura’s deft pen crafts unique human beings from what appear to be genre staples. While the initially brisk pace may be off-putting, readers who acclimate themselves to the narrative’s rhythms will find LGBTQ+ characters to root for. VERDICT A no-brainer for yuri (manga focusing on lesbian romance) fans, but strong enough to recommend to romance readers and general manga enthuisasts.–Chuck Hodgin, Belmont University, Nashville

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

redstarSILVERA, Adam. They Both Die at the End. 384p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062457790.

Gr 9 Up–Everyone who is going to die on a given day gets a call to let them know; not the when, or the how, or the why, but just notification that they will die on that day. Mateo and Rufus each get that call and are facing their last day without a loved one. But there’s an app for that. Combining a well-realized alternative present with a lovely romance, Silvera’s latest delivers what readers want in a book about dying teens. There’s no avoiding the cliches that go along with the idea that an impending end makes life more meaningful, but recasting a Lurlene McDaniel–style doomed teen romance with Latinx queer boys and having the societal changes wink at those clichés softens them and makes a better ­storytelling device. The overarching structure of meaningful coincidences making a magical day in New York has its predecessors—Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star being prime examples—but this title is a deft exploration of that trope. Silvera continues to masterfully integrate diversity, disability, and young queer voices into an appealing story with a lot of heart. VERDICT While most of the elements and themes of this work are not new, they are combined, realized, and diversified expertly in this title. A must-have for YA shelves.–L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

WILDE, Jen. The Brightsiders. 304p. Feiwel & Friends. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250189714. POP Gr 9 Up–Set in the fast pace of Hollywood, rockstar drummer Emmy King, 17, just can’t seem to get it right. Always caught up in drama with her parents and friends, the paparazzi have a field day when Emmy ends up in the hospital after a hard night of underage drinking. A few months later she is on stage and coming out as a bisexual. She eventually falls for Alfie, her irresistible, genderfluid band mate, which leads to a relationship that is physically mature. Emma is a complex, multifaceted character who doesn’t always make the right decisions, but she proves that relationships can be complicated regardless of one’s sexuality. The author adeptly captures the essence and confusion that young people may go through when trying to figure out their identities. This inclusive romance features multiple LGBTQ+ protagonists, including a nonbinary character who uses the pronouns they/them. The frankness and details of Emmy’s sexual experiences make this a better choice for older readers. VERDICT Perfect for collections seeking high drama and romance.–Karen Alexander, Lake ­Fenton High School, Linden, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

Nonfiction

redstarBONGIOVANNI, Archie & Tristan Jimerson. A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns. illus. by Archie Bongiovanni. 64p. Oni/Limerence. Jun. 2018. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781620104996.

Gr 7 Up–Genderqueer writer and illustrator Bongiovanni and cisgender writer Jimerson, longtime friends, present this educational comic guide to gender-neutral pronouns. Speaking to each other and directly addressing readers, they emphasize the importance of inclusive and respectful language. Bongiovanni brings the perspective of their lived experience, and Jimerson serves as a thoughtful ally and role-plays as someone unfamiliar with gender-neutral pronouns. Together, they offer examples and explanations of pronoun usage and discuss misgendering (using the wrong pronouns, assuming gender, and relying on faulty visual shortcuts based on a gender binary). They also model potential conversations, such as how to ask what pronouns others use. The repeated references to creating inclusive work spaces give this guide more of an adult-oriented focus; still, teens will get a lot out of it. Featuring whimsical, lively illustrations, this clear, well-organized, conversational guide also covers dealing with mistakes. A section called “For Folks Identifying with Alternative Pronouns” offers advice on coming out as nonbinary. VERDICT A great, simple look at the importance of using correct pronouns; extremely accessible to those for whom gender-neutral language is a new concept.–Amanda ­MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

redstarKAYE, Julia. Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition. illus. by Julia Kaye. 160p. Andrews McMeel. May 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781449489625. Gr 8 Up–Cartoonist Kaye, who is transgender, reveals the many ups and downs of starting hormone replacement in this collection of strips from her webcomic Up and Out. In a “Before” section, she writes about her life before fully understanding her identity and transitioning, which helps ground the short, disconnected comics. The strips begin four months into Kaye’s decision to take hormones, and express her joy and excitement along with her impatience, frustration, dysphoria, and internalized transphobia. She describes moving home, changing her name, and coming out and explores self-image, reactions from others, misgendering, and more. Kaye shares many affirming experiences such as her parents using the right pronouns, her forays into trying out different clothes and makeup, and her reminders that she is valid no matter how she looks or is perceived, but never shies away from moments of frustration or self-loathing. The strips are like reading a diary—raw, honest, emotional, and not always uplifting. While Kaye’s feelings are complicated, she is ultimately hopeful. The simple line drawings add warmth and whimsy to the small snippets of text. Though Kaye focuses on her experiences as an adult, teens will relate to her reflections on identity and acceptance. VERDICT An important and accessible work, especially given that relatively few books tackle the process of transitioning.–Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.

KERGIL, Skylar. Before I Had the Words: Being a Transgender Young Adult. 48p. Skyhorse. Sept. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781510723061. Gr 7 Up–Kergil first came to prominence as a YouTube vlogger documenting his transition from female to male while in high school. Nowadays he tours college campuses as a trans activist and singer-songwriter. At the request of his fans, he wrote this memoir which spans from birth through the present day. The book starts off slow in a series of meandering childhood anecdotes and references to the popular toys of the era, but Kergil hits his stride when recounting middle and high school. He finishes the book with a series of recent interviews with members of his family, which bring an interesting external perspective to his story. One important note when recommending to readers is that Kergil reveals his birth name and many details of his transition—his surgery recovery process, for instance, is rather graphically described. These details will likely endear the book to most readers, but some may find them triggering. VERDICT While the writing is at times lacking, this is a solid purchase for libraries, especially those with a need for more LGBTQ-focused memoirs.–Shira Pilarski, Farmington Community Library, MT

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2017 issue.

SANDERS, Rob. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag. illus. by Steven Salerno. 40p. chron. photos. websites. Random. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399555312. Gr 1-3–Written in direct, accessible language, this book opens with a quote from Harvey Milk about hope, the connecting theme of this uplifting introduction to the symbol of the Rainbow Flag. The text starts with Milk’s choice to enter politics and Gilbert Baker’s design of the first flag and connects that to the flag’s modern appearances as a symbol of equality and pride and the use of it on June 26, 2015 across the White House. The illustrations are vibrant and lively, taking inspiration from 1970s fashions and styles while emphasizing the effectiveness of symbols. The narrative includes references to opposition to Milk’s dream of equality and the assassination of Milk and George Moscone, but moves decisively on to tell of enduring hope, with an illustration of the candlelight vigil and the persistence of the rainbow flag as an icon. Biographical notes include more information on the flag, Milk, Baker, and the significance of the June 16, 2014 rainbow lights across the White House. The back matter also includes two time lines, a few suggested books and websites, and assorted photographs related to the story. VERDICT With its emphasis on pride and hope, this title will make a strong addition to classroom and school library collections to support discussions of character and equality. Recommended for all collections.–Amanda Foulk, Sacramento Public Library, CA This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

 

redstarSLATER, Dashka. The 57 Bus. 320p. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374303235.

Gr 6 Up–On November 4, 2013, Sasha, a high school senior from Oakland, CA, was napping on the 57 bus home from school. Shortly thereafter, Richard, another Oakland teen, boarded the bus with his two friends. When the trio’s jokes took a dark turn, Richard’s and Sasha’s lives were forever changed. Slater, who originally covered the crime for the New York Times magazine, here breaks down the series of events into short and effective chapters, divided into four parts: “Sasha,” “Richard,” “The Fire,” and “Justice.” By investigating the lives of these two teens, their backgrounds, their friends and families, and the circumstances that led to that fateful day on the bus, Slater offers readers a grounded and balanced view of a horrific event. There is much baked into the story of these intersecting lives that defies easy categorization, including explorations of gender identity, the racial and class divisions that separate two Oakland neighborhoods, the faults and limits of the justice system, the concept of restorative justice, and the breadth of human cruelty, guilt, and forgiveness. With clarity and a journalist’s sharp eye for crucial details, Slater explains preferred pronouns; the difference between gender and sex as well as sexuality and romance; and the intricacies of California’s criminal justice process. The text shifts from straightforward reporting to lyrical meditations, never veering into oversentimentality or simple platitudes. Readers are bound to come away with deep empathy for both Sasha and Richard. VERDICT Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2017 issue.

redstarSMITH-GONZALEZ, Matthew & Maya Gonzalez. They She He Me. illus. by Maya Gonzalez. 40p. Reflection Pr. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781945289064.

PreS-Gr 4–The authors have succeeded in creating a gorgeous and much-needed picture book about pronouns and gender fluidity. Rich watercolor artwork, done in a spectrum of blue and green jewel tones, depicts a line of smiling people, each with a different skin color and all sporting a unique style; the abundance of visual detail is sure to provoke audience participation. Minimal text complements the lush illustrations: a solid-color strip runs along the bottom of each spread and indicates the pronoun (“She, “He,” “They,” “Ze,” etc.) of the figure above (some figures appear twice, emphasizing that people can use multiple pronouns to describe themselves). The final spread reveals a plethora of familiar faces and the word we sprinkled jovially throughout. A more text-heavy “Pronouns” section explains pronoun function and flexibility in language suitable for the audience. Back matter discusses gender ambiguity and inclusivity “for the grown-ups” and stresses the importance of embracing nonbinary gender terminology in the book and beyond. Librarians can use this title with both young listeners as an introduction and with older students in conversations on nuance and fluidity. VERDICT A beautiful and gentle exploration of identity and kindness. Recommended for all collections.–Ashleigh ­Williams, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2017 issue.

Adult Books 4 Teens

JOHNSON, Chelsey. Stray City. 432p. Custom House. Mar. 2018. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062666680. Johnson’s fast-paced novel goes far beyond a typical coming-of-age story. In the late 1990s, Andrea Morales moves halfway across the country to Portland, OR, to attend college, where she experiences culture shock, prompting her to come out. Meanwhile, her Midwestern conservative family discovers she is a lesbian and severs ties—emotionally and financially. Andrea then immerses herself in the indie music scene and begins to build a family from her circle of friends, who turn out to be a tremendous support system when she becomes pregnant. The pregnancy is a result of Andrea’s relationship with a male friend, and readers follow her exploration of her identity. The conflict and angst she experiences with her family, as well as within herself regarding her sexual orientation, are honest and genuine. Readers, especially those dealing with similar issues, will relate to this complex protagonist. Adding to the title’s appeal, Johnson retains a sense of humor in the realistic dialogue among the well-developed characters, even as she handles serious issues in a frank manner. VERDICT A worthwhile addition to recent historical fiction.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

redstarWHITE, Nick. How To Survive a Summer. 352p. Penguin/Blue Rider. Jun. 2017. Tr $26. ISBN 9780399573682. Will Dillard is working on his film theory dissertation when he learns about Proud Flesh, a slasher movie about a group of straight teens who try to rebuild a dilapidated gay conversion therapy camp only to be stalked and killed by a former attendee. Will is transported to his adolescence, when he was sent to Camp Levi, the inspiration for the film’s setting. There, he and four other boys were subjected to a month of torture. Meanwhile, the movie is causing rifts in the LGBTQ community yet also garnering a following. White’s stark but beautiful debut is about rebuilding one’s past and having the strength to accept oneself. Will’s journey, told through flashbacks from when he first discovered that he was gay up through his days at Camp Levi, is searing. Funny and anxious, Will is likable, and the portrayal of the LGBTQ community is free of stereotypes. VERDICT For those looking for a cathartic novel or an exploration of the obstacles that many gay teens face.–Tyler Hixson, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2017 issue.

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