Happy Pride! 26 LGBTQIA+ Titles for Teens

A selection of recently reviewed books—fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, and more—that center the experiences of LGBTQIA+ teens. 

These recently reviewed books—fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, reference, and professional reading—center the experiences of LGBTQIA+ teens. 

Fiction

Albertalli, Becky & Adam Silvera. What If It’s Us. 448p. HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062795250. POP
Gr 8 Up–
This team effort is a meet cute between two high school boys in New York City. Broadway-obsessed Southerner Arthur (in the city for a summer internship) wants his magical New York moment. So he follows a cute boy into a post office in the hopes of making it happen. But fate—in the form of a flash mob proposal—separates them before Arthur gets the chance to learn Ben’s name. Each boy tries to find the other using small clues from their first meeting until, eventually, they’re reconnected. When their first date—Arthur’s first date ever, Ben’s first since breaking up with his ex—doesn’t quite go as planned, they have a do-over date. And another. And another. But, as Arthur’s return to Georgia at summer’s end draws closer, is their flash relationship fate? Alternating between Ben and Arthur, the first-person chapters give readers both sides of the story. The supporting cast has diverse and endearing characters—including one friend who identifies as a biromantic ace. Ben is Puerto Rican, while Arthur is Jewish and has ADHD. The quippy dialogue is chock full of pop culture and musical theater references (especially to “Harry Potter” and Hamilton). Albertalli and Silvera balance cynicism and starry-eyed optimism to paint an honest, compelling picture of adolescent romance. VERDICT A must-purchase. Part feel-good, part star-crossed, this seamless blend of the authors’ styles will appeal to fans old and new alike.–Alec Chunn, Eugene ­Public Library, OR

 
Boteju, Tanya. Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens. 384p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. May 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534430655.
Gr 7 Up–Nima is a biracial shy, nerdy lesbian who uncharacteristically breaks into the drag scene after getting a glimpse of a queens and kings sideshow at a summer festival. Recently wounded by a crush’s rejection, Nima feels both terrified and determined when there is an obvious mutual attraction with the drag king star. A charismatic queen named Deidre guides Nima to the understanding that unconditional love is possible and labels are unnecessary. Along the way, a colorful cast of LGBTQIA+ characters welcome and/or perplex Nima, but they always help her grow her self-confidence. At times these characters are so numerous, it’s difficult to distinguish them all, but a little backtracking or note-taking is worth the effort. Although the action is minimal, this is an excellent character study and a primer for drag shows. VERDICT This successful presentation of the highs, lows, and midways of a teen finding her place in queer culture will appeal to readers who appreciate a character-driven light romance.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH
 
Brown, Jaye Robin. The Meaning of Birds. 368p. HarperCollins/Harper. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062824448.
Gr 9 Up–When her girlfriend Vivi dies unexpectedly from flu complications, Jess’s life divides into a stark before and after. Before, Jess had love, art, and plans for her future. After, only grief and anger. When Jess is sent to an alternative school because of fights provoked by her classmates’ homophobic comments, a vocational blacksmithing program offers her a chance to forge a new path during the last months of her senior year. But no choice is simple when healing and moving on feel like betraying the past. Brown’s exploration of loss is raw and devastating, placing readers directly into Jess’s turbulent experience through evocative present tense narration interspersed with vivid flashback chapters. The supporting characters are also complex and distinct, from Deuces, a friendly parolee at the alternative school, who openly dates a trans woman in his tough neighborhood, to Cheyanne, Jess’s best friend, who struggles to navigate her aromantic identity while supporting her volatile friend. Brown captures the ambivalence of grief in this searing and ultimately hopeful novel. VERDICT Recommended for high school and public library collections, and for fans of Jandy Nelson, Adam Silvera, and Nicola Yoon.–Molly Saunders, Homewood Public Library, AL
 
Capetta, Amy Rose. The Lost Coast. 352p. Candlewick. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536200966.
Gr 10 Up–Danny has trouble staying where she’s supposed to be. She sleepwalks, cuts class, wanders away from home, and kisses lots of people but never feels connected to them. Finally, with Danny’s grades plummeting, her mother decides they need a new start. They spread out a map and pick the town of Tempest, on the northern coast of California, as their new home. Danny’s mother hopes that her daughter will turn over a new leaf, and Danny longs for a place with other queer kids where she won’t feel so alone. She gets more than she bargained for when it turns out that her arrival in Tempest isn’t happenstance. A group of queer teenage witches who call themselves the Grays have been waiting for Danny, and they believe she is the only one who can find their missing friend, Imogen. Danny must simultaneously learn to use her new powers, meet the expectations of her mother and her new friends, and unravel the mystery of Imogen’s disappearance. She also needs to determine whether the Grays actually want her or if they’re just using her to find Imogen. Told through shifting points of view, this book wraps sinuous, sensual language around a tight, fast-paced plot to create a story that entrances readers from the beginning. Despite their magical powers, Capetta’s characters are relatable teens from their highest hopes to their deepest insecurities. VERDICT A powerful book for teens who long to feel seen. Recommended for all high school and public libraries.–Heather Waddell, Abbot Public Library, Marblehead, MA
 
Deaver, Mason. I Wish You All the Best. 336p. Scholastic/PUSH. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338306125.
Gr 8 Up–A nonbinary teen is forced out of their house and finds love while starting over. Ben didn’t expect their parents to be thrilled when they came out as nonbinary, but neither did they expect to be immediately kicked out of their home. They move in with their older sister whom they have not seen in a decade, begin attending a new school for the last semester of senior year, and choose not to come out to their teachers or classmates. Ben’s plan to keep a low profile backfires when they are befriended by Nathan, a fellow student who may like them as more than just a friend. Written by an author who is nonbinary, this book stands out among current young adult offerings for its depiction of a nonbinary protagonist. Ben’s anxiety after being kicked out of their parents’ house will resonate with readers who have suffered trauma, as will their struggle in both loving their parents while also not trusting them after their reaction. The measured pace and conversational style of this book work well with its focus on Ben and their healing and growth during their final semester of high school. The romance that develops between Ben and Nathan is sweet, and readers will be rooting for the couple to have their happily ever after. Give to fans of Bill Konigsberg’s The Music of What Happens or Adib Khorram’s Darius the Great Is Not Okay. ­VERDICT A first purchase for most libraries.–Jenni Frencham, Indiana University, Bloomington
 
Goslee, S.J. How Not To Ask a Boy to Prom. 240p. Roaring Brook. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626724013.
Gr 9 Up–Goslee’s (Whatever) sophomore effort is a tale of boy takes boy to prom, with a twist. Unlike other juniors fretting about college, Nolan Grant Sheffield is content to work at the plant nursery forever if he doesn’t get into his top school. But among a long list of college prep plans, his older sister Daphne’s making her never-been-kissed brother ask a boy to prom—or she’ll ask someone for him. Nolan chooses his longtime crush Si O’Mara, out school football star and GSA president. But before Nolan gets Si’s answer, classmate Bern intercepts the promposal to save Nolan from potential embarrassment. Suddenly, Nolan finds himself not only going to the dance with Bern, a guy who used to bully him, but also fake dating him. As the relationship starts to tiptoe the line between real and pretend, will the odd couple make it to prom night? With a colloquial tone, Nolan’s first-person narration drops readers into the action alongside the humorous cast. Episodic time jumps read like cinematic cuts. Aside from the “dick drawings” on Nolan’s locker and a few exchanges, the plot is refreshingly light on homophobia. The presence of multiple queer characters fosters a welcome sense of queer community—and that support extends into Nolan’s adoptive family. Though race is not overtly described, character names suggest some diversity beyond a white default. VERDICT A smash hit for teen romcom fans wanting a queer read-alike to Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR
 
Herman, Aimee. Everything Grows. 300p. Three Rooms Pr. May 2019. pap. $15. ISBN 9781941110683.
Gr 9 Up–In this novel set in Nirvana-obsessed 1993–94, Eleanor’s classmate and bully, James, dies by suicide. Eleanor’s English teacher assigns letter-writing as a way of coping, and Eleanor chooses to write to James about all of the details of her life, including coming out as a lesbian and possibly transgender, her mother’s own suicide attempt, her sister’s abortion, her parents’ divorce, and her first experiences with dating and sex. Part of Eleanor’s writing is a response to James’s own journal, which she obtained after befriending his mother at suicide survivor meetings. James’s journal is also written as letters, surprisingly addressed to “Elinore,” and he discloses that he is also gay. Other than the inconsistent, sometimes forced presence of the 1990s setting, these teen trials and family dynamics are perennially relatable. VERDICT The conversational writing has appeal, and Eleanor’s story will hit home with many teen readers.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH
 
Khorram, Adib. Darius the Great Is Not Okay. 320p. Dial. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525552963. POP
Gr 8 Up–Darius is a bullied American teenager dealing with numerous stigmas. His mom is Persian and his “Übermensch” dad is white. He is overweight. He takes medication for depression. He is a devotee of artisanal tea, Star Trek (all seasons), and Tolkien. And there is an unspoken awareness that Darius is gay. He is certain that he is a constant disappointment to his father who also takes antidepressants, which they both consider a weakness. When his family travels to Iran to see his mother’s parents because his grandfather (Babou) is dying, Darius experiences shifting perceptions about the country, his extended family, and himself. Debut author Khorram presents meticulous descriptions and explanations of food, geography, religion, architecture, and English translations of Farsi for readers unfamiliar with Persian culture through characters’ dialogue and Darius’s observations. References to Tolkien, Star Trek, and astronomy minutiae, on the other hand, may be unclear for uninitiated readers. Despite the sometimes overly didactic message about the importance of chronic depression treatment, Darius is a well-crafted, awkward but endearing character, and his cross-cultural story will inspire reflection about identity and belonging. VERDICT A strong choice for YA shelves. Give this to fans for Adam Silvera and John Corey Whaley.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH
 
Mejia, Tehlor Kay. We Set the Dark on Fire. 384p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Feb. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062691316.
Gr 8 Up–As the top Primera of the Medio School for Girls, Dani has spent the last five years trying to forget the world her parents fought hard to leave behind—the world beyond the border wall, where people are dying of hunger and illness. Dani has learned to check her emotions and prepare to be her husband’s equal, a partner who will help him in all things political. Then she is paired with longtime enemy Carmen Santos, a Segunda who, with her beauty and grace, completes the third side of the marriage triangle to Mateo. When Sota, a member of La Voz—a group seeking to bring down the government that keeps people like Dani’s family in the margins—saves Dani by providing her with legitimate documents to keep the government from discovering her true origins, Dani becomes entwined in the group’s goals, using her role as Mateo’s wife to pass on his plans to the rebellion. As Dani becomes more involved with La Voz, she struggles to keep her feelings for Carmen at bay—emotions that, in Medio, are forbidden. Intricate mythology sets the scene for a cast of characters full of complex motivations. Readers will find themselves drawn to a richly constructed world full of fantasy and diversity, with a mystery that will keep them guessing until the very end. VERDICT A must-have fantasy filled with action and political intrigue.–Selenia Paz, Harris County Public Library, Houston, TX
 
Poston, Ashley. The Princess and the Fangirl: A Geekerella Fairytale. 320p. (Once upon a Con: Bk. 2). Quirk. Apr. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781683690962.
Gr 8 Up–Jessica Stone hopes to leave her role as Starfield’s Princess Amara behind and become a serious actor. Imogen Lovelace wants to be noticed and no longer live in her brother’s shadow, so she plans to save Princess Amara from an untimely death. When these two strangers meet at ExcelsiCon and decide to switch places, it makes for a Con unlike any other. This fandom retelling of The Prince and the Pauper is a follow-up to Geekerella. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing how happily ever after turned out and meeting a new cast of diverse characters. Told in alternating perspectives between Jess and Imogen, the novel gives readers the opportunity to see how the characters’ motives and self-concept evolve. A fun group of supporting characters and pop culture references galore will appeal to the inner fanperson in everyone. Several quotable passages will leave readers feeling empowered and swooning. VERDICT A fun addition to the Geekerella universe and an excellent addition to all romance collections, especially LGBTQ collections looking for books that focus more on the romance and less on coming out.–Ashley Leffel, Griffin Middle School, Frisco, TX
 
 
Safi, Aminah Mae. Tell Me How You Really Feel. 320p. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250299482.
Gr 9 Up–Two high school seniors find their voices and first love in this enemies-to-lovers story told from dual perspectives. Brusque and controlling filmmaker Rachel Recht, a Jewish scholarship student at the prestigious Royce School, wants nothing to do with Sana Khan, cheerleading captain and model human being. But when a literal run-in forces them to work together on a film, their tense relationship morphs into something beautiful and unexpected. As they collaborate, they begin to share their most private feelings. Sana, who is Muslim, reveals that she’s been having a crisis about her future, hasn’t sent her down payment to Princeton, and has secretly applied to a fellowship. Rachel knows she’s NYU-bound if the scholarship funds come through, but her future is in jeopardy if she can’t get this last film finished. Working together on this project about a woman forging her own path could be transformative for both, if only they could stop arguing and misjudging each other’s intentions. Determined to find success on their own terms, the ambitious girls learn to stand up for themselves as they challenge, support, and infuriate each other. Immensely readable with strong characters and quick, clever dialogue, this romance has real depth. Though there is no question that the girls will end up together, it’s a joy to watch them fumble toward their eventual happy ending. As much about finding yourself as it is about finding love, this smart, feminist story shows that expectations shouldn’t dictate the future. VERDICT This well-written and supremely satisfying romance should be in all collections.–Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN
 
Schrieve, Hal. Out of Salem. 448p. Seven Stories Pr. Mar. 2019. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781609809010.
Gr 9 Up–After the car accident that killed their family, genderqueer 14-year-old Z Chilworth is left a zombie. Becoming undead in the city of Salem, OR, in the 1990s pushes Z into a world of monsters, magic, and prejudice that they had not given much thought to before, despite being a talented witch before their death and rebirth. Among openly hostile classmates and teachers, unreliable guardians, and an abusive police force with deep hatred for monsters, Z wonders how they will spend what is left of their unnaturally extended life, which, by all accounts, won’t last much more than a year. But when they become friends with Aysel, an unregistered werewolf, and Tommy, an unregistered shape-shifter, Z starts to feel like there might be people worth fighting for—and standing with—after all. In this urban fantasy debut, Schrieve layers magical prejudices and very real hatred to make a powerful statement about sexuality, identity, and discrimination. With gritty humor and an extensive cast of characters, this story weaves together multiple threads to craft a rich, complicated near-past where being different might be a death sentence. Despite the grittiness of Schrieve’s world, the message of the novel is still one of hope: at its core, the story is “about loving someone, and seeing them as part of your family.” And, as one character tells Z, “some people have the capacity to see different ­people as part of their family and some don’t.” VERDICT Purchase where urban ­fantasy is in high demand.–Jen McConnel, Queen’s ­University, Ont.
 
Smith, Amber. Something Like Gravity. 400p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534437180.
Gr 8 Up–When Chris moves to small-town North Carolina to live with his aunt for the summer, he just wants to start over. After an assault that put him in the hospital for weeks, he has come out to his parents as transgender, and now he feels trapped by their fear and alienated as they fumble to understand his gender identity. Next door is Maia, whose family is consumed by grief after her older sister’s sudden death. Unable to turn to her family for support, Maia obsessively sifts through her sister’s thousands of photographs, trying to locate and re-create the shots with her camera in an attempt to better understand who she has lost. Chris and Maia’s romance unfolds slowly, as they guard their most vulnerable secrets. Both trans readers and allies will be able to empathize with Chris’s journey from tomboy to trans man, which is treated with grace as he explores the roles and messages that come along with one’s assigned gender. It’s beautiful to watch him be able to live fully in his new community as male. Maia’s family’s hurt and isolation from one another is palpable and a painful counterpoint to their close-knit community. Above all, this book is about the mistakes people make when they think they are alone in their grief. It’s a beautiful story of first romantic love, but also the love between friends and family. VERDICT Recommend this title to fans of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Eleanor & Park, or The Sun Is Also a Star.–Erin Downey, Boise School District, ID
 
Tebbetts, Chris. Me Myself & Him. 304p. Delacorte. Jul. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524715229.
Gr 10 Up–After high school senior Chris Schweitzer passes out from doing whippets behind the restaurant where he works, his parents and employer find out about his illicit activities. Chris ends up losing his job and is sent to California to live with his emotionally distant and authoritarian father the last summer before college. Things aren’t quite as dire as they seem, though, because in this reality Chris meets his first love, the handsome and mysterious Swift. In a different reality Chris isn’t caught—he spends his last summer with his friends in his small Ohio town. What at first seemed like a better ending to the ill-fated night becomes a rot that pollutes Chris’s entire summer. The secrets and lies hover over him, a constant reminder that he is one slipup away from being exposed, and the quality time he planned on spending with friends ends up not being what he expected. Chris finds himself a very lonely third wheel when his two best friends start dating. This is an engaging story that examines love, relationships, and the different paths one’s life can take. VERDICT For fans of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli’s What if It’s Us, Bill Konigsberg’s The Music of What Happens, and Robyn Schneider’s The ­Beginning of Everything.–Ellen ­Fitzgerald, ­Naperville Public Library, IL
 
Wilde, Jen. Going Off Script. 304p. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250311276.
Gr 8 Up–A summer internship turns into a fight for representation on the small screen. Bex is beyond excited when she is hired as an intern on the set of her favorite television program. Unfortunately, the showrunner is something of a nightmare: he yells at the staff, sends Bex on quests for fresh pastries, and plagiarizes a script she wrote for the season finale. When he also turns her queer characters into straight characters, Bex decides she’s had enough. With her almost-girlfriend, Bex takes on the studio and its representation of queer characters in a show she has loved since the beginning. Readers who are willing to suspend their disbelief that an intern would write a script that is stolen by the showrunner will enjoy this story immensely. Despite Bex’s unlikely opportunity, the characters in this story are likable and interesting. Unfortunately, the supporting characters are left undeveloped in an effort to display Bex’s growth throughout the novel. The focus is clearly on Bex and her struggle both with her identity and her choice to ask for and expect queer characters on television. Frequent, casual references to the author’s novel The Brightsiders detract from rather than contribute to what is a good story about fighting for representation in the media. Give to fans of Britta Lundin’s Ship It or Amy Spalding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez. VERDICT A first purchase for most libraries.–Jenni Frencham, Indiana University, Bloomington
 

Nonfiction

Bertie, Alex. Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard. illus. by Alex Bertie.304p. glossary. resources. Little Brown. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316529037.
Gr 7 Up–YouTuber Bertie combines practical advice for other young transgender readers with a memoir about his own transition. The text is accompanied by humorous line drawings by the author and includes family anecdotes and terms like “transliness.” The overall tone is personal, straightforward, and upbeat. Bertie frankly acknowledges the pain of gender dysphoria and his difficult road to family acceptance and access to medical care for his transition. Responsibly, Bertie omits the details of his period of self-harm and emphasizes the importance of finding support, whether that’s from family, friends, mental health professionals, or online communities. Readers get to know Bertie and his family through intimate details like his trans coming-out letter to his dad, a Q&A chapter with his mom aimed at other parents of transgender youth, and a recounting of how his parents took care of him during top surgery recovery. Other chapters are more how-to, covering topics from packing (putting something in one’s underwear to give the appearance of a bulge) to safer sex and self-esteem. The back matter includes a glossary and a brief list of resources, with many other citations in the body of the text (including sources for, and reviews of, particular types and brands of chest binders). VERDICT An accessible, hopeful road map for youth in transition and their friends, families, and communities.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library
 
Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States for Young People. adapted by Richie Chavet. 336p. bibliog. glossary. index. photos. Beacon. Jun. 2019. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780807056127.
Gr 7 Up–This adaptation for teens of the author’s 2012 Stonewall Award–winning A Queer History of the United States is doubly valuable; it serves well as a general read and fills a clear curricular need. Each carefully selected profile bolsters the case for queer leadership and activism as a driving force of progress. Captioned photos, helpful sidebars, and short chapters encourage browsing. Bronski is definitive about relationships being romantic or sexual only when there is evidence for that having been the case; he carefully avoids imposing current terminology or concepts on the featured individuals. Without diminishing the risk involved in challenging societal norms, the author shows how there were, even within other eras, cultural messages/spaces that allowed for what the status quo would now consider non-heterosexual behavior. Heartbreak, aging, and blind spots, in theory, are addressed as thoroughly as successes and legacies. There are a few flaws in the glossary: the use of “sex-reassignment” surgery (rather than gender confirmation) in relation to transgender individuals, and a definition of asexuality that equivocates about whether it is a sexual orientation or a temporary feeling. The explanatory tone and frequent definitions in this edition may feel awkward at times to the intended audience of older teens but could increase its usefulness for slightly younger readers. A good companion to Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World and Sarah Prager’s Queer, There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World. VERDICT An overall successful adaptation of an important work, rich with content relevant to all disciplines and beyond.–Miriam ­DesHarnais, Towson ­University, MD
 
Pitman, Gayle E. The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets. 208p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Abrams. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419737206.
Gr 6-9–A thorough if somewhat disjointed examination of the events before, during, and in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots gives young readers an overview of the LGBTQ+ activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Pitman traces meeting places, social clubs, and the rise of organizations and activist groups as well as the many police raids of gay establishments, focusing on the June 28, 1969, raid on the mob-owned Stonewall Inn. Due to a lack of documented accounts, use of pseudonyms, and conflicting reports, controversies remain over the actuality of events at Stonewall. Post-Stonewall, readers learn about the increase in radical groups and visibility that challenged negative attitudes and discrimination. Pitman occasionally expands the narrative focus to examine what was happening in various places around the country and to consider other issues and movements of the time, including weaknesses and missteps in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. The unique approach of using various objects (matchbooks, leaflets, buttons, arrest records, photographs, and more, with many reproductions too small or low resolution to read) to guide, inform, and reconstruct the story of the riots prevents a smooth narrative flow and makes the text feel repetitive as it moves back and forth in time. Back matter includes a time line, notes, bibliography, and an index. VERDICT An important look at a major moment in American history. Readers will come to understand why the iconic Stonewall Inn is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic ­Landmark, and a National ­Monument.–Amanda ­MacGregor, Parkview ­Elementary School, Rosemount, MN
 

Graphic Novels/Nonfiction

G., Mady. A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities. illus. by J.R Zuckerberg. 96p. Oni. Apr. 2019. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781620105863.

Gr 9 Up–The latest in the “Quick & Easy” series of educational comics (A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns) explains queer and trans identities. A rout of snails observe a group of queer, racially diverse humans gathered around a campfire. Iggy, a snail who belongs to one of the humans, takes a cue from their queer educator “dad” and schools the other snails on queerness, gender expression, dysphoria, asexuality, coming out, and even relationship basics. Iggy defines terms, offers helpful historical context, and dispels misconceptions. A discussion of the word queer follows the term’s origins as an insult to its present-day reclamation as an umbrella term for LGBTQIA+ identities. The bubble gum palette matches perfectly the light, infectiously enthusiastic tone. The choice to use snails as narrators is whimsical and oddly appropriate (some snails are hermaphrodites). However, it also distances the human characters from readers. Those who do occasionally appear function almost as exhibits to add context to a point. Scenes involving fantastical creatures called Sproutlings feel random and unnecessary—but certainly on-brand. Though the book is slim, it effectively covers a broad swath of identities and topics. Activity pages and a resource guide are appended. VERDICT Accessible to readers at all levels of familiarity with LGBTQIA+ topics, this is a first purchase for libraries serving teens and adults.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR

 
 
Panetta, Kevin. Bloom. illus. by Savanna Ganucheau. 368p. First Second. Feb. 2019. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250196910; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781626726413.
Gr 8 Up–Aristotle Kyrkos has graduated from high school and desperately wants to move to Baltimore with his friends to make it in the music industry. His father, owner of their family-run bakery, is less than understanding of Ari’s “anywhere but here” mentality, so, with the summer tourist season coming up, Ari hires a replacement. Enter Hector Galea. On sabbatical from culinary school, he’s in town to organize his late grandmother’s estate and figure out where his life is going. His skills boost the family’s struggling business, and Ari realizes the reason he’s spending so much time in the bakery has nothing to do with the delicious cupcakes and baguettes. With Baltimore starting to feel like a distant dream, Ari must make a decision about his future. Beautiful artwork depicts characters coping with life’s increasing responsibilities and is especially sumptuous when focusing on the yummy desserts. This is both a delicious foray into the world of baking and young love and an endearing, realistic tale of two teens helping one another grow. ­VERDICT A fresh take on the coming-of-age story that spotlights the triumphs and travails of young people. A must-read for teens craving a realistic love story.–Michael Marie ­Jacobs, Darlington School, GA
 
Ukazu, Ngozi. Check, Please!: #Hockey. illus. by Ngozi Ukazu. 288p. First Second. Sept. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781250177964. POP
Gr 10 Up–Originally created as a webcomic, this tale follows junior champion figure skater and small-town Georgia boy Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he begins freshman year on the Samwell University varsity hockey team. An avid video blogger, recipe fanatic, and pie baker extraordinaire, Bitty is bewildered by his new world of bros, kegsters, and aggressive “checking”—roughness that wasn’t allowed in his coed hockey league back home. In addition, he is still unsure how to tell his tough guy team members that he’s gay. However, despite some disheartening setbacks, eternal optimist Bitty is determined to overcome his checking anxiety, work his heart out, and win over the guys—and his handsome team captain—even if it means bribing everyone with homemade pecan pie. Although this appears to be a simple sports comic at first glance, it is far more complex. Through a combination of hilarious team banter, foodie humor, and a lovable main character, Ukazu has crafted a compelling story about acceptance, identity, and confidence. She expertly uses bold colors and exaggerated facial expressions, such as Bitty’s large eyes, to convey emotion. ­VERDICT Although casual profanity, a few crass jokes, and some alcohol use make this a comic best suited for mature teens, this endearing volume is a must-have for YA graphic novel collections. Sure to resonate with hockey fans and sports newbies alike.–Lara ­Goldstein, Orange County Public Libraries, NC
 
Walden, Tillie. On a Sunbeam. illus. by Tillie Walden. 544p. First Second. Oct. 2018. Tr $32.99. ISBN 9781250178145; pap. $21.99. ISBN 9781250178138.
Gr 7 Up—Walden's meditative space epic will easily win the hearts of sci-fi and romance fans. Mia is the latest addition to a team of restorers, who are tasked with repairing abandoned structures across the galaxy. Though each member of the tight-knit crew is harboring a complicated past, it is wistful Mia who proves to be the linchpin of the plot. Walden treats readers to a stunning interpretation of interstellar life; fluid, fish-shaped ships, floating cathedral-like ruins, and giant celestial creatures add to the grandeur of the story, as do the enormously meaningful friendships and romances among the cast of women and nonbinary characters. The narrative is split into two time lines: one set in the present, colored in berry tones with swatches of orange and red, that follows Mia and the restoration crew; and one five years earlier, done in black, white, and shades of gray blue, where Mia, then a freshman at a boarding school, develops a swoon-worthy romance with new classmate Grace. Walden depicts them with warmth, often dedicating an entire wordless page to their embrace. The artwork, from expansive landscapes to cozy glimpses of the shipmates snuggled together watching TV, is a sight to behold. VERDICT Bound to be a sci-fi favorite, especially for teens who also appreciated Nina LaCour's We Are Okay.– Della Farrell, School Library Journal
 

Reference & Professional Reading

Houde, Lisa. Serving LGBTQ Teens. 162p. (Practical Guides for Librarians). bibliog. glossary. illus. index. Rowman & Littlefield. Jun. 2018. pap. $65. ISBN 9781538107607.

In this solid addition to the series, Houde offers straightforward and student-centered advice to public and school librarians, starting with the most basic question: Why do we need to make a special effort to serve and represent LGBTQ teens? For many, the answer will be obvious, but nevertheless, Houde lays out research-supported reasoning as she addresses this question and many others. Since serving marginalized populations often involves managing pushback from directors and community members, including requests for censorship of LGBTQ materials, this kind of foundational information is critical. The practical suggestions on collection development, privacy, outreach, and creating a welcoming environment are spot-on. Best of all, most of the steps outlined are simple yet powerful, raising librarians’ consciousness of the needs of diverse groups and helping to provide a library space that strives to be as inclusive as possible. VERDICT School and public libraries are often a safe space for LGBTQ youth, making this an excellent guide for librarians who work with young adults, regardless of their level of practice.–Erin Downey, Boise School District, ID

 
Jenkins, Christine A. & Michael Cart. Representing the Rainbow in Young Adult Literature: LGBTQ+ Content Since 1969. 310p. bibliog. index. Rowman & Littlefield. Mar. 2018. pap. $45. ISBN 9781442278066.
Jenkins, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Cart, a columnist for Booklist, build upon their research in this in-depth overview of LGBTQ+ YA literature from 1969 to 2016. Each chapter discusses a mix of broad themes and trends relevant to each decade and insightfully analyzes significant titles—with enough summary that librarians need not have read the books discussed to understand their importance. The authors replicate their helpful framework, originally introduced in their work The Heart Has Its Reasons (2006), which separates queer literature as a whole into three phases: “homosexual visibility,” “gay assimilation,” and “queer consciousness/community.” Though there are some revisions, about a third of the content is pulled directly from the duo’s previous work. The rest expands into the contemporary LGBTQ+ publishing landscape. Notably, new content includes additional chapters about comics and graphic novels (and, briefly, manga), nonfiction, and literature with bisexual, transgender, and intersex characters. The burgeoning LGBTQ+ middle grade market and prominent series fiction such as “Sweet Valley High” and “Pretty Little Liars” are also mentioned. Though Jenkins and Cart use the acronym LGBTQ+ (rather than the previous work’s GLBTQ), their coverage generally doesn’t extend beyond LGBT—mostly because of the lack of existing literature. The authors acknowledge the limitations of their research and, in the conclusion, reestablish their plea for more nuanced representation in the future. ­VERDICT An essential update for scholars. The bibliographies will invaluably help round out LGBTQ+ collections.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR
 
Langford, Jo. The Pride Guide: A Guide to Sexual and Social Health for LGBTQ Youth. 296p. bibliog. glossary. index. notes. Rowman & Littlefield. Jul. 2018. Tr $36. ISBN 9781538110768.
Gr 9 Up–This frank, conversational, and often humorous look at sex, sexuality, gender, and expression is aimed at teens who identify as something other than heterosexual and cisgender. Langford, a bisexual therapist, sex educator, and parent, presents a wide range of information in short, if somewhat dense and visually unappealing, sections. Chapters tackle biology; puberty; body image (with a heavy emphasis on trans teens and dysphoria); intersex conditions; gender identities such as transgender, genderqueer, and agender; transitioning; dating and relationships; consent; and more. Sexual expressions and orientations covered include asexual, demisexual, gray-asexual, and bisexual, with conversations about erasure. A final chapter aimed at parents offers tips, a discussion of what not to do when one’s child comes out, and more. Sidebars go into more depth on other subjects (tucking and binding, the singular “they,” homophobia). Langford also discusses outdated terms and slurs. This inclusive, thorough resource respectfully presents information relevant to many queer teens and adults raising LGBTQIA+ kids. VERDICT Shelve this empowering guide where both parents and teens will find it.–Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN
 
Madrone, Kelly Huegel. LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens. 3rd ed. 272p. bibliog. index. photos. Free Spirit. Sept. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781631983023.
Gr 6 Up–This affirming guide covers a wide range of topics, educating readers and helping them become better advocates for themselves. Using the acronym LGBTQ and the word queer, this updated and revised third edition includes updated data and emphasizes evolving concepts and understandings of gender and sexuality, advances in LGBTQ rights, cultural shifts and changing attitudes, and a look at a wider range of experience and identity. With information from experts, advice from advocacy groups, and stories from teenagers, chapters tackle accepting and questioning identity, trans and nonbinary teens, what to consider when coming out, harassment and bullying, finding community, dating (including a look at relationship violence), sex and sexually transmitted infections, mental health, and religious life. The part about work and college life contains details on rights and discrimination and tips on finding the right company or college. Pull quotes, text boxes, and subheadings break up the dense text. Some identities, such as intersex, asexual, aromantic, and others along those spectrums, receive less space than the LGBTQ identities of the title. This useful resource is aimed at queer teens, but those seeking to provide a welcoming, affirming environment for LGBTQ youth will also find this indispensable. VERDICT This sensitive, frank, and supportive volume belongs in every library.–Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN

 

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