Representation of LGBTQ Americans is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” movies like “Love, Simon,” and singers like Troye Sivan and Hayley Kiyoko taking over teenage pop culture. Teens are seeing themselves represented everywhere, and Young Adult Literature is no exception. Let’s take a look at some notable titles that accurately (or fictitiously) represent the experiences of young teens, past and present.
“Lumberjanes” by Noelle Stevenson et al and “The Backstagers” by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh
These two amazing graphic novel series are diverse and quirky, but what else do you expect from a comic out of the “BOOM!” publishing empire? “Lumberjanes” is a summer camp for girls that goes awry in all the best ways, and “The Backstagers” is a magical trip to the backstage of a theater in an all boys school. Beautiful art, relatable characters, geeky moments, great queer/transgender representation and some magical realism make these two series a really fun experience.
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This book is an incredibly gorgeous tale of Ari and Dante, two Mexican-American boys who meet at a swimming pool. While it may seem like an unlikely friendship, it develops into a relationship for the ages. This Printz and Stonewall Honor book is one of the most beautifully written stories, with lush descriptive language, appropriate silences and self-discovery. Saenz is a true poet, and if you’re interested in audiobooks, hearing Lin Manuel Miranda read his words is a true masterpiece. Don’t let this gem pass you by.
“All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” edited by Saundra Mitchell
Seventeen notable YA authors from all over the queer/trans spectrum have come together to create this anthology of historical fiction titles featuring a diverse cast of teens. “Roja” by Anna-Marie McLemore is a retelling of Red Riding Hood with a transgender spin, “New Year” by Malindo Lo is a story of a teenage Chinese girl in San Francisco discovering that there is an underground scene for women like her, and “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” by Nilah Magruder features a young black roller disco-loving teen discovering their asexuality. If you love this anthology, check out “Queer There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World,” by Sarah Prager, which contains 23 biographies of people from the queer community who have made history.
Interested in more titles? Before I sashay away, I’ll give you a few: “Running with Lions” by Julian Winters, “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli, “Anger is a Gift” by Mark Oshiro, “Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray and “The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)” by Amy Spalding.
Off the Shelves is published Sundays. Each week a different Kenosha Public Library or Community Library staff member organizes reviews of a handful of books available through the library system.