If you’re looking for a creepy horror book to sink your teeth into this winter, I can highly recommend Under My Skin by Juno Dawson. This book reminded me why I read horror when I was a teenager, except it was infinitely better than anything I read back in the day.
At 17 years old Sally Feathers is just like a lot of young women her age, desperate to make it to the end of school in one piece without any major traumas. Her routine and ordinary life is changed when she encounters a mysterious tattoo parlour in the seedier side of town and is instantly drawn to an image of the beautiful Molly Sue.
Sally images having a secret Molly Sue tattoo on her back will inspire her with the confidence to get a part in the school musical, and perhaps talk to that hot guy who’s dating one of the cool girls. What she didn’t bargain on is Molly Sue having other ideas.
This is an exquisite YA book exploring deeply disturbing ideas of power, loneliness, confidence, identity – all through the medium of carefully crafted and interesting characters in their high school setting. I loved this book and how the strong voices and personalities of the characters shone through the fast moving plot.
Atmospheric and dark, but full of personality and courage, this book is the perfect read for a warm night inside on these dark nights.
Meet Jack Rothman. He’s seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys – sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, ‘it could be worse’. He doesn’t actually expect that to come true.
But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he’s been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack’s secret admirer knows everything: where he’s hanging out, who he’s sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they’ll force him.
As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous.
This book could be one of the most important books published in recent years, if it manages to spark the debates that it is perfectly placed to talk about. It is full of humour, is uplifting, is packed with social commentary, it talks about sex and relationships, and it’s also a thriller – it has everything.
But let’s focus on the thing that everyone wants to talk about…
It is “graphic” in it’s descriptions of sex, depending on your frame of reference, because it depends on what you’re used to. I mean, I’ve read Oscar Wilde’s Telany – this books ain’t got nothing on that! I didn’t find it especially graphic but it is a book for teenagers, and has teenagers characters and going into it readers should be aware of the graphic nature of some sexual descriptions. If that isn’t your thing, don’t read it.
Some reviewers have commented that they didn’t find the book realistic, because “sensible” teenagers don’t behave like the characters. I know trashing teenagers is a bloodsport that so many people love, but let’s give it a rest. Just because you like sex does not mean you’re not “sensible”. Just because you drink or go to parties does not mean you’re not “sensible”. Yes, many of the characters do some questionable things that that occasionally regret in the morning (who doesn’t regret a raging hangover the next day!) but that is part of growing up and learning. It’s a part of learning that even us “sensible” adults are still doing in our 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. At work I am surround by young people, in their late teens and early twenties. These are “sensible” young people who are studying at one of the best universities in the world, and while I have no idea of the intimate details (to the level of this book) of what they get up to in the privacy of their rooms, I can guarantee you that this book accurately represents what some teenagers are like.
Not all teenagers are the same, they are not one homogenous block and do not all have the same interests, desires, pastimes. They do not all need the same level of support.
Many MANY teenagers will not like this book (as, judging by some reviews on Goodreads, many adults will not either), but let’s stop pretending that teenagers aren’t like the characters in this book, and that many young people won’t identify with them.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but it seems it has to be time and again, that you don’t need to identify with a character – and agree with everything they do – in order to enjoy a book. You don’t need to be like Jack in order to love this book (I managed it). There is so much more to this book than just graphic sex scenes, so I’m going to move on now.
This book repeatedly brings up the subject of consent, and works through the layers of it really well. It talks about not being pressured by society to have sex just because everyone else seems to be doing it. It talks about not being pressured by a partner to do anything that you’re not 100% comfortable with. It talks about how sex should be a constant dialogue, making sure that you are both comfortable with what is happening at all times, and how it’s okay to stop at any point if you don’t feel comfortable.
There are moments when some characters don’t behave with much thought for their safety, such as getting so drunk they don’t remember how they got home. I’ve already addressed above how situations such as this do happen as part of human growth (and don’t just happen to teenagers), and I found parts like this realistic and in keeping with the characters personality and approach to life.
A key aspect of this books success is that it somehow manages to preach a message, without feeling like the reader is being told what to do or think. The advice columns that Jack writes do feel like lessons, but they’re kinda supposed to due to what they are – the rest of the book manages to give the reader a sense of who these characters are, and the ways in which they mess up and try to fix things again, without it coming across like the author is giving a sermon.
Don’t be too gay
The most important aspect (for me) is how this book addresses homophobia – including the internalised homophobia of some gay characters. This was an absolute breath of fresh air in a book, and something that needs to be said loud so we can start to talk about it.
Too often, LBGTQ+ content is sanitised before it is allowed to be put out into the world, and this seems especially true in the past, and true of YA content. I hope that we are now turning a corner when we can be more honest about the lives of LGBTQ+ people, and our voices can be heard. However, we are far from out of the straight woods yet. In 2018 a gay film won an Oscar after it stripped out all but the merest hints of sex (yes, I know many people think Call Me By Your Name has a lot of sexual content, but read the book and then come and talk to me about how let down we were by the director). There is a sense in much LGBTQ+ media that we have received acceptance from the world when it comes to love, but only if we don’t talk about sex, only if we don’t conform to stereotypes, only if we are indistinguishable from everyone else in the straight cis world. Honestly, it’s exhausting! It effectively puts LGBTQ+ people back into the closet, where they cannot be the true authentic versions of themselves. What does this have to do with Jack of Hearts (and other parts)? Well, that is something at the heart of the book, it is at it’s very core and runs throughout. Jack puts himself out into the world as someone who conforms to a lot of the stereotypes people have about gay men, and he struggles against both straight people and some gay people who think he “is giving gays a bad name”. Jack is being asked to change who he is, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of a society that would rather gay men are quiet and never have sex (or certainly never talk about it).
I hope this book finds its way onto the YA shelves of bookshops, libraries, and schools – as well as into the hands of adults who will love it just as much. It’s an important book that needs to be read.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) is out in the US and UK in eBook on 30th October 2018. It’s out in paperback in the UK in February 2019. You can preorder now:
I recently spent an afternoon in the amazing Gay’s The Word and came home with a fantastic selection of 8 books to recommend you all. There were a few I went in deliberately to buy, but most gathered from browsing. I think I walked backwards and forwards around the shop a hundred times trying to decide what to leave behind, it was such a hard decision. Eventually we came home with a shoulder-aching haul that are my picks for September:
Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna Non-Fiction/Biography
28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls. Moments later they are led away by the police. What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure. It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women. Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall. As the trial of ‘the Young Men in Women’s Clothes’ unfolded, Fanny and Stella’s extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public. With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, “Fanny and Stella” is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London. By turns tragic and comic, meticulously researched and dazzlingly written, “Fanny and Stella” is an enthralling tour-de-force.
Hild by Nicola Griffith Historical Fiction
Britain in the seventh century – and the world is changing. Small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. Edwin, King of Northumbria, plots his rise to overking of all the Angles. Ruthless and unforgiving, he is prepared to use every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Into this brutal, vibrant court steps Hild – Edwin’s youngest niece.
With her glittering mind and powerful curiosity, Hild has a unique way of reading the world. By studying nature, observing human behavior and matching cause with effect, she has developed the ability to make startlingly accurate predictions. It is a gift that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
It is also a valuable weapon. Hild is indispensable to Edwin – unless she should ever lead him astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can see the future and lead men like a warrior.
The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai Fiction
In Sri Lankan myth, a person who dies may be reborn a “hungry ghost”–a ghost with a large stomach that can never be filled through its tiny mouth–if he has desired too much during his life. It is the duty of the living to free the dead who are doomed to this fate by transferring karma from their own good deeds. In Shyam Selvadurai’s masterful new novel, Shivan, a troubled young man of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese ancestry, is preparing to travel from Toronto, Canada, to the land of his childhood, Sri Lanka, to rescue his ailing grandmother and bring her back to die. But on the eve of his departure–as Shivan meditates on his turbulent past, recalls his gradual discovery of his homosexuality, and wrestles with his complicated relationship with the wily old woman–he discovers just how much his own heart’s desires are entwined with the volatile political, racial, and sexual mix of Sri Lanka’s past and present. In the end, Shivan must decide: will he rescue his grandmother, or join her? The Hungry Ghosts is an unconventional exploration of the immigrant experience; a tale of family ties and the long reach of the past; and a heart-wrenching look at how racial, political, and sexual differences can tear apart a country, a family, and a human being.
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin YA Historical Fiction
In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park–a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under the supervision of equally oppressive guardians–her father’s wealthy cousin and the matron’s stuck-up daughter. Only a liberating job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a daring and beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own fierce heart can save her from the suffocating boredom of traditional femininity.
The Charioteer by Mary Renault Fiction
Injured at Dunkirk, Laurie Odell, a young corporal, is recovering at a rural veterans’ hospital. There he meets Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. The men find solace in each other’s friendship, which slowly develops into a covert, chaste romance. Then Ralph Lanyon appears, a mentor from Laurie’s school days, and now a naval officer. Through him, Laurie is drawn into a tight-knit circle of gay men with few illusions about life, and for whom liaisons are fleeting. He is forced to choose between the ideals of a perfect friendship and the pleasures of experience.
First published in 1953, The Charioteer is a a tender, intelligent coming-of-age novel and a bold, unapologetic portrayal of homosexuality
Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars by Stephen Bourne Non-Fiction/History
Unearthing the stories of the gay men who served in the armed forces and at home, and bringing to light the great unheralded contribution they made to the war effort. Fighting Proud weaves together the remarkable lives of these men, from RAF hero Ian Gleed – a Flying Ace twice honoured for bravery by King George VI – to the infantry officers serving in the trenches on the Western Front in WWI – many of whom led the charges into machine-gun fire only to find themselves court-marshalled after the war for indecent behaviour. Behind the lines, Alan Turing’s work on breaking the -enigma machine- and subsequent persecution contrasts with the many stories of love and courage in Blitzed-out London, with new wartime diaries and letters unearthed for the first time. Bourne tells the bitterly sad story of Ivor Novello, who wrote the WWI anthem -Keep the Home Fires Burning, – and the crucial work of Noel Coward – who was hated by Hitler for his work entertaining the troops. Fighting Proud also includes a wealth of long-suppressed wartime photography.
Moonstruck, Volume One: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle Fantasy/Graphic Novel
Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.
The Flower Beneath The Foot by Ronald Firbank Fiction/Satire
At the fantastical court of King Willie and Her Dreaminess the Queen of Pisuerga, maid of honour Laura de Nazianzi and His Weariness Prince Yousef whisper promises to each other in the palace gardens. But Laura is destined for disappointment. The King and Queen have plans for a royal wedding for their Prince, and the young woman in their sights is none other than Princess Elsie of England. The court is all aflutter.
First published in 1923, Ronald Firbank’s The Flower Beneath the Foot is a flamboyant court satire and lyrical tour de force of innuendo and eccentricity. Read by many as a subversive celebration of homosexuality, this is a classic of modernist literature from a stylist like no other.
All these books are available from Gay’s The Word. I’m starting with some novel research and reading Fighting Proud – if you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought.
I managed to write a post of what I read in July…and then forgot to make it live! So here’s a bumper issue of LGBTQ+ books you can get stuck into as we enter autumn and all stop melting into a sweaty puddle! If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.
I finally got hold of the much anticipated THE MADONNA OF BOLTON, a crowdfunded novel from Unbound that became the fastest funded in their history. It tells the story of Charlie, whose life changes when he gets his first Madonna record on his 9th birthday. The novel follows Charlie’s life from childhood in the 1980s to the present day, with Madonna’s music the ever present back-drop guiding him through life’s difficult moments. A poignant, funny, and ultimately heart-warming of a boy growing up gay in Britain from the 1970s to now.
I also read:I Am Nobody’s N***** by Dean Atta, a collection of poems that I can’t stop thinking about weeks after reading. My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton, yet another brilliant novel from the ever marvellous Keris, funny, uplifting, full of hope and sex – I adored this book a lot. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera– I don’t know why I continue ready Adam’s books when all I do is end up an emotional wreck – this book destroyed me in it’s subject matter and how brilliantly Adam dealt with memory, grief, and coming to terms with your sexuality.
So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released this summer? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.
Set in Edinburgh during the festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tells the story of Jaya, whose father has, since the death of her mother, become obsessed with angels. His obsession started when angels started falling from the sky. But when an angel falls right in front of Jaya, she must decide how she’s going to keep this secret and protect the angel from the people who would harm the being. This was a completely unexpected story that took me to places I wasn’t prepared for. It is a beautiful story that explores grief and how it’s possible to move on and still find happiness.
Everyone kept telling me to read this book, and they weren’t wrong. STARRING KITTY is the story of 14-year-old Kitty who falls in love with Dylan, a 15-year old girl who lives next door to her gran. Kitty is not coping well with her mum’s illness, and hasn’t yet told her friends that she likes girls. This absolutely adorably cute novel is just perfect, it explores first love and friendship, taking us on a journey as Kitty struggles to bring together all the parts of her life, let Dylan into her world, and open up to her friends about her relationship.
I’m looking forward to getting started on volume 2 of this adorable, funny, beautifully illustrated graphic novel.
When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the only ones who don’t treat him like a new kid, the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Not only does he gain great, lifetime friends, Jory is also introduced to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain. With the unpredictable twists and turns of the underground world, the Backstagers venture into the unknown, determined to put together the best play their high school has ever seen.
I’ve bought some books recently that have been added to the top of my to-read pile, and I’m really looking forward to getting around to reading them:
Recently nominated for the Polari Prize, this novel is based on the true story of the arrest and interment of gay men in Sicily 1939.
Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. As Francesco is herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone must have handed a list of names to the fascist police. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.
A story about coming of age in rural America, family, love, mystery, and magic. I can’t wait to read this very soon.
Seventeen-year-old Aidan Lockwood lives in the sleepy farming community of Temperance, Ohio?known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in five years, moves back to town and opens Aidan’s eyes in startling ways: to Aidan’s ability to see the spirit world; to the red-bearded specter of Death; to a family curse that has claimed the lives of the Lockwood men one by one . . . and to the new feelings he has developed for Jarrod.
I’m taking a trip to Gay’s The Word next week to purchase more great LGBTQ+ books, so if you have any recommendations let me know. Below are the books I’m looking forward to getting hold of in the next month of so:
Okay, so it’s not out until next year, but get Proud added to your to-read pile (and your Goodreads, and your pre-orders) now. This illustrated anthology from Stripes will be hitting shelves in March, and I know I’m not the only one excited to read all the stories.
In this graphic novel in rhymed couplets, a young boy tackles homophobia in school by planting pansies at the site of homophobic attacks, taking strength from the flowers he loves. The power of his actions empowers his school to value what is delicate and different. The book comes to life in vivid graphic art and comes complete with a personal field guide to the flowers and birds included in its pages.
The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Her only refuge is the tree at the end of her garden. Into her fractured life steps Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible. In an era when so much is hard to speak aloud, can Little Gold share enough of her life to avert disaster? And can Peggy Baxter, a woman running out of time and with her own secrets to bear, recognize the danger before it’s too late?
Scottee grew up around strong, brave and violent men and boys. Bravado is his memoir of working class masculinity from 1991 to 1999 as seen by a sheep in wolf’s clothing.Bravado explores the graphic nature of maleness and the extent it will go to succeed. This show is not for the weak hearted, it includes graphic accounts of violence, abuse, assault and sex.
When Francesco is rounded up with a group of young men and herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone has handed a list of names to the fascist police; everyone is suspicious of one another. Elena, a young and illiterate island girl on the cusp of womanhood, is drawn to the handsome Francesco yet fails to understand why her family try to keep her away from him. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all. A novel of sexuality and desire, of hidden passions and the secrets we keep locked within us. Based on the true story of the rounding up of a group of Sicilian gay men in 1939
It’s nearly July, so it’s about time I did a round-up of what LGBTQ+ books I read in June, what I’m looking forward to, and other recommendations. If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.
June was a great month for books, and here are some of the best ones that were released recently:
Noah and Harry are now officially boyfriends, but is Noah ready to go all the way? It’s no help that a group of cosmopolitan French exchange students have descended on Little Fobbing – including sexy Pierre Victoire, who seems to have his eye on Harry! Meanwhile, Noah’s paired up with a girl … who, most outrageously, is not even French. But that’s not all: the police are monitoring Noah, and he can’t tell if it’s because his dad and secret half-brother, Eric, have made off with his gran’s fake diamonds; because his PE teacher is receiving mysterious cash infusions from Russia; or because drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah’s house in the midst of a knock-down, bare-knuckled drag feud. Will Noah ever catch a break?
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realises the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
And More:Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano (YA, Contemporary) – a funny and adorably cute story of 14 year old Dylan’s summer holiday love-hate relationship with a caravan park’s hamster mascot.
So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released yesterday? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.
Keep your head down and don’t borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it’s seen her family through some tough times. It’s not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad’s bad back, or the threat of losing their house.
So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni’s pretty sure they’re destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged – the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy.
But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver …
Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met. As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life?
I’ve read some fantastic books in the last month, many of which I’ve recommended in this post already. But there are loads more and here are a selection of my top recommendations.
James is 34 and fed up. His six-year relationship with Adam has imploded, he hates his job making up celebrity gossip, and his best friend Bella has just announced she’s moving to Russia. Adrift and single in loved-up London, James needs to break out of his lonely, drunken comfort zone. Encouraged by Bella, he throws himself headlong into online dating, blogging each encounter anonymously as the mysterious Romeo
After meeting a succession of hot/weird/gross men, James has fans and the validation he’s always craved. But when his wild night with a closeted Olympian goes viral and sends his Twitter-fame through the roof, James realises maybe, in the search for happy-ever-after, some things are better left un-shared. Seriously, wherefore art thou Romeo
And More: More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-fi/Dystopia) – As beautifully written, moving, and confusing as you’d expect from a Ness novel; The Third Reel by S.J. Naude (Fiction, Historical) – a wander through 80s London, East and West Germany, and an exploration of film history, love, sex, and obsession.
Coming out next month is the brilliant Floored, a collaborative novel by seven YA authors (Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood). It features a bisexual main character who is just one of 6 main characters, and is out on 10th July and can be pre-ordered now.
I loved this book and the different views the story is being told from. It’s full of friendship, love, compassion and so much heart.
F, M or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary
This anthology of writing about gender is technically already available as it was recently funded on Kickstarter – but I’m adding it to coming soon because I can’t yet see it online for sale, but it should be very soon. Keep an eye on the publisher’s website for more information.
I’m gonna be honest with you, full disclosure, I only started to read Running With Lions because I’d been told it was super queer. I’m not a soccer fan, am dubious about most team sports in fact, and wasn’t sure it would be my kinda thing at all. But I read it because I’m always here for the LGBTQ books, and I figured if it was good I could recommend it to others who might like it.
Predictable plot twist: I think this is one of the best LGBTQ YA novels I’ve read this year.
This book is getting a lot of love online, all of it deserved. I think one reason people are so passionate about it is that it speaks to its readers on so many levels. For those who read wanting to see themselves in a book, there is an outstanding range of people represented (sexuality, gender, religion, race, ethnicity – all are dealt with sensitively and effortlessly). For those who read wanting to be taken into a world that isn’t theirs, I guarantee you’ll finish the book wanting to play Soccer (admittedly very briefly, my consideration of team sports lasted a whole hour, but for that hour I was deeply passionate about my new love).
It’s one of those brilliantly written YA novels that is so subtle at drawing you in and getting you inside the minds of characters whose voices are so strong they seem like friends you’ve always known. I did love main character Sebastian and found him rather charming, but I totally fell in love with Emir.
This fantastic novel is the summer soccer camp romance between a bisexual American goalie and his gay British Pakistani former-best-friend-now-enemy YA novel that you’ve been waiting for. This is a funny, uplifting, sexy, romantic, and bloody excellent novel! I can’t wait to read what Julian Winters writes next.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but I’ll be buying my own copy very soon and you should too – you won’t regret it!
Last year Noah Can’t Even made us all fall in love with the chaotic and mostly hapless Noah Grimes (sorry Noah, we love you, but how do you get yourself into these situations?). This year, be prepared to launch yourself back into Noah’s whirlwind of drama and angst, with the brilliant follow-up Noah Could Never.
Now that Noah and best friend Harry are boyfriends, how is this going to change their friendship? What if Harry decides he’s actually not that interested in weedy Noah but would prefer the much sexier French exchange student Pierre? What disasters will befall Noah when his gran’s diamonds are stolen and he finds himself in the middle of an epic drag queen feud?
I adored Noah Can’t Even and had high expectations going into Book 2. I was worried it might not be as funny, I was worried that it might just be more of the same high-jinks chaos. I didn’t need to worry. Yes, it’s just as funny. Yes, it’s the same chaos you’d expect from Noah Grimes. However, there is so much heart to Noah Could Never. Noah’s life isn’t just a series of chaotic mistakes, they’re believable episodes in the life of someone unsure of themselves and trying to find their way.
I loved that characters we saw briefly in Book 1 (e.g. Bambi Sugapops) are fully realised and developed. I loved that Harry, who we know a bit from Book 1, is explored in greater depths as a person, not just in his relation to Noah. I love that there’s more Gran and I identify with her sassiness in so many ways.
Noah Could Never is the perfect follow-up to the first book. It’s full of emotion, drama, humour, and love. Plus, it made me cry lots, in a good way.
Book 3? I would very much love a book written from Harry’s perspective because I adore him so much, but anything featuring more of the adventures of Noah would be very welcome. Another Book 3 suggestion – Bambi Sugapops, the Novel – you know it makes sense Simon!
Genres: YA, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Funny
Published:7th June 2018 Available to buy now
In my first post I talked about the lack of LGBT voices in the literature I read growing up, and how desperate I was to find any characters I felt represented who I was. Since officially becoming an adult I’ve discovered many books that almost make me cry with how much they speak about who I am, and I’m discovering new ones every day.
Below are three recommendations of the books that I think have had the biggest impact on who I am and how I see the world:
The Story of the Night – Colm Tóibín
This novel is a powerful tale of the conflict between who we are and who the world sees. Set in Argentina and moves from the Falklands war to the spectre of AIDS. It’s a story of secrets and fear but is ultimately a story of complicated love.
Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman
I think my goal in life is to be able to write something as beautiful as this novel. An exquisite romance between a teenage boy and a young man that blossoms during a hot summer on the Italian Riviera. Full of sensuality, obsession, passion, and intimacy it’s a perfect novel for hot summer days and cold nights when you want to pretend you’re basking in the sunshine.
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
This novel is one of those quiet, almost understated stories, that sinks deep without you realising. A mesmerising story of a young woman’s numerous conflicts: in the country she’s growing up in, with the society she lives in, with her mother, and with her own identity. A beautiful and hopeful love story unlike any I’ve read before.
I’ve never cared much about getting older, and I try not to regret things from the past, but do I wish YA fiction had been available when I was a teenager, hell yeah!
There are many reasons that I read, write, and love YA: it pushes boundaries and explores topics other fiction is scared to go near, it gives a voice to teenagers who are frequently pushed to the side and their opinions dismissed. One of the things I love most about YA is the amount of LGBTQ+ that can be found among the pages, which makes it relevant to me, and speaks to me in a way that a lot of “adult” fiction never did.
I don’t think YA fiction is perfect or has it sorted in terms of representation. There is still a lot of trans characters being written by cis writers, there is a lot of gay and lesbian teenage characters being brought to life by straight writers, and there is still an under-representation of colour, bisexual, intersex, genderqueer, asexual YA characters. What YA does have is a passion for is pushing this forward and for getting better, and that seems something to be optimistic about.
Below are a few of my recommendations of YA books I think everyone should read:
Simon James Green – Noah Can’t Even
I won’t go on and on and on about how much I love this book (you can read my review here) but my first recommendation is the very British, utterly cringe-inducing, hilarious life of Noah Grimes. I’ve read reviewers describe Noah as gay, I read him as probably bisexual, when my girlfriend read the book she wondered if he was asexual. I think this book is a brilliantly written exploration of a young man who is confused about his sexuality, wondering what it says about him and obsessed with what other people think.
Meredith Russo – If I Was Your Girl
One of the few novels I’ve read with a trans character written by a trans writer, and it shows. A story of a trans girl growing up in America and trying to navigate the line between honesty, being yourself, and protecting yourself from the prejudice still so prevalent for all trans people.
David Levithan – Two Boys Kissing
This novel is about more than just two boys trying to break the world record for the longest kiss, there are four stories interwoven into the novel, all related to boys coming to terms with coming out and the reactions of the people around them. The overall narrator is the voice of an older generation of gay men who have lost their lives to AIDS. It is these narrators that really start to pull the emotional punches as they lament the glorious possibilities the lives of young men have now, possibilities that were so cruelly denied to them.
Nina LaCour & David Levithan – You Know Me Well
I couldn’t write a blog post to coincide with Pride month without including this fantastic novel. Told in alternating view points it follows the story of Kate and Mark who become best friends after one moment of bonding in a gay bar. It shows LGBTQ+ young people comfortable with their sexuality and receiving support from the people around them. We need more novels that explore LGBTQ+ friendships and that explore the importance of having friends.
What I want to read more of is books that feature more genderqueer teens, more bisexual teens, more non-white characters – and if these could be British that would be amazing. Give me your recommendations of the best YA you’ve read recently.