I recently read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. Before I’d even finished, I knew it was that book for me ― the book I wished I’d had as a teen. The book that would have validated what I was feeling at that time in my life. It would’ve shown me that it was okay to spend time figuring out my sexuality, that I didn’t have to define myself by someone else’s rules. That it was acceptable, even good, to think outside the lines when it comes to identity and where you fit within a community.
YA books with gay characters did exist when I was a teen ― in small numbers ― but I didn’t know that at the time. I cannot even begin to express how happy it makes me that today’s 14-year-olds will get to read Ask the Passengers, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and The Difference Between You and Me, and Adaptation, and ― you get the idea.
When I think back to the books I did read in my MG and YA years, there are many that were amazing and that made a huge impression on me. And I can’t help thinking ― what if those books had been about gay characters? I already related strongly to these protagonists, but if they’d been queer I’d have identified with them on an entirely separate level.
So I made a list of some books I’d love to have seen LGBTQ versions of. It’s not that I wish these books themselves had had gay protagonists ― it’s that I wish I could’ve had the experience I had reading these books, and the experience of reading about a queer lead character.
Most of these are books I read growing up, but some of them are newer releases that I’m sure I’d have read as a teen if they’d come out back before I got all old and stuff. And with one or two exceptions, I adore all of these books.
What are the kids’ books you want a gay version of?
I’d love to know which books would make your list. Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter (you can tweet me at @robin_talley)
Here’s my list:
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Arguably the most iconic teen/preteen book of all. In between shopping for Teenage Softies and being treated like a religious science experiment by the adults in her life, Margaret somehow finds time to develop a crush on a 14-year-old named Moose who cuts her lawn and long for kisses from the big man on her elementary school campus, Philip Leroy. (“It’s not so much that I like Philip as a person, God, but as a boy he’s very handsome.”) Margaret is also captivated by a girl in her class, Laura, who had the misfortune to develop early. A book where Margaret longed for kisses from Laura instead of Philip would’ve been an entirely different book ― and one I’d have worshipped.
Harry Potter (entire series) by J.K. Rowling. What if the close three-way friendship at the center of this series had been that much more complex? What if The Chosen One, the 11-year-old kid anointed to save the world, had another secret to wrestle with? I know, I know ― there’s fanfic for that. But what if it weren’t just on the Internet? What if it right there on the pages of a set of books read by millions of kids around the world? What could that have done for an entire generation?
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I didn’t personally relate to the romance in this book (and not just because it was heterosexual), but clearly a lot of people did. In fact, it seems to have defined romantic ideals for a substantial chunk of the reading population, teens and adults alike. What if there were an equally popular book with a gay romance at its center that tapped into readers’ emotions in the same way? How cool would that be?
Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry. Oh, Anastasia, the great love of my childhood. You were such a lovable, bespectacled, intellectual, poetry-writing daughter of hippies. You had crush after crush on such a seemingly random collection of boys (and a lone female P.E. teacher) that I wonder if perhaps you would indeed have grown up to like the ladies. The only thing that would’ve made you better would’ve been if I’d gotten to read a book about you in which that actually happened.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. You know who kicked ass? Turtle Wexler kicked ass. She kicked ass all over Sunset Towers and then some, swinging her braids around, making thousands on the stock market and soaking her toothache in bourbon because she’s just that awesome a chick. And then she grew up to be an awesome lawyer married to an awesome writer who was also that one guy in the book who… wait, what? Turtle married a guy? You’ve got to be kidding me. She was way too cool to be straight.
Anyway, here are a few more YA/MG/classic/beloved/etc. books I’d love to have read gay-protag-versions of:
- Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Little Women
- Gone with the Wind
- A Northern Light
- The Babysitters Club
- Sweet Valley High
- Fear Street
- The Book of Three
- The Great Gatsby
- The Cat Ate My Gymsuit
- The White Mountains
- The Fault in Our Stars
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
So, what books do you wish there were a gay version of? Tell us in the comments!
Robin Talley’s first book, Lies We Tell Ourselves, will come out in 2014 from Harlequin Teen.