It wasn’t long ago that you’d be hard pressed to find a YA book with a gay character in it all. We’ve come a long way. Yet there’s still a long way to go.
While gay characters are represented in YA fiction, far too often they are stereotypes, there to provide an appearance of diversity without actually being fully realized characters. How often does a female YA protagonist have a quirky, funny, gay best friend? This is a great character because it’s a male presence, but one without any threat associated with him. Then there’s the sporty lesbian, another stereotype that is overused in YA fiction. The gay boy in musical theatre… The list goes on.
It’s important that we move away from casting gay characters into these roles. There are as many different gay characters as there are straight characters, and just like straight people, gay people don’t want to be defined solely by their sexuality.
Because YA literature deals with that messy, awkward, uncertain period of life where you’re discovering yourself and making choices about who you are and where you fit into the world, sexuality does play a big part. This is the time in life where you start having sexual feelings and experiences. It’s a time for experimenting and figuring out. So it’s no big surprise that the bulk of YA stories that deal with gay characters are coming out stories.
There is definitely room for more of these stories – my own book is one – but at the same time, I think it’s important that we see stories with gay characters where the focus is not on their sexuality exclusively. Stories where it’s incidental that our protagonist has a same-sex partner.
As we move into a time where homosexuality is more accepted and where gay people have the same legal and social rights as everyone else, I hope these books will start showing up on shelves. It would be nice to read a book with gay characters where their sexuality is not remarked on or their behavior judged by other characters.
YA books are so important because they provide a window through which young readers can see themselves and people like themselves. So let’s give these readers real, wholly realized characters who live their lives and face their problems without remarking on who they slept with last night.
An Unstill Life
Things at home are rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. Jules, her beloved older sister is sick again after being cancer free for almost ten years. Her mom becomes more frantic and unapproachable every day. School isn’t much better. Just when she needs them most, her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie – except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates.
Livvie seeks refuge in the art room and finds Bianca, the school ‘freak’. Free-spirited and confident, Bianca is everything Livvie isn’t. Shaken by her mom’s desperation, her sister’s deteriorating condition, and abandoned by her friends, Livvie finds comfort and an attraction she never felt before with Bianca.
When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca become victims of persecution and bullying. School authorities won’t help and even forbid the pair to attend the Winter Formal as a couple. If Livvie defies them and goes, she risks expulsion and further ridicule from her classmates. At home, her mother’s behavior escalates to new levels of crazy and Jules is begging for help to end the pain once and for all.
While searching for the strength to make her life her own, Livvie must decide how far she’s willing to go for the people she loves.
About The Author
Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.
She has written eight contemporary YA novels, five of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. She is currently working on a new YA novel that is still looking for a title other than its Twitter hashtag, #juvvielesbian.
Author Links Website: http://katelarkindale.blogspot.com/