We’ve had so many excellent bloggers thus far, I hope you have all enjoyed them! If you had favorite contributors or a certain topic you’d like to hear more of, please leave them in the comments. We’ll try and keep providing what YOU want to read.
We’re so excited by all the great authors and bloggers we have coming up. Here’s the lineup for this upcoming week:
Friday: Day of Silence, No Posts
Saturday: Guest Blog by Brian Katcher
Sunday: Guest Blog by Caitlin Kitteredge
Monday: Guest Blog by Mike Mullin
Tuesday: Guest Blog by Malinda Lo
Wednesday: Guest Blog by Sarah Rees Brennan
Thursday: Not Through the Looking Glass by Debra A Touchette
Friday: Review: Vintage by Steve Berman; Review by The Book Smugglers
Hope you enjoy!
Sandy writes at her blog http://scribing-shadows.blogspot.com/ She can be found on Twitter under Silversparrow04
Can I say that I feel a little lost now that this series is finally over? And when I say lost I don’t mean that the book left me confused and with unanswered questions, I mean lost because the last page has been printed and I am left behind in the real world while the world of Wicked Lovely continues on in an alternate dimension somewhere without me.
It’s a bittersweet feeling certainly and its one I’m happy to feel because it means that a series I have grown attached to didn’t go on forever and grow tiresome. And it means that all those loose ends that were left unraveled in all the previous books have now been resolved.
At the end of Radiant Shadows a new court had been formed, the world of Faerie had been sealed off, Keenan, was still missing and the Dark Court had been attacked and their former King mortally wounded. Now Keenan is making dangerous deals with faeries of the sea, Bananach is bulldozing everyone towards war and the faerie equivalent of the Grim Reaper has arrived in Huntsdale and is paying visits to our favourite faery monarchs.
My nerves were so on edge as I read the pages of this final book because I knew main characters were going to die, characters that I had quickly grown to love and just didn’t know whom it was going to be or when it was going to happen. What made it worst was that many characters that I had disliked before reading Darkest Mercy had changed and grown over the course of the series. And the different POVs I were viewing them from had now shed them in a new light that allowed me to understand them and even like them so now I was worried about them dieing as well.
This would also be the book that would finally reveal if Ash would end up with Seth or Keenan, if Donia would ever have a true happy ending, and if we would ever see Leslie again or if we would just get a snippet of her in a short story.
This book will certainly tug and pull at your emotions but at the end of it, despite all that has happened, all who were lost, all who end up and don’t end up together, and everything that was changed you can’t deny that the ending is a perfect fit. Not a perfect bow-tie ending but an ending that really completes this brilliant series perfectly.
Julie Anne Peters is author of several YA, middle grade, and children’s novels including Keeping You a Secret, Define “Normal” and Rage: A Love Story. She can be found online at julieannepeters.com We asked her about some of the things she’s encountered in her career as an author.
Q: What are some of the unexpected gifts that you have found through writing GLBT characters and relationships?
A: Let me just list them:
1. The empowerment I get from hearing from readers whose lives are impacted by my work. Making that personal connection with a reader is a reward unto itself.
2. Knowing that my books are touching the hearts of people of all ages, throughout the world. I hear from teens, of course, but also older gay and straight people who share their stories with me. I feel honored that they’d trust their most intimate thoughts and feelings with a person they’ve never met.
3. After writing LUNA, it was a huge gift to add transgender people to my life. Before that book, I’d never known a trans person. I find their courage to transition amazing, and it’s given me a broader perspective on what courage really means.
4. I’m always surprised that even one person would want to read my books, so being able to forge a career out of writing, out of doing something I love so much, is astonishing.
5. Having the freedom to grow as an artist, knowing my agent and editor will support my most freakish endeavors. Even though my editor has come back with, “Um, okay, Julie. This is very different from what you’ve done before. What are you trying to accomplish here?” she’s never said no. I’m extremely lucky to have the support of my writing group, my agent, and my publisher.
LGBTQ Characters in Mainstream Superhero Comics
By Karen Mahoney
“I heard the whistle of a train as it approached the crossing. I reached my arm around Goran, pulled him in, and our lips met. It felt like flying.”
Perry Moore, HERO
So, I write for teenagers. For young adults. These kids need a gay superhero just as much as they need the supposedly more acceptable – and certainly more commonly represented – straight ones.
We are all – every single one of us – born with the beautiful potential both to love and to be loved. That’s the only thing that matters, in my view. Simplistic? Maybe. But does that make it any less true, or less right? Anything else is just an attempt to force something as natural as love into a form that is less
offensive challenging to those who can’t see the simple truth.
When I was growing up, I loved comic books. We’d get US imports over in the UK, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Of course, back in the 1980s, I don’t remember reading a whole lot of superhero comics starring LGBT characters. But now it’s 2011… A lot of time has passed.
Let’s just think about that for a moment.
2011. Dudes. We’re practically living in the future, you know?
Thankfully, there have been some positive changes in the mainstream superhero comics industry, but in my humble opinion not nearly enough. Especially when it comes to representing gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters – heroes and heroines – that young readers can identify with. I think that’s a shame. I may be an adult (allegedly) and I may be the ‘S’ in Straight, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ once upon a time. I’m sure there are many teens who question their sexuality; isn’t that pretty damn normal? So wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do something as… you know… normal as picking up a comic book that has a brightly-yet-inappropriately-clad heroine flying around, who might be a little less than straight?
I think that would be pretty cool.
*I know this makes me a total geek, but I love how the initials for Young Avengers are ‘YA‘ – okay, I’ll shut up now.
My favourite thing about these comics, hands down, is the relationship between Hulkling (Teddy Altman) and Wiccan (Billy Kaplan). Don’t get me wrong, I love the stories and all of the characters – I really do. But Teddy and Billy are just so ridiculously cute together (sorry, I can’t help myself!), and so right as a couple. Their relationship is portrayed in a realistic and refreshingly ordinary way, which works particularly well against the extraordinary backdrop of superhero shenanigans. I like that Heinberg has the boys being open about their sexuality, and about their growing feelings for one another, while not making the comics revolve around it. These aren’t comics centred on issues. No, we are given kick-ass stories with a whole group of brilliant characters – a couple of whom just happen to be gay (and falling love – yay!).
It’s good to see a mainstream comics publisher like Marvel putting out titles with young LGBTQ characters that represent true diversity, and I hope to see more in the future. There does seem to be a gradual shift (a tiny one, but at least it’s happening!) with, for example, lesbian and transgender main characters in Marvel’s teen Runaways comic. Of course, there are quite a few other LGBT superhero characters in comics, but I’m talking specifically about young adult characters in a starring role.
I’m happy to say that the Young Avengers are back – after their first successful run a few years ago – this time in Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. It’s currently available monthly from your LCS.* Go check it out!
*Local Comic Shop
A quick shout out for a YA novel about a gay superhero: Perry Moore‘s HERO. Sadly, Mr. Moore passed away just a couple of months ago. His essay and accompanying list – Who Cares About the Death of a Gay Superhero Anyway? – are recommended reading.
Please also read this fantastic Gay Times interview with writer Allan Heinberg. Among other things, Heinberg talks about the difference between writing LGBT characters for comics and for television (he has written and produced shows such as Gilmore Girls, The O.C. and Grey’s Anatomy). The whole thing is well worth your time, but I particularly love this:
JG: There are a large number of LGBT fans of comics. What do you feel attracts people of our community to comic books, and in particular superhero stories?
AH: Super hero comics tend to be about outsiders — people who are not accepted by the mainstream — or who feel they don’t belong there — who nonetheless strive and sacrifice to save the very people who rejected them in the first place. Even poor Superman is constantly struggling to prove to himself and to the world that he’s worthy of his adopted humanity. As a closeted gay kid growing up in Oklahoma in the 1970′s, I completely identified with that struggle. Even now, I find it enormously moving.
Karen Mahoney is the author of THE IRON WITCH trilogy and a proud geek. Visit her online at: www.kazmahoney.com
Parents in YA literature tend to fall into one of two categories – absent or obstacle. If they’re absent, they may be dead or simply unaware; if they’re obstacles, they actively interfere with the protagonist’s attempts to achieve his or her goals.
YA lit with gay characters takes this tradition to a new extreme. Parents are either fearsome zealots or bigots who reject their children at the first sign that they’re not ruler-straight, or they’re well-meaning but ultimately out-of-touch smotherers who get so wrapped up in the cause of gay rights that they end up ignoring whatever personal struggles their child experiences. It’s hardly surprising that books about gay teens would feature parents who don’t understand, whether out of close-mindedness or simple lack of awareness, but that’s not the universal experience.
Where, in YA books, are the parents who’ve had their own struggles with identity? Where are the gay and lesbian couples raising kids, the transgender parents, the bisexual mom or dad who could understand and sympathize with how their teenagers feel? Parents are rarely the focus of YA books, and only infrequently are they allowed to be fully realized characters with emotional depth. They can lend such dimension to books, though, that it’s a shame they don’t get more development.
Certainly, in many parts of the world, including the United States, teenagers who come out face rejection by their parents. But there’s a whole host of responses in between “get out of my house this instant” and “I’m going to start a PFLAG chapter!” and it would be lovely to see that range better represented in YA fiction. What about the parents who love their kid no matter what, but worry that they’ll be bullied at school for coming out? Where are the parents who are uncomfortable with homosexuality but work to shift their worldview? Why don’t we get to see the fights between a concerned parent who doesn’t want their kid to be sexually active, no matter who he or she is with, and a teenager who asserts that it’s vital to developing his or her identity?
The religious family narrative can still be relevant, but let’s see something more complex than a knee-jerk anti-gay reaction. Why can’t one parent be supportive, and another uncomfortable? How about a religious parent determined to find biblical justification for gay or lesbian relationships? A church or temple where being LGBTQ is perfectly acceptable? Times are changing – fictional families should change with them.
What’s the most realistic depiction of a gay teen’s family that you’ve read?
By Maggie Hira
I’d like to think I wasn’t quite eavesdropping on them. But I was. I totally was. And what I heard was extremely enlightening.
It happened a few weeks ago at my local Barnes & Noble. I was in the YA section, as usual, not looking for anything in particular, but browsing for something that would catch my eye or pique my interest. That’s when I heard them chattering in the other aisle—two teenage girls also on the hunt for an interesting read. I didn’t want to listen in on their conversation, but I couldn’t help myself. As an aspiring YA author, I need to be in touch with teens. I know people of all ages read YA, but the truth is that as a writer of YA, I have to remember that I’m writing for teens, not adults who happen to like reading about teens.
So, I listened. I stopped browsing (well, I pretended I was still browsing) to listen to them, because they were talking about books, and I was deeply curious about what they might have to say about YA and which books they would end up buying.
I probably listened to them for five minutes at the most, as they walked from one aisle to the next, looking at titles and making comments—“hate this book; love this author,” etc. Since I couldn’t follow them around without making it look obvious (and, also, that would just be creepy), I didn’t know exactly which titles they were talking about. But one comment stood out from all the rest. As they were about to leave, one of them remarked to the other that one of her friends was looking for a new book that featured a gay couple at the center of the romance, and he couldn’t find one. She added that her friend complained that there weren’t enough gay YA books available for him.
“Oh, is he gay?” her friend asked.
“Yeah, he’s gay,” the girl said.
Then they both turned on their heels and left. I remember they both looked a little disappointed as they walked away empty-handed from the YA section.
I spent the next few minutes walking around the B&N aimlessly, thinking about what I’d overheard.
I have to admit I’d never given gay YA much thought. Maybe it’s because I’m straight, or maybe it’s because I could always easily find the kind of YA books I was looking for—mainly paranormal or contemporary coming-of-age—but the conversation between the two teen girls made me think about gay YA more deeply than I ever had before. I realized that there were tons of teens out there looking for YA books that represented their experience or included characters they could relate to on a personal level. But, they weren’t finding them as easily as I was finding paranormal romances and contemporary coming-of-age stories featuring female narrators.
If I closed my eyes and chose a book at random from the YA section of the B&N, it would most likely be a paranormal romance. If I wanted to find a YA book with gay characters or a gay romance, I would probably have to ask an associate to help me find one. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to look.
Now, I love paranormal romance and it’s great that I can find those titles so easily, but it’s also clear to me now that there is a huge need for more gay YA books. I didn’t come to this realization just from overhearing this one conversation, because I have heard and read about the lack of gay YA many times before. But this particular conversation really brought the idea home because I heard it coming from real-life teens. I saw their disappointed faces as they walked away without any books.
Hearing it for myself made it different from reading about it on a forum or on an anonymous blog. It made everything more real.
As an aspiring YA author, I don’t know if I’ll ever write about gay characters (I’m actually working on a paranormal romance, haha), but I know that I will think about this issue more often and more profoundly. I’d like to think that one day I will have developed my craft to the point where I will be able to write about a variety of characters.
I will never forget what I overheard real teens say that day at the bookstore—that they want more gay YA. And I hope that one day I will be one of the authors that gives them some more of what they want.
Maggie’s favorite gay couple is Niall and Irial from Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series. You can read about her adventures in writing at maggie_writes.livejournal.com.
Shannon blogs online at Literati’s Literary Library, and can be found on Twitter under @literati_rain66
Review of Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan.
Quickie: Absolutely adorable. It will melt your heart.
Full: Noah’s a new boy in town. His parents travel all the time and move the family continuously to be closer to their work. This time though, they’ve promised to stay and settle. It means more traveling for them, less time at home, but Noah and his sister will be able to stay and make friends that they can keep.
Paul has recently been dumped by Kyle. It’s all very dramatic; Kyle dated Paul for a while but then decided that he (Kyle) wasn’t gay. In fact, his brief stint as a gay boy was all Paul’s fault. Kyle dumped Paul and spread all kinds of lovely rumors around the school. Paul’s been coasting through life ever since, hanging out with his best friends, Joni and Tony, and just being a regular guy.
Paul meets Noah. There’s a spark. A real spark, the kind that keeps you tingling for days. The kind you can’t seem to forget even though your life keeps on going forward, with or without you. Paul is mesmerized by Noah. By his easy smile, his genuinely interesting personality, and of course, there’s that spark.
He’d like to talk about it with Joni, but she’s started seeing this guy Chuck, who Paul really doesn’t approve of or connect with. Tony’s parents are super religious and are petrified that Tony (also gay) will go and “be gay” with some boy. They think that his sexuality is like a switch, if you hit the right button you can switch it off. So they’re desperately trying to do just that… by sending him to church camps and watching his every move. It’s hard for Tony to get out of the house, let alone talk to Paul (a gay boy! *gasp*).
Meanwhile, Kyle (Paul’s ex) has started acknowledging Paul in the hallways again, even giving him a smile and a few words. Paul is intrigued, but wary. Is Kyle playing a trick on him? Is Kyle gay, or not? Seeing him making out in the halls with that girl says “not”, but if that’s the case, then why is he speaking to Paul again? And most importantly, how does he feel about all this? Will this change things?
Confusion abounds, but one thing’s for sure: Paul like Noah, and Noah likes Paul….Right?
This book is lovely. David Levithan can write a love story, no doubt about that. It’s whimsical and emotional and so very honest. Paul’s a sweet kid and I was rooting for him the whole time. He’s sure of himself, but awkward. He’s insightful, but oblivious. You can’t help but love him.
In fact, the whole cast of characters is lovable. Infinite Darlene, the homecoming queen/football quarterback has sass and personality coming out her pores. Joni, the bestie-since-second-grade-turned-mortal-enemy-(maybe). Kyle, the confused but endearing ex-boyfriend who sort of dumped Paul in a very cruel way. Chuck, the lughead. Tony, the boy who knows who he is but has to wear a mask at home and live two very different lives. Noah, the new boy who’s sweet, charming, artistic, and all around wonderful. And of course Paul, the one who ties them all together.
The best part about this book for me, is that I knew Paul. Or, I knew a few mixes of Paul, Noah, Tony and Kyle. Chances are, you know one of them too, or maybe a combination. I felt like I was reading the story of my best friend through middle school. He was a lot like Noah, with a few bits of Paul. His room was an amazing place, it was his personality turned decor. He was strong and vulnerable and his energy and enthusiasm was contagious. I saw all of that as I read Boy Meets Boy. I felt like I was seeing though my old best friend’s eyes. And it made me love him and all the characters just that much more.
Of all the LGBTQ books I’ve read, this is my favorite (so far). The honesty and understanding this book gives the reader is simply delightful. What is Boy Meets Boy? It’s a love story. And it’s not one to miss.
5 out of 5 stars.
Last weekend I was driving near the Brown campus in Providence, RI with my family. When we stopped at a light, two male students crossed the street, holding hands. They were chatting away, smiling, like what they were doing was the most natural thing in the world. My husband and I both commented on how nice that was. And how rare.
Because honestly? In most places in this country, you will not see two boys walking along a busy street holding hands. Carefree. Safe.
In most places in this country, there are still boys and girls just like those two ,wondering what’s wrong with them. Wondering if their parents will kick them out of the house if they tell them they’re gay. Wondering if their best friends will still be their best friends. Wondering if they will get the crap kicked out of them if anyone finds out.
I hate that this is true.
When my book, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, was banned from classroom use in a Kentucky school, the objection was that the book contained ”inappropriate themes, including homosexuality.” Calling homosexuality inappropriate is ridiculous. I know this. You know this. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t.
In my latest book, PEARL, a blogger who reviews books wrote that, while she liked the book very much, she couldn’t recommend it because of the homosexual content. A reader thanked her, saying homosexuality in books made her feel “uncomfortable.”
When I read this, I cried. Not because I care about the review, but because of what it says about where we are in this country. The irony about all of this, is that the objectionable piece in the book is about two women who love each other and hide it all their lives because they’re too afraid to be themselves. And why? Because who they are is “inappropriate.” It makes people feel “uncomfortable.”
What message do reviews like this give to gay teens who stumble across them? Keep hiding.
That’s why I cried.
My older brother was gay. He didn’t come out until he was in his twenties. He waited to come out because he was afraid, too. The whole first half of his life he had to be two people. In public, he was one Scott. In private and among a small group of friends, he was the real Scott.
I was lucky enough to know the real Scott. The real Scott had a huge heart. He loved adventure. He loved to travel and eat and read and cook and watch James Bond movies and Dr. Who. He wanted to share all of these things with the people he loved. He used to force me to watch cheesy movies with him, trying to convince me to love them as much as he did. He could put his arm around you and I swear you could feel the unspoken words he meant in that simple gesture. The love he gave in it. But far too few were lucky enough to experience this Scott. This beautiful man who was bursting with love and life and never able to fully share his true self. Because for some crazy reason, for some reason I will never accept, people thought who he was, was “inappropriate.” So he hid that side of himself for years. And that is tragic.
What do we do about this?
That’s my big question. How do we make the world a more accepting place? How do we make our communities, our schools, our classrooms, our homes, more accepting places?
I wish I knew the big answer.
But I think one small one, is books.
The beauty of books is that they show us a new point of view. They show us what it’s like to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a while. They show us the world through a different lens. Sometimes it’s a more frightening world. Sometimes it’s a more beautiful one. Sometimes, it’s a more accepting one. Sometimes, it’s ugly. But even in those frightening, ugly worlds, we see some tiny reflection of ourselves and the world we know. We find connections to what we ourselves believe, and maybe we shift those beliefs just a little. Maybe we step away a little less intolerant, because we’re able to see more clearly the ignorance our intolerance stems from. Maybe we step away able to see the person down the street who we’ve always been a little afraid of, as a little less scary. I don’t know. But I think always, always, we step away changed somehow. For the better. Books do that.
Maybe that’s what people who ban gay books are afraid of. Maybe they just need to read more. It’s a start.
Jo Knowles is author of Lessons From a Dead Girl and Jumping Off Swings. She can be found online at http://www.joknowles.com/
Brent Hartinger is an author, screenwriter, and playwright. He can be found on Twitter as @BrentHartinger
I’ve been saying for years that if you want to know what’s going to be on television in five or ten years, look at what’s happening in books today. Like clockwork, we authors always predict exactly where the mass culture is heading.
Okay, so maybe we didn’t predict the outrageous, depressing mess that so much of reality television has become. We authors tend to predict the things that appeal to, um, slightly higher aspects of human nature.
Take the whole issue of gay teens. Did you catch the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly? Gay teens have finally broken through on television in a massive, unmistakable way.
Now I have my own issues with Glee (as much as I love the appealing cast and often terrific musical numbers, I get really frustrated with the often incredibly sloppy writing).
Still, it’s impossible to deny the impact the show has had on popular culture, especially with its gay teen characters of Kurt, Blaine, and Karofsky. Audiences young and old are really, really responding — and the show itself is responding to that by giving these characters increasingly prominent roles.
But let’s go back a few years to, say, 2003. That happens to be the year that a group of gay teen novels all hit it unexpectedly big in terms of sales and mainstream popularity. My first book Geography Club was part of that wave, as was Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, and Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez.
Of course, there had been plenty of gay teen novels before then, but even all these years later, Julie, David, Alex, and I are still often paired together as a group of writers who saw their similarly-themed books break through at the same time — break-out successes that were all very contrary to the conventional wisdom of the time. I think all four of us wrote great books, but the fact that we all found unexpected success at the same time made it one of those trends that was impossible to ignore: readers wanted more of this.
(Incidentally, I don’t give myself a whole lot of “credit” here: I just happened to have had a book published at the exact right moment in publishing history. I wrote the first draft of the thing back in 1990, and if I’d had my way, it would’ve been published years earlier — and probably would’ve been completely ignored!).
The point is, I could’ve told you that there was this huge, thriving under-the-radar interest in gay teens among teenagers, gay and straight, male and female. I’d already benefited from it! But even so, in 2010, the conventional wisdom still said that the only place for gay teens on television was as peripheral supporting characters. In fact, as a journalist who’s been covering Glee from the very beginning, I can say the break-out success of Kurt, Blaine, and Karofsy even caught the show’s producers by the surprise, much less the network. In the beginning, Kurt was never intended to be more than a minor, supporting character.
What’s the point of all this? To say very simply and very directly that, for all the talk about how “irrelevant” books have become, it’s simply not true. Books still matter. They can be produced much more cheaply than TV or movies, so we’re able to test themes and ideas that investors may not be willing to finance in the more expensive mediums.
Plus — can I just say? We authors are pretty damn smart. After all, it’s literally our job to figure out what’s going on in society, to predict future trends and comment on the good and the bad — and to shape all this in such a way that we can all start to form opinions.
And — this is where it gets really fun — teen books matter maybe even more than other genres. Given that it’s a genre that still doesn’t get a whole lot of respect in the more “literary” circles, I find this wonderfully ironic.
Books still matter very much. You read it here first. Maybe ten years from you, you’ll see that on television too.
P.S. So what are the teen books of today predicting about what will be on television ten years from now? I think it’s mainstream popularity of and acceptance for the paranormal and alternative forms of spirituality … which happens to be the subject of my latest book, Shadow Walkers.