Lisa reviews teen literature about transgender identity and acceptance, and shares our Teen GLBTQ Reading List.
by Brian Katcher
Almost Perfect is an almost perfect book which honestly deals with the sometimes hard truths that can accompany friendship, love, and sexuality. Sage is new to school after being homeschooled, and Logan is fresh from a breakup with his long-term girlfriend. The two become friends and, shortly thereafter, something more. When the relationship begins to take tentative steps toward the physical, Sage reveals that she is biologically a boy. Logan, initially angry, tries to understand his attraction to Sage and what it might mean about his own sexuality. The author captures the emotions of what both characters are feeling so convincingly that when I wasn’t reading the book I found my mind wandering back to the pages, worrying how these two would resolve their feelings for one another.
by Katie Rain Hill
Katie Rain Hill, a college student at the University of Tulsa, has bravely penned a very candid memoir about her transition from Luke to Katie at the age of 15. Thanks to journals, stories, and other materials she kept as a child, she was able to recall much about her younger self and share the story of what it felt like to be in the wrong gender. She talks about the discomfort she felt in her body from a very young age, her attraction to boys, and the ever widening gap of understanding between herself and her parents, particularly her father. She maintains her searing honesty as she talks about the teasing she experienced in elementary school, dating in high school and later in college, and her friendships with other girls. Katie walks the reader through her first tentative steps toward living as a girl, through gender-reassignment surgery, and ultimately to her life beyond her parents’ home.
by Ami Polonsky
Ami Polonsky’s short novel deals with a number of very serious issues in relatively few pages. She tackles the loss of a young child’s parents, bullying, and transgenderism without making the reader feel overwhelmed. Grayson is in sixth grade and has learned that it is best to remain as quiet and as invisible as possible to avoid the scrutiny of other people. Grayson has long known that while she is outwardly a boy, she is in every other way a girl. But without anyone in whom she can confide, she suffers in silence and intense loneliness. In a surprise move, Grayson decides to audition for the school play for the part of Persephone. She does it for the opportunity to wear a beautiful gown and let other people see her as she really is, at least for the duration of the play. Grayson’s bravery forces the adults in her life, and her peers, to examine and judge themselves rather than her.
Additional GLBTQ Reading
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Fraternal twins and burgeoning artists Jude and Noah are inseparable until puberty hits and they find themselves competing for boys, a spot at an exclusive art school, and their parents’ affections. Told in alternating perspectives and time lines, with Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16, this novel explores how it’s the people closest to us who have the power to both rend us utterly and knit us together. – – School Library Journal
Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
“High school senior Jamie has a crush on his best friend and finds ways to share that news with the help of several friends.”– Provided by publisher
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
In alternating chapters, eighteen-year-old Darcy Patel navigates the New York City publishing world and Lizzie, the heroine of Darcy’s novel, slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack and becomes a spirit guide, as both face many challenges and both fall in love.
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
High school junior Leila’s Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates at Armstead Academy, and if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. when a new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual, so she struggles to sort out her growing feelings by confiding in her old friends.
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews
Teen Biography. “Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning teen memoir.” — Provided by publisher
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Teen Nonfiction. “Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Each honest discussion, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.” — Amazon.com
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is that they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt and her well-intentioned but old-fashioned grandmother. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.
The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
The summer after graduating from an Iowa high school, Dade Hamilton watches his parents’ marriage disintegrate, ends his long-term, secret relationship, comes out of the closet, and savors first love.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
When two teens, one gay and one straight, meet accidentally and discover that they share the same name, their lives become intertwined as one begins dating the other’s best friend, who produces a play revealing his relationship with them both.
I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Donovan
While trying to cope with his alcoholic mother and absent father, a lonely New York City teenager develops a confusing crush on another boy.
Love and Lies: Marisol’s Story by Ellen Wittlinger
When self-confident Marisol, moves to Cambridge, to work and try to write a novel, she falls under the spell of her beautiful but deceitful writing teacher.
Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan
Kyle and Judy’s parents announce they are taking in a fellow (and mysterious) student for a month. Kyle has just come out of the closet to his family and fears he’ll never know what it is like to date a guy. Judy is pretending to be born-again to attract a boy. Both are intrigued with this new boy, who claims to be a vampire.
See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
Fern feels invisible in her family, where grumpy eighteen-year-old Sarah is working at the family restaurant, fourteen-year-old Holden is struggling with school bullies and his emerging homosexuality, and adorable, three-year-old Charlie is always the center of attention, and when tragedy strikes, the fragile bond holding the family together is stretched almost to the breaking point.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Harry and Craig take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin’s parents announce their daughter’s arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution.
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
Tired of being known as “the gay kid”, Rafe decides to assume a new persona when he comes east and enters an elite Massachusetts prep school–but trying to deny his identity has both complications and unexpected consequences.
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin
Feeling humiliated and confused when his best friend Tessa rejects his love and reveals a long-held secret, Luke must decide if he should stand by Tessa when she invites a girl to the prom, sparking a firestorm of controversy in their small Indiana town.
If I Told You So by Timothy Woodward
Sean Jackson’s choice is to take a landscaping job in Georgia with his father, or to stay in his small New Hampshire hometown and take a job at the local ice cream shop. He stays home and deals with the pressures of a young man who struggles with trying to tell his father that he is gay.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Jesse is having secret trysts with Emily, the popular student council vice president, but when they find themselves on opposite sides of a major issue and Jesse becomes more involved with a student activist, they must make a difficult decision.
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Told from three viewpoints; Brendan, a wrestler, struggles to come to terms with his place on the transgender spectrum while Vanessa, the girl he loves, and Angel, a transgender acquaintance, try to help.
Love Drugged by James Klise
Jamie Baes has a simple strategy for surviving high school: fit in, keep a low profile, and above all, protect his secret–he’s gay. When a classmate discovers the truth, Jamie does all he can to change who he is.
Ash by Malinda Lo
In this variation on the Cinderella story, Ash grows up believing in the fairy realm that the king and his philosophers have sought to suppress, until one day she must choose between a handsome fairy cursed to love her and the King’s Huntress whom she loves.
How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart
Presents twelve stories by contemporary, award-winning young adult authors, some presented in graphic or letter format, which explore themes of gender identity, love, and sexuality. Shelved with the teen short story collection.
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Astrid copes with her small town’s gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she’s sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying over her backyard. Maybe they’ll know what to do with it. Maybe it’ll make them happy. Maybe they’ll need it. Her mother doesn’t want it, her father’s always stoned, her sister’s too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to.
In Mike We Trust by P. E. Ryan
As Garth is wrestling with the promise he made his mother to wait a while before coming out, his somewhat secretive uncle shows up unexpectedly for an extended visit.
This Youth book review was brought to you by Lisa Q. Harling. When not conducting Story Times or reading the best that kids’ authors have to offer, Lisa enjoys writing witty PSAs on Facebook, playing with her dogs and keeping up with her two adventurous sons. If you have suggestions for future book reviews, email her at email@example.com.