Tag Archives: Gay and Lesbian

Guest Reviewer: Audrey Beth Stein
Guest Reviews
June 8, 2010 posted by Ivy

Guest Reviewer: Audrey Beth Stein

Audrey Beth Stein is the author of the memoir Map, a 2010 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Bisexual Nonfiction. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and is a two-time national prizewinner in the David Dornstein Memorial Short Story Contest. She teaches memoir and novel development at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.  Direct links to order Map can be found at http://map.audreybethstein.com.

Audrey chose to review one of  her favorite novels The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, also a Lambda Literary Award Finalist.  Enjoy!

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

Dade Hamilton has no problem telling his ceiling fan or his soap dish that he’s gay.  He fools around secretly with Pablo, the “Sexican” jock, wishing Pablo’s girlfriend Judy was out of the picture, until the day Dade blurts out “I love you” and Pablo smacks him in the face.  Senior year is ending, Dade’s dad has just confessed to an affair (but not ended it), Dade’s mom is popping pills to pretend everything’s okay, and an autistic nine-year-old’s disappearance dominates the local news.  In three months Dade will be off to college, but that’s a whole summer away, and Pablo Pablo Pablo isn’t just fading into the night.

Enter Alex Kincaid.  Alex isn’t exactly Mr. Wholesome American Boy–at age twenty, he’s got a job at Taco Taco and moonlights as the drug connection for Dade’s classmates–but he’s hot and intriguing and compared to Pablo he’s a breath of fresh air.  Dade doesn’t know if Alex is gay, but a short exchange at a party prompts Dade to ask a classmate who this guy is and how to find him again: “I was acting on some instinct that I didn’t know I had.  I’d never gone out of my way for a guy before.  Even my and Pablo’s first encounters were totally initiated by him.  I never went out of my way to follow crushes around high school.  I never approached anyone with the hopes of getting a phone number or even a name.  I was afraid of giving myself away.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  Sometimes even I didn’t want to know.”

Alex is gay, and he’s also sincere, kind, and not afraid to show up with a bouquet of carnations for dinner with Dade’s parents after Dade comes out to them.  The burgeoning relationship between Dade and Alex is one of the sweetest parts of the book, all the more so for its realness.  In a world where so many adolescents fumbling through their own emerging sexuality (straight and queer) learn through unhealthy relationships and encounters, like the ones portrayed aptly and painfully between Dade and Pablo, it is wonderful and refreshing to read realistic portrayals of people treating each other with vulnerable kindness.

Of course the story doesn’t end this simply, not with an ex-not-boyfriend around or parents leaving Dade alone for two whole weeks, but I won’t give away the twists and turns, or why I found myself crying at the last chapter.  Nick Burd has an easy and perceptive style that makes for an enjoyable reading experience.  His three main characters feel like they must exist and make the choices that they do.  Dade’s empathy for Pablo’s confusion–which doesn’t erase his anger or hurt at Pablo’s actions–is a nice touch, and occasional reported sightings of the autistic girl underline the theme of disappearance and reappearance that threads throughout the book.  The Vast Fields of Ordinary well-deservedly won a Stonewall Book Award and was named a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and I highly recommend it for both young adult readers and adults who enjoy YA literature.

Rainbow Boys – Alex Sanchez
Book Reviews
May 31, 2009 posted by Nikki

Rainbow Boys – Alex Sanchez

For the month of June, yaReads will be featuring books and resources specifically for gay and lesbian teens and readers of gay and lesbian teen books. This is the first of many reviews that are scheduled to appear this month. Rainbow Boys is the first book in a three part series.

Jason Carrillo is one very confused kid. On the one hand, he’s got it made. He’s the star of the basketball team and is most likely heading to college on a basketball scholarship. He pulls good grades and he’s also got one killer hot girlfriend. He’s been dating Debra for almost two years now and everyone thinks they’re the ultimate golden couple. That would all be totally perfect if it weren’t for one thing: Jason thinks he’s gay. To some kids, that might not be a problem, but for Jason it’s the mother of all problems. You see, Jason’s dad is seriously homophobic and Jason knows that his father would never accept a gay son. Life at home is already hard enough, what with the way his parents fight all the time, and Jason doesn’t want to cause his mother any additional stresses on top of the ones she’s already dealing with. And what about the kids at school, his friends, and his team mates? How would they react to his being gay? Life for Jason is painfully confusing.

But then he starts hanging out with Kyle. Kyle is gay – and everyone knows it. Kyle is soft and kind but also fiercely protective of his and his own. Kyle believes that he shouldn’t have to hide who he is … so he doesn’t. He’s also had a huge crush on Jason Carrillo for ages, so when Jason starts hanging out with him, Kyle can’t believe his luck. He didn’t even know Jason was gay, but he showed up at the gay youth group meeting so he has to be, right? Well, he sure hopes so. Suddenly, Kyle decides to make it his business and he provides a safe, comfortable space for Jason to be honest with himself about who he is. The events which unfold leave Kyle feeling a little spellbound.

Nelson, however, is less than happy about Jason’s appearance in Kyle’s life. Nelson and Kyle have been besties forever, not to mention Nelson has been in love with Kyle for almost as long as they’ve been friends. But Nelson isn’t like Kyle and he’s not like Jason, either. He’s an individual of great colour and personality who is totally unapologetic about everything and anything. Nelson is emotionally rock solid. He refuses to let people pierce his rainbow heart, but how will he deal with this new third wheel that seems to be entering his precious twosome?

As their worlds collide, Rainbow Boys documents the events with profound emotional maturity. Alex Sanchez is a gifted writer whose vibrant, dynamic characters and keep-it-simple prose will have readers turning the pages at an impressive rate. I read Rainbow Boys in just a couple of hours, and then went straight back to the beginning and started again. Because each character is at a different stage of their emotional development, there is something for almost any adolescent reader. While these boys are quite clearly gay, I believe the messages that are delivered are universal ones applicable to all society regardless of sexuality. Gay kids need more resources like this available to them, and straight kids need access to more books like this so they too can understand, love and respect gay people and their relationships in the same way that straight people expect society to treat their relationships.

The message is simple folks – peace, love, unity and respect.

Calling all Lesbian Readers and Writers
Site Updates
March 2, 2009 posted by Nikki

Calling all Lesbian Readers and Writers

Do you know of any awesome, hard-hitting novels written for a young adult lesbian readership? Are you the author of a young adult novel written about lesbian and teen lesbian issues? If so, then we want to hear from you. yaReads is prepping for a teen gay and lesbian feature and we want to make sure we’ve got all out bases covered before we give it the green light. Drop us an email at yareaders(at)gmail(dot)com and tell us a little about yourself, or that fabulous book you just read.