Tag Archives: Gay and Lesbian Fiction

David Inside Out – Lee Bantle
Book Reviews
July 29, 2009 posted by Nikki

David Inside Out – Lee Bantle

My mom can be confusing without even trying. If I tell her I have to something because everyone is doing it, she says, just be yourself. She says people respect that. But what if you send fan mail to romance writers? And get teary-eyes at chick flicks? What if you still get spooked during thunderstorms? These are not things that you want to share with others. Being yourself might make people reject you. People you desperately care about. Being yourself only works if you’re basically cool. Which I’m not.

There’s another problem with mom’s advice. How can you be yourself if you don’t know who that is?

David is pretty sure he’s gay. At least he knows that much about himself. He thinks about guys in sexual ways and he can’t help but perve on his team mates in the showers after practice. But David doesn’t think he should be thinking these things, so he snaps a rubber band around his wrist to snap at every time he has an ‘inappropriate’ thought about a guy.

But then Sean, the guys he’s been crushing on, sort of outs himself to David. Although its clear that Sean has no intention of outing himself to anyone else, David does pretty much anything Sean wants him to – even when its clear that Sean is not going to reciprocate.

Then David gets brave and tells Kick – the girl he’s kind of been seeing. She doesn’t flip out, like he thought he would, but she doesn’t keep the information to herself, like she said she would. Then Sean’s parents ban him from seeing David, and everything goes a little haywire.

Eventually, David grows a pair and takes a stand against Sean’s manipulative, selfish behaviour. He fixes things with Kick, and his other friends, too. While the ending is kind of nice, I wouldn’t go so far to say that this is a feel good novel. Sean – whom I absolutely loathe, by the way – doesn’t really grow at all and appears to learn no lessons whatsoever. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m not of the opinion that the characters need to grow morally in a story to make it good. I’m just saying that Sean was the same frustrating ass at both the beginning and the end of the novel.

By the end, I was convinced that Sean’s simply one of those people that’s going to live a long, lonely and frustrating life. Being gay is something that he’ll never be comfortable with and he’ll continue to manipulate people like David forever. Something deep inside me says I should feel sorry for him, but I disliked him so much that I just couldn’t bring myself to do so.

David, however, is a much more likable character. Although he’s a bit of a pushover for most of the novel, and his naivety and inability to see his relationship with Sean for what it is, is kind of annoying, he grew a pair just at the right place in the story and he restored all my faith in him once more. Like with so many other novels I’ve read lately, I thanked my lucky stars that the novel was narrated through David’s point of view, and not Sean’s. Had it been the other way around, I may not have been able to finish.

I just have one question, for anyone that might have read this novel. Why oh why did David sleep with Kick? I mean, it fits the story I suppose, but I just don’t understand. He didn’t want to. He didn’t even have to. She knew he was gay. WHYYYYYYYY? I was angry with David for following through on this… I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on this scene.

The story flows well, and it’s pretty easy to read. I reckon lots of you out there might like this one.

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman
Book Reviews
July 6, 2009 posted by Nikki

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman

I’ve been trying to write my review of this novel for a few days now. Trying, and failing. So, I’ve decided to take an approach that I don’t normally follow. Instead of launching into a detailed description of plot and character, I’m going to post the blurb as shown on the back of the novel (so you at least get a little insight into what it’s all about), and then I want to discuss a few key literary devices that I thought worked well. This isn’t something I normally do, but I don’t think I can say what I want any other way. So here goes…

A lonely gay teen bides his time with trips to strangers’ funerals and Ouija board sessions, desperately searching for someone to love–and a reason to live following a suicide attempt.

Walking an empty stretch of New Jersey highway on an autumn night, he meets a strange and beautiful boy who looks like he stepped out of a dream. But the vision becomes into a nightmare when the boy turns out to be the local urban legend, the ghost of a star athlete killed in 1957–a ghost with a deadly secret and a dangerous obsession.

Vintage: A Ghost Story is an intense thriller that looks at the dark side of gay urban fantasy, where the dead can never rest and trapped spirits never find peace.

Although this novel is narrated in first person, the narrator has no name. Actually, that might not be entirely true, but if he does have a name, readers never find out what it is. The first time I read Vintage through, I felt that by not giving him a name, the author robbed the narrator of authority. Because he was nameless (and also gay), I felt like the author was trying to tell me that his identity didn’t matter, that being gay meant that he wasn’t worthy of a title like a name. I found myself getting all ticked off about the kinds of impressions that would leave on potential queer teens. However, I was so intrigued by this concept of a nameless narrator that as soon as I finished reading Vintage, I went back to the beginning and started again. I very quickly changed my mind over how I felt about this character. I realised that by not giving him a name, the author was actually empowering the character and inviting you, the reader, to assume his identity and really place yourself in the story. This, then, made the story more powerful and a whole lot more engaging than the first time I read it. This gave me the opportunity to step into his shoes, to not be myself for a few hours and really immerse myself in his world. I now saw that this gave the narrator loads of authority, unlike my previous assumptions.

I also enjoyed the fact that, while not necessarily ‘out’, and although the narrator had certainly encountered adversity because of his sexuality in the past, he seemed more than comfortable as a queer teen. He was not struggling to comes to terms with his sexuality, which was very refreshing. I thought that Vintage highlighted a really clear distinction between comfortably keeping one’s sexuality to himself, and fearfully doing so. Coming out should be the choice of the individual, and just because you’re comfortable with your sexuality doesn’t automatically mean that you have to come out. I really enjoyed this aspect of this novel.

Vintage is a quirky queer teen read that I’m almost certain would be enjoyed by readers both gay and straight. There’s something about a good old ghost story that has a real universal appeal. Watch out for the supernatural sexual encounter!
Rating:: ★★★½☆

Author Interview with Alex Sanchez
Author Interviews
June 21, 2009 posted by Nikki

Author Interview with Alex Sanchez

Alex Sanchez is the author of many young adult books featuring queer characters and relationships. His books have won many awards and he is regarded as one of the most popular and influential writers of fiction for gay youth. Some of his titles include The Rainbow Boys trilogy, The God Box, So Hard to Say, and Getting It. His latest novel, Bait, is in stores now. In celebration of Gay Pride Month, Alex was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions. Here’s what he had to say…

What made you decide to write books about gay teens?

I didn’t set out to write Y.A. Lit. When I wrote my first novel, Rainbow Boys, I was simply writing the book I wished I’d had available to read when I was a teen—a book that would’ve told me, “It’s okay to be who you are.” Part of who I was then was a very normal teenage boy trying to sort out love, friendship, sex, and sexuality.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Prior to becoming a full-time author, I worked as a website manager, organizational development consultant, juvenile probation officer, family counselor, scuba instructor, college recruiter, movie projectionist, agent trainee, movie production assistant, theatre usher, stock clerk, and tour guide. Who knows what else I might be doing?

We’re featuring The Rainbow Boys trilogy on our site this month for Gay Pride Month. Where did the inspiration for those books come about?

A lot of the inspiration came from seeing young people nowadays who have the courage and opportunity to come out and be themselves in high school. When I was in high school, the term “coming out” didn’t even exist. The early 70’s was a time when gay people were practically invisible. I thought I was the only one in the world with my feelings. This was back in the dark ages—before Will & Grace.

Which character – Jason, Kyle, or Nelson – came to you first?

I began writing the book in 1993, so I don’t remember which character came first. I wanted to write a love story between two teenage boys—that’s where Jason and Kyle came from. And I wanted to write about the friendship between two boys—that’s where Kyle and Nelson’s story came from. The triangle between the three boys is what makes the story hang together.

Why did you decide to write this series through three different points of view, rather than just one character’s perspective?

I wanted to allow the reader to experience how three very different gay and bisexual teenage boys experience the world differently.

Do you have a favourite out of the three boys?

Each boy captures an aspect of myself—and of universal human drives. Jason struggles to love himself. Kyle wants to find someone to love. Nelson wants to find someone to love him.

Jason loses his college scholarship when he comes out. Do you think this kind of thing is still a common occurrence in modern America?

Unfortunately, homophobia is alive and pervasive in America. I recently received the following words in an email from a boy who came out at his school:  “I ended up getting kicked off of like five activities. And I didn’t make the football, basketball, or baseball team even though I was captain in all three my junior year. And I wasn’t sure whether they’re allowed to do that. I mean, I’m not a bad athlete or anything.”

What do you have to say to teens that might be in Jason’s position?

Keep reaching out.  Never close up.  Never give up.  Hang in there.  You will get through this.  You are a wonderful human being.  Love, respect, and accept yourself for the beautiful soul you are.

While all three boys in The Rainbow Boys eventually come out, and are relatively happy with their decision to do so, not all teens are so lucky. What advice do you have for teens that might be struggling with coming out?

Coming out can be a very freeing thing. You no longer have to hide who you are, censor what your say, and watch what you do. Being honest and open enables you to feel confident about yourself and more able to form closer relationships with people. But because homophobia is so pervasive in our society, you never know how others will react. A big part of coming out is whether you’re prepared to deal with anti-gay reactions that may come from your being open. There is no rush to come out. TAKE YOUR TIME. The most important thing is that YOU love and accept yourself for who you are. Don’t do anything before you feel ready. It’s your life and your choice. Only you can decide if, how, with whom, and when to come out.


Where can questioning or gay teens find information that might help them through their self-discovery?

If you’re a teen and want to talk with someone, contact one of the organizations listed at my website, www.alexsanchez.com. And read all my books! They will help you.

Peace, Alex.

Gay Pride Extension
Site Updates
June 21, 2009 posted by Nikki

Gay Pride Extension

Hi yaReaders,

I am happy to report that the yaReads crew have decided to extend Gay Pride month into July. We received so many great books and we want to get them all reviewed and up for your reading pleasure, so we’re going to continue with the reviews for gay teens.

To the authors who sent us your book, if you haven’t seen your review appear yet, fear not. It is definitely on its way!

Happy reading.

Out of Left Field: Marlee’s Story – Barbara L. Clanton
Book Reviews
June 19, 2009 posted by Nikki

Out of Left Field: Marlee’s Story – Barbara L. Clanton

High school junior Marlee McAllister lives and breathes softball. She’s the pitcher for the Clarkson Cougars in the North Country of upstate New York. With the season opener approaching, Marlee and her best friend, Jeri D’Amico, go scout their rivals, the East Valley Panthers. The Panthers star pitcher, Christy Loveland, took the All County pitching title the preceding year. It’s a title that Marlee covets. Marlee and Jeri settle in for the game but as the Panthers take the field, Marlee finds herself staring at Susie Torres, the Panther left fielder.

And so starts the beginning of the biggest change in Marlee’s life. When Marlee realises that the feelings she’s experiencing for Susie are nothing like what it feels like to be with Bobby – her boyfriend – she begins to question why they’re even together. All he wants to do is make out and go parking, and that’s the last thing Marlee wants to do with Bobby. When Bobby leaves her for someone else, Marlee is shocked but also a little relieved.

Enter Susie. At a party one night, Susie tells Marlee that she thinks she beautiful. As soon as the words fall on Marlee’s ears, she feels completely unable to hold her feelings in any longer. The girls end up making out and so starts the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Unsure of how their friends will react, the two girls decide to keep their newfound love a secret. And it’s a good thing they do, because Susie’s best friend (and Marlee’s rival pitcher), Christy Loveland, wants Susie all to herself. Not in the same way that Marlee and Susie want each other, but her jealously becomes a major problem for the new couple all the same. Will the new couple survive the pressure so early on in their relationship?

What I loved about this book the most was Marlee’s immediate, unquestioned acceptance of her newfound sexuality. She didn’t go into denial, and she didn’t embark on a downward spiral of self-hate and loathing. When their friends found out that Susie and Marlee were dating, there were no homophobic reactions and certainly no friendships lost over the issue. This is the first book I’ve found for gay teens that doesn’t include the protagonist’s ‘coming out’ being met with a barrage of objections and hate. Although the two girls did express concern about how their loves ones would react, it wasn’t a huge issue and it was clear that they certainly weren’t going to let that stop them being together.  It was so refreshing (and joyous!) to read a novel for gay teens that shows the protagonist in positive circumstances, rather than the tragic ones that so often get published.

Out of Left Field
is a short, punchy feel-good read that gets straight to the point (no pun intended).

If you want information about Barbara’s other books, click here

Rating: : ★★★½☆

Rainbow High – Alex Sanchez
Book Reviews
June 17, 2009 posted by Nikki

Rainbow High – Alex Sanchez

The Rainbow Boys are back for another compelling read. The second installment in The Rainbow Boys trilogy finds Kyle, Jason and Nelson all struggling to make peace with their own personal issues.

High school is nearly over and Jason can’t wait to start college. Playing basketball at a college level has always been a dream of his; he’s even got a scholarship and all. But then Jason decides that he can’t bear to hide his sexuality anymore and comes out to his team and his classmates. Eventually word gets out that he’s dating Kyle and in a moment of victorious joy after a smashing win on the court, Jason is captured by local television cameras giving his boyfriend a celebratory kiss. Soon after, Jason’s life takes an awful turn and he receives a letter revoking his scholarship. Jason’s folks recently split up and he knows that without that scholarship, there is no way that Jason’s Ma can afford to send him away to college. There go his plans for an awesome college basketball career. And what about Kyle? They were going to college together. How is he supposed to tell Kyle that they’ll be apart next year?

Little does he know that Kyle is harboring a secret of his own. Kyle wants nothing more than to move away and start life afresh with Jason next year. In fact, it’s all he’s wanted since he and Jason started dating. But then Kyle receives an offer of a lifetime: he’s accepted to Princeton University. Kyle applied to Princeton before he started dating Jason, but now things have changed. He loves Jason. He wants to be with Jason forever. More to the point, he doesn’t want to be apart from Jason next year. How is that supposed to happen when they’re both going to different colleges in different states? There are plenty of colleges in the country, but there’s only one Jason. What will Kyle do?

Meanwhile, Nelson is having problems of his own. He’s mad at Kyle, for one. If Kyle accepts his offer from Princeton, all of Nelson’s college plans will be ruined. Kyle and Nelson were supposed to go to Tech together. It’s the only reason Nelson even applied to Tech. What is the point of going to Tech if his best friend isn’t with him?

Like Jason and Kyle, Nelson has finally found love. Jeremy is cute, sweet, and just a little bit older than Nelson. However, Jeremy is HIV positive. At first, Nelson doesn’t seem to care. Much to Kyle’s horror, Nelson isn’t being as careful with Jeremy as he should be. Nelson just wants to be with Jeremy and doesn’t think he should be treated differently because of his illness. But then Jeremy gets sick one day while they’re making out and Nelson gets a first hand account of what dealing with HIV can be like. Is he ready to be with someone so sick? And what kind of person does that make him if he’s not?

Being a teenager is hard enough; being a gay teenager can be hell. But as Jason, Kyle, and Nelson prove, friendship and love can conquer all kinds of hate, all kinds of challenges. Alex Sanchez’s characters are so alive in my mind they could literally walk off the page. Their individual struggles are presented in simple terms, allowing the reader to form their own opinion about the way the events are presented. Sanchez has a real knack for telling it like it is without telling you how you should feel about it. He’s a supremely talented writer and I think all teens should make the effort to read one – or all – of his books.

If you loved The Rainbow Boys then Rainbow High is a must for you.

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Gay Pride Month at yaReads…
News
June 4, 2009 posted by Nikki

Gay Pride Month at yaReads…

As the title suggests, in celebration of Gay Pride Month, yaReads is reading and reviewing a whole stack of books aimed at GLBT teens and readers of GLBT teen fiction. In addition to the book reviews, we’re also hosting interviews with some spectacular authors of queer fiction, and we’re running some great giveaways, too.

All you have to do is look for this banner: