Tag Archives: Gay and Lesbian Teen Books

Without Sin – J. Tomas
Book Reviews
July 14, 2009 posted by Nikki

Without Sin – J. Tomas

Sixteen-year-old Jacob Smithson has a temper. He’s picked on because he likes boys, and fighting gets him kicked out of public school. As a last resort, his parents place him in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Boarding School for Boys. At his first mass at St. Thomas he sees Avery Dendritch, a senior who serves as altar boy during the service. When they meet, the attraction between them is hard to deny. The two become fast friends, and as the school year progresses, their friendship deepens until Jacob feels he’s found a place where he belongs. But the other students gossip about their growing relationship. Avery can ignore them; Jacob can’t. As the rumors and slurs start up again, can he curb his temper, or will his fighting get him expelled from St. Thomas, too?

I can’t make up my mind whether or not I liked this book. I read it a few days ago and I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons ever since. I think it’s probably safest to say that I’m sitting on the fence with this one. If you want to know my reasons, continue reading.

Con: Although Without Sin is narrated by two characters (something which I normally love), I couldn’t bring myself to feel any kind of attachment to either Jacob or Avery. Their “voices” were too similar for any real distinction to be made. They both seemed kind of shallow and I felt like they fell in “love” too fast. For me, their relationship was based on physical attraction only, and this is something I can never relate to.

Pro: This novel wasn’t censored in any way. So many young adult novels portray teen characters as all too innocent, something which I feel is a misrepresentation of many youth today. Without Sin does not do this, and it explores teenage sexual desires well. I felt this aspect of this novel was truthful and dealt with appropriately.

Con: Although I was impressed by the lack of censorship, the issue of sex seemed to be all it was about. There was very little plot, except one huge build up to the point where the two boys finally have sex.  Because of this, it didn’t hold my attention that well and I found I had to force myself to keep reading.

Pro: I liked the ending. While I’m not going to tell you what it is, I found the ending to be quite realistic. It’s refreshing to find a novel where everything isn’t wrapped up in a fairy tale ending. Readers are given closure, but it’s not all happily ever after, if you know what I mean. Snaps to J Tomas for pulling this off so well.

Every time I think I make up my mind about this one, it changes right back again. So I’m not going to provide a summary opinion. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself this time.

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☆

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:: ★★★★☆