A Pile of YA Novels with Non-binary Protagonists (Part 1!)

For my thesis (which is now actually “nearly done” and will, come hell or high water, actually be submitted sometime in the middle of 2022) I analysed YA novels with non-binary protagonists. When I tell people that, often they’re surprised that there are enough books in that niche to make a study out of. And I get to say “yeah! There’s more than you might expect! In fact, I had to change the whole format of a chapter because there were too many to talk about all at once!”

So in celebration of nearly, actually, almost being done, and in celebration of the many fantastic books that have filled this category over the past couple of years (making said thesis, in its current state, possible!) I’ve compiled a pile of them for your perusal.

Please note this is only a handful of personal recommendations from within my studies: there are others I haven’t written about and others I haven’t read yet. Plus, this list is narrowed to non-binary protagonists (here defined as “a main POV character”) and if I included texts with non-binary love interests or ensemble cast members, there would be even more! More books exploring the complexity of gender in a variety of genres are being published each year, so no doubt I’ll come back and make more lists in future! For now, though, read on…

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Podcast | Spring 2022 Midseason Check-in

Caitlin, Alex, and Peter check in on an absolutely packed Spring season and it’s many good dads, rap battles, and games of volleyball!

Listen to the episode here!

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Our Flag Means Death and the Treasure Hunt for Queer Genre Fiction

This post contains spoilers for the end of Our Flag Means Death season one.

Traditionally, fiction centring on queer characters has tended to be anchored in contemporary realism, making genre works—sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, historical, etc.— exciting and notable. This is true for basically every field and medium you look to: statistical studies like Malinda Lo’s note that “Historically, LGBTQ YA books have mostly been contemporary realistic novels”, making the slow increase of more genre works for that demographic intriguing. In the world of anime and manga, yuri, BL, and more general LGBTQIA+ focused titles also tend towards realistic settings, making series like Otherside Picnic and The Executioner and Her Way of Life really stand out for their clear positionality in sci-fi and high fantasy respectively.

When we get mainstream queer titles onscreen, they tend to be the Love, Simons and The Miseducation of Cameron Posts of the world. And these, of course, are important advancements! Every queer film that hits cinemas, every queer series that hits streaming services, is part of the evolving history of queer storytelling, and dismissing any one of them because they’re “just the same realist tropes again” isn’t helpful.

But it does mean that when a major network releases a work of queer fantasy, sci-fi, or in this case historical fiction, it stands out as something new and noteworthy. And it opens new, unique possibilities and ways forward that ought to be studied and celebrated alongside the simple fact of a “gay pirate show” existing.

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Spring 2022 3(ish) Episode Check-in

Spring is shaping up to be packed with excellent heroines and good kids. Come along and see my impressions of Heroines Run the Show, Recipe for Happiness, and The Executioner and Her Way of Life, as well as the hard work of my co-staffers!

Read the full post on AniFem!

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The Epic Highs and Lows of High School Golf: April ’22 Roundup

Here goes another month of exciting antics! See what I’ve been up to below…

On AniFem

First impressions season is here again, featuring…

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – a rom-com that unfortunately doesn’t give me much to giggle about.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls Story – the most intense golfing you’ll see on TV.

Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer! – a silly fantasy comedy where the best character is the bear.

Fanfare of Adolescence – horse boys? Horse boys.

Healer Girl – healing girls? Healing girls.

Thermae Romae Novae – bath time fun in Ancient Rome.

Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs – a stuck-in-a-game isekai with nothing but contempt for the genre it’s apparently parodying.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the team’s reviews, organised here for your convenience!

Anime Feminist Recommendations of Winter 2022 – and don’t forget to look back at the previous season and celebrate the best titles from that!

Around the web

The adaptation of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper navigates the harsh realities faced by young queer people and comes out as a deeply wholesome and uplifting little love story—and, as James argues, it’s arrived in pop culture at just the right time in history.

Xiran’s take on Pixar’s latest and the conversations around it, ultimately celebrating the movie for its honest depiction of teenage girlhood and the aspects of that experience that end up “taboo” in most media.

Navigating Your Cultures: Himawari House – a heartfelt review of this graphic novel about three young women from different Asian backgrounds rooming together while they study in Tokyo, and what it gets right about cross-cultural communication, fitting-in-but-not-fitting-in, and figuring out where you sit in relation to your heritage and the world around you.

Silly Pirate Show Our Flag Means Death is a Shot Across the Bow of Queerbaiting – depending on where you are in the Internet, it may seem as if everyone was suddenly obsessed with pirates falling in love—and for good reason!

Killing Eve(n When You Should Know Better): The Persistence of the “Bury Your Gays” Trope – what the hell happened in the series finale to Killing Eve, why is everyone so upset about it, and what alternatives are out there for queer storytelling that is tragic while remaining satisfying?

Following the Song: Listening, Learning, and Knowing – Indigenous PhD student Lisa Fuller (remember that great horror novel Ghost Bird? That’s her) talks through the rigid expectations of academia, and how “decolonising the curriculum” is difficult when the whole system of knowledge is rooted in colonial thinking.

The song on repeat this month is this funky, hypnotic little gem:

Take care all—regularly scheduled posts are back in a few days!

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Anime Feminist’s Recommendations of Winter 2022

Winter 2022 has been pretty hectic for the AniFem staff, but we still found time to make one of our biggest seasonal rec posts in almost a year!

Read the full post on AniFem!

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Premiere Review | Don’t Hurt Me, My Healer!

What’s it about? A world full of monsters needs heroes, and a world full of heroes needs healers. Wandering warrior Alvin doesn’t have a healer with him, so it theoretically should be good news when a dark elf named Carla turns up mid-beast-battle and offers her services. The trouble is, Alvin can’t stand Carla—and, thanks to the curse she accidentally placed on him, any attempt to ditch her will lead directly to his death. Oops!

I think how you feel about this premiere will largely depend on a few things: how you feel about the “two characters who don’t really like each other get handcuffed together and must go on an adventure” trope (magical edition), how you feel about goofy fantasy comedy, and how you feel about Carla. There are some funny elements to be found in My Healer, but the question is whether or not they mesh and whether or not the premise can sustain itself over multiple episodes.

Read the full review on AniFem!

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Premiere Review | BIRDIE WING – Golf Girls Story –

What’s it about? Eve plays golf for money… but not in the way you might think. You need someone to be your body double while you recover from a leg injury? Eve will put on a mask and become you for a day. You want to bet you can beat her in a high-octane, underworld tournament? You better hand over your money. She’s not a pro, but she is the best in the biz—and she has to be, to protect her friends and family from the cops.

Yes, that’s what this show is about. If you saw “golf” and “girls” and assumed this was going to be a quiet little sports anime about teenagers learning to putt, rearrange your expectations before going into this one. Or don’t—hitting play totally unprepared and letting this episode hit me upside the head was certainly an experience.

Read the full review on AniFem!

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Premiere Review | Fanfare of Adolescence

What’s it about? Teen idol Arimura Yu has just shocked the nation by announcing he’s retiring from the entertainment industry to attend a prestigious horse racing academy. Some of his classmates are more eager to welcome him than others, but when two horses get loose he finds an unexpected ally and an unexpected chance to prove himself.

Honestly, it’s fun watching sports anime get increasingly niche, taking us into territory that hasn’t been covered as thoroughly (not that Fanfare is the first horse racing anime—though these are characters who ride horses rather than characters who are horses). Thankfully, though, this premiere doesn’t run on novelty value alone: while it’s formulaic in some ways, it’s also competently put together, nice to look at, and dare I say might even be setting out to interrogate the idol industry along the way.

Read the full review on AniFem!

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Premiere Review | Healer Girl

What’s it about? Healing is a method in which music and song can be used as medicine. Ever since she was saved by a Healer as a child, Kana has been determined to follow in that stranger’s footsteps and become the best Healer she can be. She’s one of the most eager apprentices at the practice where she works, though as a trainee she’s not allowed to use her newfound skills to help people… yet.

Like a strawberry shortcake sitting in a bakery window, Healer Girl draws you in for a cute, sweet, simple treat with tried-and-tested ingredients. The recipe is a mix of familiar tropes: a plucky newcomer, a stern but fair mentor, wholesome motivations; and a situation in which said plucky novice has to break the rules to Do the Right Thing, revealing her above-average talent along the way. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing new, so how much this premiere grabs you will depend on how much you enjoy this particular combination of flavors.

Read the full review on AniFem!

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