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…
How might the liminal, mischievous, underdog figure of the Trickster lend itself to stories about queer teens?
Take a peek into one of my thesis chapters in this short video! Originally presented at the Fresh From the Fight: Heroes, Villains and Tricksters in Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Culture conference held virtually at the University of British Columbia, 2nd – 4th July 2021.
Rainbow rep: a trans boy protagonist (with a “niggling feeling” that he’s not 100% a guy, and an arc towards identifying as a demiboy), an m/m romance with a bi love interest, an all-queer background cast and an exploration of queer community and the ups and downs therein
Content considerations: transphobic language and actions from antagonistic characters, head-on engagement with discrimination within queer circles, subplots about homophobic abuse from parents
Premise: Felix comes to his prestigious art school one morning to find the lobby plastered with a “gallery” of photographs hacked from his Instagram account, all depicting him pre-transition. Felix is sure that this is the work of his ex-friend (and scholarship rival) Declan and is determined to get revenge. Against the advice of his protective best friend Ezra, Felix creates an online persona named Lucky to befriend—and whittle deep dark secrets out of—Declan. But the catfishing scheme goes awry when it transpires that not only is Declan innocent, but he seems to be falling in love with “Lucky”… leaving Felix in the middle of a weird digital love triangle, and with even fewer clues than before.