2021 was another categorically Really Weird Year, but gosh there were some good books! This is my personal list of favourites, ranging from chaotic coming-of-age comedies to mythical urban fantasies to mecha battles to portal fantasies to time-hopping romances and back again. Take a look and see what catches your eye—and as always, let me know what your favourite reads were! There are always, always more novels to add to the pile.
(A title like “Best Queer Books I Read in 2021” would be superfluous—basically, assume these have queer protagonists or at least main ensemble cast members. It is the sensible option at this point on this blog)
The portal fantasy subgenre and its themes of displacement, liminality, and “strange” children coming-of-age in even stranger otherworlds, has been read queerly by many readers across its history. From foundational academics like Alexander Doty to contemporary authors like A.J. Hackworth, many have noted the thematic and allegorical undercurrents in the portal fantasy that resonate with, and provide valuable escapism and catharsis to, young queer readers.
Seanan McGuire’s 2016 novella Every Heart a Doorway takes a playful, metatextual approach to the portal fantasy, not only by interrogating its tropes and history but by unambiguously portraying queer characters in the genre. By giving her fantasy narrative to a cast of explicitly queer characters, McGuire acknowledges the queer resonance that has long been present in the genre and brings it to the surface of her work, creating a dual-layer of queerness in the text that interweaves magical metaphor with textual LGBTQIA+ representation.
The novella Every Heart a Doorway asks “what happens to the kids who come back from those portal fantasy adventures we all know and love, but can’t quite adjust to life back in the so-called real world?” On a deeper, even more metatextual level, the story also asks “what if we took all that queerness bubbling away in the portal fantasy genre and brought it to the surface?”
Presented at the South Australian Gender, Sex, and Sexuality conference 2019, and now recorded and YouTube-ified for ease of access!
The reviews and recommendations continue! This time round we have two different flavours of fantastical political intrigue and a gorgeously Gothic exploration of identity and freedom. Continue reading →
And we’re back, with three more gloriously varied entries in the field of queer YA! This time we have a contemporary Australian coming-of-age story, a cheesy urban fantasy, and an exploration of trauma and yearning after coming “home” from a quest in a magical world. Take a gander and see if any call to you… Continue reading →