Tag Archives: YA fiction

Boy Meets Boy: A Fantasy Novel…?

boy meets boy

Boy Meets Boy is a sweet little story about the complications and shenanigans of adolescence and first love, set in a world so accepting of its LGBTQ+ youth that it broke genre. Critics and reviewers had no idea how to categorise this novel when talking about it. By all counts, it’s a contemporary YA romance: as author David Levithan himself described it, it’s a pretty simple “boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back” love story. The difference is, of course, that that plot is usually “boy meets girl”. It’s this queer twist on a recognisable formula, combined with the delightful unusualness of the story’s setting, that sent everyone into a headspin. This novel could not simply be labelled a YA love story—it had to be “fantasy” “utopian” or “magical realism”. The whole thing conjures up the mental image of an office full of reviewers clutching at their hair, staring into space, muttering “but the gay kids are happy—so it can’t be realistic fiction!” Continue reading

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre, Fun with Isms

Words in Deep Blue: Poignant, Poetic, and Only a Little Pretentious

words-in-deep-blue

There’s a unique sort of eccentricity and, dare I say it, magic, that surrounds second-hand bookstores. There’s also a unique sort of intellectual pretentiousness that surrounds novels about how great novels are. Cath Crowley’s award-winning Words in Deep Blue blends a bit of one with a little of the other and somehow manages to be poignant rather than snobbish and literary, weaving together a story about love, grief, and the strange power that words have to preserve moments and feelings that are otherwise gone. There’s a somewhat dull collection of straight teen love triangles clustered in there as well, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Rachel and Henry have been best friends since they were tiny, and because this is YA and they’re a boy and a girl respectively, we can reasonably assume where this is going. Just before Rachel’s family is due to move out of town, Henry starts dating the beautiful, air-headed and kind of nasty Amy (all optimal qualities for a romantic rival), and Rachel realises this is her last chance to tell him How She Really Feels. She leaves a letter confessing her love tucked into The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock because she knows it’s his favourite poem, then vanishes into the night. In all the letters he sends her at her new address, Henry never acknowledges the love confession, instead opting to write gleefully about his adventures with his super cool new girlfriend. Rachel, increasingly and understandably bitter, lets communication with her once-dearest friend sputter out, to the point where she doesn’t even tell him when her younger brother drowns. Continue reading

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When Michael Met Mina: Actually, Yes, Let’s Make It About Race

When Michael Met Mina

But the thing is, I wear my politics like hand-me-down clothes: some bits feel like they don’t fit properly, but I expect I’ll grow into them, trusting that because they’re from my parents they’ve come from a good source.

-P.32

When Michael Met Mina is a novel about realising that sometimes the people you love have unforgivable shitty opinions. Or at least, I feel like that’s the most poignant theme of the novel, and the one that is most resonant and relevant in our current social and political climate. Michael, one of the story’s two narrators, is not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination, he’s just an average teenaged boy from Sydney who likes sports and video games and also believes that Muslims are terrible and refugees shouldn’t be protected by the government. His parents, the founders of the Aussie Values political party, are also not bad people necessarily, in fact they’re really quite lovely people, they’re also just horribly and vocally bigoted. As Michael says, “The scariest thing about people like […] my parents is not that they can be cruel. It’s that they can be kind too.” And boy, isn’t that the Realest thing ever? Continue reading

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Asexual Awareness Week: Two YA Novels with Complex, Geeky, Lovable Demi Protagonists

Radio Silence Afterworlds

It’s Asexual Awareness Week, which means that though I’d do it any time of the year, it’s the optimal time of the year to recommend and gather recommendations of media with asexual protagonists. Today I want to talk about two brilliant geeky YA novels with main characters that are not only relatable, complicated, and funny, but sit on a perhaps lesser-known place on the asexual spectrum: these are two characters who are confirmed as demisexual.

Demisexuality is when you only begin to feel sexually attracted to people once you form a strong emotional bond with them. The most common misconceptions about it tend to be that the demi in question is just “picky” and chooses to get to know people first, or that they’re no longer, or never really were, asexual at all once they find someone they like enough to be attracted to. As with the many grey areas along the ace spectrum, it can be a tricky thing to both explain to people and define for yourself, especially given how society so easily conflates romantic, aesthetic, and sexual attraction all together as one big amorphous thing when they’re really separate and very different feelings—and, as always, different for every individual person!

I know that I’m somewhere under the ace umbrella, but finding an exact word to define my unique, personal scenario has kind of felt like I’m a sleep-deprived detective staring at a conspiracy board trying to link evidence together with bits of string. While I’m still bumbling along trying to figure myself out, it was immensely rewarding and heartwarming to read these two books where characters (who are younger than me, mind you) get to not only find happiness in their ace identities and have fulfilling relationships, but get to be the stars of moving and engaging stories.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Clancy of the Undertow: A Delightful and Unconventional YA Protagonist

Clancy

Remember how I said I hadn’t read any novels since the start of the year? Yeah, poor Clancy of the Undertow has been sitting, patiently, on my desk since literally February. Which is a damned shame, I tell you—this was a wonderful little queer coming of age story set to a wonderfully rich (but not overdone) backdrop of small town Australia, paring back what could have been a story all about The Hardships of Being Gay in a Small Town to an intricate and fun character study of our titular leading lady, Clancy. Though it was recommended (and loaned, by a generous person who now finally has their book back after seven months) to me on the basis of it being Some Good, Good Gay YA, Clancy’s sexuality isn’t the focus of the book nor the focus of her character arc. It’s much more than that, and Clancy is built into a detailed, believable picture of a girl that became one of my favourite YA protagonists I’ve come across. Continue reading

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Filed under Alex Reads, And I Think That's Neat

Overthinking Bargain Books: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

necromancer

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an old proverb that we all know, and while it’s lovely as a metaphor about acceptance and understanding, there’s an entire industry devoted to the fact that we do this literally all the time. If I’m scanning a pile or web page full of books not looking for anything specifically, I’ll pick up the ones with eye-catching, interesting covers or titles that jump out to me. This title-based method is how I ended up reading Aphrodite’s Workshop for Reluctant Lovers and The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex. I read Sellevision because it was meant to be a witty satire of home shopping channels, and I mean, it certainly was that, but it was also a bizarre and hellish rollercoaster of an experience.

Anyway, this is also how I ended up reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer—I saw it in a sea of Book Depository sales items and went “Whoa, now, what is going on there?” It’s not just a pun, but a singable pun, and promises to be about raising the dead. A book with that much ridiculousness and black humour just in its name had to either be amazing or terrible. Unfortunately, Lish McBide’s debut novel with the delightful pun title wasn’t bad, but didn’t commit to being dreadful either, so it just ended being kind of heartbreakingly mediocre. With spontaneous cage sex. Continue reading

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Platonically in Love with Radio Silence

radio-silence

He laughed again and hid his face under the blanket. “Why are you so nice to me?”
“Because I’m an angel.”
“You are.” He stretched out his arm and patted me on the head. “And I’m platonically in love with you.”
“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

Radio Silence p.108

[This post is mostly spoiler free! Minor spoilers are noted when they appear.]

Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence has rocketed into place alongside Fangirl and Afterworlds to form a sort of holy trifecta of YA books that effectively present and deal with fandom and creativity. Though, interestingly enough, out of those three Fangirl stands out like a sore thumb for being comparatively super straight and super white. But Radio Silence stands out, to me, as well as for being a book about creativity, for being a book that is overwhelmingly and positively about the love between friends. Which, though it’s an integral part of most people’s lives, you don’t normally see as the star concept of a novel.

Radio Silence follows seventeen-year-old British-Ethiopian study machine Frances Janvier, who knew she wanted to get into Cambridge University as soon as she heard of it at age ten and figured that was where the smart people went. She became Head Girl so it would look good on her Cambridge application. She has read hundreds of books she can’t really get her head around so the list will look long and impressive in her Cambridge interview. She’s not really friends with any of her friends because what she’s best at is studying, and when they make fun of her for being boring her immediate response is always “fair enough”. Her only spark of passion outside the Cambridge goal is a surreal sci-fi podcast called Universe City, which she secretly adores and spends her spare time drawing fan art for. So imagine her surprise when the podcast’s creator asks her to do the official art for the show… and imagine her double surprise when the creator turns out to be a quiet and unassuming friend-of-a-friend she knows in real life. Continue reading

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