This posting shines a light on fiction and nonfiction gay characters  coming to terms with their identities, their coming out experiences and their questioning relationships with family and friends.

WHAT IF IT’S US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (YA)

Boy meets boy. Boy loses boy. Boy finds boy (about 100 pages later). Boys fall in love. Boys disagree and separate. Boys reconnect and then ‘carry on’.  This story is told in alternative voices of Ben and Arthur and is and provides honest insights into the dating game and the challenge and thrill of finding love as a gay (or straight) teenager. An up-to-the minute setting, social media, Hamilton (the musical) and all. Highly enjoyable read.

BIRTHDAY by Meredith Russo (YA)

Born on the same day, Eric and Morgan have maintained deep bonds, and deep secrets, which become tested in adolescenthood. Morgan feels trapped in a mixed-up body and Eric feels trapped by his romantic preferences. The book is written in alternating voices and chunked into sections that recognize the two boys birthdays from 13 to 18 years of age. A story about devout loyalty, being gay, and questioning gender identity and a novel to be celebrated not only for its engaging story, but for its authenticity having been written by a transgender author. Bravo, Meredith Russo.

THE  57 BUS by Dashka Slater (YA nonfiction)

Sasha identifies as transgender. Richard is an Afro American adolescent, reckless and carefree. A ride on Bus 57 brings these two young people together through a harrowing incident that has Richard setting fire to Sasha’s skirt while she is sleeping. Sasha is severely burned and Richard is sent to juvenile prison awaiting charges for the hate crime.  What makes this story particularly gutsy as the incident is true. This is a story of class, race, gender, right and wrong, justice and injustice. Events are reported episodically in one to four page spreads. This news story from 2013 will engage readers, arouse empathy and ignite questions about morality and forgiveness and the of executing a hateful deed ‘just for the fun of it. Powerful.

DEPOSING NATHAN by Zack Smedley (YA fiction)

Nate and Cam have been best friends throughout their whole lives and their journey as adolescents challenge their relationship and expose their attraction to one another. An incident involving a fistfight lands Cam in Jail. The story is told as a deposition, where Nate is being ordered, under oath, to confess some truths that will change their lives.

LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (YA Graphic novel)

Frederica (Freddy), an Asian teenager, is besoughted with Laura Dean who chooses to casually move in and out of romantic adventures, which breaks Freddy’s heart. Artist, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell uses black, white, grey and salmon pink to present some stark visual images. Visuals are well crafted and varied in perspectives, but % of the visuals being wordless, they didn’t always add to the narrative or emotional impact of this lesbian relationship. Really the title says it all, but it this story of longing, delusions and heartbreak is often heartbreaking that is part of many adolescent romantic experiences, straight or gay .

ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong (adult fiction)

What an intriguing poetic title! What an intriguing, poetic story! Ocean Vuong is staggering writer. The book is written as a letter from son to mother and is rooted in Vietnamese history, familial ties, masculinity and gay love. A strong, strange, marvelous read.

SHOUT OUT (picture book)

A PLAN FOR POPS by Heather Smith; illus. Brooke Kerrigan

Grandpa and Pops are a couple. Granddaughter Lou visits her grandparents every Saturday and enjoys good times going to the library, eating inventive meals (spaghetti and waffles) and building contraptions. One day, Pops has a fall and is confined to his room. This is a beautiful picture book, with simplicity and aptly deserves the adjective ‘heartwarming’. The relationship between the two senior men and the loving care given to grandchild Lou is told with simplicity and yes, normalcy.  Lovely!

A Plan for Pops

 5 Middle Years Novels

Hurricane Child Kheryn Callendar

The Lotterys Plus One Emma Donoghue

One True Way Shannon Hitchcock

Stitches Glen Huser

The Best Man Richard Peck

5 YA Novels

Moon at Nine Deborah Ellis

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Kirsten Cronn-Mills

Be My Love Kit Pearson

Gracefully Grayson Ami Polonsky

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saez