I’ve recently read but not yet reviewed Matthew Keely’s novel The Stone in my Pocket since I’m waiting for its publishing date.
But in the meantime he sat down to give us a list of 7 queer novels so that our tbr pile can grow even higher.
Matthew Keely’s Thoughts
Growing up, I really don’t remember reading any books with LGBTQ representation in them – we certainly didn’t study or have any of them available to us at school. Luckily, things seem to be changing with the LGBTQ market thriving, particularly in Young Adult novels (and several of them are in my TBR pile!). In each of my own novels (I’m working on a third right now), I’ve naturally incorporated queer characters and themes of identity and prejudice have been central to what I write. Beyond my own work, though, here are some of my recommended books that I’ve enjoyed featuring LGBTQ characters and themes …
Matthew Keely’s Queer Recommendations
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
I’ve been raving about this since I read it a year or two ago. The only other John Boyne novel I’d read was The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas (and I wasn’t even sure he wrote outside of children’s literature) and this new novel was a suggestion at my staff book group. It’s a fairly hefty read but I absolutely devoured it. It tells the life story of Cyril Avery, a boy born illegitimately in 1940s Ireland who is adopted by a wealthy, semi-celebrity couple. We follow him throughout his fascinating life and the characterisation is beautiful. I was genuinely sobbing by the end of the book and I’ve been recommending it to people ever since. I’ll even read it again one day – rare for me.
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
This book is seven years old now but I still rave about it all the time. I came across it in a box of new books sent from a publisher to a school I worked in at the time and decided to take it away for a read on a whim. I’d finished it a few hours later (and usually I’m a fairly slow reader). It’s an incredibly endearing story about Alex, who is intersex (the only book I have read with this kind of representation) and it’s aimed at a middle-grade readership, I’d say. It was comedic, touching, and really cleverly narrated through first-person chapters and internet forum extracts, showcasing various people’s attitudes towards gender and sex. I’ve never heard other people talk about this book and so I try to highlight it to readers any chance I get.
This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel
This is a lovely read about a family whose youngest child, Poppy, is a trans girl. It paints every member of the family clearly and distinctively and I loved their bohemiam, progressive view of life. It’s not idealistic though, and their confrontations with society are realistic and often crushing. I’d never read a novel with such a young trans character before and I really hope it can change minds and hearts. It was also a selection for the Reese Witherspoon Book Club so I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a film or TV adaptation soon.
The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey
This is a relatively new release and historical fiction isn’t my usual go-to (and possibly not what you might expect to be the genre for a lesbian storyline). The book focuses on Hetty, a natural history museum curator, who’s been sent to Lockwood along with many of the taxidermied museum exhibits to escape the blitz. The house is full of mysteries and odd characters, though, and soon eerie events begin. I found the descriptions of the house and the animals really sumptuous and the love subplot captivating and heartbreaking at times. It also really reminded me of classics like Rebecca and Jane Eyre.
Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I actually only read this after seeing the film adaptation (Love, Simon – which I really enjoyed) and thought it was very sweet. I liked spotting all of the differences in the plotlines they made for the movie and I (of course) preferred the way events played out In the book. This is probably the most widely read book on my list but still worth a recommendation for anyone who hasn’t reached it yet. It’s funny and moving and I thought it really reflected teenage emotions of giddiness, hyperactive emotion, and romantic naivety.
Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers
I loved that this book didn’t have the gay character’s sexuality as the main plot focus (there’s also a bi character – again, it’s not a fixation of the narrative). It’s mentioned from time to time but really the story is a high school mystery set in a Scottish school – one of the reasons I loved it, being from Scotland! The book is hilarious at points and incredibly relatable, although since it’s written in Scots dialect, might be a little tricky for non-Scots to read it fluently.
Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
A little different from the others, Gypsy Boy is a memoir, written about Walsh’s childhood as a traveller in Ireland and the horrific experiences he endured. This should definitely come with a trigger warning for child abuse, violence, and sexual assault, but if you can cope with that this is worth a read to open your mind to a hidden experience of someone who had a tragic upbringing but who has emerged successfully and somewhat happily.
I am a writer, secondary school English teacher, and cat-devotee living in Glasgow, Scotland. Literature and the performing arts have been life-long passions for me and my first short story was published in January 2017. Since then I’ve had short stories, poems, personal essays, and arts reviews published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies.
My main focus is novel-writing and my debut science fiction novel, Turning the Hourglass, was published by Black Rose Writing in April 2019. Later that year it reached #1 on Amazon’s Kindle charts in the Time Travel, Post-Apocalyptic, and Dystopian sci-fi categories.
My second novel, The Stone in My Pocket, will be published through The Conrad Press in September 2020. [note from me: delayed, new publishing date probably in 2021]
As well as books, I also love cinema and theatre (and write a lot about this for The Wee Review!), yoga, vegan cooking, board games, travelling, attending my book group and cat-adoration. I’ve also just adopted four rescue hens so have, of course, fallen madly in love with them.
Connect with Matthew Keely on your preferred social media of choice or all of them.
The Stone in My Pocket
Before starting the new school term, Nathan hears a voice crying in his garden in the middle of the night. From his bedroom doorway, a shadowed figure watches him then vanishes. Seeking answers, he joins a spiritual circle held in the attic of the village bookshop. The leading medium, Iris, divines that the figure in his room was the spirit of Nathan’s late grandfather bringing his family warnings about money. But Nathan can’t tell his parents any of this. Not only is his mother a devout Catholic, but she and his father stopped believing his strange stories long ago. As Nathan’s fixation with Iris and the spirit world deepens, hiding the circle is becoming more difficult. And now an unexpected phone call from his English family suggests his grandfather’s message is about to come true.
Categories: Guest Posts