Top Ten Tuesday: Queer YA Books for School

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday Freebie, which you know is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, I’m recommending queer YA books I wish were part of my school’s curriculum. Instead of, say, The Confusions of Young Törless.

Queer Young Adult Books for School

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

Goodreads | Amazon*

This Is Not a Love Story by Suki Fleet

When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.

Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.

This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy).

Goodreads | Amazon* | my Review of This is not a Love Story

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.
As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means. 

Goodreads | Amazon* | my Review of The Art of being normal

Here’s the Thing by Emily O’Beirne

It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.

But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella.

As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind.

Goodreads | Amazon* | my Review of Here’s the Thing

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded town. And that rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior hockey team is about to compete in the national championships, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of the town now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

A victory would send star player Kevin onto a brilliant professional future in the NHL. It would mean everything to Amat, a scrawny fifteen-year-old treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice. And it would justify the choice that Peter, the team’s general manager, and his wife, Kira, made to return to his hometown and raise their children in this beautiful but isolated place.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Hers is a story no one wants to believe since the truth would mean the end of the dream. Accusations are made, and like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Goodreads | Amazon*

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

From the author of Lucky Few comes a “refreshing” (Booklist, starred review) teen novel about Internet fame, peer pressure, and remembering not to step on the little people on your way to the top!

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka suddenly finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust in the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaption of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the 40,000 new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr gifs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with a fellow award nominee suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Goodreads | Amazon* | my Review of Tash Hearts Tolstoy

A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelley York

James Spencer is hardly the typical “troubled youth” who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends and indulging in his love of writing, while contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.

The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years. Rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts… James is the only one who believes him.

James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.

Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’s determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding… Especially if it means keeping William and himself from becoming the next victims.

Goodreads | Amazon* | my Review of A Light amongst Shadows

Proxy by Alex London

Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

Goodreads | Amazon*

Bookish Thoughts about Queer Books for School

Queer People exist.

’nuff said.

Thinking back to when I was in school, which admittedly has been over a decade, I can’t remember a book we had to read and analyze in school that was in any way diverse. And that’s not okay. It’s simply not okay.

I’m pretty sure, diversity wasn’t a part of any subject. Well, there was one hour of (Christian) religious studies where Islam was talked about. But… to be honest not in a good way. Especially because the Catholic teacher started with how he is so disappointed how there are no Muslim students in his class because he would have loved to teach them the truth about Islam.

Let that sink in for a moment.

And then let the rage begin. Sadly, as a teen, I wasn’t able to speak up to authority, so I didn’t rebel against that.

But The Queer Bookish is about Queerness, so I focused on queer books – there’s still a book featuring a Muslim side character, which works nicely as a fuck you to that teacher.

My school experience was cis heteronormative according to the curriculum. Not even once was someone being gay a possibility, let alone someone being trans*, aspec, or simply… questioning their identity. How can that be? Especially if you’re considering fucking Törleß with its possible raping scene between boys. Was that talked about during that class? Yes. Was there even a hint of queerness discussed? Nope.

I’m really hoping the curriculum has been diversified in the meantime but I’m not very hopeful, to be honest.

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