I was asked for a recent guest post to list my personal top ten books of all time. But honestly, the thought of having to conjure and then commit to a list of my ten all-time favourites is positively panic-inducing.
And frankly, I would probably have needed another ten years added to that deadline if I were to even to try, anyway. So instead, given that I write LGBT YA fiction, I decided to put together a list of my personal all-time top-ten favourite LGBT books for young adults. I apologise to any books I have adored and forgotten. I’m getting old.
The ones I chose are for a bunch of reasons. Some because they served an important purpose in a certain place and time. Some because of an element or two I adored in them, even if they haven’t stood the test of time for me. Some because I think they’re brilliantly written.
Clancy of the Undertow, Christopher Currie (Goodreads)
A delightful Aussie read about growing up gay in a small town where it does not pay to be different. While she wrestles with a whole lot family drama, a reputation for being a weirdo (second only to her brother), and being dogged by an impossible crush on the town hot girl, Clancy is doing it hard. But she’s also got a dry wit, a smart take on life, and a survivor’s instinct to help her get by. This wry, funny protagonist is one of my favourite YA heroines.
Loaded, Christos Tsiolkas (Goodreads)
While this forceful, passionate Australian gay classic was marketed for adults, it’s about a nineteen-year-old, making it young adult enough for me to grace this list. Ari is young, gay, and disenchanted with his Greek family, his job and the world in general. In one epic night out in Melbourne, he confronts all the pain and poetry that can be found in all the conflicting aspects of his life. This book is beautiful and ugly in all the right ways.
Pages for You, Sylvia Brownrigg (Goodreads)
Lyrical and nostalgic, it’s a beautiful rendering of a first-year university student’s first relationship with a woman, narrated from start to finish. Despite its sometimes overly purple prose, the book tells bittersweet truths about the universalities of the beginning, middle and inevitable denouement of most relationships—even the happy ones—in a way that really resonated with me.
Ask the Passengers, A.S King (Goodreads)
If I had to pick a favourite, this might be it. I love how conflicted Astrid is through the process of coming-out, and how frustrated she is with the notion of having to define oneself so wholly to do so. The narrator is smart and wry and honest, and this story is just a bit different from so many other stories about teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality. It’s one that tells you that half the work (if not more) of coming out is about coming out to yourself, not to the rest of the world.
Valencia, Michelle Tea (Goodreads)
I found a copy of this book about the chaos that comes with being young, broke, gay and champing at the bit to experience everything in a Melbourne second-hand bookshop right at a time when I was young, gay, living in the thick of the inner-city and feeling exactly the same way. I’m not sure how I’d feel about this book now, but at the time something about its poetic but gritty urbanity really spoke to me. Even if I didn’t always identify the characters, and it feels dated now, it made me feel something that at the time was very valuable: valid.
Not Otherwise Specified, Hannah Moskowitz (Goodreads)
This book is about a bisexual teenager, Etta, who’s got a boatload of problems, but spirit’s not one of them. This book bursts at the seams with the true voice, contradictions and conflicts of being a teenager in a world that wants you to fit neatly into it when you just cannot or will not. Another book I adored for it’s forceful, honest narrator. She’s articulate, hilarious and smarter than any teen has a right to be.
Dive, Stacy Donovan (Goodreads)
I discovered this story recently and really loved this book for it’s unique and lyrical writing style. A Lambda Literary Award nominee back in 1994, it follows a brief time in the life of V. And not a great time either. Her dad’s seriously ill, her dog’s been hit by a car, and her best friend’s being weird. But she finds her escape in the form of Jane…
Annie on my Mind, Nancy Garden (Goodreads)
Because this is the YA classic. And even though it’s dated now, it has so much to offer. It’s a book about two girls falling in love in a time where there weren’t many girls visibly in love. This meant Annie and Liza were totally on their own as they figured out the nature of their feelings for each other. This renders their journey to realisation both painful and beautiful.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily M Danforth (Goodreads)
I love this book for being such a YA epic. It tells the entire story of Cameron’s childhood and teenage years, and the pain and the hardship of growing up gay in a small-minded place. It’s written beautifully, and makes itself important by giving this young, gay character’s life the complete rendering it deserves.
Tell Me Again how a Crush Should Feel, Sara Farizan (Goodreads)
For me this book about Leila who is trying her best not to come out, particularly to her Iranian family, makes this list for the writing more than anything. It’s a style of voice, characterisation and prose that just speaks to me in a really satisfying way. And Farizan wasn’t afraid of portraying complex and conflicting feelings in her characters, even in a ‘light’ book, which always makes me truly, deeply happy.
Read: “Those Awkward Straight Girl Crushes“. The bane of every teen lesbian’s existence.
Emily O’Beirne is a writer of LGBT young adult fiction.
Here’s the Thing is due to be released on October 19.
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The A Story of Now Series is available for purchase in hard copy of eBook at Ylva Publishing, or on Amazon.
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