LGBT fiction

All posts tagged LGBT fiction

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Published August 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

What did I think?:

If you’ve not heard of A Little Life before now where the devil have you been? Critically acclaimed, this incredibly powerful novel was short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in 2015, was a finalist for the National Book Award in the same year and won the Kirkus Prize in Fiction, also in 2015. I jumped on the bandwagon a bit later (as usual!) in February of 2016 but because of my back-log in reviews I’m only getting round to reviewing it now. There is also the minor fact that I can’t seem to form any coherent thoughts about it without wanting to turn into a blubbering mess but we’ll leave that to the side for now!

A Little Life is not an easy read, far from it and as a result may not be for everyone. There are trigger warnings for physical and sexual abuse but the entire novel felt like an insanely emotional roller-coaster for me. The story follows four friends in New York and we learn a little bit about each of their lives and the bonds of friendship that tie them all together. However, we mainly hear from Willem and more specifically Jude, the latter of whom has undergone major trauma and suffering in his past – trauma that still deeply affects him in his everyday life, threatens to spoil his future happiness and has the potential to ruin relationships with those dearest to him. Throughout the novel, we learn more about what Jude’s mammoth struggles, both in the past and in the present, learn more about him as an individual and, in the end, suffer with him as it seems like his disturbing past will be a cross to carry for the rest of his life.

As I mentioned earlier this book is incredibly harrowing and deals with some intensely difficult subjects. If you find abject misery and trauma hard to read about, this book might not be for you. I hesitate to say that I “enjoyed” this book, enjoy is not quite the right word as the topics I read about were so awful at times I found it hard to keep turning the pages. It’s quite strange, by about fifty pages in, I honestly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and was seriously considering putting it down. Yet by about one hundred pages, I was completely invested in the characters and their lives and if someone had tried to tear the book out of my hands, there might have been trouble! This might sound very silly but it’s a novel where when I finished it, I actually felt changed as a person and that feeling has stayed with me over a year later as have the characters of Willem and Jude. I can’t stop thinking about them or about the fact that I know what it feels like now to have your heart break into pieces when you read an astounding story such as this.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

Published August 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

What did I think?:

I was super nervous about reading this book. It was one of my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads’ favourite book last year and although I’m always confident that if she tells me I’ll like a book I will really like it, she hyped this one up good and proper. I’m sure you’ve had it before – that dreaded hype monster, where you feel the pressure to like a particular book that has been praised to the skies? Yep, that was Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda for me. So, you can imagine my relief when by about halfway through this novel, I declared myself in love. With the book, with the story, with the characters…. it’s a wonderfully diverse yet inclusive story and I still find myself thinking about the characters today and wondering what they’re up to.

Our main protagonist of the novel is Simon Spier, recently come to terms with the fact that he’s homosexual but not that willing to shout it from the rooftops just yet, so is remaining firmly in the closet until he can be sure of his family and friends reactions. However, he has been recently emailing this one guy, Blue and their correspondence has turned a little on the flirty side. Blue goes to the same school as him but like Simon, is not comfortable about being out and proud and both boys have no idea whom the other is.  However, their secret could soon be out and their relationship compromised when one of their emails falls into the wrong hands, hands that threaten blackmail and revealing the two boys for whom they really are. This could ruin everything for both Simon and Blue but is Simon brave enough to take a stand against the threats? Or is it just too much to risk when he is unsure of the reactions from his nearest and dearest?

As I mentioned before, I fell head over heels for this story and the characters within it. I loved both Simon and Blue and the emails that flipped between them – believe me, I’m not a fan of sickly sweet and conventional romance but their relationship was just too damn cute not to fall for and also incredibly convincing to read about. Also, it’s so refreshing to see more diverse, different ethnic groups and sexuality in young adult fiction nowadays, the more the better I say and please keep it coming! The humour, authenticity of the characters and all round good feelings I got from this novel was second to none and I applaud Becky Albertalli for writing such a touching piece of fiction that I think a lot of teenagers are going to be able to relate to. There’s no point in saying any more – just go read it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Highly Illogical Behaviour – John Corey Whaley

Published August 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn’t left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom–even if his kingdom doesn’t extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She’ll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon’s solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon’s trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe. But all three teens have grown uncomfortably close, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse as well.

What did I think?:

I was given this YA novel a while ago now when I attended a Faber event with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads. Thank you so much to Faber for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review and apologies I’m only now getting round to reading it. In fact, the only question on my mind when I finished this book was why on earth did it take me so long to read it?! I remember being really excited about it when it was advertised at the event especially when I read the synopsis but then stupid life got in the way and it slipped off my radar. I’m here to tell you now though that John Corey Whaley is an amazing talent in the world of young adult fiction and I’ll certainly be catching up with the previous two books that he has written.

There are a few main characters in Highly Illogical Behaviour but our main focus is on Solomon, sixteen years old and severely agoraphobic, to the extent where he can no longer leave his house after a particularly nasty breakdown at his school a few years back. Lisa went to Solomon’s school and remembers the incident quite vividly but she wasn’t friends with Solomon at the time. She is desperate to get into a good psychology programme at college and is required to write an essay about her experience with mental illness which will give her the chance of a scholarship. She decides to make Solomon her new project and along with her boyfriend Clark, attempts to be-friend Solomon, break down his walls and set him along the road to recovery – or to a point where he can leave the house, at least.

Highly Illogical Behaviour follows Solomon’s struggles as we learn about what life is like for him on a daily basis, particularly when he goes through one of his traumatic panic attacks. We also see the blossoming friendship between the three teenagers and how it changes Solomon for the better, brings him out of his shell and gives him hope for the future. However, we also see the dangers of not telling the full truth and what that can do to a person who is already highly vulnerable.

This has everything you would want from a good young adult novel. It’s diverse, touching on race and LGBT issues not to mention mental health and the importance of friendships and family. I adored Solomon as a character and really sympathised with the trials he had to go through every day just to try and function and have a normal life. Lisa and Clark too were wonderful additions to the plot and even though Lisa had an ulterior motive initially in acquiring Solomon’s friendship, she goes through a huge growth of her own as a character throughout the story which was lovely to read about. It’s quite short as novels go, just 250 pages but I think that was the perfect length for the author to say what he wanted to say, in just the right way and he made an admirable job of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel

Published March 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the lovely Caitlin Raynor from Headline publishers for sending me a copy of this beautiful novel in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I read the synopsis and saw that it focused on the experience of a family with a transgender child, I knew I instantly had to read it. It’s also been quite a controversial topic in the news recently when the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made some comments about trans women. Personally, I’m loving that more books are getting written and more people are speaking about individuals who are born in the wrong body. It’s an issue that may divide people depending on your viewpoint but is something that definitely needs to be addressed in an open and honest way.

This book did exactly that. I fell instantly in love with the family – Rosie and Penn, the parents who give birth to a succession of male children, the last of which, Claude is quite obviously not your stereotypical male from a very young age. He is sensitive and perceptive, always wants to hear about the princess in the fairy stories his father tells the children every night and doesn’t see what is so terrible about wearing a dress and playing dolls with other girls. When Claude finally decides that he wants to be a girl and goes by the name Poppy, his four brothers and parents are incredibly supportive. They accept Poppy for the way she has always been and love her just the same. However, living in a town where everybody thinks you have five sons, not four sons and a daughter can be difficult especially with the more ignorant of the community and the family soon run into trouble. This leads to them going to drastic lengths to protect Poppy and the rest of their children and may eventually lead to further problems for them all in the future.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. It was a touching, heart-warming story where the author drew such wonderful characters that they really get under your skin and stay there for the duration of the novel. The family we read about could be any of our own, they have the same dynamics, problems at school, normal difficulties in adolescence, etc. The only difference is, this family has a child that is so deliciously cuddle-worthy and instantly loveable, he just happens to have been born in a male body while his mind is clearly female. Of course, this causes a lot of tension in the family when outsiders who don’t understand or are themselves uncomfortable with the situation cause Poppy almost irreparable damage. Yet there is such love in this novel, especially between the family members that really gave me the warm fuzzies and made this story one to treasure, read again and certainly educate other people with.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale

Published March 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman of leisure is drawn from a life of quiet routine into courting and marrying Winnie, eldest daughter of the fatherless Wells clan, who are not quite as respectable as they would appear. They settle by the sea and have a daughter and conventional marriage does not seem such a tumultuous change after all. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperiled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.

If you’ve never read a Patrick Gale, stop now and pick up this book. From the author of the bestselling NOTES FROM AN EXHIBITION comes an irresistible, searching and poignant historical novel of love, relationships, secrets and escape.

What did I think?:

I’ve always enjoyed Patrick Gale’s work, having read Notes From An Exhibition and A Perfectly Good Man, the latter of which I loved, but when I saw the hype that this novel was getting and read the synopsis I knew I simply had to read it. And what a story it is. Oh my goodness, without a doubt this is my favourite thing that Patrick Gale has written (er…so far, she says with quiet confidence not having read the entirety of his back catalogue!). It’s not an easy read at points and it certainly played with my emotions on multiple occasions but that’s the best kind of book for me. This is a novel that I can really feel the reverberations of the plot and the characters months after reading it and it is certainly a story I am still eagerly anticipating to re-read at a later date so the author can put me under the same spell as he did on the first read through.

The story is set in the 1900’s and when we first meet our main character, Harry Cane it is in an asylum where he is undergoing a harsh treatment regime for events that have happened in his past that the reader has, as yet, no clue about. Everything is slowly revealed as the narrative pans back to when Harry was a shy, unpresumptuous young man, married to a woman from the Wells family and utterly miserable until a chance occurrence causes him to up sticks and leave everything (including his wife) and become a member of a new, but very isolated community in the Canadian prairies which have recently been colonised. His brave decision leads to him undergoing a remarkable journey, both personal and physical as he struggles to deal with the harsh environment and deprivation, brutal weather conditions and loneliness whilst finally falling in love and dealing with people who don’t have perhaps the best or kindest intentions towards him. It’s almost like a coming of age story as Harry finally figures out who he is as a person and a man, what he wants out of life and the way he overcomes both physical and emotional hardships is truly beautiful to read.

I honestly can’t give enough praise to this book. It’s a fine piece of writing that deserves to be savoured and I found myself quite bereft when I had finished. I especially love that Patrick Gale based some of his narrative on the real adventures of his great-grandfather who left pre-war England to build a new life and farm in a remote area of Canada which only made the story more authentic and interesting for me as a reader. Harry himself was a wonderful character who made mistakes but was a good, gentle man who is so strong in the face of extreme hardship. I don’t really have any criticism about this novel to be perfectly honest. Some reviewers have mentioned the slow start but I enjoyed the build up and felt we got to know and fall in love with Harry better as a character because of it. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book and have always been intrigued about Patrick Gale, do yourself a favour and read A Place Called Winter, it’s a stunning piece of work that I won’t easily forget.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books 2016 – MAY READ – Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Published May 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

PLACES, EVERYONE!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our fifth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

JUNE -Captain Underpants- Dav Pilkey

JULY – A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl- Tanya Lee Stone

AUGUST – Bless Me Ultima- Rudolfo Anaya

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

First published: 2012

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)

Reasons: sexually explicit 

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As one of our most recent releases (2012), I don’t believe things have really changed much in the past four years so my answer is the same for both this and the next question, which is of course a resounding NO! I try and approach every banned book we read in the same way – with an open mind and also without reading the reason for banning/challenging this book in the first place (although usually I can kind of guess!) When I first started reading this super-cute graphic novel, I thought I had hit the nail on the head on why it may have posed a problem, namely that there is some homosexuality in the book which I know can be an issue for some people. However, I was supremely surprised when I saw that the actual reason is that it is “sexually explicit.” Well, blow me down with a feather, I am struggling to understand where exactly the explicit parts of the book were! Honestly, in my opinion there were none.

CHRISSI: I have to agree with Beth. I didn’t look up the reason why this book was banned, prior to reading it. To find out that it was because it was sexually explicit…well, I can’t even begin to think about what was supposed to be sexually explicit anywhere in the story. There was homosexuality- which is why I thought it was going to be banned, as I know that’s a ‘problem’ for some readers. I honestly don’t see anything or any reason why this book should be banned. AT ALL.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! And if “sexual explicit” was a fancy term for disapproval of the fact that there was teenage homosexuality afoot, then especially not. I like to think that we live in an open, accepting society nowadays but unfortunately there will always be those people that challenge others who are attracted to the same sex and discrimination of any kind really gets my hackles up. I think it’s a fantastic book for demonstrating that people who are gay just happen to be human beings like the rest of the heterosexuals in society and should not be judged as a result.

CHRISSI: It should not be challenged in my opinion. I think it’s important that every individual is respected and represented and I loved to read a story where homosexuality was represented in a book that was aimed at teenage readers who might be going through similar experiences.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I loved this book so much! I am just dipping my toes into the world of graphic novels and am so glad I have, this is a wonderful example of great graphics, awesome characters and a plot that is off the cuteness chart. I have previously heard of the author, through her other graphic novel “Smile,” which Chrissi and I were tempted to pick up before reading this but now I for one will definitely be picking up for sure!

CHRISSI: It’s adorable. It’s quick and easy to read. The artwork is simple, yet effective. I’d definitely read another book by this author. I hope many people aren’t put off by the fact that this book is banned. It’s so worthwhile.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

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Join us again on the last Monday of June when we will be discussing Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey.

 

Golden Boy – Abigail Tarttelin

Published July 9, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Max Walker: blue-eyed boy or girl next door?

To the outside world, Max Walker is a golden boy: a loving son and brother, the perfect student, captain of the football team and every girl’s dream boyfriend.

But Max was born intersex – neither fully boy nor fully girl. Now something terrible has happened to him, the consequences of which have left him questioning his true identity.

Can the people around him – his girlfriend, his classmates, his ambitious parents – accept him for who he is? Or will Max’s secret life tear his world apart?

What did I think?:

This is another one of those books recommended to me by my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads that I knew I had to read quickly as she so desperately wanted to talk to me about it. Ah, a definite contender for Chrissi Cupboard Month I thought so on it went onto the December read list. I am so so glad I finally read it, I can’t find words enough to describe how stunning it is and I truly believe that the author, Abigail Tarttelin is destined for great things in the literary world.

The Golden Boy of this book is teenager Max Walker who seems to have everything going for him. He’s popular at school with both sexes, is brilliant academically, gifted at sports and is a loving son and big brother. Surely there has to be a problem somewhere? Well, yes there is. Max Walker was born inter-sex (previously known as hermaphrodite) meaning that he has both male and female sexual organs. Unfortunately he is at that age where differences matter, even slight ones and so far his parents have both buried their heads in the sands, not really acknowledging or recognising that it is that much of a problem.

Then something horrific happens to Max which changes his life forever. The event which happens and its consequences means that Max’s loved ones and especially Max himself must learn a hell of a lot more about how he is affected, both physically and psychologically. This requires them to pull together as a family to help Max in his time of need and may test their relationship both with their son and between themselves. Meanwhile Max’s friends must decide whether they can accept him for the person he still is disregarding his genetics or outward physical appearance.

And wow, I honestly can’t stress enough how important I think this book is. In some ways, I feel it should be some kind of required reading for adolescents to teach them how crucial it is not to judge people and how to love someone from the inside out rather than vice versa. We hear Max’s story through a number of different voices the first being his parents, who are having their own difficulties in coming to terms with their child’s situation in very different ways. His father is running for political office and doesn’t need any family dramas or secrets to bubble to the surface whilst in the public eye. Max’s mother on the other hand I think is a bit more naive and slightly ignorant and just wants to wrap a protective bubble around her son to keep the big bad world out. Yes, two people that definitely need a bit of a shake in my opinion!

Some other favourite characters of mine are Max’s little brother Daniel who isn’t fully aware of what is going on but has an idea that his brother is a bit “different.” It felt to me like he was on the mild side of the autism spectrum and was so delightful to read that I instantly fell in love with him and his little quirks. Sylvie is the love interest of the novel and is a great friend to Max when his world starts to fall apart. I loved reading about her reaction when she finds out that he is inter-sex, it’s honest, pure and greatly admirable. Lastly there’s Archie, Max’s GP who he goes to for help in his darkest moment and who admits right from the start that she doesn’t have a lot of experience in this area but is willing to learn more and fight for his rights and mental well-being.

Aside from the fabulous characters this novel had a sterling plot that twisted, turned and kept me guessing throughout. At times, it’s brutally honest and fairly graphic but at all times it was also surprisingly sensitive and educational rather then resting on the “shock factor.” On starting it, I have to admit myself that I didn’t know a whole lot about inter-sex individuals but I finished it feeling grateful that I had learned so much. If you haven’t read this book yet, please do so immediately, it’s a story that will have you counting your blessings while breaking your heart. The sky is definitely the limit for Abigail Tarttelin!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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