by Sophia Simon-Bashall
I have been an avid reader of Young Adult fiction since I was 12 and read Sophie McKenzie’s Girl, Missing, for the first time. From that point onward, I devoured these stories. I lived inside them. I befriended the characters, went on adventures, got angry with them, fell in love. I liked that these stories were about people my age, and that they didn’t look down on me or talk down to me – they recognised that I, as a young woman, was an intelligent and thoughtful person. That was invaluable.
However, there was a disconnect. I was queer, and the characters that I was meeting were not, except for the occasional boy. I didn’t see myself reflected anywhere. There was no proof that I existed outside of myself, that my feelings about girls were anything other than hideously wrong, an anomaly.
It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to realise that I, as a queer girl, was not wrong. That I, in that identity, was real and valid and okay. Much of that was about growth, and about the people I surrounded myself with. But it was also about the books I read. I did my digging, and I found that there were books about girls who, like me, were Not Straight. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.
I have found so much value in reading YA about queer girls. I have found so much comfort and validation and joy. Representation matters, without a doubt. I thought I would share, in case you are looking:
(FAVOURITE) Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour
I have been enchanted by few YA novels as much as this one. LaCour has a beautiful writing style, the imagery is so vivid and emotive, the characters feel so familiar and honest, the story feels both magical and real. Reading this makes you feel the way you feel when you meet the eyes of a cute girl in a bookshop, when you talk to her and grab a hot chocolate together and you are crushing so hard. Reading this gives you butterflies. Guaranteed.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
This is such a kick-ass, grrrl power book! It is the epitome of awesome! It shows teenage girls as intelligent, resourceful, complex human beings! What a revelation! AND THE REPRESENTATION!!! Amongst the girls are African-Americans, girls of Indian heritage, bisexuals, lesbians, girls who are transgender … it’s like Libba Bray actually looked at society rather than painted the normative picture – can you believe it?
Lunaside by J.L. Douglas
I very recently read this book, because I am a sucker for cute summer camp stories and I needed to escape into that world. I was pleasantly surprised by how mature it felt, and by how the story turned out – I worried that there was a manic pixie dream girl element, but all was resolved. I think the best part for me was that one of the secondary characters was asexual. AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER!!! WHOSE ASEXUALITY IS ACKNOWLEDGED!!! BUT IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!!! IT’S NOT THE FOCUS!!! IT’S JUST A PART OF HER!!! Amazing.
Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler
My friend, Anna and I went to the book launch for this last year, and it was wonderful. Rainbow cake and adult queer women, women who were comfortable in who they were and not brought down by the homophobia that they have fought and fought against. It was a very affirming and assuring atmosphere for both of us to be in. The novel is very much about coming to terms with being Not Straight, an invaluable read for those in such a situation. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, as I am perhaps a little bored of ‘coming out’ –esque stories; however, I didn’t feel at all bored reading this. I didn’t feel like I’d heard it all before, and I didn’t feel beyond it. It was written with honesty, and I think that goes a long with way with such stories.
I Love This Part by Tillie Walden
This is a graphic novel and it is so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so beautiful and fills you with so many feelings. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. It’s simultaneously immensely satisfying and deeply unsatisfying – you will want more, but you also know that it closes where it should, the way it should. To be able to do that to your readers is quite a skill.
The following are books I have not yet read, but are on my list. I have heard so many great things about them that I could not leave them out:
- Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash – a graphic memoir
- Far From You by Tess Sharpe – bisexual representation!
- Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
- If You Could Be Mine + Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan