Review: Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (9781549304002)

This memoir is done in a comic or graphic format. It’s the autobiography of Maia, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir. It tells the story of eir childhood growing up being assigned as a female gender at birth. From loving snakes to peeing outside to taking off eir shirt to go swimming along with the boys, Maia never conformed to gender stereotypes. Eir parents didn’t either, but Maia’s need to not be identified as female ran far deeper. Growing older, Maia had crushes on both boys and girls, and wondered if e was bisexual. Still, Maia had to continue to explore what dating, crushes, love, and sex meant to em until e realized what it meant to be nonbinary and asexual.

Kobabe shares so deeply in eir memoir. It is such a personal journey, filled with moments of deep connection and joy, the agony of pap smears, the constant questioning of identity, and then ending with incredible hope. This memoir was at first written to help eir family understand em, and it will work that way for those wanting to understand being gender nonbinary. It also aids in understanding asexuality and how that impacts relationships. Sex is handled with a refreshing frankness on the pages.

Kobabe’s art is very effective. E does full-page pieces that feature family members and other parts that read as fluid story telling in a more traditional way. These different approaches blend together into a dynamic format that invites readers into Kobabe’s life.

Vital and important, this memoir is tender and impactful. Appropriate for ages 16-adult.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (9781250312846)

Freddy is dating the most popular girl at school. She is exactly the person you want to date, pretty, sexy, charming, and makes you feel like the center of her world. Until you aren’t, which happens pretty often. Laura keeps on cheating on Freddy, breaking up with her, and then asking Freddy to get back together. Freddy knows that it’s not ideal and so do all of her friends. When the two girls break up again, Freddy’s best friend Doodle encourages her to see a medium (who is also a great dungeon master too) to get advice. The medium agrees with all of Freddy’s friends, break up with Laura Dean. But it’s not that easy and as their relationship heats up again, Freddy risks her friendships to continue to be with the intoxicating Laura Dean.

This graphic novel beautifully captures a captivating but toxic romantic and sexual relationship. Tamaki has created several brilliant characters who avoid any kind of stereotype and are written as individuals. In particular, I appreciated Doodle, one of the only teen characters I have seen in a novel that avoids using a cell phone. As a parent of this type of teen, it is refreshing to see a character do this so organically. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop gaming will love the DM as a medium and the use of gaming as a way to connect on multiple levels.

The art is a great complement to the story line. Filled with touches of pink, the art takes small moments and tiny focal points to tell a robust story. Just the images of Freddy’s shoes walking alone after a break up speak so beautifully of loneliness. The characters themselves are also vividly depicted in the art, from Freddy alone on her rumpled sheets to Doodle’s body language when she is being neglected.

An exceptional LGBTQ graphic novel that talks openly about toxicity in relationships and the importance of friendships. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

 

Review: Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw (9781250196934)

Mads has two best friends, Cat who drags her to hear bands that she’s never heard of, and her father. Every Sunday, Mads joins her father for minor league baseball games and other evenings they watch their favorite TV shows together. Mads’ mother is often left out of their father-daughter time together and as the book progresses, it looks like Mads may be headed for her parents divorcing. But it’s all about a secret that her father is keeping from her, something to do with a large check sent to Mads and a grandfather she never met. As the secrets start to be revealed, Mads begins to learn more about herself as well and just who she really wants to kiss.

This graphic novel is amazing, particularly when one sees it was written by one person and drawn by another. The entire book is one cohesive whole with art that is both playful but also emotionally rich when the story calls for it. The writing is strong and the story is complex. Venable includes religion throughout the book, allowing space for questioning beliefs, particularly around LGBTQ issues. Those themes enrich the entire graphic novel, creating tension in the family, offering honesty to replace secrets, and giving sources of pride rather than disdain. Venable doesn’t offer easy resolution to these issues and the way that they impact generations of a family.

A stellar graphic novel for teens that is filled with LGBTQ pride. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

 

Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

The finalists for the 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards have been announced. The LGBTQIA+ book awards are given in 24 categories, including one focused on LGBTQ books for children and teens. Here are the finalists in that category:

LGBTQ Children’s & Young Adult

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

Review: Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau (9781626726413)

A sweet combination of romance and baking rises to perfection in this graphic novel for teens. All Ari wants to do is leave their small town and move to the big city with his band. Unfortunately, he has to stay and help with his family’s bakery which is struggling financially. Then Ari comes up with a plan, to hire someone else to help in the bakery so that he is free to leave. That’s when Hector enters his life, a big calm guy who loves to bake just as much as Ari hates it. The two of them slowly becomes friends with romance hanging in the air, and that’s when Ari ruins it all.

We need so many more books for teens that focus on life after high school, particularly ones where the characters don’t have any real plans of what to do and aren’t headed for college. The story line here is beautifully laid out, creating a real connection between the two main characters that builds and grows. Then comes the devastating choice that Ari makes to blame Hector for an accident that they were both involved in. Panetta again allows the story to have a lovely natural pace even in this disaster, giving the reader pause about whether this is going to be a love story or not.

The art by Ganucheau is exceptional. The two characters are drawn with an eye for reality but also romance. They could not be more different with Ari light and rather dreamy and Hector a more anchoring and settled figure even in their depictions on the page. The baking scenes as they two work together are the epitome of romantic scenes, showing their connection to one another long before it fully emerges in the story.

A great LGBT graphic novel filled with romance and treats. Appropriate for ages 15-20.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

Review: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

wesetthedarkonfirebytehlorkaymejia

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (9780062691330)

Dani is the best Primera student in her class. As she nears graduation, she knows she will be paired with one of the most powerful men in society along with a Secunda. The Primera helps her husband with business and politics while the Secunda bears and raises their children. Dani has worn a mask for her entire time at school, living under an assumed identity in order to have a life different from her parents who live in poverty near the border of the wall. When her papers are about to be inspected, she is rescued by a man who brings her new ones. But when Dani is asked to spy on her new husband, she realizes she must start to make choices about what world she wants to live in. As time goes by, Dani gets closer with Carmen, the Secunda in their trio. Carmen had bullied Dani at school, but as tensions rise and arrests are made, Dani must find someone to trust. Her heart believes she can trust Carmen, but is that just desire talking?

Mejia has created a magnificent look at our modern society through the lens of a fantasy world. The world has a large wall that marks the border. There is strong rhetoric by the ruling class that those on the other side of the wall are less than human. Beautifully, she uses Latinx elements to create a deep and rich world in which her characters live in constant danger. Dani and the reader have no idea who to trust or who is working with the rebels. The use of the marriage of one man to two women adds a creepy note to the book and says even more about the value of women in a society and the extent of the privilege at play.

Dani is a character I loved from the very first pages. She is immensely flawed in ways that make sense given her traumatic experiences and the secrets she must keep. She remains emotionally connected with her family, thinking about them often even as she keeps a placid face all the time. As she struggles with feeling desire for Carmen, it is not about Carmen being a woman but about her training as a Primera. Their connection is an example of how Mejia takes trust and twists it, making for a book that is a wild and wonderful ride.

Latinx, LGBTQ love, political intrigue, and a vivid fantasy world come together to make an impressive teen read. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

2019 Rainbow Book List

The Rainbow Book List has announced their 2019 picks. The list focuses on books wit significant LGBTQ content for children and youth, ages birth to 18. The list includes 107 titles and also has a top ten selected that follows:

Darius the Great Is Not Okay DeadEndia: The Watcher's Test

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Deadendia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele

Girl Made of Stars Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire, #1)

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Hurricane Child Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

Let's Talk About Love Odd One Out

Let’s Talk about Love by Claire Kann

Odd One Out by Nic Stone

34204247 Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag by Gayle E. Pitman

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (9780316561365)

In a world where the upper classes are part human and part animal, the Paper Caste or fully human people are the most oppressed. Every year eight girls from that Paper Caste are chosen to become the king’s consorts. This year though, there are nine girls, after Lei is seized from her family and brought to the royal court. At the court, Lei is forced to train to be pleasing for the king. Meanwhile she is desperately looking for information about her mother who was taken by force several years earlier. But things are about to get even more difficult for Lei as she refuses the King’s advances and then falls in love. But what can one young woman do in a world that is stacked against her? She can find the fire of revenge.

In her debut novel for teens, Ngan has created a swirling world of scents, colors and textiles. It is a world of incredible beauty with an Asian flair that is intoxicating and quickly immerses the reader deeply inside. From the bathing tubs with their steam to the opulence of the court, this setting demonstrates that there is beauty that contains endless dangers. Ngan does not shy away from the brutality of the life of a Paper Girl, creating a book that is both mesmerizing and violent. People triggered by rape and domestic violence should be cautioned.

Lei is a heroine who transforms right before the readers’ eyes into something much stronger and much more dangerous. She is a young woman stolen from her family filled with hope about her mother’s fate. She becomes more hardened in some ways and yet at the same time falls in love with another of the Paper Girls and becomes softer and more open. It is a powerful convergence for her, creating a woman willing to risk everything for those she loves.

The first in a series, this fantasy novel is a mix of LGBTQ, romance and vengeance that is entirely tantalizing. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Jimmy Patterson Books.

 

Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

When Arthur and Ben meet for the first time, it’s perfect. However, neither of them get each other’s numbers. With Arthur in New York City for just the summer, they have a limited time find one another again in a huge city. Thanks to some expert sleuthing online by friends, a flyer in a specific coffee shop, and the universe helping them out, they manage to meet once more. But what if it’s not actually meant to be? Arthur has never had a boyfriend before, and Ben has just broken up with his first serious boyfriend. Arthur tries a little too hard, and Ben doesn’t quite try hard enough particularly when it comes to being on time. Could it be that they just aren’t mean to be together after all?

The pairing of these two master authors is beautifully done. There is no clear line where one author’s voice begins and the other ends, instead the voices of the two characters meld and create a cohesive experience. The humor in particular is skillfully done with both Arthur and Ben having distinct personalities, voices and senses of humor. New York City itself is a backdrop to their summer together and becomes almost a character of her own. From subway rides to tourist traps to Broadway shows to coffee shops, the city shows her own magic throughout the book.

The entire novel reads like a movie with scenes playing out visually and the dialogue snappy and quick. The book has strong secondary characters as well who are vibrant and entirely their own people. In particular, the two sets of parents are well drawn and it’s great to see everyone supporting their gay kids. Additionally, the depiction of gay sex focuses on consent, pleasure and is entirely positive.

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from ARC provided by HarperTeen.