Top 10 LGBT YA Novels I Recommend

Before you read, I’d like to dedicate this post to all the families and victims hurt in this morning’s tragedy. For those who for some reason haven’t heard, a lone shooter mercilessly massacred fifty people and injured just as many at a gay nightclub (called Pulse) in Orlando, Florida. Police are still investigating into further detail, but it is a known fact that this wasn’t just a random shooting. This was a hate-fueled attack meant to kill and harm innocent people.

If anyone is reading this, don’t pray for repentance or hate, but pray for the families and friends that have been affected by what many are calling the worst mass shooting in United States history. Do not call for gun control. Reports are coming in that the gunman was posing as a security guard and guns were not allowed in the club. If there is anything we should call for, it’s for the acceptance of LGBTQA+ people everywhere, and to fight homophobic attacks like this with love and understanding.

To everyone affected by the shooting, everyone is hearing your cries. And to everyone else, I have a quote for you from a Holocaust survivor named Henry Golde, “Hate is nothing, and love is everything.”

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          Gay literature is an iconic part of the LGBTQA+ community, especially towards teenagers and young adults, so in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I’ve decided to make a Top 10 list for the best gay young adult novels I wholly recommend. Now, there are a few rules to this for anyone who’s reading. The first rule is that these entries have to have an LGBT person as the protagonist and not just as a side character. Second, it cannot be explicit and must be readable for anyone from fourteen to even nineteen years of age. And third, having no more than two of an authors’ works is acceptable by my standards because granted, I haven’t read every gay book for young adults; heck I’m even including ones I’ve reviewed on here already. And keep in mind that this is a recommendation list and not a list of the greatest LGBT young adult novels.

With that said, here’s the Top 10 List of LGBT YA Novels I Recommend.

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Happy LGBT Pride Month

In honor of it being LGBT Pride Month this June of 2016, the same month where the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized gay marriage all across America, I’d like to dedicate these next thirty days by reviewing and analyzing various LGBTQA+ literature.

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Review: ‘Dog Country’ by Michael Cross

Some of you may have never heard of Malcolm F. Cross in real life, but he is a well-respected furry author who goes by the pseudonym ‘foozzzball’ on the Internet. He’s been well known to write erotica, science fiction short stories, and even an occasional novella here and there, specifically set in this fictional universe he’s created from his online story series “Stories from San Iadras”. I never got the chance to check it out, but his latest novel “Dog Country” caught my eye and I couldn’t resist.

In the far future, the world is starting to accept the rights of ‘gengineered dogs’,

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Review: ‘Forest Gods’ by Ryan Campbell

At last! At long, long last! After waiting for a couple years, I’ve read the latest instalment of Ryan Campbell’s ‘Firebearers trilogy’, confusingly called ‘Forest Gods’. I’m telling you that ever since I finished reading ‘God of Clay’ some months ago, I have been itching to know what happened in the cliffhanger I was left on, and what will happen to our main character. Is it better than the first book, and can Ryan Campbell continue making a romantic relationship between a leopard deity and a young human man less uncomfortable than it would sound at first? Read on to find out.

In the wake of the last book, the god of the forest Kwaee has turned his entire domain against the human villagers outside his jungle, killing anyone whom he believes to be allied with the demonic fire god Ogya. And after running for the savanna in the wake of all this, Kwaee’s son Doto and his human lover Clay must embark into the neighboring savannas in search of a god whom they believe will help them find out the truth. Both will have to sacrifice their morals, risk their lives, and maybe even the happiness they may or may not be able to have.

Meanwhile, back in Clay’s home, Laughing Dog has returned in ways too different to explain. His and Clay’s father, King First Claw, has died under mysterious circumstances, and their grieving but slow-minded brother Great Ram has taken the throne in these dark times. Little does anyone know however, that Ogya has taken possession of Laughing Dog, and is using the agnostic believer’s naïveté to cause tension among the other villagers through acts of framing, hoping to rile them into attacking the forest and finally reignite the ancient war with Kwaee.

The only two people who see through the young prince’s actions are the tribe’s elderly healer named Cloud, and the prince’s promised fiancé named Ant With a Leaf. Determined to save their people from unknowingly killing themselves, Any and Cloud must throw aside their status as women and challenge the prince and puppet king before it’s too late. Will they both succeed and save humanity, or will Ogya’s fire consume the village and everything in its path?

It’s very clear in the first several that real shit will go down as the book progresses, and Ryan Campbell brilliantly allows the scenery and emotions to drip together with the narrative. There’s more drama, much darker moments between the line, and I had to stop myself from skipping ahead several times to keep reading each page. As you guess, I absolutely loved it.

The best thing about this book is both the theme and how it has heavily impacted the characters, and it is change. From the last book to this one’s cliffhanger, ‘Forest Gods’ does the right balance of commenting on change while we read about our characters’ journeys. Everyone in the novel talks about how they miss the old days, and feel like an impending doom is coming to their way of life. It is an understandable feeling, as many people in today’s world have the same feeling whether they’re religious or not. However, the novel isn’t preaching to abandon beliefs, but to adapt to the change in order to survive.

Doto and Clay go through a similar situation on their new journey, except it starts to turn into a romantic relationship between a god and a mortal. You might remember from my review of the last book that they both had a sex scene, and I must inform you there are a few in ‘Forest Gods’ as well. However, the book doesn’t go into intimate detail, and focuses more on the story and relationship between the two. Granted, the idea of a human and anthropomorphic leopard being in a sexual relationship sounds very disturbing still, but then again if authors can get away with werewolf romances, why not this? Besides, werewolf romances these days are crap compared to this.

Clay is still the optimistic human from the first book, but learns how the gods have abused their power. He’s emotional, but quick on his feet while keeping good morals. He’s noble, but will challenge kindness when it is needed. And despite his devotion to Doto (both spiritually and romantically), Clay has limits to how far the leopard would go to hurt others in their way.

In ‘God of Clay’, Doto originally treated his human companion as though he’s nothing more than a subordinate worshipper. In ‘Forest Gods’, he still cares for Clay, but slowly learns to consider him an equal. He’s still impatient and serious, but will protect Clay from anything. He’s determined, but learns humility from Clay. He also learns how to have emotions, and doesn’t know how to feel about them, especially in dramatic scenes. The one that tugs at my heartstrings is when Doto finds out someone about his legacy he never know, and how it ties him into the war between Kwaee and Ogya. I won’t give anything away, but you feel the weight that Doto feels once it’s discovered.

Aside from the two couple, but I was strangely surprised to have Cloud and Ant, two minor characters from the first book, become the secondary characters in the novel. I barely even remembered them in ‘God of Clay’, but reading the newest book and getting to know them better has made me wonder why Ryan Campbell didn’t give them more focus? I absolutely love them, as they remind me of some people I knew growing up in my family. Cloud is an elderly woman that’s strong and has a clever wit despite her old age, is independent but knows when to ask for help, and she perfectly mirrors Ant’s will to do what is right for the village. In fact, I remember ‘Bookworm Reviews’ on Youtube mentioning that his only problem with the first book as that Ant didn’t have a personality. This highly makes up for it, and she’s thoroughly entertaining (and David Popovich, if you’re reading this, I highly recommend this for a future review).

That reminds me. The only complain I have regarding characters is this one that popped out of nowhere and wasn’t mentioned again in detail. It was Adanko, the God of Hares and Lies who seemed too amusing to be a background character. At first it seems like he’ll be the comic relief of the story, but he comes and goes without a second though.

Then we have Laughing Dog, who has turned from an agnostic child who whines and complains in the last book into an unpredictable beast with his older brother’s kingly position wrapped around his finger. I love and fear how he manipulates the King so easily just by being related to him, showcasing how Laughing Dog isn’t just a tough guy with a knife. He’s a conniver and a plotter, trying to keep a façade of honor and charisma to his people while willingly working for Ogya. The way he puts blame on Kwaee, frames Cloud, twists others words against them, it’s like you’ve entered the infamous McCarthy Trials!

I find aspects like this the most terrifying in a villain, because it makes us wonder when they can be threatening, whether they’re about to strike you down or not. Both are unpredictable, overconfident in their goals, and will not hesitate to kill anyone, even family and loved ones, in their way of success.

Once again, Ryan Campbell astounds me in a fantastic novel of family, beliefs, and love. Enriched with African culture, vast in journeys across landscapes, and seeded with an addictive plot, I highly recommend reading this after taking a gander at the first book.

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Review: ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by Harper Lee

(Warning: this contains spoilers to ‘Go Set a Watchman’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

It’s pretty hard to talk about this novel without talking about the author herself. Harper Lee became famous when she published her first and (until recently) only novel named ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 1960. This was perfectly published in a time when racial tensions in the US were heavily tensioned. People fell instantly in love with it, and has since become a massively iconic piece of literature addressing both childhood, prejudice, and loss of innocence in the world. Even today, it still captivates readers and has become the definition of a perfect novel over the decades. The protagonists (specifically Atticus Finch, Scout, and Jem), are perfect, the story timeless, and the novel an amazing experience.

Like everyone else though, I felt very conflicted when it was revealed an older Harper Lee decided to release the sequel she wrote for it decades ago. On one hand, it would be nice to see our favorite characters again, but on the other hand it may ruin our view on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. And after reading it only three weeks after being published my opinion may anger future readers of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ to the point of them spamming me with hate mail.

I thought it was okay.

Twenty years after the events of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Scout Finch has changed from a tomboyish six year-old into a tomboyish twenty-six year-old. Living in an apartment in New York City, Scout (now referred throughout the novel as her birth name, Jean Louise) visits her hometown of Maycomb County, Alabama to say hello to her aging father, the iconic protagonist Atticus Finch. While staying for the week, she meets up with an old childhood friend and lover named Henry ‘Hank’ Clinton (who keeps proposing to her throughout the novel), does her best to tolerate her aging Southern belle Aunty Alexandra, and discovers how much Maycomb County has changed, but remained the same since her departure.

I knew people were polarized about ‘Go Set a Watchman’ but this is ridiculous.

Before going on with this, I should bring up two things that may shock the reader(s). Firstly, ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is the original draft of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and some argue whether or not Harper Lee, who now lives blind and deaf in a nursing home, would have allowed this to be published. I could go on and on about this in another post, but I have to bring up the second most shocking thing about this: in the end of the novel, most reviewers see the beloved Atticus character as a bigot.

I said it, but let me explain: in the second half of the novel, Jean Louise learns that her father is part of a Citizens’ Councils meeting in Maycomb, and she witnesses him in a meeting. And after seeing a local politician at the meeting give an atrociously racist speech, she grows horrified and confused when Atticus defends himself for going. On one hand, he explains that he uses it to know his opponents, and even speaks that everyone is entitled to his own opinions, which leads to Jean Louise looking at Atticus as less of a perfect person and more of a human being.

While I do like the idea they were going for, it could’ve been presented in a better light. Atticus is remembered throughout literature because he is the character that was so compassionate, so inspiring, so powerful, that he redefined what makes a character human. And to see him do something like that, even if it could’ve been for good intentions, made him seem a bit off.

The novel has more continuity errors that the publishers should’ve looked at. In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Atticus was able to prove Tom Robinson’s innocence, but the jury still convicted him, and it ended up with Tom being killed trying to escape prison. In ‘Go Set a Watchman’ however, it’s stated that Tom was acquitted and that’s it.

Okay, I’ve vented off all my angry attitudes to the problems of this novel, so what is good about it. Honestly, everything else. ‘Go Set a Watchman’ does a fantastic job at characterizing Scout into an older young woman in the 1950’s. Instead of a tomboyish girl in Depression-era Alabama under Jim Crow, we see a tomboyish woman in post-WWII America in the midst of the sexual revolution and the Civil Rights movement. I really love how we still see the Scout in Jean Louise, but still see her as a more mature person. It’s very new and refreshing to read.

Probably my most favorite sections of the novel involve the flashbacks to her growing up. We watch Scout, Dill, and Jem transform into teenagers, and see them interact with others in school. We see Scout have her first kiss and think she’s pregnant, then accidentally become part of a prank (these situations make me barely breathe due to me laughing so hard XD). These flashbacks are nostalgic and probably the greatest parts of ‘Go Set a Watchman’. If the entire novel were like this, I would not be reviewing this book.

So do I hate the novel? Absolutely not. While the situations the characters go through are contradictory to their personalities, everyone in the entire world has to admit it is wonderful to read the characters we knew and love in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, especially in a different time. While this novel doesn’t have a good plot, I didn’t mind it for the most part. Some would argue otherwise, but to me, I felt like going to a family reunion. While ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is superior in every way to this novel, it wouldn’t hurt the average fan to read this and form their own conclusion. After all, I do like the message this novel was going for: no matter what the issue is, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

Review: ‘One Man Guy’ by Michael Barakiva

After hearing about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, I thought I’d celebrate with everyone by posting my opinion on a book I read last month, but never got the chance to say my opinions on it. The book I’m talking about is a quirky gay romance novel that caught my attention with the cover and didn’t leave me disappointed. It is called ‘One Man Guy’ by Michael Barakiva.

Alek Khederian is a fourteen year-old Armenian teenager that lives in an Armenian family outside New York City. As his freshman year has come to a close, Alek’s parents want him to go to summer school in order to raise his grades up. Reluctant to give up going to tennis camp and bound by the wishes of his traditional parents, Alek expects the worst of spending three months with the same bullies and the same weird looks from other students.

However, he never expected to become friends with sophomore Ethan, the ‘cool’ kid at his school. Ethan is described by Alek as independent, confident, and very willful in his life. He hangs out with the troublemakers at school, dresses in whatever he wants, and doesn’t care about breaking rules once in a while At first, it seems as though Alek is invisible to him, until Ethan suddenly coaxes him to come with him to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City. From there, everything changes.

After a wonderful day with Ethan, Alek slowly starts to come out of his bubble and hang out more with his new friend, despite the fact that he reveals himself he is gay. Not only that, Alek himself may be starting to fall in love with him.

‘One Man Guy’ is the name of a song made by the actual Rufus Wainwright, and it tells not only about homosexuality, but also pertains to the loner and individual in us all. ‘One Man Guy’ is basically a book about an Armenian teenager discovering he likes boys, and starts to become more independent because of his first boyfriend’s support.

Alek and Ethan are one of the most adorable and well-written characters I’ve seen recently in YA gay literature. Alek is presented as a meek teen that respects his parents and is proud of his heritage, but wants to be accepted among his peers and be involved with what other teenagers do.

Ethan is also a very likeable as a character as well. I expected him to be just an average ‘cool kid’ with no defining personality to him like in other novels, but ‘One Man Guy’ took me by surprise and made an individual out of him. Ethan is portrayed just as Alek said he is, but also has a sense of direction and street smarts to him, which can make Alek the perfect foil for when they first meet. Bottom line, both of them make this book. Still, out of all the side characters, my favorite would have to go to Alek’s best friend named Becky, whom reminds me of a lot of teen girls I remember going to high school. She’s the kind of eccentric girl that is supportive and caring, even if she can be stubborn and selfish at times.

The only characters I have mixed feelings for have to be with the parents. Don’t get me wrong; they’re well-developed with the dynamics with their son. It is obvious Alek loves his parents, and they love him and want what they believe is best for him. However, they often feel less like characters and more like the type of strict parents you’d see on a family sitcom. In fact, Alek’s parents almost remind me of Fran Drescher’s fictional parents on ‘The Nanny’, even though it is weird considering Michael Barakiva is an Israeli/Armenian himself, and he doesn’t take this opportunity to dive more into the Armenian culture than he could’ve.

That doesn’t mean it ruins the novel, far from it. Another fun element of ‘One Man Guy’ has to go to the writing and sense of atmosphere. I love the quiet and calm moments, the moments when Alek comes out of his bubble and opens up more whenever he and Ethan go out on dates. My favorite scene that involved Ethan and Alek is when they visit New York City again, and a couple chapters are solely dedicated to them interacting with residents and shopping for a new look for Alek. There’s no bullying, no awkward moments, or no social commentary. It’s just both of them feeling freely and being themselves.

So what’s my opinion on ‘One Man Guy’? It’s a really good gay romance novel both fitting for gay and straight people. This gives a good depth into a part of the culture wars that still happen today, with Alek’s parents wanting him to keep with tradition, and Alek wanting to be a part of modern America, yet they need to find a common ground in order for him to live a full life on his own. What keeps it from being great are the few stereotypes and lack of explaining Armenian history, but there’s more than enough substance and Armenian cooking culture to pull people into the depths of its pages.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!