In a medieval land where science and logic have begun to overtake faith and enchantment, Aisling still believes in fairies, having been fed a steady diet of supernatural tales by her beloved mother since she was a tot. But now her mother is dead and her father soon follows—but not before marrying a cold noblewoman who finds fairies to be superstitious nonsense. After her father’s death, Aisling or Ash as she is called, is demoted to a servant in her stepmother’s household, where she begins to dream of escape. She visits her mother’s grave, willing the fairies to take her, only to be turned down again and again by the fairy lord Sidhean. Then one day, Ash notices and is noticed by the King’s Huntress, a mysterious woman named Kaisa. Despite the difference in their stations, they soon become friends and suddenly Ash regains her will to live. But now she needs a favor in order to get closer to Kaisa, a favor only Sidhean can grant. The fairy agrees to give Ash what she wants, in exchange for her vow that she will become his “when the time is right.” Ash recklessly agrees, but soon regrets her choice when she realizes that she no longer wishes to leave her world for the cold, bright world of Fairie. Is it too late to change her mind? Is she brave enough to break her promise? Told in an understated, traditional tone, this upgraded and updated Cinderella story will take you by surprise when the love triangle of girl, fairy and huntress takes an unexpected turn. Newbie author Malinda Lo gives this oft-told tale a modern spit and polish, the results of which landed her as a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award. And Lo’s in pretty hot company, check out the rest of the nominees (including Nina LaCour) here.
What if everything you believed to be true about someone was a lie? Well, not EVERYTHING. Just one thing. But it’s the one thing that changes everything. High school senior and small town boy Logan Witherspoon has the rug pulled out from under him when smart, sexy, funny new girl Sage reveals after their first kiss that she is biologically a boy. Hurt, confused and angry, Logan at first wants nothing more to do with her. But he misses Sage’s laughter and easy banter more than he thought, and soon he can no longer deny his physical feelings for her. The thing is, Sage LOOKS like a girl, ACTS like a girl, SMELLS like a girl and for all intensive purposes IS a girl in every way except, well, THAT one. Logan has never met a transgendered person in his life and has no idea how to navigate this new relationship. Does his attraction to Sage mean that he’s gay? What if someone finds out about Sage? Is he prepared to stand up for her? How can he explain Sage to his family and friends, and does he even have to? All because of “one teeny, little, microscopic, enormous, universe-sized complication,” Logan’s world has been turned upside down, and instead of answers he just keeps finding more questions. The biggest question of all is if he knows how to be a true friend to someone when she needs him the most. Unfortunately, that’s the one question Logan is having the most trouble answering. This honest, funny, and often heartbreaking book openly addresses the prejudices and misconceptions often held about transgendered people and puts them out there for us to examine, understand and hopefully discard as nonsense and ignorance. What Logan painfully comes to understand is that you fall in love with a person, not a gender, and that if you let it, love will always find a way. Make sure to check out Katcher’s equally excellent first novel, Playing with Matches.)
NYC teens Claire, Jasper and Peter find their lives intersecting in unexpected, meaningful ways after the tragedy of September 11 brings them together. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, Claire is starting her day at school, Peter is skipping homeroom in favor of snagging the new Bob Dylan album, and Jasper is sound asleep. After the attack, Claire is sleepless and anxious, Peter searches for meaning in music, and Jasper shuts down. Peter and Claire know each other from school, and each make a connection with college freshman Jasper after 9/11—Peter asks Jasper out, while Claire runs into him when they are both wandering around Ground Zero, trying to comprehend what has happened to their city, their country and their lives. Slowly, as the three of them muddle through their complicated feelings, they each come to a place of healing that they never would have made it to without each other. And that’s about it. This quiet meditation about the effects of 9/11 on three different individuals isn’t so much about what happened as it is about what happened next. It’s about how we got through and how we continue to get through, and it is full of David Levithan’s trademark thoughtful observations about human nature that always get me right HERE. Like this one attributed to Claire: “If only I still had my faith in old books and reruns. They are among the things I feel have been taken from me, along with humor and hope and the ability to savor.” Or Peter’s thought about the power of music post 9/11: “We all understand that this is just music. We all understand that these songs were written Before—there is no way the band could have known how we would hear them After. But the songs ring true.” As a New Yorker who was working downtown on 9/11, I kept reading this book and saying to myself, “Yes, I remember feeling that way.” But you don’t have to have been in New York on that day to understand the feelings Levithan writes so eloquently about, because in many ways I think we all continue to share the pain and the hope that was generated world wide by the events of September 11.
There’s only one thing high school senior Liam Geller is good at—screwing up. No matter what he does or says, he just can’t seem to please his uber-strict dad, a controlling CEO who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately, metrosexual Liam is his former runway model mother’s son—popular, gorgeous and impulsive, all qualities that his father despises. So when Liam finally screws up one time too many (getting caught drunk on his dad’s desk with a nearly naked girl), he is sent to stay with his gay, glam-rocking, trailer-park-living “Aunt” Pete in upstate New York. Aunt Pete is about as thrilled about the situation as Liam is, and the two strike an uneasy truce: Liam will ignore Aunt Pete’s large collection of animal-print and neon colored spandex pants if Aunt Pete will carve out a corner of the trailer as a make-shift closet for Liam’s select number of carefully chosen designer duds. In an effort to embrace trailer living and get back into his dad’s good graces, Liam resolves to squash all the aspects of his personality that his dad hates and become the biggest nerd the world has ever seen. There’s just one problem—his impeccably good taste and inherently good looks keep getting in the way. Even as a dork, Liam is a complete and utter failure. Will Aunt Pete ever be able to convince Liam that what his dad views as weaknesses are actually strengths? Or will Liam continue to hide his light under the bushel of his dad’s sky-high expectations and unrealistic demands? Liam struggles to see what the reader and Aunt Pete understand right away–he is massively talented, but what he and his father view as “talent” are two totally different things. Not just another “my parents are ruining my life” re-tread, this very funny fish-out-of-water tale is also about discovering what you’re good at and staying true to your personal vision, no matter how outrageous it may seem to others.
Johnny is a black-nail-polish-and-eyeliner-wearing recovering alcoholic who loves The Cure, The Ramones, and, ever since rehab, Blondie. Maria is a Goth-girl-on-the-rocks who dances by herself to Nico, The Clash, and Patti Smith. Neither one thinks anyone will ever love them, until they pogo into each other in a mosh pit at a local all-ages club. It’s Love and Rockets at first sight, except for the troubling fact that Maria initially thought Johnny was gay. Why? Just because he likes to Robert-Smith-it up a little? Johnny knows he’s not gay, or he wouldn’t dig Maria so much. But what do you call it when you like girls, but you secretly want to try on that little white dress from the thrift store that looks exactly like the one Debbie Harry wears on the cover of Parallel Lines? This hip work by newbie author Meagan Brothers encourages readers to explore the meanings of all the shades of gray that exist between gay and straight. Johnny and Maria’s romance is realistic, sweet, and quite unlike any other I’ve read about in teen books. After all, how many girlfriends would encourage their boyfriends to enter a drag contest? If you like Freak Show by James St. James or Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, you’re gonna love DHSF.
Alex Ford wanted a horse so bad when he was little that he named his black bike “Del Magnifico le Noir” and fed it hay after he tied it up in the garage at night. Now that he’s a teenager and owns sweet, swaybacked Turnip, he tries to be grateful for the old cow horse. But what Alex really yearns for is dressage, the English tradition of riding, and poor old Turnip just doesn’t cut it when it comes to performing the fancy steps dressage demands. But Turnip isn’t the only one standing in Alex’s way. There’s also his macho alcoholic dad who thinks that dressage is for pretty boys and pansies, and the infuriating Cleo O’Shea, a spoiled rich girl who boards her horse at the stable where Alex works, and doesn’t half appreciate how lucky she is to have everything Alex wants. Adding insult to injury, Cleo develops a crush on him, not realizing that if Alex ever found time for a relationship outside the stable, it would be with a boy, NOT a girl. Will this reluctant cowboy ever be able to trade in his spurs for jodhpurs? Will he ever be able to find both the horse and the boy of his dreams? And if he does, how will he convince his dad that dressage didn’t make him gay, he was always that way? Mixing laughter with heartbreak in equal measure, Canadian queen of funny Susan Juby has penned an original story about being true to yourself and learning how to trot to your own beat. Experience more of Juby’s snort-inducing, offbeat humor online at www.susanjuby.com
Eighteen-year-old New Yorker James Sveck is happiest by himself. “People, at least in my experience, rarely say anything interesting to each other. They always talk about their lives and they don’t have very interesting lives. So I get impatient.” So now it’s his last summer before college, and James isn’t even sure he WANTS to go to college. He may just chuck it all and use his tuition money to buy a house in Kansas where he can be completely and utterly ALONE. But his divorced parents, worried about his strange love for the Mid-West and the fact that he may be gay (even though it supposedly “wouldn’t bother them one bit!”) send him to a shrink to in order to clear up his issues and go off to Brown like a good boy. Though James is skeptical about therapy at first, Dr. Adler manages to get him talking about all the things he never thought he’d share—his disastrous school trip to Washington D.C., his unacknowledged attraction to his mother’s sophisticated male gallery employee, and what he might have seen from the windows of his downtown Manhattan high school on 9/11. Suddenly, James realizes he is completely and utterly SAD, and has been for a long time. What he decides to do in order to change his depressed status forms the basis of this neurotic, funny, Woody-Allen-film of a YA novel. Its’ twin sister in the world of YA lit. is Garret Freymann-Weyr’s brilliant My Heartbeat, also featuring a smart, confused New York teen with issues. So if you’re finally sick of the vapid world of Gossip Girl, come visit a whole other New York within the pages of adult author Peter Cameron’s first title for older teens.
I have just two words for you, James St. James: LOVE IT! Your unrepentantly outrageous and brutally honest bi-polar portrayal of seventeen-year-old Billy Bloom, drag-queen-in-training-wheels is one of the freshest, funniest YA novels I’ve read in YEARS. My only complaint is that this wasn’t a picture book, so I couldn’t get a gander at all of Billy’s meticulously constructed outfits. Yes, to Billy Bloom, “Being fabulous, being relentlessly fabulous, is damned hard, hard work, I can tell you…It requires more than just…platform boots and an ironic tee to cut it in today’s marketplace.” Billy is determined to bring fashion and culture to the “Stepford teens” who populate his new private school in the depths of swampy red state Florida. But his unrelenting good cheer in the face of apathetic teachers and waves of spitballs is finally squashed by a brutal beating that he suffers at the hands of several football players. After a long recovery and a great deal of soul-searching, Billy comes to the conclusion that there’s nothing wrong with him, it’s the REST of the world who needs to learn how to deal! So he decides to launch his most ambitious project to date—a run for Homecoming Queen. Does Billy have a hope in heck? Or are all his glitter-dreams destined to go up in a poof of lavender-colored smoke? Make no mistake, this book isn’t just for the cross-dressers among us (although, they will love it). It is for every teen who was told he or she couldn’t play, can’t join, or isn’t invited, and who perservered anyway. Even though St. James’s message comes dressed in heels and a tiara, it still rings true: be yourself, no matter what, because at the end of the day, “you must find your own path and live with your own decisions.” And really, can any book blurbed by both Michael Cart AND Perez Hilton be anything short of FABULOUS? Slide into your best pair of feathery pink marabous and RUN not walk to your nearest library branch or bookstore to check out the best comeback-kid story since Justin Timberlake’s post ‘N Sync career!
Oh, E. Lockhart, could I love you more? I thought my love was complete after reading The Boyfriend List and Fly on the Wall. But, incredibly, my love for both of those books has been surpassed by my passion for the delicious Dramarama, which does for theater camp what Craig Thompson’s Blankets did for Jesus camp! (no not that one) Sayde (which sounds so much more “gawky-sexy” than plain old “Sarah”) and her best boy friend Demi (who has been in “straight drag” for far too long) travel to the Wildewood Summer Theater Institute in order to escape Ohio and finally be their true, fabulous selves. But the chance to unlease their amazing inner Lizas doesn’t go quite as Sayde expected. Instead of growing even closer, the BFF’s begin to drift apart. Demi discovers the strong, gay black man he was meant to be, and learns to toe the line when it comes to the rules of rehearsals, while Sayde is constantly pushing boundaries, and coming to the realization that she may be a better director than actor. Can Sayde learn to tamp down her “lurking bigness,” or is it about to explode all over the place and get her thrown out of not only drama camp, but also Demi’s heart? My teenage friends, you don’t have to be a Sandy or a Shark to appreciate both the drama and the real soul-searching that’s going on between these two friends. But if you are not of the musical theater ilk and want to hear the tunes Sayde’s obsessed with, visit E. Lockhart’s website www.theboyfriendlist.com and click on “Sadye’s iMix” in the right hand column for the songs that inspired the characters.
Angela is just your everyday, average teenager. She enjoys hanging out with her BFF Eve, taking care of her aunt Gail’s newborn baby, and shooting videos for the school’s closed circuit cable network. Except Angela’s known forever that the body she was born with isn’t the body she was meant to have. And the time has come to let everyone know that she’s not a lesbian, but a trans-gendered person, a boy named Grady who just happens to be wearing a girl’s body. Angela’s sudden transformation into Grady turns out to be difficult for everyone except Grady. He just can’t understand why his mother is so upset, why his friend Eve can barely stand to say his new name, why all the kids at school, except for the odd but funny Sebastian, make fun of him. Why should they care if he wants his outside to match his inside? What does it have to do with them? It’s only after Grady falls for Kita, one of the coolest girls at school that he understands just how difficult it is for a parrot to change its feathers. Or rather, a parrotfish. Named after the fish that can switch genders, Parrotfish is the kind of novel I have been waiting for since Luna (which, in all honesty, was not my favorite, although I know a lot of my teenage peeps loved it). Ellen Wittlinger, author of the now classic Hard Love has penned a revolutionary novel about what it really means to be a transgendered teen, and folks, I have to tell you, it ROCKS! Especially the hilarious subplot concerning Grady’s dad, an old school kind of guy who just can’t let go of his out of control Christmas decorations.
Back in the day (1986), the WNBA was just a twinkle in some future sports promoter’s eye. But girls were still taking the ball to their male counterparts. Nancy and Raina, stepsisters and all-star players, are living out their last year of high-school stardom living, breathing and worshipping the Cult of the Hoop. But the girls are tired of dealing with the college recruiters that dog their every step, and the racism that is leveled at them because of their mixed African-American and Japanese-American household. In addition, both girls are dealing with their emerging sexual identities as young lesbian women of color. Can their already stressed-out friendship take the pressure when their teams come into direct competition–with each other? After reading this sharp and sweaty novel of competition on the riot-grrl level, you’ll be saying, “SHE got game!”
Ever felt like you stood out like a sore thumb, an inkblot on an otherwise perfect page? Well, that’s how Evie feels in a nutshell. he’s stuck in the middle of Small-Town America with a big secret, a secret that her conservative-minded neighbors won’t forgive too easily should they find out. To her brother Parr, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there is something different about Evie. And he’s not sure he wants to know what that something is. Told from Parr’s point of view, this novel shows how sometimes its better stick out and be true to yourself that lose your individuality and join the party line. A challenging read.
Since you’ve probably outgrown fairy tales, you’ll be sure to appreciate this modern almost-fairy tale of a bigger than life girl named Weetzie Bat who lives on the coast with the most– California. Follow her funky adventures through L.A. Land with her gay glitter-friends Dirk & Duck, and her love-at-first-sight, My Secret Agent Lover Man. For those of you who never grew up, this fractured fairy tale will be your perfect bedtime story. The best way to enjoy this short novel is to read it out loud with your best girlfriend. Before the Spice Girls was Weetzie Bat–REAL girlpower!
Liza’s first love was Annie. But it ended all too soon. Now away at college, safe from the harsh critics and gossiping tongues that tore them apart, Liza looks back on her first romance. She and Annie were so naive that they didn’t even know what to call their relationship. Were they…lesbians? What did that word mean, exactly? And how could you label something so wonderfully right with a name they had learned was shameful? With dreamy prose, Garden sensitively chronicles the first awakenings of sexual awareness and identity between two young women. A beautiful love story that, gay or straight, you will hold in your heart long after the last page is turned.
My main worry when I started hearing the buzz about this book was that the rosy picture it paints of a incredibly tolerant small town where the star football quarterback is also a drag queen named Infinite Darlene would offend those gay teens who’ve had hard time admitting their homosexuality or coming out of the closet to family and friends. But what I’m hearing from teen readers, gay and straight, is that they love the fact that Levithan wrote a sweet love story between two young men in a high school where no one thinks twice about your sexuality, and that “being gay” is NOT the point of the book. While Levithan’s town is a tad unrealistic, his fantasy vision is balanced by the town next door, where narrator Paul’s best friend Tony has to live and deal with his intolerant, strictly religious parents. At turns sweet, wacky and serious, BMB reminds me most of the writing of my fav FLB (Francesca Lia Block).