THE LETTER Q

QUEER WRITERS' NOTES TO THEIR YOUNGER SELVES

Inspiring but not universal.

To hear the more than 50 contributors tell it, one might think that queer adults mostly end up living in ritzy corners of New York City and becoming published authors.

That, perhaps, is the necessary consequence of this project, which compiles lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer writers' letters to their younger selves. Big names in adult, teen or children's literature have contributed, including Michael Cunningham, Armistead Maupin, Marion Dane Bauer, Arthur Levine, Gregory Maguire and Amy Bloom. A number of comics artists—including Michael DiMotta, Jennifer Camper and Jasika Nicole—have penned letters in comic form. Many authors use their short (usually two- to three-page) letters to talk about the future. Some letters read like a memoir in second person; some describe past addictions, suicide attempts and other grim circumstances; many give advice. Comparisons to the It Gets Better video campaign, in which LGBT adults promise queer and questioning teenagers that life improves after high school, are inevitable. Contributors Jacqueline Woodson and Erik Orrantia even use the language of “getting better” outright. Yet the disproportionate achievement of fame, wealth and successful careers in the arts among the authors here seems an unfair promise to make to most readers.

Inspiring but not universal. (Anthology. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-39932-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Close Quickview