As I steam my way through my piles of 2017 books so I can make room for 2018’s, one thing has come very clear for me: this has been a very good year for queer fiction. We’ve come a long way from I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip and Annie on My Mind. Here are just a few of my recent favorites:
In It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, Misa Sugiura introduces readers to lesbian Sana Kiyohara, a Midwestern Japanese-American girl who moves to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she goes to school with fellow Asian-Americans for the first time and allows herself to fall for Mexican-American Jamie—but her newfound, heady feeling of belonging comes with its own complications. It’s an assured, nuanced debut.
Brandy Colbert sets her Little & Lion down the coast in Los Angeles, placing Suzette, her bisexual, black, Jewish protagonist at the center of a richly multicultural group of teens for one eventful summer in which she balances her lingering feelings for Iris, her white, boarding school roommate, against her attraction to Emil, her biracial childhood friend. This plays out alongside her brother’s decision to go off his bipolar meds in a novel that never feels overstuffed.
Release, by Patrick Ness, may seem at first to tread familiar coming-out ground, with its gay, white, preacher’s-son protagonist who suffers daily the withering, dehumanizing disapproval of his father. But Ness adds both a poetic, paranormal parallel narrative and a disarmingly sweet sex scene that leaves nothing to the imagination and in so doing brings queer sex out of the closet and onto the pages in a way I’ve never seen before in a book for teens. And then there’s Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, a bodice-ripping historical with one of the most lovably flawed narrators, queer or straight, I’ve had the pleasure to meet in a very long time. Viscount Henry Montague’s European Grand Tour is one for the ages. Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor.