June is the most wonderful time of the year – PRIDE! Yes, that month when rainbows are everywhere and some people a just a little less homophobic/biphobic/transphobic/etc. – that’s the idea, anyway. I’m getting off topic, though – I decided to write this post because I was curious to see how many of the most popular queer books I had read, so I found “Best YA Fiction With GLBTQQI Themes/Characters” on Goodreads. I wanted to see how well-read I am when it comes to popular queer books and what kind of books were considered popular in the first place.
I really have no idea if this intro makes sense, so let’s get onto the books!
The Books I‘ve Read
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
- The Dream Thieves
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
- Blue Lily, Lily Blue
- The Raven King
- The House of Hades
- Six of Crows
- Everything Leads to You
- The Raven Boys
- Beauty Queens
- One Man Guy (DNFed)
- A Great and Terrible Beauty
- If I Was Your Girl
- The Blood of Olympus
- The Raven King
19 out of 100 – that’s really not great – and none of them are even on my to-read shelf! But, this is a perfect segue to a lot of my reactions, because I don’t think that this is a perfect list, that’s for sure (not knocking the creator at all, because these are books voted on by Goodreads users, so it’s merely a reflection of a lot of people’s opinions).
- Most of these books seem to be m/m romances between gay boys. Now, I say this even though I don’t know every book on the list, so I could be off a bit, but most of the books I recognized on here have m/m romances without a single bi or pan boy in sight. I see a lot of people talk about how there are a lot more m/m romances in YA, but I’ve never really believed that – but that’s because the majority of books I read have female protagonists, so if the protagonists are queer, then it’s a f/f romance or a bi/pan/ace/etc. girl at the center, not all of these gay boys. But it’s true – the most noticeable queer books tend to have m/m romance at the center. We need more queer girls!
- Not all of these books have queer protagonists. There were books like the Shadowhunters series, which has a prominent m/m romance, but the protagonist is still a straight girl. It seemed like a bit of a flaw in this list – yes, we need queer secondary characters, but that’s easier to find than queer protagonists.
- Some of these books have ambiguous queer relationships – not queerbaiting, exactly, but romances that don’t quite come out and see “hey, we’re queer!” The biggest example I saw was the Raven Cycle books – all of them are listed, but I’d argue that the first book especially doesn’t have any queer romances, just characters who are written ambiguously enough that they could be – and ultimately are – but not yet. You don’t get to count a book as having queer characters when the characters haven’t come out yet – in real life, you’re queer whether you’re in the closet or not, but books and other forms of media have more of a responsibility to use labels and have explicit confirmation that a queer relationship is happening – otherwise, it is queerbaiting and they’re just getting the glory without actually doing the work.
- There are a few authors who keep popping up – Julie Anne Peters, David Levithan, Adam Silvera. It’s nice to see authors who continually write about queer characters, whether the stories are focused on the relationships or not.
- There are a lot of “popular” queer books that I’ve never even read – that’s kind of cool, knowing that there are still a lot of queer books out there, just waiting for us to discover them. Or maybe just me – it looks like a lot of people have discovered them already.
- There isn’t a whole lot of diversity beyond white girls kissing white girls and white boys kissing white boys. There isn’t much racial diversity, there aren’t a lot of trans rep (and no, being trans doesn’t automatically make you gay – identity and sexuality are two different things, and we need straight and gay/bi/pan/ace/etc. trans characters), and there aren’t even a lot of queer rep that goes beyond gay characters. We’re making small steps, but there are many more to go.
There are plenty of queer books on my own to-read shelf, even if they weren’t represented in this list, so I’m not too worried about the fact that I haven’t read most of these books, nor do I plan to. I do hope that I can one day spend a whole June reading nothing but queer books without feeling like I’m missing out on some great releases – all books need to reflect reality, which means all books need sexual diversity, whether we’re talking about protagonists who take the spotlight or small characters who populate the story and make it that much more realistic.