Tag Archives: LGBT Literature

Digital Library: Better Nate Than Ever

better-nate-than-ever-9781442366206_hrBetter Nate Than Ever by Time Federle; read by the author

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2013. 5 hours, 54 minutes. ISBN 9781442366206

Odyssey Honor Audiobook Award Winner, 2014.

Synopsis: Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. – from Amazon.com

I always think it is a treat when an author performs the audiobook version of their own work because you can get a feel for how they hoped to portray the characters on the page. Federle brings across the exuberance, hopefulness, and nervousness of Nate’s character as he embarks on what becomes a journey of major ups, downs, and even some other surprises along the way. I had a laugh out loud at Nate’s internal voice telling him to stop talking when he knew he was starting to ramble – and I’m sure other readers will identify with this part of Nate’s character as well. It was hard not to root for Nate as he is going through the audition process, which seems somewhat nerve-wracking when you consider the sheer number of people in the casting office – some of whom he is competing with. I also had to admire Nate’s starry-eyed view of New York and the way he instantly falls in love with the city even though Kristin Chenoweth is not at the Greyhound station to welcome him with a song. I absolutely loved everything about this audiobook and would recommend it to anyone with big hopes and dreams to help encourage them.

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Review

simon_vs_the_homo_sapiens_agendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Balzer + Bray, 2015. 978-0062348678

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It was a selection for one of my book clubs that thought it prudent to read it before the movie hit theaters.

Why I finished it: The romance was definitely cute, but what really stuck with me was the underlying commentary about judging by appearances. Simon’s continual frustration (among other things) is regarding defaults, how we make assumptions based on a personal or societal norm and how the assumptions are not always true. To put this a little bit more in perspective, we do this as readers. We envision characters to be a certain way –  for example, white and straight – unless we are first given some sort of description or qualifier about the character. Simon and his classmates make default assumptions about each other as well, and the point Simon (and I) seems to be driving at is that we can’t judge people based on what feels comfortable to us. We should be able to embrace people for who they really are rather than what we want them to be. We can’t make assumptions based on appearances. Simon has chances to open up about his sexuality, but he’s constantly worried about how it will impact his relationships and whether or not the situation feels right. He has to play up the appearance his friends and classmates have of him, and yet, he knows that being out comes with its own problems with which he isn’t quite ready to deal. Albertalli is sending a message of cautious tolerance to her readers, something that is a big deal in today’s society. Think differently about people and be open to change, be open to being honest about yourself and your beliefs because things can get better.

Other related materials: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli; Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli; What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera; More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; Every Day by David Levithan; Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan; Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan; Autoboyography by Christina Lauren; A Boy Worth Knowing by Jennifer Cosgrove; The Dangerous Art of Blending In  by Angelo Surmelis; Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall; Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg; Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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Two Boys Kissing Review

twoboyskissingTwo Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0307931900

Synopsis: Based on true events—and narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS—Two Boys Kissing follows Harry and Craig, two seventeen-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teens dealing with universal questions of love, identity, and belonging. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I will read anything David Levithan writes forever.

Why I finished it: This book definitely deserves the glowing reviews its received: it’s poignant, heartbreaking, and full of hope. Each of the couples in this book represents a stage every relationship – gay or straight – goes through: the nervous getting-to-know-you, the continual desire to know every little thing about the other person, the still trying to be friends even after things are over, and everything in between. It’s a story about the struggles we encounter on the way to becoming ourselves, the way we want others to see us, the way that we have to let ourselves open up to someone we want to be close to, the way we support our friends. The chorus of those who came before gives the reader insight as to what our characters face, what generations of men and women after them will face: the adversity, the challenges, the hurdles people will overcome in order to be together. The real story behind the kiss is just as exciting as Levithan’s fictional re-telling, and while records can be broken, the message sent sticks in our minds. It’s a message that says to me that we’re all people, we all deserve to be treated with the same respect, we all deserve to have our voices heard. It’s a message that stays with the reader long after the book has been put down, and will continue to resonate with readers after us.

Other related materials: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan; Every Day by David Levithan; Every You, Every Me by David Levithan; The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan; How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan; The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Álire Saenz; Just Between Us by J.H. Trimble; Where You Are by J.H. Trimble; Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trimble; Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez; Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez; The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. daforth; Something Like Summer by Jay Bell; Something Like Winter by Jay Bell; Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell; Something Like Spring by Jay Bell; Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg; Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Review

aristotle_and_danteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers, 2012. 978-1442408920

Synopsis: When Aristotle meets Dante at the community pool in the summer of 1987, the two fifteen-year-olds are struggling to figure out who they are and who they will become. Aristotle is unsure of himself and prefers the quiet while Dante is smart and has a way with people, so it would seem the two opposites wouldn’t get along. But the friendship that develops between the two boys over the next year is going to change them both in unexpected ways.

Why I picked it up: The title intrigued me and so did the fact that it won the Stonewall Book Award.

Why I finished it: This story was so moving for me on so many levels that it is hard for me to know where to start. Sáenz has a way of allowing his characters to develop on their own without forcing them to move in a particular direction that helps the reader relate and gives a more free-form feel to the story. I love that Aristotle and Dante are two different people trying to figure out who they are while they are navigating personal, family, and social issues. Both boys are clearly batting their own personal demons as we progress throughout the novel and I think it was rather refreshing that things don’t get fixed, but old wounds begin to heal over. Sáenz is also confronting the issues of sexuality and race. While Dante is more open than Aristotle, it is clear that Dante’s straightforward nature is part of what helps Aristotle confront why he is so angry and why he seems to be unintentionally distancing himself from getting too close to Dante. Both boys also talk frequently about how Mexican or not they are at any given time. They’re trying to break the stereotype and yet, they are who they are. It is a book about love, family, friendship, and how the three are intertwined in ways that touch our hearts and make us think about what it is to be who we are.

Other related materials: Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge, Marke Bieschke, and Christian Robinson; The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell; Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan; Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan; Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green; Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez; Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez; The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth; Something Like Summer by Jay Bell; Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell; Something Like Winter by Jay Bell; Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, & What I Learned by Judd Winick; Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

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Boy Meets Boy review

 Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 978-0375832994

Synopsis: Paul has a great life, great friends, and everything is about to get better now that he’s met Noah. Noah is the most perfect boy and he makes Paul feel like he can walk on air. Then things start to fall apart: his best friend Joni stops talking to him, his ex-boyfriend Kyle won’t leave him alone, his friend Tony has been banned from talking to him, and the school bookie isn’t giving his relationship with Paul good odds. Paul needs to find a way to show Noah he loves him before things get worse and he risks losing Noah forever.

Why I picked it up: It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and it came highly recommended to me by my library school classmates.

Why I finished it: I love, love, love the simplicity of this love story and the complexity of the characters. There is a sense of perfection in that everyone in the book is openly accepting of homosexuality, and yet there is a struggle between the characters to know who they are and what they want. The relationships are realistic and it reminds the reader of how they felt about their first real love: the nervousness, the desire just to be close to them, and know everything about them comes across very well. Levithan has created a set of characters to whom the reader can relate, whether they are straight or gay. I also loved the quirkiness of the community: the cheerleaders riding Harleys, the DJ nights in a local bookstore, the Dowager Dance in which a high school senior must dance with the portrait of a dead woman. It’s a story that makes you remember your first love, the awkwardness of high school, and just makes you smile.

Other related materials: How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan; The Lover’s Dictionary: A Novel by David Levithan; The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan; Every You, Every Me by David Levithan;  Hero by Perry Moore; Geography Club by Brent Hartinger; Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez; So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez; Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

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