Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Youth Fiction Grows Up: For the Gifted Crop of Writers Telling Stories for and about Gay Youths, the Old Cliches Are So-O-O Over

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Youth Fiction Grows Up: For the Gifted Crop of Writers Telling Stories for and about Gay Youths, the Old Cliches Are So-O-O Over

Article excerpt

When it comes to choosing fiction, you don't have to act your age. Some of the most moving, courageous, and innovative new writing is in gay-themed novels for young adults. "Young adult literature is all about experimentation and risk-taking," Julie Anne Peters, author of last year's Luna--a National Book Award finalist about a transgendered teen--has said. "There are no rules, no limitations, no literary expectations to overcome."

Filmmaker Brian Sloan (I Think I Do) remembers asking his publishers if there were words or topics he should avoid in his debut comic young adult novel, A Really Nice Prom Mess (Simon and Schuster, June): "They said no. Teenagers have pretty much heard it all." Unlike the purveyors of the angst-ridden gay pulp fiction of the '50s, his publishers asked only for a happy ending.

Sloan's main character, Cameron Hayes, keeps his sexuality under wraps because his wealthy, A-list boyfriend doesn't want to threaten his standing on the football team. When Cameron goes along with his boyfriend's plan to bring fake dates to prom, gay hell breaks loose. What's prom night without a thwarted drug bust, gay strippers, and a Russian con artist?

On the darker side, Kathe Koja's new novel, Talk, describes a high school student's coming-out against the controversial themes of the school play in which he's starring: torture, imprisonment, and the dangers of truth-telling. Tall, good-looking Kit, who plays off his female costar's sexual attraction to him onstage, comes to realize he's "acting" in more ways than one. Koja says writing for young people heightens her "feeling of responsibility. I aim to tell them the truth the best way I know how, to respect them as readers and as people by being absolutely honest with them."

But honesty can be hard-won. After building a successful career in children's literature, it took Julie Anne Peters a full year to work up the courage to show her editor the lesbian love story she'd written for teens (Keeping You a Secret, 2003), even though the book was her editor's idea. She expected to be blacklisted by librarians. Instead she was inundated with fan mail. …

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