Warning: this book contains Serious Issues. You've also been warned that there aren't any angels, zombies, vampires, demons, or changelings. No one has supernatural superhero powers. It isn't set in the future and there has not been an apocalypse. Still interested? Yes! I loved this. Shine by Lauren Myracle is a realistic, gritty and powerful coming of age story that is raw and emotional but also completely worthwhile.
After Cat's friend Patrick is brutally assaulted, marked with a gay slur, and left for dead at a gas station in their hometown of Black Creek, NC she decides to figure out who could have done something so horrible. The sheriff is investigating, but seems sure that it was outsiders - just someone passing through. At face value, this book is a mystery. Cat sets out to interview people who were with Patrick the night of the attack to establish a timeline and she tries to determine motive. Patrick was friends with many people in town who were also uncomfortable to some degree with his homosexuality.
But really the heart of this book isn't so much figuring out who did it, but how the characters come to terms with the resolution. Cat also has to face her own demons in this process. I liked that she wasn't a superhero, but a girl who got kind of messed up and is really trying to do the right thing. Read more about Shine by Lauren Myracle
I journeyed back into the 1950s with this novel about a closeted gay editor. It's all here: the strong prejudice against homosexuality, the gender stereotyping, the cold war, the loyalty oaths, friend turning against friend and colleague against colleague. Some accused Communists leap out high-rise windows when their livelihoods are destroyed.
But McCarthyism is just a side issue in this intriguing novel - The Man on the Third Floor centers on a very successful editor who has a secret domestic life. When he and his wife, Phyllis, and their two young children move back to New York after the World War II years in Washington, Phyllis decides they can afford a house of their own. They finds a nice brownstone with three floors, the top of which was originally servant quarters. But Phyllis is a modern woman, college-educated who worked in radio and journalism until she had children, and she's not keen on having servants live with them.
But one day, a very handsome man comes to measure Walter's office for new carpeting. Although Walter has had only one sexual experience with another male in his life--he was raped at camp as a teenager--he immediately finds himself inviting Barry, the carpet man, to a bar. Almost immediately, he offers him a job as a driver despite the fact the family owns no car, and soon gives him a room on their third floor. For some reason, Phyllis agrees to both ideas. Read more about The Man on the Third Floor
June is generally recognized as LGBT Pride Month. In honor of this, the Lambda Awards were announced last week for excellence in LGBT literature. A long list of winners in a wide variety of categories can be found on their website.
The winner in the LGBT Children's/Young Adult category is Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright. This novel is about high school student Carlos Duarte who is juggling a job at the Macy's makeup counter, a jealous boss, his sister's abusive boyfriend, and a difficult crush. Booklist's review of Wright's novel remarks that "there's a whole lot going on in Wright's novel, but it's handled deftly and, for the most part, believably. Best of all, Carlos is not completely defined by his homosexuality. It is an important part of him, yes, but so are his ambition, his concern for his sister, and his capacity for friendship."
How Beautiful the Ordinary, edited by Michael Cart, is a welcome addition to the small but growing collection of young adult fiction exploring gender identity and sexual orientation. Being a young person is difficult, what with all the changes physical, emotional, and social. Most of us spend our whole lives getting to know ourselves, and those initial explorations in our youth are some of the most confusing and painful (and exhilarating and profound) because they are so new. All of this can be overwhelming, and when you throw in societal condemnation of some of these identities and/or lifestyles it is especially hard. This collection of short fiction by well-respected young adult authors takes a loving and unrelenting look at the struggle not only to discover what we are as young women and men, but to accept and own that identity as well. Read more about How Beautiful the Ordinary, edited by Michael Cart
The National Book Award finalists were announced last week and cover fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young adult literature written by an American author. In the original announcement, Lauren Myracle's Shine was mistakenly announced as a finalist for the young adult literature category instead of Chime by Franny Billingsley. The National Book Awards admitted to the mistake right away and made an announcement that Shine would remain on the list due to it's literary strength. But in a new shocking twist this week, The National Book Awards has asked Myracle to withdraw from the shortlist. Read more about National Book Awards Controversy