> Queer Books Please: More first round match ups!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More first round match ups!


 Matt, the protagonist of PERSONAL EFFECTS, is angry. Really angry. For good reason. His mother is dead. His father is a bully. His brother died serving in the military in Iraq. I haven't read a YA book with a young man as a narrator as a long time, and thus found Matt's rage to be novel and compelling. This the one of two books (ARISTOTLE AND DANTE is the other) where much of the suspense in the book is generated from the possibility that the narrator might explode and do violence to those around him. It's certainly interesting and different from books aimed at girls, although I read these two books back to back and by the time I was finishing the second it was losing its power.

Angry boys are interesting, until you realize that it's apparently their natural condition.

The sheer rage in this book is particularly interesting when you compare it to SILHOUETTE OF A SPARROW, a book where my lasting impression is the image of two girls caught in the rain on a lake, and kissing under a boat, the picture of sweetness. It's not that SILHOUETTE lacks drama, or painful circumstances in the past and present, but hope and love and inner strength overcome.

Head to head, it's an interesting match up. Both books feature top-notch narration which made them fun, entertaining reads. I think they are well matched in terms of literary merits. What about gay content? PERSONAL EFFECTS is overtly political on the issue of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and gay people in the military. It's an Important Message book that has a great chance to really get a lot of young people thinking about these issues. And I like that the book is very very clear in the end that Matt's brother had a relationship that was romantic, sexual, and in all ways comparable to a heterosexual relationship.

But PERSONAL EFFECTS is still a book that looks from the outside in. Whereas the narrator of SILHOUETTE is herself gay. And in general I those are the books I most want to see out there, representing the queer community.

Yes, I'm going to do it. SILHOUETTE wins! Moving on to the final four! In case you can't tell, I think this is a really special book. Although its scope is modest, the execution is flawless, and it's such a sweet book, such a pleasure to read. When I talked about it on the podcast, I mentioned that my reaction to it was: this is the exact book I wanted to find when I was 14.


ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE versus BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN. I like that these two books are matched up against each other. Both deal with identities that don't personally share (gay boys and ftm transgender). I enjoyed each quite a bite. BEAUTIFUL MUSIC reminded me of the coming out lesbian books I read when I was a teenager--straightforward, sweet, the primary drama coming from facing up against hate. Many of Gabe's experiences as a transgender teen seem general, intended as an all around primer for the reader on transgender issues. Which is good and important! Especially when there aren't many books dealing with a topic, I think this approach makes sense, makes it accessible and useful to as many people as possible. 

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE takes a lot more risks. The book has a really exciting, interesting style, combining Ari's blunt, raw narration with a huge amount of dialogue. At times this book reads like a stage drama. I found it awesome and interesting!  I also loved that this book dealt heavily with Ari's relationship with his parents. The conflict and affection between parents and teenagers are very well depicted here--a welcome change from many books that look to keep parents backstage so that the teenagers are free to have as many adventures as they want. The relationship between Ari and Dante felt real to me, their long friendship and flirtation crackling with real chemistry, even when they seem unaware of their feelings.

I'm going with ARISTOTLE and DANTE as the winner of this match up! Love the bold, dialogue heavy approach, a cherry on top of an all ready notable novel.

Final four match ups are set! A quick preview of them, plus the updated bracket (once I get home and can edit the file) underneath the cut. Remember that these match ups plus the finals will be in my podcast this week!


SILHOUETTE  has a sweet romance and low key but lovely storytelling style. Is that enough to defeat the boldness and passion in ARISTOTLE AND DANTE?


 One of my favorite coming age/coming out novels in a long time versus a supernatural storyline designed to emphasize connectedness and similarities between all people.

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