Category Archives: 2010s

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Harlequin Teen, 2012.

Chelsea Knot is one of the popular girls, based almost solely on the basis of her friendship with queen bee, Kristen, who manipulates her, and everyone around her to get what she wants. Most of their time together is spent putting other people down, shopping, and gossiping about boys.

Chelsea is also known for her inability to keep a secret, unless she can blackmail someone for something better than the thrill of spilling the latest gossip. When she finds out that Tessa is sneaking around with her best friend, Megan’s boyfriend, and has pictures to prove it, Kristen convinces her not to share the photos if Tessa will get them two fake IDs.

So far, there is nothing likeable about Chelsea – and it’s all about to go downhill at a New Year’s party at Kristen’s. Drunk, and in desperate need of a bathroom, Chelsea stumbles into a bedroom where she discovers two boys making love. With the best secret of the year in her grasp, Chelsea blurts out the details to everyone within hearing range. Kristen, her boyfriend Warren, and others react in horror, disgust and anger, and Warren and his sidekick Joey follow the two boys out the door, saying they’re just going to teach them a lesson.

When she finds out from Kristen, the next morning, that Noah, one of the two gay teens, is in the hospital, Chelsea accedes to Kristen’s threat not to say anything to anyone.

Surprisingly, her conscience gets the better of her, and she confesses everything to her parents, and makes a statement to the police.

She then takes a vow of silence.

Returning to school, Chelsea finds that all of her friends have turned against her, and she is treated to verbal and physical abuse and harassment that the school administration manages to remain ignorant of. Given detention every day by her English teacher for not participating in class, Chelsea makes a new friend, who draws her into a new circle of people who are respectful of her silence.

These new relationships are not uncomplicated – they all know what she did, and one of the teens in this group is Noah’s boyfriend, who is furious and resents her presence in his life.

What Chelsea learns about herself through her silence, and through her new friendships is what makes this book worth reading, and not simply another story of a gay-bashing.



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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2010s, Gay, High School, Middle School

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr

aAuthorHouse, 2010.

Transgender – Preschool/Elementary School

Nick has felt like a girl for as long as he can remember. When he tells his parents, they tell him they love him any way he feels. Nick’s parents let him grow his hair, buy him dresses, and when things start getting difficult at school, they talk to his teacher, and take him to a therapist who supports children “who felt like they were born in the wrong body.”

Nick continues to identify as a girl, and tells her parents that she doesn’t want to be called a boy, or be called Nick anymore. They support her decision to change her name to Hope, and when she wants to meet other children like her, they find other families with children like her that she can play with and talk to.

Hope’s little brother, Will, is relieved that they can still share a room, but doesn’t know what it will be like to have a sister instead of a brother. The family goes to the library to check out books about sisters and brothers loving each other, which makes him feel better.

Will has questions for Hope, which she always answers, and he is relieved when she says she is the same person as always and will always love him.

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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2010s, Infant - Preschool, Soldier Girls and Dancing Boys

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

aScholastic, 2011.

Lesbian/Transgender – High School

In this very popular, and over-the-top novel, a group of teenage beauty contestants are stranded on an apparently deserted island when their plane crashes. With few resources they manage to survive storms, people-eating snakes, snarky infighting, and pirates. When they uncover an arms-dealing conspiracy related to the beauty pageant, the young women put their heads together and put a stop to it, saving themselves, and continuing to practice for their pageant in the meantime. Among the contestants is a lesbian teen, and one of the pirates is transgender.

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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2010s, Soldier Girls and Dancing Boys

The Purim Superhero by Elizabeth Kushner

purimKar-Ben, 2013.  

Gay – Preschool/Elementary School

Nate is encouraged by his two fathers to follow his own way when choosing his Purim costume, rather than being pressured to be a super-hero like all the other boys plan to be. Abba tells him that not all boys need to be alike, and that makes Nate think about his family with two fathers. They also use the example of Queen Esther, who dared to be herself in order to protect the Jewish people, and Abba explains that being yourself can make you stronger, even if you are different – an oblique reference to being openly gay. Additionally, Nate’s family is shown as being well integrated into their synagogue community.


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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2010s, Infant - Preschool

The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy by S. Bear Bergman

aFlamingo Rampant, 2012.

Transgender – Preschool/Elementary School

Tulip, an adorable little fairy with a bow-tie and a top-knot, has a job as a Birthday Wish Fairy. He sorts all the birthday wishes into piles, dealing with the easy ones, for a new doll, or truck, first. He sends wishes for new brothers or sisters upstairs to the department that handles things like that, and for those who wished not to have a new sibling, the wishes are washed into their underlying concern – to still have the love and attention of their parents. Some wishes he can’t do anything about, like making parents recover from illness, or to stop hitting, or to bring more money to the family, but even for these children, Tulip tries to find small ways to brighten their days.

For children who wish they looked different, he devoted a good fifteen minutes of smiling to each, so they would feel better about themselves and realize they weren’t so different from anyone else.

But then a wish that stumped Tulip arrived. A boy named David had wished on his birthday candles to become a girl named Daniela. After thinking for a while about this wish, Tulip consulted the Birthday Wish Fairy Rule Book, and followed the instruction to meet with the Wish Fairy Captain. She explained to Tulip that some children are born into bodies that don’t match who they are inside.

Following the Wish Fairy Captain’s instructions carefully, he granted Daniela the bravery she would need when people didn’t understand her, Clear Sight Sparkles for Daniela’s family so they can see her as she really is, and Teaching Toothpaste for everyone, so they can help Daniela’s teachers and doctors understand her, and lastly, a special Wish Fairy Kiss, so she will know that her dreams will come true if she holds onto them.

Somehow, although it’s not in his job description, Tulip continues to visit Daniela and her family to see how they’re doing and to help them if he can. One day, the Wish Fairy Captain calls him to her office to ask why he’s doing this since it’s no longer Daniela’s birthday. Tulip explains that he thinks Daniela and her family can use some extra help now and then, and the Wish Fairy Captain smiles and offers him the job of Gender Wish Fairy.

While wordy for the youngest audiences, this is a delightful book for families with transgender children.

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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2010s, Infant - Preschool, Soldier Girls and Dancing Boys

I Am J by Cris Beam

JLittle, Brown, 2011.

Transgender – High School

Seventeen-year-old J feels trapped in his female body, and trapped in his life as his parent’s daughter. Without much of a plan, other than to get on testosterone, J runs away, only to discover that getting T is a more involved process than he thought.

With the support of new friends, a new high school, and a safer place to stay, J begins making the journey that will carry him into manhood. Well-written, with good character development, this is an essential title for transgender teens.

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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2010s, Soldier Girls and Dancing Boys

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

Publication7Sourcebooks, 2013.

Gay – High School

Sixteen-year-old Lucy feels like everything is going wrong in her life: new student, and drama camp rival Elyse wins the role of Juliet that Lucy had expected to get. Then her boyfriend of two years, Ty, who is playing Romeo, dumps her for Elyse. On top of that her mother, Lisa, who has made exactly two previous appearances in her life has arrived, and Lucy’s dads decide to let her stay with them.

Lucy can’t imagine how much worse things can get, but waking up with a horrible hangover in a strange bed, with a naked man she only vaguely recognizes is just the beginning of it. When she tests positive for HIV, she is ready to give up. The support of her two fathers, a support group they force her to go to, and ultimately the support of a couple of long-term friends and a potential new boyfriend help her regain her desire to fight for her future.

This well-written book tackles a subject that has been largely neglected – that of white middle-class heterosexual teens who contract HIV. Most recent books focus on HIV/AIDS in the gay community, or, more often, among young people in Africa.

The fact that Lucy has two fathers is treated matter-of-factly.


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Filed under *** A good read, 2010s