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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: social issues

Teen Literature has evolved into so much more than what it was when I was in middle-school/high-school. My choice of teen fic was pretty limited .. we had Sweet Valley, with beloved plots straight out of a Lifetime movie (Jessica joins a cult..really?) Judy Blume (oh to be 14 again and be warned of the dangers of some of her books by well-meaning relatives), the character-killing McDaniel books, and general assorted titles.

I worked in a bookstore for 5 years, and over the years, I watched teen fiction go from two shelves at the end of Fiction to an entire aisle. I’m enthralled with the idea of teen lit an actual “genre” now, straight up there with Science Fiction and Romance. It’s a capital T and L now.

I’ve been studying the idea of girl culture lately, and how it relates with teen literature.

As Teen Literature evolves into a bigger entity in the bookstores, so has mainstream media evolved. The marriage of self-esteem and media has always been an unhappy one. Now, more than ever, girls are inundated with images of the “perfect body” and the like. For every plus-size supermodel breaking down the walls, there’s an advertisement affirming that you’re just not perfect until you’re this size. Back in my hometown, a plastic surgery firm had the audacity to erect a billboard reading “Now, you can be beautiful.’ Even in movies, the “outcast girl” and is unveiled for her true, beautiful self when her glasses are taken off and she adds a bit of makeup.

Readergirlz is one such reader group that chooses books that celebrate the idea of being an independent strong girl who doesn’t let a television or a magazine decide who she can be.

However, there are titles that do the opposite, and that continually destroy the “be who you want to be” ideas we strive to establish for the girls in our lives.

What are some good self-esteem affirming titles for girls? And why, since TeenLit has become such a publishing source, do the hallmarks of teen movies now find themselves in TeenLit?


Novels and true-life accounts of the delicate issue of sexuality are a recurring theme in teen literature. Where once only a few books existed on the topic, such as Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, the teen-lit scene offers more nowadays.

The emergence of these novels allows questioning teens and out-and-proud teens to address the issue head-on, living vicariously through the characters, and seeing how society handles the issue.

I’ve starred the ones I’ve read. Comment if you’d like to recommend new titles to me.

*Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
*Am I Blue: Coming Out of the Silence
*Far from Xanadu by Julie Ann Peters
*Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle
*Tomorrow Wendy Shelley Stoehr
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
*The Bermudez Triangle Maureen Johnson
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
*Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters
GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel
*Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block
*Out of the Shadows
The Misfits by James Howe
Good Moon Rising by Nancy Garden
Hello, I Lied by M.E. Kerr
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
Rainbow High by ” ”
Rainbow Road by ” ”
So Hard to Say by ” ”
The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger
Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn
The Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
*Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
What’s in a Name by Ellen Wittlinger
*Crush by Jane Futcher
*Dive by Stacy Donovan
Living in Secret by Cristina Salat
*Deliver Us from Evie
Totally Joe by James Howe

Keeping You a Secret and Empress of the World are perhaps the most real and authentic. We get both sides of the spectum through the girls’ eyes with acceptance and fear, homophobia. The reaction of friends and family isn’t overdramatic, and extends to accepetance and rejection. They’re both tenderly written with realistic dialogue and monologues.

Kissing the Witch is an elegant prose book of fairy tales with a lesbian twist that is not gratitious, only beautiful. has an insightful look into the evolution of this genre.

Children’s books addressing homosexuality now extend beyond Heather has Two Mommies. The books present facts frankly and focus on the idea of family and acceptance. Most aren’t overtly focused on the issue but rather approach it in a sutble way suitable for a range of ages.

King and King by Linda De Hahn
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell
King and King and Family by Linda De Hahn
The Family Book by Todd Parr
The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans and Other Stories by Johnny Valentine
Heather Has Two Mommies by Nancy Garden
Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Leslea Newman
The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein

Tango Makes Three is the adorable true story of two Central Park zoo male penguins who are devoted to each other, sleeping together, and finally tending to a juvenile penguin. While the true-life story ends unhappily with one of the males eventually finding a female mate, the book witholds this information from children, making it a sweet storybook, conveying the idea of alternative families without resulting to preaching.