Author Archive

Boy Meets Boy

November 28, 2012

Author: David Levithan

Title: Boy Meets Boy

Genre: GLBT fiction; Realistic fiction

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 185

Geographical Setting: Not specified. “Gaytopia”

Time Period: Present Day

Plot Summary: Sophomore high school student, Paul, does not have an especially profound coming out story. His kindergarten teacher simply sent a report card home to his parents that read: “Paul is definitely gay and has a very good sense of self.” Such is the laidback attitude of Paul’s town where people of all sexual orientations are treated with respect and acceptance. In this community, being gay is not considered a unique trait but rather par for the course. Paul lives in a place where the quarterback of the high school football team is a cross-dresser who also happens to be the homecoming queen. Additionally, the cheerleading squad is not your typical pom-pom crowd but rather a group of Harley-riding bikers. While Paul has had crushes spanning back to third grade, and a few ex-boyfriends along the way, none of these encounters can compare to the remarkable response Paul feels after meeting Noah. The new kid at school, Noah is artistic, kind, and intriguing. Paul falls in love deeply and quickly, yet an ex-boyfriend named Kyle has suddenly regained interest in Paul, which threatens the joy of this new romance. Paul would normally seek advice from his friends regarding the resurgence of his ex-boyfriend; however, his childhood best friend, Joni, is engrossed in a new boyfriend whose dating motives are questionable. In addition to Joni’s absence, Paul’s friend, Tony, has been put under house arrest by his conservative family. Now Paul must find a way to repair his strained friendships while also protecting his new relationship with Noah despite Kyle’s confusing advances. Inspiring and heartwarming, Boy Meets Boy is a contemporary coming-of-age story about friendships, family, and romance. Paul’s narration is unpretentious and thoughtful in this tale of believable teenage issues in an extraordinary town.

Subject Headings: Gay teenagers, High school sophomores, Infatuation in teenage boys, Interpersonal relations, Teenage boys, Teenage romance

Three Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book: Heartwarming, Hopeful, Inspiring

Appeal: Contemporary, Breezy, Conversational, Thoughtful, Unpretentious, Unhurried, Heartwarming, Lighthearted, Hopeful, Strong Secondary Characters, Inspiring, Character-Centered

Fiction Read Alikes:

The Hookup Artist by Tucker Shaw

Aspiring to be his high school’s matchmaker, Lucas endeavors to set up his best friend Cate with the attractive new kid at school, Derek. Despite her initial reluctance, Cate falls for Derek who appears to only have eyes for Lucas. This triangle is further complicated when Lucas returns Derek’s crush which in turn threatens his relationship with Cate. Readers who are looking for additional YA GLBT fiction that discusses how first loves can complicate friendships should pick up this contemporary and humorous read.

How I paid for college: a novel of sex, theft, friendship & musical theater by Marc Acito

Recently graduated from high school, Edward Zanni has a seemingly perfect life. He has a beautiful girlfriend, an intriguing and attractive football-playing friend, and an acceptance to Julliard. When Edward’s father suddenly announces he won’t be able to pay his son’s tuition due to an upcoming marriage, Edward enlists the help of his friends to secure his collegiate future. Edward’s entourage of friends make for enjoyable secondary characters and Edward’s journey of discovering his own sexuality is endearing and believable. Adult and teen Boy Meets Boy fans looking for another humorous coming-of-age story about friendship and self-discovery might enjoy How I Paid for College.

Tale of Two Summers by Brian Sloan

Childhood best friends, Hal and Chuck, are spending a summer apart for the first time in ten years. In order to keep in touch, the two teens set up a blog in which Hal discusses falling for a young Frenchman and Chuck describes his crush on summer camp thespian. Despite Hal’s recently coming out to Chuck, their friendship remains strong and the two boys discuss love and sex in a frank and humorous tone. Boy Meets Boy fans who are looking for another witty, contemporary read about friendship and first loves might enjoy this book.

Non-Fiction Read Alikes:

The full spectrum: a new generation of writing about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and other identities

Edited by Boy Meets Boy author Levithan, The Full Spectrum is a collection of non-fiction poems and short stories written by gay teenagers in which they discuss their experiences with coming out, religion, family, friends, and love. Readers who enjoyed Paul’s believable teenage narration of traditional high school experiences might wish to explore similar true stories from gay young adults.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

In this non-fiction anthology, sixty-four professional authors write letters to their teenage selves in which they discuss issues such as coming out and self-discovery. Readers who are looking for more traditional coming out stories (compared to Paul’s kindergarten report card) might enjoy this title.

When the Drama Club Is Not Enough: Lessons from the Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students by Jeff Perrotti

In this guidebook for teens, Perrotti (the founding director of the Massachusetts Department of Education initiative) shares his experiences as an activist for teens while trying to promote gay rights in the school setting. Some Boy Meets Boy fans may find Paul’s accepting high school environment inspiring; those readers seeking materials on how to promote gay rights in their own school should read this book.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

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The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

November 7, 2012

Author: Anthology, 64 contributing authors

Title: The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 281

Geographical Setting: N/A

Time Period: Present (some flashbacks to authors’ adolescence).

Plot Summary: What would you write if you could send a letter to your young adult self? This question is explored in The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves as sixty-four LGBT authors, including Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom, create an anthology of letters written to themselves as teenagers. While each letter is unique and distinctive, the collection as a whole discusses topics such as: exploring self-identity, the sometimes painful process of coming out, and encouragement and hope for bright futures ahead. Some authors write letters that are nostalgic and humorous as they discuss memorable moments from their adolescence, a well-remembered love for Barbara Streisand’s Broadway albums for example. Other letters take on a more serious tone with discussions of bullying or teenage self-loathing. Despite the variety of moods present in this anthology, the collective message found in the text is hopeful and reassuring with promises of happy adulthood in a more tolerant society. In addition to content, the letters are also unique in format. While the majority of entries consist of traditional letters, others are written in free verse or graphic novel form. This anthology of unsent letters makes for an emotional read that is heartwarming at times while tearful at others. Written in a conversational tone, The Letter Q is an honest and endearing read about courage and self-acceptance that will appeal to both teen and adult readers.

Subject Headings: Coming out (Sexual orientation), Gay men, Self-acceptance, Social situations, Teenage, Teenagers, Gays-Identity, Adolescence

Three Appeal Terms: Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic

Appeal: Compassionate, Heartwarming, Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic, Optimistic, Flashbacks, Issue-Oriented, Thought-Provoking, Candid, Conversational, Multiple Points of View.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help their Teenage Son Come to Terms with his Sexuality by John Schwartz

Written by a New York Times correspondent, Schwartz tells the heartbreaking story of his thirteen-year-old son’s attempt to commit suicide after coming out to friends and family. The near tragedy becomes an uplifting tale as Schwartz recounts his mission to make his teenage son feel safe and supported. Fans of The Letter Q who are looking for additional true coming out stories that are both positive and encouraging may also enjoy this title.

Queer: the ultimate LGBT guide for teens by Kathy Belge

Structured as a guidebook for young adults, Queer offers advice on a wide range of topics including dating, sex, and homophobia. For young adults who appreciated the guidance and suggestions provided in The Letter QQueer may be helpful additional reading for teens who are seeking more resources on coming out.

When I Knew (2005)

A collection of anecdotes from eighty contributing writers, When I Knew authors describe the moment they realized they were gay and the coming out process that followed. When I Knew may appeal to Q fans who are looking for additional anthologies of coming out stories that are both inspiring and humorous.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

My most excellent year: a novel of love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year is narrated by three young adults from Boston who share their experiences of love and friendship through letters, emails, and instant messages. This trio of unique characters consists of  T.C., who is baseball-obsessed and has made a hobby of writing letters to his deceased mother; Alejandra, whose father is an ambassador to Mexico and holds Jacqueline Kennedy as her role model; and Augie, a musical theater fanatic who shares his own coming out story. Young adult readers who enjoyed the multiple voices included in The Letter Q may appreciate this humorous coming-of-age/coming out story told through three narrators. My Most Excellent Year’s format of letters, emails, and texts might also appeal to Q fans.

Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom
 by Emily Franklin

High school senior Lucas is thoroughly shocked when his lifelong best friend, Tessa, turns down his prom invitation and also comes out to him as a lesbian. Wanting to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the dance, Tessa is faced with Lucas’ betrayal of spreading her secret and the town’s backlash towards her determination to attend the prom.  readers who are looking for another inspiring yet humorous coming out story told through multiple perspectives might appreciate this title.

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

Sixteen-year-old Steven embarks on a mission to prove to himself that, despite his doubts, he is straight. His adventures include dating a slue of his female classmates, socializing with the jocks, and a comical attempt to purchase a Playboy. When Steven finally admits to himself that he is gay, he comes out to his best friend who responds with overwhelming enthusiasm and urges him to share the good news with everyone he knows. Similar to The Letter Q, Absolutely, Positively Not is endearing, hopeful, and hilarious. Q fans who are seeking additional believable, light-hearted coming out stories might enjoy this book.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

The Night Circus (Audio Book)

October 24, 2012

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: Predominately London and Concord, Massachusetts but several worldwide settings (traveling circus) as well.

Time Period: 1873-1903

Plot Summary:

Set in the late 19th century, The Night Circus tells the story of a darkly enchanting traveling circus that opens when the sun goes down. While the circus is made up of a large cast of workers and performers, the plot revolves around two young people skilled in magic- Celia, the circus’ illusionist who possesses the ability to manipulate the world around her, and Marco, a former orphan with a knack for altering physical settings. Due to an ancient feud between their instructors, Celia and Marco are bound to compete against each other in a magical challenge that will test their skill and endurance. Unsure of exactly how a winner will be determined, Celia and Marco approach the challenge with fear and distrust of their less than noble mentors and complicate their arrangement further by falling in love. While the story of the young lovers skilled in magic is at the heart of the plot, Morgenstern includes a slue of additional characters who are strangely bound to the circus itself. Memorable secondary characters include the Murray twins whose birth on circus grounds results in their own magical abilities and Tsukiko, a mysterious contortionist with secrets of her own. Morgenstern writes an engrossing tale that includes multiple plot lines and smoothly vacillates between the past and the future. Celia and Marco’s romance is as endearing as it is heartbreaking and the mysterious magic that surrounds the circus is intriguing and thought provoking. Written in a lush and elegant style, The Night Circus is a fascinating dark fantasy story about love,  mystical circumstances, and a spectacularly magical circus that bewilders both its patrons and performers.

Regarding the audio book specifically, Jim Dale tells this spectacular story in a voice that is both engaging and haunting. His varied dialects for this large cast of characters are enjoyable and believable. Reluctant listeners might find Dale’s reading an excellent introduction to the world of audio books and will perhaps seek out addition titles that he has read.

Subject Headings: Circus, Circus performers, Competition, Games, Good and Evil, Magic, Magicians, Magicians’ apprentices, Nineteenth century

3 Appeal Terms: Magical, Thought-Provoking, Elegant

Appeal: Engrossing, Unhurried, Atmospheric, Dark, Magical, Dramatic Characters, Intriguing, Complex Storyline, Flashbacks, Imaginative, Multiple Plot Lines, Plot-Centered, Thought-Provoking, Elegant Language.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Circus at the Edge of the Earth: Travels with the Great Wallenda Circus by Charles Wilkins

Writer Charles Wilkins takes the opportunity to travel with the Wallenda Circus on a worldwide trip that spans several weeks. He describes the intriguing circus performers in rich detail and notes the physical danger in which they put themselves in order to remain a part of the show. For readers whose curiosity of circus life was peaked while reading The Night Circus, The Circus at the Edge of the Earth offers an engrossing true adventure story.

Josser: Days and Nights in the Circus by Nell Stroud

Josser is an autobiographical work that tells the story of 18-year-old Stroud who joined a traveling circus after a family tragedy. Readers who wish to explore the relationships among a real circus family might enjoy this non-fiction title.

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Michael Robert Place

The Night Circus includes several detailed descriptions of tarot cards, mostly through the perspective of Isobel the fortuneteller. For readers who took interest in this aspect of circus life, The Tarot offers additional information on the history of reading as well as symbolism found in the cards.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

In a society where magic is nearly non-existent, Gilbert Norrell is the only working magician until he meets Jonathan Strange who will become his student. After observing the depth of Jonathan’s skill, Norrell becomes jealous and controlling and a rivalry quickly develops. Readers seeking another dark read about rival magicians in the 19th century might enjoy this title.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater, a high school student, is delighted to discover a university devoted to teaching magic. Eager to change his seemingly dull existence, Quentin enrolls in this fantastical college and begins studies in wizardry. He quickly learns that magic lessons are more difficult than he previously imagined and finds himself tangled up in an alternate universe’s war, which leads to a compelling adventure. Similar to The Night Circus, The Magicians is dark and suspenseful. Readers seeking additional fantasy reading that includes a coming-of-age theme and magicians might appreciate this book

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

For The Night Circus fans who are seeking additional circus reading but would like to delve outside of the Fantasy genre, Water for Elephants might be an enjoyable title. Set in the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of young Jacob who impulsively joins a traveling circus after the sudden loss of his parents. Jacob quickly finds work caring for the exotic circus animals but finds himself falling in love with Marlena, an equestrian star, who is married to the disturbing animal trainer. Jacob’s adventures in this richly detailed circus make for a fast-paced, engaging read. Water for Elephants also offers flashbacks similar to The Night Circus and emphasizes the love story in a circus setting. Readers who enjoyed the romance between Marco and Celia might appreciate this work of Literary Fiction.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Gone Girl

October 17, 2012

Author: Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 415

Geographical Setting: North Carthage, Missouri and New York City

Time Period: 2005-2012

Plot Summary: On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne is faced with a nightmare when he learns that his quick-witted, beautiful wife, Amy, has vanished. While investigating Amy’s disappearance from the small town of North Carthage, police and media begin to unravel unflattering secrets of the Dunne marriage that soon put Nick in an incriminating position. Desperate to clear his own name and find his missing wife, Nick sets out on a psychological scavenger hunt in which he discovers dark and shocking secrets about the seemingly perfect Amy. Nick’s narration of the investigation is alternated with entries from Amy’s diary, adding layers to the mystery and leaving readers guessing which characters are trustworthy in this disturbing tale.  Flynn writes a well crafted, suspense story that is both thought provoking and dark. Gone Girl makes for an engrossing read with a disturbing, yet fascinating, conclusion.

Subject Headings: Husbands – Fiction, Married people – Fiction, Wives – Crimes against – Fiction, Mystery Fiction, Conflict in Marriage, Deception, Husband and Wife, Married People, Missing Women, Murder Suspects, Secrets

Appeal: Engrossing, Fast-Paced, Chilling, Foreboding, Psychological, Suspenseful, Detailed Characters, Multiple Points of View, Flashbacks, Layered, Thought-Provoking, Descriptive, Well-Crafted

Three Appeal Terms: Engrossing, Chilling, Suspenseful

Three Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Breaker by Minette Walters
Walters’ psychological suspense story begins with a disorientated three-year-old wandering the streets of Poole, England. Hours later, her mother’s body is found washed up on the beach. Police investigators reveal unsettling evidence that incriminates the woman’s husband as well as a young actor. Gone Girl fans who are looking for another compelling whodunit read might enjoy this disturbing mystery.

Die For You by Lisa Unger

When Isabel Raines’ husband mysteriously disappears she is determined to track him down despite his pleas for her to forget their life together. During her investigation, Isabel discovers her husband had stolen an identity and has been legally dead for a long period of time, among other shocking secrets. Readers who are looking for works told in multiple perspectives with a narrator revealing dark secrets about her spouse might enjoy this book.

In the Woods by Tana French

Detective Rob Ryan is called to investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in a wooded area right outside of Dublin- a creepy coincidence as he witnessed the disappearance of two childhood friends in the same woods twenty years prior to this case. Readers who are looking for another dark, character-driven suspense story involving criminal investigation might also enjoy this title.

Three Nonfiction Read-Alikes:

The Cases that Haunt Us: from Jack the Ripper to JonBenet Ramsey, the FBI’s legendary mindhunter sheds light on the mysteries that won’t go away by John E. Douglas

Through Nick’s narration of the investigation, readers are given detailed descriptions of a missing person case as police and FBI piece together clues in hopes of solving the puzzle and finding Amy. Readers who were intrigued by the crime scene/mystery aspect of Gone Girl might also enjoy The Cases that Haunt Us. Written by a former FBI agent, Douglas explores eight well-known unsolved mysteries and speculates the criminal and motive of each case.

The Gardner Heist: a true story of the world’s largest unsolved art theft by Ulrich Boser

Flynn writes with such detail while describing the investigation and discovery of evidence that Gone Girl sometimes reads like a true crime piece. The Gardner Heist should be considered for readers who liked the suspense of solving a crime but perhaps are not interested in missing person cases. The Gardner Heist details the true story of a 1990 museum robbery in which 12 highly valuable pieces of the collection (worth over $500 million collectively) were stolen. Boser writes of his own informal investigation, including interviews with art thieves and mobsters, taking readers through his collection of clues as he attempts to offer insight on this mysterious cold case.

The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn

Another strong title for those who enjoy reading about crime investigation; however, The Restless Sleep may also be of interest to fans who enjoyed the New York City setting found in Gone Girl. After interviewing NYC detectives, Horn writes a true crime piece that describes four unsolved murders, some of which have remained cold cases for over fifty years. Horn provides readers with an in depth view of each case and describes the dedication of the NYPD detectives who are determined to solve the mysteries and seek justice.

Name: Elizabeth Hopkins

Secrets of the Lost Summer

October 3, 2012

cover

Author: Carla Neggers

Title: Secrets of the Lost Summer

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 344

Geographical Setting: Swift River Valley- New England

Time Period: Present day and 1938 (historical flashbacks)

Plot Summary: After suffering from a friend’s betrayal that damages her career, Olivia Frost decides it is time to walk away from her life in Boston and start fresh in her hometown. While Olivia is delighted to renovate her historic home in scenic Swift River Valley, she finds herself annoyed by the dilapidated house that neighbors her own. Dylan McCaffrey, California businessman and retired NHL player, is surprised to learn he inherited this crumbling shack from his father. Eager to investigate what brought his adventure-seeking father to New England and why he purchased this rural home before his sudden passing, Dylan heads east and quickly becomes engrossed in both his attractive neighbor and the mystery his father left him in Quabbin Valley. While trying to solve a seventy-year-old puzzle, Dylan and Olivia become fearful that their findings will not only explain Dylan’s unusual inheritance but also reveal a small-town secret that will change the lives of the people of Swift River Valley forever.

Subject Headings: Bed-and-Breakfast, Inheritance and Succession,  Interpersonal Attraction, Jewel Thefts, Men/Women Relations, Secrets, Treasure Hunting, Family Secrets, New England

Appeal: engrossing, gentle, heartwarming, romantic, closely observed characters, multiple points of view, flashbacks, steamy, detailed setting, historical details, straightforward style, conversational language.

Three Appeal Terms: closely observed characters, detailed setting, historical details

Three Fiction Read-Alikes

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Fortier tells the story of Julie Jacobs, a young woman who finds herself pursuing a family treasure upon receiving a surprising inheritance. Set in scenic Italy, readers who enjoyed Neggers’ element of mystery in a detailed setting will appreciate the descriptive landscape and Julie’s suspenseful mission.

Moving Target by Elizabeth Lowell

Lowell’s romantic suspense novel follows Serena Charters as she tries to piece together a mysterious inheritance she received upon her grandmother’s shocking passing. During her quest for information, Serena seeks the help of Erik North, a writer/historian, to whom she is instantly attracted. Fans of Secrets of the Lost Summer will enjoy the mysterious, historical inheritance plot entwined in a love story.

The Treasure by Iris Johansen

Like Neggers, Johansen writes engrossing love stories that appeal to those looking for a suspenseful read. The Treasure takes place in 12th century Europe and follows the story of Selene, a young woman who falls in love with a former assassin who rescued her from slavery. Readers who enjoyed the historical references and fast-paced storyline of Secrets of the Lost Summer will appreciate this read.

Three Nonfiction Read-Alikes

The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor by Jerry Traunfeld

Along with her vivid descriptions of New England countryside in Secrets of the Lost Summer, Neggers also describes Olivia’s charming garden and farm-to-table cooking in great detail. Readers are provided with rich descriptions of Olivia’s obsession with freshly grown herbs, an element of this love story that may particularly engage readers with a gardening or cooking interest. For those who share Neggers’ fascination with herb gardens, The Herbal Kitchen cookbook is a strong nonfiction suggestion. Readers may enjoy applying Olivia’s cooking experiences to their own lives.

Quabbin Valley: People and Places by Elizabeth Peirce

This collection of vintage photographs depicts the lives of the people of Quabbin Valley from 1750 to 1938, when the land was purposefully flooded to create a steady water supply for Boston natives. Neggers discusses this historical moment and the affect it had on Quabbin residents in great detail. Readers who seek a visual representation of Neggers prose will enjoy this title.

Quabbin: A History and Explorers Guide by Michael Tougias

In the spirit of Dylan’s father’s love for adventure and treasure-hunting, Quabbin: A History and Explorers Guide makes for great additional reading for those who were taken with Neggers’ description of the New England landscape and its evolution since 1938. This title provides readers with a brief history of the valley as well as tips for those that may want to explore the area themselves.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins