One of the best bloggers around, Jo Stapley of Once Upon a Bookcase and Jo Scribbles, has got the perfect books to give your friends and family this Christmas.
With stories, it’s difficult to find something new, but every now and then you’ll come across a book that does something different. A book that that introduces you to something you hadn’t come across before. A book that shows you other ways of living. A book that opens your eyes to the diverse world we live in. These books are groundbreaking, and so important in helping us to learn and to accept the people around us. Here are some recently published groundbreaking books and why they are so incredible.
‘This Song Is (Not) For You’ by Laura Nowlin
‘This Song Is (Not) For You’ is a book about music, friendship, love and acceptance. Ramona and Sam have been friends for years after bonding over their passion for music. They have feelings for each other, but they are both equally certain the other couldn’t be less interested. When they meet Tom at a music college, they know they’ve found their third band member, and the three soon form a strong bond. But it doesn’t take long for Ramona to start falling for Tom – even though she’s still in love with Sam. She knows nothing will ever happen with Sam, so as Tom seems to reciprocate her feelings, they start dating. The three spend almost all their spare time together, and it hurts Sam to see Ramona and Tom together. But there’s something about Tom that neither of them know.
What’s so amazing about this book is that it is the first YA novel to feature a polyamorous relationship. Although the word is never explicitly used, Tom is asexual; although he loves Ramona, he has no interest in having sex at all. Ramona wants a sexual relationship, and struggles with Tom’s seeming lack of interest. Sam realises that what hurts him isn’t so much that Ramona is with Tom, but that she isn’t with him – he wants to be with her, but that doesn’t have to mean exclusively. What if Ramona was going out with both of them?
It’s a really interesting story, and it’s great seeing them all come to accept their feelings and what they want, and decide on a relationship dynamic that works for them, on their terms. It’s not your everyday monogamous relationship that YA is saturated with. It’s wonderful to have a story that shows that there are different relationships out there, that it’s not ‘one size fits all’, and that that is perfectly ok.
‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate
‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is a story of seven teenagers with seven secrets. The actress who is full of hate, the slacker with issues at home, the drug dealer who’s hiding his sexuality, the promiscuous popular girl who keeps guys at a distance, the overachiever with self-esteem issues, the genius who knows something he shouldn’t, and the girl everyone likes who’s suffering inside. A school scandal has rocked Paloma High, but what these seven teenagers don’t know is that their secrets may not be so secret for much longer. They only have each other to rely on, but can you trust others with what you’ve kept hidden for so long?
This wonderfully diverse book has so many characters with their own stories, but they all become interlinked when scandal comes to town. What makes this book different is that it is the first YA novel with a pansexual character, Lucas. We’ve had books about teens that are gay, lesbian or bisexual, but pansexual teens? As a sexual orientation we had previously yet to hear about in YA, it’s brilliant for pansexual teens to finally see themselves in the pages of a book – those who may not have had a word before to explain how they feel – and for straight teens to learn about this sexuality.
For those who don’t know, according to Stop Homophobia, “Pansexuals have the capability of attraction to others regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. A pansexual could be open to someone who is male, female, transgender, intersex, or agendered/genderqueer.”
Lucas’ story isn’t about figuring out his sexuality. He knew he was pansexual before the start of the book. However, he doesn’t go to the most accepting of schools, and so he’s kept it quiet because he’s scared he will lose his friends, that they will turn against him. But Lucas? He is completely confident in his sexuality; he’s not ashamed, it’s not a problem, it just is. And that is why ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is amazing.
‘The Spinster Club Trilogy’ by Holly Bourne
I know these books don’t need much introduction; Holly Bourne’s ‘Spinster Club Trilogy’ – focusing on three friends Evie, Amber and Lotti – are already hugely popular UKYA novels. But they make the list because they did something no other YA novels had previously: discuss feminism. There have been a number of books published that tackle feminist issues such as rape and rape culture (‘All the Rage’ by Courtney Summers, ‘What We Saw’ by Aaron Hartzler), books that exaggerate our current society to show something needs to be done (‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill), and books that turn the tables round to show that it’s actual equality we need rather than women having the power (‘5 to 1’ by Holly Bodger), but ‘The Spinster Club Trilogy. were the first books to actually talk about feminism; what it is, why we need it, and what we can do to fight sexism and strive for gender equality.
If you didn’t already know, You only need to follow visit the Everyday Sexism Project or check out their Twitter feed to see just how rife sexism – but chances are, if you’re a girl, you knew already. You would have seen the adverts of scantily clad women used to advertise practically everything, you’ve more than likely experienced street harassment, you’ve read the magazines that tell you to diet for the beach. Feminism is greatly needed, and with her fantastic books, Holly Bourne highlights the sexism we see every day, and inspires us to do something about it. Who can read ‘What’s a Girl Gotta Do?’ and not get all fired up and want to join Lottie on her campaign? Bourne educates us and helps to create the next generation of feminist activists, and that makes her books seriously powerful.
George by Alex Gino & ‘Introducing Teddy’ by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson
With books like ‘If I Was Your Girl’ by Meredith Russo, ‘Gracefully Grayson’ by Ami Polonsky, and ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson among others, YA has slowly but surely been introducing readers to transgender characters. But a transgender person doesn’t realise they’re trans only once they hit their teens, it’s something a trans person can know from an early age – and now we finally have books for those children.
‘George’ by Alex Gino is about a ten-year-old girl, George, who is so excited to audition for the part of Charlotte in her school’s production of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ – only to be told she can’t play Charlotte because she’s a boy. George has always known she’s a girl, despite having a boy’s body. When George gets increasingly more upset over being treated like the boy she isn’t, her best friend Kelly comes up with a brilliant idea that will change everything.
With ‘George’, a book for children of a similar age to the title character, cis-gendered children (those whose gender identity matches their biological sex) can understand what being transgender means, and transgender children can see that they’re not alone, that there are other children out there like them, and that things can change.
‘Introducing Teddy’ by by Jessica Walton and illustrated by Dougal MacPherson, is a picture book about a teddy bear, Thomas, who gathers the courage to tell her friend Errol that she’s always known she’s girl teddy, not a boy teddy, and she wants to be called Tilly. Jessica Walton wrote this story to help her son understand why his grandfather transitioned to the woman she always was.
In these books, young transgender children can see themselves represented in the books they’re reading, and I cannot stress just how important that is. Just as important is children being taught at a young age about many different people, including LGBTQ lives, to encourage understanding and acceptance as they mature, creating a much more accepting world with the next few generations. ‘George’ and ‘Introducing Teddy’ are have paved the way for other books with transgender characters for children.
This Christmas, why not give some groundbreaking books to your friends and family?
Joanne Stapley is a writer and book blogger using the written word to discuss topics she feels passionate about: feminism, body positivity, self-confidence, and diverse YA. You can find Joanne at Jo Scribbles, her book blog Once Upon a Bookcase, or on Twitter @Jo_Scribbles.
What books are you giving for Christmas this year? Let us know in the comments below.
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