Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellBrent Hartinger is one of the Young Adult gay-themed novel author that is featured in almost all the Top Books lists: he is on my Top 100 and in many of the Inside Reader lists I posted. I totally expected for him to reply to my email with a "who are you?", when I sent him my proposal for being one of my Inside Readers, or maybe that he didn't reply at all, and instead Brent is also a very nice man and he kindly agreed to share his list; it's a good list, a mix of classic, modern and even personal life! Enjoy!
Here in no particular order are ten "gay" books that made me smile:
1) Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. My vote for the best "gay" novel ever written. Long before Brokeback Mountain, this tale of tragic love has more passion on a single page that many people experience in a whole lifetime. It still gives me chills -- and, like Brokeback Mountain, it's so powerful that I still can't quite bring myself to experience a second time.
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Delta (June 13, 2000)
Amazon: Giovanni's Room
Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.
2) The Kushiel Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey. Carey took the staid, cliche-ridden genre of fantasy and totally sexed it up. Phedre is hyper-sexual and stunningly beautiful -- so much so that everyone, male and female, falls madly in love with her. These books, starting with Kushiel's Dart, may raise your eyebrows at times -- but that's exactly why they're such are an enormous amount of fun.
Mass Market Paperback: 816 pages
Publisher: Tor Fantasy; 1st edition (March 15, 2002)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/kushielsdart
Amazon: Kushiel's Dart
The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear. Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
3) The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd. I just read this new gay teen novel, and was pretty much blown away. Yes, it's another novel about a disaffected teens in a dysfunctional suburban wasteland, but hey, a lot of teens ARE disaffected and DO live in dysfunctional suburban wastelands. Pitch-perfect characterization with a plot that doesn't meander -- a great achievement in any writer, much less a first-time novelist.
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 309 pages
Publisher: Dial (May 14, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780803733404,00.html?The_Vast_Fields_of_Ordinary_Nick_Burd
Amazon: The Vast Fields of Ordinary
It’s Dade’s last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a “boyfriend” who won’t publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend), and parents on the verge of a divorce. College is Dade’s shining beacon of possibility, a horizon to keep him from floating away. Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid. Falling in real love finally lets Dade come out of the closet—and, ironically, ignites a ruthless passion in Pablo. But just when true happiness has set in, tragedy shatters the dreamy curtain of summer, and Dade will use every ounce of strength he’s gained to break from his past and start fresh with the future.
4) Frontiers by Michael Jensen. Yes, this was written by my partner, which probably means I'm wildly biased. But I still think it's the best historical gay fiction I've ever read. Why did John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed, leave for the frontier in the first place? Because he had an, um, secret. A rousing romance and a chilling thriller all in one.
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: Pocket (May 1, 2000)
Publisher Link: http://www.simonandschuster.biz/content/book.cfm?tab=1&pid=501007&er=9780671027216
The year is 1797. John Chapman, an impulsive young man and a sexual outlaw, forsaken in the bitter winter of the Allegheny Plateau, clings to his one tenuous dream: to claim a future in the Western outpost. Unarmed and near death, Chapman is on the brink of giving up when an unexpected rescue changes his course in life forever, and he discovers the true meaning of survival. The mysterious savior is Daniel McQuay, a loner whose overpowering bond with Chapman is as shifting as a shadow, as dark as the prairie tale he spins for the impressionable young man. For Chapman, McQuay's story of a deranged killer clings to his transient soul like a nightmare, tracking him further south and into the safe haven of a gentle Indian woman named Gwennie. His journey also takes him into the intimate deliverance of Palmer, a brash but irresistibly innocent seventeen-year-old settler. As the three adventurers carve a new life out of the endless wilderness, they face the ultimate enemy -- man -- in a life-and-death struggle that unfolds in the shadow of a legendary and avenging evil.
5) Luna by Julie Anne Peters. One of the first major teen books about a transgender characters took a bold risk: telling it not from the point-of-view of the transgender character, but from his resentful sister, Regan. But that's exactly what makes it so interesting to me. This book sizzles with honestly and authenticity: Regan resents her transgender brother, who can only become "Luna" at night, because she knows he'll commit suicide if she doesn't give him all her energy -- if she isn't the light to his moth. It's a challenging book with no easy answers -- there's light AND darkness. And it's a book about identify, not just Regan's brother's, which is why it's a story that absolutely everyone can relate to.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (February 1, 2006)
Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance.
6) 7 Days at the Hot Corner by Terry Trueman. There was a time when a book about a gay kid told from the point-of-view of his straight best friend would've seemed like a cop-out. Now it completes the picture started by so many other writers. This book was unduly ignored, which is a shame, because it's another book that traffics in pure emotional honesty.
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 27, 2007)
Publisher Link: http://www.harperteen.com/books/9780060574949/7_Days_at_the_Hot_Corner/index.aspx
Amazon: 7 Days at the Hot Corner
In baseball, fielding your position at third base is tricky—that's why third is called "the hot corner." You have to be aware that anything can happen at any time. This should be the best year of Scott's life: It's his last season of varsity ball, his team is about to go to the city championship, and a pro career is on the line. Instead, everything he always counted on comes crashing down at the same time, and his whole life is like one blazing hot corner—full of deadly line drives and crazy "bad hops." Scott can't believe the awful stuff coming his way, but it's time to find out whether he has what it takes to play the hot corner—on the baseball diamond and off it.
7) So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez. Sanchez is known primarily for gay teen novels like his Rainbow series, but my favorite of his is this, a perfectly age-appropriate middle grade novel. Because of this, in its quiet way, I also think this is Sanchez's most subversive, revolutionary book.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (April 25, 2006)
Publisher Link: http://books.simonandschuster.com/So-Hard-to-Say/Alex-Sanchez/9780689865640
Amazon: So Hard to Say
When Frederick shows up at school, Xio is thrilled. The new boy is shy, cute, and definitely good boyfriend material. Before long, she pulls him into her lively circle of friends. Frederick knows he should be flattered by Xio's attention. After all, she's popular, pretty, and a lot of fun. So why can't he stop thinking about Victor, the captain of the soccer team, instead?
8) Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger. Long before the current tidal wave of gay teen novels there was this classic, about a straight boy in love with a lesbian. Read it and learn exactly how to write a young adult novel. It starts slow and builds with an intensity that is simultaneously subtle and absolutely overwhelming.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (April 1, 2001)
Publisher Link: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Hard-Love/Ellen-Wittlinger/9780689841545
Amazon: Hard Love
Since his parents' divorce, John's mother hasn't touched him, her new fiancé wants them to move away, and his father would rather be anywhere than at Friday night dinner with his son. It's no wonder John writes articles like "Interview with the Stepfather" and "Memoirs from Hell." The only release he finds is in homemade zines like the amazing Escape Velocity by Marisol, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Lesbian." Haning around the Boston Tower Records for the new issue of Escape Velocity, John meets Marisol and a hard love is born. While at first their friendship is based on zines, dysfuntional families, and dreams of escape, soon both John and Marisol begin to shed their protective shells. Unfortunately, John mistakes this growing intimacy for love, and a disastrous date to his junior prom leaves that friendship in ruins. Desperately hoping to fix things, John convinces Marisol to come with him to a zine conference on Cape Cod. On the sandy beaches by the Bluefish Wharf Inn, John realizes just how hard love can be. With keen insight into teenage life, Ellen Wittlinger delivers a story of adolescence that is fierce and funny -- and ultimately transforming -- even as it explores the pain of growing up.
9) Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner. Not a book, obviously, but an absolutely audacious play cycle that is not just the best "gay" play ever written, but one of the best plays ever. A play about AIDS? There is, in fact, no better testament to the tragedy of the disease. But the work's transcendent themes are also about so much more. "The world only spins forward," a character says at one point, arguing that some progress is inevitable. Perhaps the play's greatest achievement is that it actually made me believe this, and gave me hope for the future of humankind.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group; 1 edition (November 1, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://www.tcg.org/ecommerce/showbookdetails.cfm?ID=TCG282
Amazon: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as Drama Desk and Tony awards for Best Play. Spanning the Reagan-Bush years, this groundbreaking two-part epic weaves the lives of fictional and historical characters into a feverish web of social, political and sexual revelations.
10) Ash by Malinda Lo. This retelling of the Cinderella with a lesbian twist is one of those books that is so beautifully written that you finish it and think, "People who say 'They don't write books like they used to' sure don't read much contemporary fiction!"
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
Cinderella retold. In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted. The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love. Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
About Brent Hartinger: “I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write. For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.
I’ve been writing books since college, but I didn’t sell any of them until the summer of 2001. Since then, I’ve sold eight novels. The first four books to be published were Geography Club , a novel about a secret high school gay-straight alliance; The Last Chance Texaco , a mystery about a girl in a "last chance" group home; The Order of the Poison Oak , my sequel to Geography Club; and Grand & Humble, a psychological thriller about the intersecting lives of two kids, one popular and one a geek.
The latest Russel Middlebrook book, Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies, is actually two complete novels (one from Russel's POV and one from Min's POV) published as one book; it's out now.
My latest book is Project Sweet Life, a comedy-of-errors about three teenagers who, when forced to get summer jobs by their dads, invent "fake" jobs instead, then embark on a series of get-rich-quick schemes to make the money they're supposed to be making from their jobs. But making money isn't quite as simple as they think...
I like to write for all ages, but I particularly like writing for and about teenagers. I think it's because I identify so strongly with them (whenever I hear an adult complain about a teenager, I almost always take the side of the kid, even without hearing his or her version of the story!).
For the record, I try hard to write books that people like to read. (The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are "page-turners," which makes me very happy, because that is exactly what I want them to be!) My biggest complaint with books I hate is that they don't get to the point (or, worse, they don't have a point!).
My second great love is the theatre. My plays have been performed at dozens of theaters across the country. And I was recently asked to adapt Geography Club into a stage play, which was first presented (very successfully!) in Seattle in April 2004. I've also written a play version of my thriller Grand & Humble.
I also have several screenplays under option, and there is a feature film version of Geography Club in the works (no release date yet, but things look good).
And if that's not enough, I’ve written over five hundred published articles, essays, short stories, newspaper columns, cartoons, and even a few greeting cards!
I also teach writing. Want an idea what I have to say? Follow me on Twitter and get my patented Daily Writing Tips (That Also Apply to Life). Example: "Don't save the good stuff for the sequel (there may not be one)." See how it applies to both writing and life?
As a writing instructor, I occasionally join the faculty at Vermont College in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It's a "low residency" program, which means you're only on campus a few weeks a year. But it's surprisingly rigorous. I'm enjoying teaching much more than I expected to. (Note: I'm on indefinite leave right now.)
I also edit a website devoted exclusively to fantasy: TheTorchOnline.com.
I live in Seattle, Washington, with my partner since 1992, Michael Jensen. Michael is also a writer, the author of a terrific gay western, Frontiers, and its sequel, Firelands. He also edits an amazing and influential entertainment site called AfterElton.com, which devoted to entertainment for and about gay men (I sometimes write for it too, in all my free time!).
Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 3, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.harperteen.com/books/9780060824112/Project_Sweet_Life/index.aspx
Amazon: Project Sweet Life
For most kids, fifteen is the year of the optional summer job: Sure, you can get a job if you really want one, but it isn't required or anything. Too bad Dave's dad doesn't agree! Instead of enjoying long days of biking, swimming, and sitting around, Dave and his two best friends are being forced by their fathers into a summer of hard labor. The friends have something else in mind, though: Not only will they not work over the summer, but they're determined to trick everyone into believing they really do have jobs. So what if the lifeguard doesn't have a tan or the fast-food worker isn't bringing home buckets of free chicken? There's only one problem: Dave's dad wants evidence that his son is actually bringing in money. And that means Dave, Curtis, and Victor will have to get some . . . without breaking the law and without doing any work! Project Sweet Life is designed for the funny and lazy bone in all of us—a true comedy of errors (without any effort!) from seasoned storyteller Brent Hartinger.