I have a soft spot for gay-centric YA literature. This is partly because these books were not available to me (mostly because I come from a small town, but also it seems to me that the category has expanded greatly in the decade since I aged out of the target audience.). YA books play an important part in the lives of the people that read them, and I find that role models from books are often held closer to the heart than their real-world counterparts. Now that I’m located in Portland, the Multnomah County Library has an extensive selection of these books that I missed out on.
Sprout, by Dale Peck, is one of the books that I might have gravitated towards when I was younger. It’s narrated in the voice of Sprout (named for his bright green hair), a gay teenager living in rural Kansas. He is a precocious writer, which provides many opportunities for pithy, breaking-the-fourth-wall addresses to the audience. I found these passages distracting, and cheap. Peck creates many unique characters, and his description of the dusty world that Sprout occupies is so complete that I could picture it in my mind, however the book is, in my opinion, overly brief. I would probably recommend it (after all, it is short), but as the corpus of gay teen lit grows, I cannot imagine that it would remain as an essential work.
The Geography Club, by Bret Hartinger, is much better. This book follows a gay teen that starts a secret club (named the Geography Club to discourage other students from joining) with the other gay students in his high school. Again, the book is slim, however the plot takes place over a few weeks, and there is enough substance that it feels like a light lunch, not an appetizer.