I was lucky enough to be one of the judges for this year’s ILA GLBTQ section. Before we select the winner, I’d like to post some of my thoughts on the short list.
Annabel is the story of a “true hermaphrodite” in the terms of the time (the book is set through the 70s and 80s). It takes place in Canada, on the east coast. I really enjoyed the writing, and the descriptions of the surroundings were really well done, especially since I usually get bored during scenery descriptions. The characters seemed well-rounded and realistic, so that you can relate to their decisions even if you disagree with them. I do feel that the mother was underutilized by the end, though. Also, an even near the end of the book seemed unnecessary. [spoilers/trigger warning] The event is a rape scene that takes place “off screen”, but it’s fairly obvious what happened. It seemed sudden, and I feel it deserves a trigger warning if you’re thinking of reading the book. [/spoilers]
Krakow Melt is… I’m not really sure how to describe it. It’s definitely not a traditional novel. Some of it is told in youtube videos! … About elephant sex. My favourite sections were the ones told in a doctor’s notes. The writing is good and the characters are interesting. Pyromania is a theme continued throughout the book, and it’s definitely a subject that keeps you interested. I wasn’t especially invested in the characters, however. I don’t think I found them particularly relateable. (The queer content in this book is that the protagonist is a gay man.)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson features two gay teenagers: Tiny and one of the Will Graysons. The chapters alternate between the two Will Graysons, and they both have very distinctive personalities and voices. I loved the writing style of WGWG and I whipped through this very quickly. I liked that the two (three, actually) gay characters were very different and showed some of the diversity in the gay community. There were a few things I was ambivalent about, however: I wasn’t totally satisfied with the ending (though I’m in the minority there) and I didn’t really like the arc with Tiny. I felt he wasn’t fully developed as a character, and I don’t think the fatphobia in the novel was satisfactorily resolved. Tiny just seemed like a caricature most of the time, and I feel like we were supposed to like him for being entertaining, but it didn’t make up for him not seeming very kind. I feel like that is probably just a me thing, though.
Scars is actually the only nominee with a lesbian protagonist. But that’s definitely not the main issue in Scars. This novel is mostly about being raped as a child and cutting to deal with the pain. It is not an easy book to read. I had to put it down at times because of the graphic details of her cutting, though that’s not a complaint. I struggled with how I felt about this book, because on the one hand it seemed very, very dramatic, especially at the end. (She is being stalked by her childhood rapist, whose identity she has blocked out, leaving every adult male in her life a possible suspect.) On the other hand, I don’t know how this story could have been told without seeming dramatic, and it’s a story worth telling. I really liked some of the secondary characters, especially her girlfriend (and her therapist, who I’m glad is described positively).
I’m going to refrain from posting a review about Jumpstart the World in light of this.
Have you read any of the finalists? What did you think of it?