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Today on the blog, I have the incredibly awesome Jess Verdi, who just released her second book, The Summer I Wasn’t Me. In case you haven’t already heard me babble about it endlessly, I freaking loved it, and so I jumped at the chance to host her on my blog as part of her release. And, since you may have noticed I’m sort of a fiend for promoting non-heteronormative YA and NA here, I particularly wanted to hear Jess’s thoughts on the subject, since TSIWM is indeed a rare and elusive f/f romance. (Also, I’m gonna personally plug Jess’s debut, My Life After Now, here, because that’s another fantastic book with seriously underdone subject matter that I like to shove into people’s hands as often as humanly possible.)

As part of her blog tour, I’ll also be giving away a copy of The Summer I Wasn’t Me, so, check out the giveaway after the post!

And now, I give you Jessica Verdi!

I’m hoping I can use this opportunity to talk a little bit about LGBTQ YA.

The Summer I Wasn’t Me is about seventeen-year-old Lexi, a girl who agrees to spend the summer at an ex-gay camp (also called a conversion camp) in an effort to try to become the daughter she knows her god-fearing, traditional mother wants.

I was always aware that this book would be somewhat of a risk, since every single teen character (and most of the adult ones as well) is LGBTQ. But at the same time I wasn’t worried because I know teen readers are eager to understand all different types of characters’ journeys, regardless of whether they mirror their own experience or not. I recently did an interview with an LGBTQ newspaper and was asked if I worried the book would only appeal to gay teens, because it’s a lesbian love story at its core. And I said nope, not at all. I truly believe the YA literary world has made great strides over the past few years and while teen readers still do almost always demand some sort of love interest in the books they read (I don’t blame them!), it doesn’t seem to matter all that much whether the couple is straight, gay, or anything else. Love is love, right? And after hearing back from so many readers of my first book, My Life After Now, who had nothing but lovely things to say about the main character’s two wonderful dads, I knew I was on the right path with Lexi’s story. I hope readers agree!

Here are some of my LGBT YA recommendations:

If you’re looking for:

  • A classic, groundbreaking, timeless story of two girls in love, check out Annie on My Mind (1982) by Nancy Garden
  • A fun, light, utopic world where being gay is as accepted as being brunette, check out Boy Meets Boy (2003) by David Levithan
  • YA novels that tackle transexuality in an honest, beautiful way, check out Luna (2004) by Julie Anne Peters, If You Could Be Mine (2013) by Sara Farizan, and I am J (2011) by Cris Beam
  • A look at the deep consequences hate crimes have not only on their victims but the people around them, check out Shine (2011) by Lauren Myracle
  • Adorably sweet LGBT middle grade, check out Totally Joe (2005) by James Howe and Better Nate than Ever (2013) by Tim Federle
  • Action-packed fantasy that just so happen to feature LGBTQ characters, check out Proxy (2013) by Alex London, Hero (2007) by Perry Moore, and Adaptation (2012) by Malinda Lo.
  • Emotional and enlightening nonfiction, check out Branded By the Pink Triangle (2013) by Ken Setterington and Rapture Practice (2013) by Aaron Hartlzer

Writing this book has been so wonderful in so many ways—I got to tell a love story I believe in, I was able to do my tiny part in exposing the harsh realities of a little-seen world, I got to start a dialogue between readers who have often had very strong reactions to the book…and I even got to meet Nancy Garden, author of Annie On My Mind. 🙂 I love this book, and I hope readers will too. I also hope more writers will write LGBTQ YA, because I think they’re so important—not only to help gay teens realize they’re not alone, but to continue broaden the minds and hearts of all readers.

jessica-verdi-174Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. In the year since the release of her first novel, My Life After Now, she has connected with readers from all over the world, and is continually reminded of how lucky she is to get to write and publish stories about things she thinks are important.

You can find Jess on Twitter at @jessverdi, or on her website at jessicaverdi.com, and buy either of her books via these fine retailers. Thanks to Sourcebooks, you can also enter to win one here!
(US and Canada only – sorry!)