For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, the ALA Rainbow Project is an initiative of the American Library Association. It's actually a joint-project developed between their Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table, and their Social Responsibilities Round Table. The purpose of the Rainbow Project is to present a new bibliography each year of quality LGBTQ books for young readers (i.e. 18 and under).
This year's list presents an interesting mix of genres and age groups. You can check out the entire list at the ALA Rainbow Project website, but the books that immediately caught my attention are:
Another Life Altogether by Beale, Elaine (recommended for readers in Gr 9+)
After years of living in the shadow of her mother’s mental illness, Jesse Bennett is given a fresh chance at happiness when her family moves to a village in northern England. But just as it seems that she might be able to build a perfect life for herself after befriending two of her new school’s most popular girls, her mother’s worsening mental state and the secret Jesse fiercely guards about herself threaten to destroy her fragile stability. Caught in the storm of her mother’s moods, her father’s desperation, and her classmates’ strict adherence to cruel social hierarchies, Jesse is forced to choose between doing what’s right and preserving her long-held hope for a normal life.
Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (recommended for readers Gr 9+)
In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues.
Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (recommended for readers Gr 9+)
Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove, a high-spirited young lady in nineteenth century England, loves her cousin Grace and longs to be a doctor. She thinks she is being shipped off to a grand country house to be a Lady's Companion. But the truth is far more sinister. Louisa has been incarcerated in an asylum for the insane - and she has lost everything: her beloved Grace, her family - even her own name. Now the only way out is to unravel the treacherous plot that led to her imprisonment. But will the truth be too terrible to bear?
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner (recommended for readers Gr 9+)
For months, Cass has heard her best friend, Julia, whisper about a secret project. When Julia dies in a car accident, her drama friends decide to bring the project—a musical called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad—to fruition. But Cass isn't a drama person. She can’t take a summer of painting sets, and she won’t spend long hours with Heather, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school and has somehow landed the leading role. So Cass takes off. In alternating chapters, she spends the first part of summer on a cross-country bike trip and the rest swallowing her pride, making props, and—of all things—falling for Heather.
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde (recommended for readers Gr 9+)
Elle is a loner. She doesn’t need people. Which is a good thing, because she’s on her own: she had to move into her own apartment so her mother’s boyfriend won’t have to deal with her. Then she meets Frank, the guy who lives next door. He’s older and has a girlfriend, but Elle can’t stop thinking about him. Frank isn’t like anyone Elle has ever met. He listens to her. He’s gentle. And Elle is falling for him, hard. But Frank is different in a way that Elle was never prepared for: he’s transgender. And when Elle learns the truth, her world is turned upside down. Now she’ll have to search inside herself to find not only the true meaning of friendship but her own role in jumpstarting the world.
Love Drugged by James Klise (recommended for readers Gr 10+)
Fifteen-year-old Jamie Bates has a simple strategy for surviving high school: fit in, keep a low profile, and above all, protect his biggest secret-he's gay. But when a classmate discovers the truth, a terrified Jamie does all he can to change who he is. At first, it's easy. Everyone notices when he starts hanging out with Celia Gamez, the richest and most beautiful girl in school. And when he steals an experimental new drug that's supposed to "cure" his attraction to guys, Jamie thinks he's finally going to have a "normal" life. But as the drug's side effects worsen and his relationship with Celia heats up, Jamie begins to realize that lying and using could shatter the fragile world of deception that he's created-and hurt the people closest to him.
The Less Dead by April Lurie (recommended for readers Gr 9+)
Noah Nordstrom has been dissing the religious beliefs of his father, who hosts a popular Christian radio show and whom Noah accuses of spreading hate. When two local gay teens are murdered, Noah’s anti-evangelism intensifies—he’s convinced that the killer is a caller on his dad’s program. Then Noah meets Will Reed, a cool guy. But when he learns that Will is gay, Noah gets a little weirded out. Especially since Will seems really into him. Noah gives Will the brush-off. Meanwhile, the killer is still at large . . . and soon Noah finds the next victim. It’s Will. Racked with guilt, Noah decides to investigate. He knows the serial killer is targeting gay teens, but only those who live in foster homes, whose deaths are not that important to society; they are the less-dead.
God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya (recommended for readers Gr 10+)
Vignettes tell the tale of Vivek, a young man who struggles with his sexuality, preferring to wear his mother’s beautiful sari and lipstick. He endures physical, emotional and verbal abuse in school, only to be saved by his faith…when things are bad during the week, he knows that Sunday will come and no matter what, his gods love him and appreciate all that he is.