Gay-themed novels for young readers enter the mainstream

Gay characters are finding acceptance in literature for young adults.

Julie Strauss-Gabel
John Green and David Levithan are the authors of "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," a popular young adult novel about two teens with the same name – one gay and one a straight.

Not too long ago teen novels featuring gay characters were an uncomfortable topic for many school librarians and booksellers – to say the least. But today – following in the wake of television and movie acceptance of such characters – it's a very different story. "Kids have for the most part become 'Will and Grace'-ified," one high school librarian told The Associated Press.

This week Borders Time Warner Center hosted a gay young adult reading event in celebration of Gay Pride Weekend in New York. On the panel were seven young adult authors, most of whom had written gay-themed novels. Of the group, one of the most successful has been David Levithan, co-author with John Green of "Will Grayson, Will Grayson."

"Will Grayson, Will Grayson," which debuted on The New York Times children's best-seller list this spring and has become a trending topic on Twitter, is the story of two teens, one gay and one straight, both named Will Grayson, who tell their stories in alternating chapters.

"Landing as high on The New York Times list as we did with `Will Grayson, Will Grayson' made a big statement to the children's publishing world that gay characters are not a commercial liability," Green told the AP.

Gay characters are not always at the center of the works in which they appear. Archie Comics recently announced that this fall a gay teen will be enrolling at Riverdale High in issue 202 of Veronica Comics – but Kevin will simply be one of the crowd. It is also becoming more common to find romance, fantasy, and paranormal books that include characters who just happened to be gay.

How do school librarians feel about such books? According to Levithan "There is not as much resistance in schools to having gay-themed novels in school libraries." Speaking at the Borders Time Warner Center, he said that "many librarians are advocates for the cause, insisting on providing students with as wide [a range] of reading choices as possible, including gay-themed novels."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

How do you feel about the inclusion of gay characters in young adult literature? Join the Monitor's book discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

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