"You have no idea how fast thing can change. You have no idea how suddenly years can pass and lives can end. Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given."
David Levithan is a well-known name in YA fiction and he has written numerous contemporary classics including books he’s co-authored with other popular YA writers such as John Green (Will Grayson, Will Grayson) and Rachel Cohn (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Noah and Ely’s No Kiss List and others). Eminently quotable and frequently writing stories which feature queer protagonists, Levithan, like Green, is a voice of the Tumblr generation whose quotes often find their way onto social media dashes, evoking the struggles, preoccupations and emotions of the postmillennial adolescent.
I attended a fascinating conference over the weekend, hosted at Warwick University. It was an interdisciplinary conference which drew on research from historians, literature buffs, academics studying film or television, people with a background in cultural studies and many others. The conference 'Let's Hear it for the Girls' focused on Girlhood, Media and Popular Culture, 1990 - Present and explored, among other things, representations of contemporary girlhood. The papers were a fascinating and eclectic mix, exploring contemporary girlhood against a historical backdrop, sexuality, class and politics (in the context of discourses on girlhood), postfeminist media culture, mediating the body – the fleshy and the digital, feminism and fandom, from riot grrrls to larry shippers and images of girlhood in popular culture.
I was there to present my own paper on Young Adult fiction, looking at the LGBTQ representation in Young Adult fiction and focusing on a couple of books in particular to chart the changes over the decades - beginning with Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden and concluding with The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth and Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters. I framed the discussion in the context of the quote from David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing: "...just because it's better now, doesn't mean that it's always good" and I have since been pondering on my own paper and general discussions with other attendees which I wanted to touch upon in this post.
"It matters not how strait the gate,/How charged with punishments the scroll,/I am the master of my fate:
Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind is one of the most enduring works of LGBT young adult fiction. It is among the first popular YA books featuring two teenage girls falling in love and, most importantly of all, offering them a happy ending of sorts.
“I glance at her and she looks soft, not vicious, but a lot of people in this town are a soft kind of vicious.”
TRIGGER WARNING: Please be aware that the story focuses on the aftermath of rape and rape culture and I have quoted excerpts from the book in the review. If you find the subject matter triggering, please do proceed with caution.
Courtney Summers sprung onto the YA scene less than ten years ago, with her first novel Cracked Up to Be and this book debuted in April 2015 and its release was marked by the #ToTheGirls campaign to support women on social media. Summers employs first person narrative to tell the story of Romy Grey and with gritty realism, All the Rage grapples with rape culture, victim blaming and the skewed way in which society continues to deal with sexual violence against women.