Tag Archives: LGBQT+

Well, That Was Unexpected – Jesse Q. Sutanto

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Harper Collins Australia

November 2022

  • ISBN: 9780008501464
  • ISBN 10: 0008501467
  • Imprint: Electric Monkey
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

In actual fact, this is hands down the most enjoyable YA novel I’ve read in a long time. Coincidentally, it is one of a posse of recent YAs that are Asian-focused in one way or another. Even more interesting perhaps is that it’s the second with an Indonesian setting I’ve read in a relatively short space of time, and given Indo is our very near neighbour – plus, also because I have a very dear Indo friend (Hello Miss Lily!), it’s great to learn some more about this country and the culture, even the difficult or unpleasant parts. I love all of the background to this one: the backdrop of Chinese Indo family dynamics, the Indonesian culture with the strict (and yes, to our sensibilities) sometimes brutal restrictions, the exploration of more than just the tourist sites (which is the knowledge extent of most Aussies I’d say), the focus on topics that have run hot, particularly in the past year or so, such as toxic masculinity, slut-shaming and gender diversity. That is to say, they have run hot in much of the Western world with much positivity arising from strong advocacy – not so much in Indonesia where the religious implications and traditional family values are paramount.

But more than all of this – I love that this is, at its heart, an utterly adorable and engaging rom com with a hetero couple. {Don’t shoot me. I have many gender diverse friends and have always actively supported the LGBQT+ movement – but seriously, it was getting harder and harder to find a YA Romance that had a boy/girl relationship – and you know what? they do still exist!} Sharlot has been raised in LA by her single Indonesian mother without ever having contact either with the country of her heritage or her extended family. When she decides that she will sleep with her (secret) boyfriend after much careful consideration, she’s quite unprepared for the reality and backs out at the last minute – no awful consequences from the b/f but her mum walks in to discover a very compromising scene and in a kneejerk reaction, has Sharlot hustled onto a plane pronto ,and they are both bound for Indonesia and traditional family. Meanwhile, in Jakarta George Clooney Tanuwijaya (yes, that is correct) is caught by his father in an equally compromising, albeit solo, situation.

So what would any concerned, traditional Chinese Indo parent do? They would try to find their child a ‘suitable’ romantic interest. And so, begins a complete comedy of errors – with George’s dad, along with his 13 year old sister, and Sharlot’s mum ‘catfishing’ on the local social media app with a view to sparking a relationship. Their feeble attempts to be hip and attractive to the other person are highly entertaining, but become even more so when George and Sharlot finally meet via the engineering of their respective families.

Those families are far more complex than first imagined. Sharlot’s mum and George’s Eighth Aunt are long-lost best friends – in fact,much more than that. Their sapphic friendship was the impetus for Sharlot’s mum leaving Indo, although not in and of itself. Add into this mix, George’s attempts to please his father by being more interested in the family business – they just happen to be the second wealthiest family in Indonesia!- by creating an app called OneLiner aimed at educating and encouraging young men to shed their toxic attitudes and behaviours. There’s a lot going on but, trust me, it’s really not as complicated as it sounds – and it totally is hilarious. The secondary characters are just as quirky as the plot and there is plenty of diversity (both gender and cultural) to offset the main couple and the main plot. I loved it very much and read it very quickly. I especially love that Sharlot has as fine a command of the Anglo-Saxon vernacular as I do and her conversations are literally peppered by expletives. On that note, the publishers have a 12 years suggested age for it but, conservatively and mindful of all my library cohorts, I would not be handing it to anyone under Year 9. Lots of swearing and sexual references which would easily rouse the ire of not-so-tolerant parents (or admins).

Highly recommended for your older or suitably mature readers.

The Heartstopper Yearbook – Alice Oseman

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Hachette

OCT 13, 2022 | 9781444968392 | RRP $32.99

When I saw the little piece today that Netflix has announced that Heartstopper Season 2 has wrapped up, I just knew it was the day to share this one! The graphic series that started as a slow burn 2 years ago or soon, with many of us recommending i,t has steadily gained a huge following but the Netflix series not only clinched its popularity but saw it skyrocket like nothing I’ve seen since the frenzy of HP years ago.

This is going to make the ultimate stocking stuffer for any tween or teen in your circle, as Alice Oseman takes her readers through the whole journey of Heartstopper, with profiles on characters (and even pets!), the artwork including ‘how to draw’ activities for fans, backstories and more.

While there is some room for an owner-reader to personalise the book, I don’t believe this precludes it from a library shelf as these pages are few. For the most part this a celebration of the phenomenon that is Heartstopper along with some very pertinent commentary on the Pride movement, diversity and acceptance for all. The allure of this series is that it is genuinely sweet and wholesome, and every kiddo I know who has read it is not only instantly hooked but dragging in their friends to get hold of it next.

It is beautifully presented in this hardback edition, and would make a marvellous gift at any time but perhaps especially for a Christmas surprise. If, like me, you’ve needed four copies of each volume in the series in your collection, you won’t want to miss out on getting this one.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 upwards.

Ellie Pillai is Brown – Christine Pillainayagam

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Faber & Faber

July 2022

ISBN: 9780571366910
ISBN-10: 0571366910
RRP: $17.99

This is a debut novel of true exceptional talent IMO. I love a good romance and when it’s interwoven with self-discovery, diversity, cultural differences, regular teen relationships and issues, and music – all the better! Also, this is definitely the first YA (or indeed any book) I have read that features Sri Lankan culture/family life.

Ellie knows she is weird. Her taste for old movies, classic rock (think Beatles and the Stones) are just the tip of the iceberg. She always feels slightly left out but thank goodness for her best friend, although there are times when Ellie feels her mum takes more notice of, and spends more time with Jessica, than with her own daughter. Their family has been out of kilter since they lost Ellie’s little brother, Amis, and both parents as well as Ellie are still often raw and hurting from his death. At school, Ellie is on the periphery always but her great joy – and secret- is Drama class. Her parents would flip out if they knew that despite their objections, she has taken the subject for her GCSEs – not only do they think it a frivolous waste of time but believe that Ellie has zero talent.

All that is about to change with the arrival of a new Drama teacher who, as it happens, is also brown. At the same time, twins, Ash and Elina, start at the new school and Ellie ends up with a real dilemma. Her growing interest in Ash, is going to drive the biggest wedge ever in the history of friendship between herself and Jess.

This has got it all – humour, romance, serious reflection on topics such as grief, sexuality, cultural differences, neglect and family relationships and, along the way, Ellie inserts her own playlist into the narrative which readers can access via QR codes. The whole is cleverly and deftly done. For once, I am not rolling my eyes at another cliche ridden YA novel full of angst and moaning. Even the serious issues are gently handled in a way that would make hugely relatable to teen readers.

Highly recommended for your readers from Year 7 upwards.