Five YA Tropes I Love and The Queer Books That Make Them Feel Fresh by Charlotte Nicole Davis

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[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Charlotte Nicole Davis guest posting on the site today. She’s talking all things queer YA!]

Everything’s better when it’s gay.

Enemies to Lovers: Crier’s War by Nina Varela

There’s a reason “enemies to lovers” is everyone’s favorite trope. Hate and love are really both just types of obsession at the end of the day, and, when done right, watching two characters swing from one extreme to the other feels both impossible and inevitable. There’s also a lot of overlap between this trope and some of my other favorites, such as “forbidden romance” or, the all-time-great, “I was supposed to kill you but I fell for you instead.” The conflict can take so many forms. Growing up, my favorite enemies-to-lovers pairing was definitely Zuko x Katara, from Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. For YA books, I’d have to recommend Nina Varela’s Crier’s War, a slow-burn lesbian sci-fi/romance with androids. It’s long past time queer girls had a chance to angst over these kinds of pairings. 

Friends to Lovers: This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

Because I’m soft, the only thing I love more than “enemies to lovers” is “friends to lovers.” And I think part of the reason for that is, growing up queer but closeted, I interpreted so many of my early crushes as friendship. Those lines can be blurry no matter who you are, but for anyone’s who’s spent their whole lives being told that their romantic feelings are invalid, watching two characters embrace their romance can be incredibly cathartic—especially if they’re queer, too. My all-time favorite friends-to-lovers has to be Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s YA contemporary Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. But for more recent fare, I’m going to recommend Kacen (writing as Kheryn) Callender’s This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, a romcom about two gay childhood best friends who reconnect after years apart.     

Love Triangle: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Out of all the tropes on this list, this is probably the one I have the most mixed feelings about. Nothing frustrated me more as a teenager than story with an awesome plot that was slowed down by a forced love triangle. I didn’t even want one book boyfriend, and now I had to read about two? But there’s no denying that these kinds of messy relationships happen in real life, and when they’re written well, love triangles can be extremely compelling. Queerness just adds another dimension of complexity and potential conflict. For example, in Zoraida Córdova’s YA fantasy Bruja Born, the love triangle helps the main character discover her own bisexuality. More recently, Nic Stone’s Odd One Out tells the story of a boy who’s in love with his lesbian best friend who’s in love with the new girl who has a connection with them both.        

Found Family: Tarnished are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

There’s an assumption that queer stories automatically have to be about romance, but there are actually few tropes more quintessentially queer than that of the found family. Even queer people who come from supportive biological families still need a queer family who understand their experience and can help them move through the world. There’s a desperate need for more stories about these queer relationships—not “friends to lovers” but “friends to family.” My best recommendation for this then, is, without a doubt, Rosiee Thor’s Tarnished Are the Stars, a YA sci-fi about space gays forced to work together to stop a deadly epidemic, with fantastic lesbian and ace representation.    

Chosen One: Black Wings Beating by Alex London

So many of my favorite books growing up were chosen one stories. Harry Potter. The Golden Compass. Redwall. But it’s so rare to see queer characters in fantasy at all, let alone as the hero who saves the day. And as a teenager who lived and breathed sci-fi/fantasy, this was a bitter pill to swallow. If I wanted books about queer kids, they were almost always real-world stories about coming out or dealing with homophobia. And these stories are important, of course, but still—I wanted to read about dragons. Fortunately, there’s been a huge increase in LGBT+ sci-fi/fantasy in the past few years. So for this trope, I’m going to recommend Alex London’s Black Wings Beating. It may not have dragons, but it does feature fantastic birds of prey, which is even better. The main character is also openly gay and his sexuality is not a conflict—but the war brewing in his village certainly is.     

About the Author:

Charlotte Nicole Davis is the author of The Good Luck Girls, a young adult fantasy novel releasing in Fall 2019 with Tor Teen. A graduate of The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program, Charlotte loves comic book movies and books with maps in the front. She currently lives in Brooklyn with a cat with a crooked tail.

Connect with Charlotte:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis, out now!

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls―they know their luck is anything but.

Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings.

Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally kills a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

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