THE GENDER GAMES – LIVE!

This is going to be MAJOR and I’m going to be invading your consciousness for much of June I’m afraid. My face will be all over the shop, but most importantly I’m hitting the road for a whistle-stop tour. I’m hoping as many of you as possible will be able to get along and join the conversation. Limited notions of what boys and girls should do have screwed me over my whole life – and I’m guessing you too. Come along and let’s talk gender and what we can do to make things better for the next generation.

This is where you can catch me:

FRI MAY 12TH – BRIGHTON FESTIVAL (with Patrice Lawrence, Non Pratt & Alex Wheatle)

THU JUNE 1ST – HAY LITERARY FESTIVAL

THU JUNE 15TH – WATERSTONES LEEDS

FRI JUNE 16TH – WATERSTONES LIVERPOOL

TUE JUNE 20TH – WATERSTONES NEWCASTLE

WED JUNE 28TH – WATERSTONES BRIGHTON (with Alys Fowler)

SAT 1/SUN 2 JULY – BRADFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL

For tickets to Leeds, Newcastle and Brighton contact the store. Further dates TBA watch this space!

Margot & Me – Soon!

Hiya!

Happy new year and all that. I am very excited (and nervous) because MARGOT & ME hits all good bookshops on January 26th and I am frankly, NOT READY for all the release madness.

MARGOT & ME is an epic story about love, death and – most of all – family. Fliss Baker is forced to live with her bullying grandmother, Margot, in Wales while her mum recovers from chronic illness. In an attempt to blackmail Margot, Fliss unearths Margot’s diary but, rather than dishing the dirt, finds herself transported to Margot’s youth in 1941 – the height of the Blitz.

Margot’s time as an evacuee was filled with mystery, adventure…and romance. Margot’s whirlwind love affair with a dashing pilot captivates Fliss…unless she learns a family secret that has serious consequences in the present.

I so hope you like it! It’s so much more epic than anything else I’ve ever done. We haven’t told you much about the book yet because it’s full of spoilers I NEED you to keep! I’m not sure it’s the book you think it is, either. I wanted to write a book you’ll enjoy on a rainy Sunday afternoon, curled up with a mug of tea on the sofa. I wanted to write a book that made me cry like a baby but left me feeling rosy inside. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not I’ve succeeded! Both Margot and Fliss are complicated characters…I wanted them to equally challenge and provoke the reader.

You can pre-order MARGOT & ME right now! It really helps boost those first week sales figures. It’s my first novel in a couple of years, so keep me posted – Tweet and Instragram and Goodread until your fingers drop off. Tell your friends too…let’s see if we can make MARGOT my first top ten! (Spot the Difference just missed out at #11!!!) Keep your eyes peeled for some events coming up soon. I’m off on a school tour, but hope to do some public events as well! Watch this space!

It’s exactly five years since Hollow Pike first launched and I just want to thank all my readers old and new for sticking with me through thick and thin, male and female!

Love you

 

Juno xxx

 

Upcoming Events Aut 16

HIYA! Super busy this autumn – hope to see you on the road!

LONDON – SEPT 29: National Theatre Debate – Youth, Culture and Identity

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – OCT 7: Young Writers’ Showcase

BIRMINGHAM FESTIVAL – OCT 9: Trials and tribulations with Nicola Morgan

DURHAM FESTIVAL – OCT 12: What is Normal? with Lisa Williamson

DUBLIN – OCT 14: Deptcon II with Holly Bourne

LONDON – OCT 16: Southbank Festival YA Weekender

BRIGHTON – OCT 18: Finding Yourself with Lucy Sutcliffe

LONDON – OCT 23: Guardian Festival: Growing Up with Holly Bourne and Hayley Long

 

How to Survive Beyond Your Debut

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For whatever reason, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how lucky I have been in the first five years of my career. I left my previous career in 2011 and haven’t stopped since. Now, perhaps for the first time since then, I feel like I belong in the publishing world. It seems like the frenetic pedalling and plate-spinning has paid off. I’m being offered some lovely opportunities: World Book Day; festivals; magazine columns; judging panels. All lovely things.

The thing is: these things took five years to achieve. I wasn’t offered nearly so many lovely things as a debut. My best-selling novel (to date) is my third, SAY HER NAME – released a whole two years after my debut. And yet, it’s with great sadness I note a number of 2012 debuts have since vanished from release schedules. Those authors were never offered a third novel, never had the chance I had.

You know how it goes: Big debut deal, big announcement in the Bookseller or Publisher’s Weekly, big advance, big launch and then…well. Some debuts do flourish, most don’t.

Even way back with HOLLOW PIKE, the authors I looked up to were those who went beyond a single hit novel. I’m always very wary of writing advice because everyone does it differently, but I think I’m learning how to turn a book into a career in writing. So how do you achieve the holy grail of longevity?

WRITE GOOD

It might sound fundamental, but you’re only as good as your last book. I’m sure we can all think of five authors who never quite lived up to the promise of their debut. As authors, and I say this a lot, we have ONE JOB, and that is to write awesome books. When I start to feel out of control of my career I find refocusing on writing the best remedy. I want every book to be in some way better than the last.

Look at me and my dear friends Amy Alward, Laura Lam and Laure Eve. We all wrote killer third novels, secured new deals and entered ‘phase two’ of our careers. The books were so irresistible, our sales records weren’t taken into consideration.

BE GOBBY

You don’t have to be a total dickhead, but you have a voice and it deserves to be heard. Only you could have written your book.  It’s all a bit ‘Lean In’ but if you don’t speak up on a panel, you can bet your ass some other thirsty author will. It’s part of the job. Never be intimidated by other, more seasoned authors – you have just as much right to be on a panel as they do.

Being gobby is also helpful with your publisher. When I was a debut I was very shy when speaking to my editor and agent, almost like they were doing me a favour by publishing my book. I suppose I was worried I’d scare away the book deal. Rot! Every book is a collaboration and if you don’t speak your mind, who’s going to speak it for you? Again, you don’t have to be an asshole about it – but if you really hate the cover they’re suggesting, speak or forever hold your peace.

KNOW STUFF

There are lots of debut authors. Every year there’s like a million. What’s going to mark you out from the crowd? Doing zany shit never hurts, but play that card too often and you might as well be Timmy Mallet. Children’s authors, unfortunately, do have to ask ‘am I willing to be a party clown?’ quite early into their career.

Instead I think it’s better to set yourself up as an expert and the best way to do this is to know your stuff. I read a LOT of YA. The best authors I know have a healthy knowledge of what’s new and now and they are able to discuss the market on panels and in the press. Festivals appearances and media presence are GOLD when it comes to negotiating that second book deal.

KNOW OTHER STUFF

You know all those other authors? Of course they know a lot about YA fiction, they’ve been trying to get published for however many years. They can ALL talk until the cows come home about YA, so what’s going to make you different? Again, a sassy haircut will only get you so far unfortunately.

If we look at John Green or Zoella – their audience is a cross-over of people who came for books and stayed for the chat OR people who came for the chat and stayed for the books. What’s your expertise? Talk and blog about those things too. See how eloquently Louise O’Neill or Holly Bourne talk about feminism! See how David Owens talks about mental health issues.

Now. Did I ‘play the diversity card’? I dunno. I know a lot about sexuality and gender stuff so I was always happy to talk about it. Duh. In my Attitude column I talk about movies, music, theatre and fashion because I know a lot about them too.

Don’t be a single issue writer. Sounds awful, but what’s your brand? Sarah McIntyre, Alex T Smith, Michael Rosen, Alan Gibbons and Melinda Salisbury are just a few authors – off the top of my head – who have a strong brand identity.

BE SEXY

Well it doesn’t hurt, does it?

BE YOUNG

Being a teenage author (preferably female) will improve your chances at being on the telly.

BE AUTHENTIC

After the explosion of John Green (not literally), everyone and their hamster started talking fast to a camera and posting the results on YouTube. Everyone was very confused when they didn’t have a million followers five days later.

Everyone will tell you you NEED social media channels, but what if you don’t? Suzanne Collins is invisible on social media because it’s simply not HER.

YouTube is hugely time consuming. It’s not for everyone. I like Twitter and Instagram. I care not for YouTube and Facebook. That’s just me.

GET OUT THERE

I say this as a full-time author. Not everyone (including me if we’re honest) can afford to write full-time. But if you are able to do so, getting out there and meeting readers is hugely valuable. You might not sell many books, you might not make a lot of money doing it – but showing willing goes a long way. It’s about people simply learning your name and building brand loyalty. Yes, again, you are a brand. Deal with it.

Children’s writers (especially those willing to dress as a dog/cowboy/farting poop) can do very well indeed and make a good living at schools and events.

For authors writing for adults, it’s less obvious but don’t rely on your publicist to provide all opportunities. Make connections via social media – festival organisers, librarians, book shop managers – and politely reach out. Offer your services. If all else fails, arrange your own event a la Alexia Casale with YAShot.

HUSSLE

Finally, you are a professional writer now. What else can you write? Can you freelance? My best/worst writing job was writing scripts for talking dolls. The dolls never saw the light of day, but I was paid handsomely for my efforts.

Importantly, do not offer to write for free. You are self-employed. When was the last time a plumber fixed a bog for free? There is no difference.

 

Few of us have sales figures to make ourselves indestructible, so it’s really about doing everything you can to make yourself bulletproof. It’s about identifying your USP and using it as leverage come negotiation time. As Frances Hardinge proved with her seventh novel THE LIE TREE, it might not be your debut that breaks through so it’s about prompting your publisher to invest in YOU  and YOUR TALENT rather that just a book.

Lovely colleagues Non Pratt and Robin Stevens – because they too are building careers are running what is essentially media training for new authors. This will be invaluable advice. Tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/batnon-and-robins-guide-to-author-events-tickets-21381563833

 

Debutantes

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I don’t know why, but I’ve been reminiscing more than usual lately. All of my books are finished – and although I’m pottering away on a couple of secret projects, I won’t have a full-length novel out in 2016. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I’ve had two titles a year since 2012 – last year ALL OF THE ABOVE and UNDER MY SKIN were released eight months apart. I’m happy to let both titles find their audience and my publisher seem to agree. Even without a novel out this year, I’ll certainly be very busy.

But I am reflecting on how lucky I have been in the first five years of my career. I left my previous career in 2011 and haven’t stopped since. Now, perhaps for the first time since then, I feel like I belong in the publishing world. It seems like the frenetic pedalling and plate-spinning has paid off. I’m being offered some lovely opportunities: World Book Day; festivals; magazine columns; judging panels. All lovely things.

The thing is: these things took five years to achieve. I wasn’t offered nearly so many lovely things as a debut. My best-selling novel (to date) is my third, SAY HER NAME – released a whole two years after my debut. And yet, it’s with great sadness I note a number of 2012 debuts have since vanished from release schedules. Those authors were never offered a third novel, never had the chance I had.

The disproportionate emphasis on debut authors – and the subsequent shadow of ‘disappointing sales’ – is the one aspect of publishing I really struggle with. Don’t get me wrong – I know some debuts do cut through the murk and achieve best-seller status: The Miniaturist springs instantly to mind, but most, the vast majority, do not. Nonetheless, the instant-debut-bestseller is still the holy grail, and debuts get the sexiest advances.

Bring me your ‘overnight successes’ and I will read them to filth. Fifty Shades had a good year or so online before it was retooled for the mass market, Harry Potter gathered momentum between 1997 and 2000, John Green mania didn’t truly arrive until his sixth novel.

The music industry seems to better understand the need for what they would call ‘artist development’. Tastemakers, influencers, and, vitally, the market, are given time – months, sometimes years to embed and discover a new artist. No such opportunity is given to authors. It’s not that the industry isn’t trying: proofs go out, announcements are made on Twitter and in the Bookseller, manuscripts are passed around for foreign markets. There are urban legends of thousands of free copies of TWILIGHT being given away in US shopping malls to create buzz.

But in terms of selling the author, rather than the book, as an investment – often little is done. There is no media training. Sometimes, if there’s a marketing spend, there will be a promotional tour, some events, some press coverage if there’s ‘an angle’, but given that a debut doesn’t have a readership, why would anyone care? I suppose my question is this: at acquisition, what is acquired? A book or an author?

It’s disheartening to see promising debuts be swiftly written off when their first book didn’t hit the spot commercially. I remember Francesca Simon telling the great and good of children’s publishing at the Imagine Festival about how some retailers wouldn’t even stock HORRID HENRY until the fourth or fifth title in the series. I remember speaking to JoJo Moyes about how she knew ME BEFORE YOU was her last shot to get it right. I fear now no author would be given four or five chances to get it right. I sometimes wonder if it weren’t for my foreign sales and big-mouth on panels whether I’d have been on the scrapheap years back. I don’t even want to dwell on whether part of my success is a diversity ‘angle’ because that’s shady af.

Zoella doesn’t count. The reason her book did so well was unquestionably because her audience was already built in. But how do you build in an audience for a debut who, by day, works as a nail technician in Purley Oaks? I guess you have to let them organically build one and that takes years. I guess this whole blog is a plea for faith. I don’t think people don’t read books in order. I know readers who started with Say Her Name or This Book Is Gay go back and read my debut.

After Hollow Pike came out, vultures were circling. People were very nice, but I felt like a flop before it even came out. All retailers wanted in 2012 was Hunger Games imitations and Hollow Pike didn’t fit the bill. Bummer. I’m so, so grateful I was granted a little patience. Frances Hardinge’s glorious win at the Costa with THE LIE TREE (her seventh novel) goes to show publishing isn’t always an overnight industry.

Hang on in there, publishers. We’re trying to sell books, we really are. As for authors, we make ourselves professionally bulletproof by making ourselves useful. The days of writing full-time by the lake are over. We can boost our profile and sales by werking. School visits, YouTube channels, social media presence, festivals, book signings…every little helps. My colleagues Non Pratt and Robin Stevens are running what is, essentially, media training for authors in March and I think you could do much worse. Tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/batnon-and-robins-guide-to-author-events-tickets-21381563833

James or Juno?

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Photo: Fern Edwards Photography

Hello everyone! Lots of people are asking about my name, my pronouns, my transition and stuff. It’s all very sweet and very well intentioned. It’s to be expected that there would be practical considerations when changing gender!

Here’s the official line from both Hot Key Books and Orion Children’s Books:

“Remaining stock of backlist titles using the name “James Dawson” will remain in circulation until they come up for reprint, at which point the cover author name will be replaced with “Juno” although we’re likely to put a small explanation within and on the back cover “Previously written as James Dawson”. All new front list titles, including the World Book Day title SPOT THE DIFFERENCE will be published under the name “Juno”.

You have to understand it’s not as easy as ‘well she was secretly Juno when she wrote all her books’. Most readers don’t obsessively follow my Insta and Twitter (I KNOW, they’re missing out on so many cute Prince pics) and they might still think I’m called James! When they go into WHSmith or whatever looking for more of my books, they might not think to look for Juno Dawson! Similarly, my World Book Day title, Spot The Difference will introduce me to a lot of new readers who would probably enjoy the first five novels which all have James on the front!

I didn’t want to see books being pulped. I was very clear about that. I think it’s wasteful and would have been a nightmare for booksellers and my publisher. I think it’s sensible to leave the James Dawson covers on the shelves until each title (hopefully!) reprints. Snap them up! They might be collectors editions one day!

Going forward, already everyone has been utterly wonderful at making every effort to call me Juno and ‘she’ and ‘her’. It means so much, I feel a little buzz inside every time someone says it. *Strokes bit of fabric on face like Eddie Redmayne*

Your lovely emails, tweets and messages are making this transition *so* much easier.

 

Thank you forever

 

Juno x

All of the Above Christmas Treat!

ALL_OF_THE_ABOVE_REVEALAs it’s almost Christmas, here’s a little gift. It’s Christmas in Brompton-On-Sea too in this exclusive excerpt from ALL OF THE ABOVE! Our hero, Toria Grand has just done the physical act of love for the first time and is now forced to travel Up North for the holidays…

 

Christmas

Before you start thinking this is a COMING OF AGE story, I’ d like to point out that once I’d gleefully cast off the plague shroud of my virginity precisely NOTHING changed. It was, I’ll admit, a bit of a relief but I didn’t feel like ‘a woman’ – I didn’t start wearing trouser suits or using ‘bronzer’. I still don’t know what that does. In fact, as Christmas came around I saw less of my friends and reverted to a stroppy adolescent state instead.

This is going to sound INSANE, but now that I had friends I actually liked, school was preferable to being at home. Christmas actively removed me from them, dragging me Up North for ‘family time’. I wanted to die. We had to stay with my Auntie Minna and Uncle Sarwat: awful people who were the very definition of money not buying class – the sort of people who tell you exactly how much things cost as they recount stories. ‘Oh it was beautiful, but you’ll never guess how much it set us back….go on….GUESS.’

Even worse were my cousins. Naveen is a fat dope-fiend who can do no wrong in his parent’s eyes while Anjali looks like a human Bratz doll and has roughly the same IQ. They thought I was a freak and for the first time I was proud of the fact. I spent most of the stay trying to weird them out on purpose: talking to my split ends and pretending to go into demonic trances – chanting fake Latin under my breath. Up North, you have to make your own fun. You want freak, I thought, I’ll give you freak. I also managed to convince Anj that I’d seen a little ghost boy in Victorian clothing squatting in the cupboard under the stairs. I was especially chuffed with that one.

Christmas morning at Grandma’s was equally depressing. She’s not entirely on- board with us doing Christmas in the first place, but as long as we also make a fuss for Diwali, she lets it slide. I swear time with your family contains EXTRA HOURS to normal days – it dragged forever. At present giving time, I was given an Ice Age boxset. ‘Well you like cartoons,’ Mum explained and I could have cried. ANIME IS NOT CARTOONS.

It actually made me feel really guilty. Not only did my parents no longer know me AT ALL, but they’d pissed, I’d estimate, over a hundred quid up the wall on stuff I’d never use. What a waste. I guess it’s partly my fault for not communicating clearly enough and I should be grateful, I know…poor kids in African orphanages and all that.

After the obscenely huge, sprout-filled, banquet dinner, Dad suggested a game of Monopoly before Doctor Who. Nav always cheats and Dad always catches him and it devolves into tears and recriminations every year so I opted out. I decided to do the altruistic thing and go help Mum and Auntie Minna in the kitchen.

I stopped outside the kitchen door, which stood ajar. I could hear sniffling, sobbing. It was Mum. I pressed myself into the alcove by the back door to spy. ‘I’m being so silly,’ Mum said. I wondered if she’d reached the tipping point with the Chablis and the port. ‘I just feel like I’m all by myself down there, you know what I mean?’

‘You’ll settle in,’ Minna told her, trying to be soothing. ‘Give it a bit more time.’

‘I am in that house all by myself all day long. I never bloody see Eric and Vicky’s always out with her friends.’ That was a mighty tit-punch of guilt right there.

‘Well how’s the job hunt going?’ I could hear her loading plates into the dishwasher as she spoke.

‘There’s nothing. Absolutely sod all. I just…I just hate it, Min.’

‘Well…well what are you going to do about it?’

‘There’s nothing I can do is there? I just don’t know.’ My eyes stung. I’d been so selfish and so immature. Immature to think that my dad uprooting us would only affect me, me pirouetting at the centre of my own jewellery box universe. I never stopped to even think what Mum had left behind – a job, her friends, her family.

I took for granted that my parents would always be together. Not because I was stupid but because I thought they were about as happy as two people who’d been married for fifteen years could be. That they’d accepted their concurrent life sentences. She wouldn’t leave would she?

A worse thought entered my head. Would that be such a bad thing? That little voice was pushed right to the back under a pile of mental junk mail. That was a terrible thing to think. For better or worse, they balanced each other out. Without each other, Dad would basically become a hobo and God only knew how much Mum would drink if he wasn’t around to tut at her.

‘Just ignore me!’ Mum said. ‘I’ve had too much to drink.’ Well that was certainly true. But it was another thing to worry about. Another inconvenient angst nugget to go with all the others. I’d taken my eye off the ball with that one – even the things I thought I had nailed down were starting to slide around the deck.

I tried to cheer up for the rest of the day. I didn’t let them know I’d heard the conversation in the kitchen but made the effort to be nicer to Mum. If nothing else, she deserved a stress-free Christmas, even if Doctor Who was the only highlight.

While I was away, of course, I text everyone back home constantly – we’d set up a chat group and almost live-blogged our respective holidays. I took comfort in knowing Polly was inching ever closer towards matricide, Beasley was fending off ‘when will you meet a nice girl?’ probes, and we all helped Daisy face what was by far the most challenging time of year. Nico had gone to Italy with his mum and sisters and the distance was torture. It turns out sex is quite addictive. Now that I’d started I didn’t want to stop. If that sounds slutty, that’s your problem.

Which member of the AOTA SQUAD are you?

ALL_OF_THE_ABOVE_REVEALTake a quiz to discover which LOVABLE MISFIT you are from the new novel ALL OF THE ABOVE!

1. You see a younger kid being picked on at school by a BIG MEANIE. What do you do?

a. Go right over and punch the bully in the head.

b. Set off a fire alarm to create a distraction.

c. Alert the nearest teacher.

d. Try to reason with the bully in a calm and sensible way.

e. Offer to pay the bully to be kind for a whole week.

 

2. Which of these is your favourite film?

a. Something by Tim Burton or David Lynch.

b. Anything by Studio Ghibli.

c. A horror movie, the scarier the better.

d. Something with subtitles no-one else has heard of.

e. Tangled, Frozen, The Little Mermaid…

 

3. What’s on your feet right now?

a. Vintage Nike high-tops.

b. Doc Marten’s.

c. Slippers.

d. Converse.

e. Nothing! You like to feel the grass beneath your toes.

 

4. You find a twenty-pound note on the floor, what do you do?

a. Spend every penny, laughing as you go.

b. Spend it, feel wretched forever.

c. Hand it in to the nearest authority figure.

d. Pay the universe back by buying treats for the squad.

e. Donate the money to the local cat shelter.

 

5. When you’re out shopping, where do you head first?

a. Boots – your hair dye and black eyeliner need replenishing.

b. Starbucks to meet the squad.

c. Wherever your squad wants to go, you hate shopping.

d. The music shop.

e. The vintage clothes store. The high street is for fashion victims.

 

6. Pick a Spice Girl.

a. Scary

b. Ginger

c. Sporty

d. Posh

e. Baby

 

7. What’s the best cure for a broken heart?

a. Vodka.

b. Pour your heart out to your squad.

c. Hide under the duvet for a month.

d. Channel it into creativity – pain makes for great art.

e. Focus on helping others with greater need.

 

Count up your results – how many of each letter did you get?

pollyMostly As: You are POLLY WOOLF. Like Polly, you are bold, brilliant and very ballsy. You are no-one’s fool and take no prisoners. You’re cool and eclectic but some people can be intimidated by your no-nonsense attitude.

 

 

ToriaMostly Bs: You are TORIA GRAND. You always put your friends first. You are prone to overthinking and analysis but you know who you are. You can be indecisive but can talk your way out of any argument with ease.

 

 

BeasleyMostly Cs: You are BEASLEY. Your squad refer to you as the sensible one, but what squad doesn’t need someone to keep the wilder members in line? Without you the group would crumble – you’re the glue that holds it all together.

 

 

nicoMostly Ds: You are NICO MANCINI. You are sensitive, artistic and philosophical. You are the one that the squad come to for advice and wisdom because you can always be relied on to think logically through a problem. You are led by instinct.

 

 

DaisyMostly Es: You are DAISY WEEKES. Always positive, you are a gentle, caring soul who needs only the simple things in life to be happy. The squad might think you’re a scatterbrain, but you just don’t let the little things get you down.

#YouGotDiverseBooks

weneeddiversebooks-logoUPDATED JUNE 2016!

Clearly #WeNeedDiverseBooks because #YASaves. I really believe that. I write diverse characters for three principal reasons:

1. So no young person goes into a bookshop or library unable to find themselves in the realm of fiction.

2. To reduce feelings of isolation. When I was growing up LGBT I couldn’t find role models or beacons of hope, now I’m in a position to do something about that.

3. To raise awareness of minority or marginalised characters in the wider community.

Overhearing Twitter chats like #UKYAChat you’d think that books with diverse characters didn’t exist. All I see are readers asking for more of this or more of that. I read THIS last week – a very well-meaning post by a talented young writer calling for more feminist YA. But here’s the thing, THERE’S LOADS OF IT. If readers are going to stick to the same three or four massive franchises, they shouldn’t be too surprised when they keep reading about the same characters, right? Said with love, obv.

This is clearly an industry issue. As wildly diverse titles already exist, how can we get them into the hands of readers who are crying out for more diversity? Suggestions on a postcard.

In the meantime, I thought I’d do my bit. Here, I’m going to start a MONSTER list of novels with prominent minority characters (so not just the token sassy black/gay sidekick). I’m not the oracle. Hit me up with suggestions and I’ll add them as we go. The only rule is each title must be available in the UK, and for now I’ll go with traditionally published YA novels.

I’ve said this before, but unless readers actually spend money on diverse titles, publishers will think they’re commercial poison, so do your bit!

Trans/Intersex/Non-binary/Genderfluid

The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Alex As Well – Alyssa Brugman

Every Day – David Levithan

Luna – Julie Anne Peters

George – Alex Gino

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children – Kirstin Cronn-Mills

What I Was – Meg Rosoff

Golden Boy – Abigail Tarttelin

What We Left Behind – Robin Talley

When I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo

The Other Boy – MG Hennessey

 

LGBQ+

When Everything Feels Like the Movies – Raziel Reid

More Than This – Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Cruel Summer – (Published as) James Dawson

All of the Above – Juno Dawson

Read Me Like A Book – Liz Kessler

Unspeakable – Abbie Rushton

Far From You – Tess Sharpe

Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan

This Is Not A Love Story – Keren David

Starring Kitty – Keris Stainton

A Kiss In The Dark – Cat Clarke

Undone – Cat Clarke

Clariel – Garth Nix

Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda – Becky Albertelli

I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

Ash – Malinda Lo

Huntress – Malinda Lo

Adaptation / Inheritance – Malinda Lo

Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M Danforth

Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

The Skyscraper Throne trilogy – Tom Pollock

The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Big Lie – Julie Mayhew

What’s Up With Jody Barton – Hayley Long

Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith

Pantomine / Shadowplay – Laura Lam

Half Wild – Sally Green

The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black

Afterworlds – Scott Westerfield

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story – David Levithan

We All Looked Up – Tommy Wallach

Keeping You a Secret – Julie Anne Peters

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me – Julie Anne Peters

Shell House – Linda Newberry

Postcards From No-Man’s Land – Linda Newberry

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

Wildthorn – Jane Eagland

Because You’ll Never Meet Me – Leah Thomas

You Know Me Well – David Levithan and Nina Lacour

 

POC characters

Noughts and Crosses (series) – Malorie Blackman

Noble Conflict – Malorie Blackman

Boys Don’t Cry – Malorie Blackman

The Name of the Blade (series) – Zoë Marriot

Remix – Non Pratt

Cruel Summer – James Dawson

All of the Above – James Dawson

Heart-Shaped Bruise – Tanya Byrne

Follow Me Down – Tanya Byrne

For Holly – Tanya Byrne

Web of Darkness – Bali Rai

Way Down Dark – JP Smythe

Long Dark Dusk – JP Smythe

Huntress – Malindo Lo

PS I Still Love You – Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

Fire And Thorns (series) – Rae Carson

Last Leaves Falling – Sarah Benwell

Secrets of the Henna Girl – Sufiya Ahmed

Artichoke Hearts – Sita Brahmachari

Sawbones – Catherine Johnson

The Curious Tale of the Lady Cariboo – Catherine Johnson

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow – Amy McCulloch

Liccle Bit – Alex Wheatle

Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

The Skyscraper Throne trilogy – Tom Pollock

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

Spotlight on Sunny – Keris Stainton

Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brenna

Afterworlds – Scott Westerfield

Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson

Running Girl – Simon Mason

Gone (series) – Michael Grant

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian – Sherman Alexie

Cleo – Lucy Coats

Play With Fire (series) – Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

In Darkness – Nick Lake

Breaking Dawn (!) – Stefenie Meyer

Buffalo Soldier – Tanya Landman

Apache – Tanya Landman

Mars Evacuees (series) – Sophia McDougall

The Other Side of Truth – Beverley Naidoo

Winter – Marissa Meyer

Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton

 

YA Books which discuss feminism

Only Ever Yours – Louise O Neill

All The Rage – Courtney Summers

Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

How Hard Can Love Be? – Holly Bourne

What’s A Girl Gotta Do? – Holly Bourne

Code Name Verity – E Wein

Under My Skin – James Dawson

Beauty Queens – Libba Bray

Uglies (series) – Scott Westerfield

The Sally Lockhart Mysteries (series) – Philip Pullman

How to Build A Girl – Caitlin Moran

Some Girls Are – Courtney Summers

Frankie Landau-Banks – E Lockhart

About A Girl – Sara Zarr

The Lie Tree – Francis Hardinge

The Chemical Garden trilogy (series) – Lauren De Stefano

Liberty’s Fire – Lydia Syson

A World Between Us (Jewish character) – Lydia Syson

Asking For It – Louise O Neill

 

Disablities

Last Leaves Falling – Sarah Benwell

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Dead Ends – Erin J Lange

Bodyguard – Chris Bradford

Deenie – Judy Blume

Wonder – RJ Palacio

She Is Not Invisible – Marcus Sedgwick

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

Finding A Voice – Kim Hood

Black Heart Blue – Louisa Read

Skin Deep – Laura Jarratt

Rose Under Fire – E Wein

Half A King – Joe Abercrombie

Far From You – Tess Sharpe

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

The Young Elites – Marie Lu

Winter – Marissa Meyer

Because You’ll Never Meet Me – Leah Thomas

Not If I See You First – Eric Lindstrom

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

One – Sarah Crossan

 

Mental Illness

The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

It’s A Funny Kind of Story – Ned Vizzini

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson

All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

We Were Liars – E Lockhart

I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

All of the Above – Juno Dawson

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting – Holly Bourne

I Was Here – Gayle Forman

Panther – David Owen

My Heart and Other Black Holes – Jasmine Warga

Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella

Girl Online – Zoe Sugg

Hurt – Tabitha Suzuma

A Note of Madness – Tabitha Suzuma

Lies Like Love – Louisa Read

Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

Mind Your Head – Juno Dawson

Nothing Tastes As Good – Claire Hennessey

 

Is that enough to be going on with for now? The list will be constantly updated – do share and hit me up with further suggestions.

 

 

 

Corrections and Clarifications

Hello everyone!

Something has really been bugging me and I wanted to address it here in public for a couple of reasons. In the first chapter of THIS BOOK IS GAY the following sentence appears:

“So why don’t we teach you about same-sex couples when we teach Sex Ed? Or that a lot of people choose their gender?”

I see now that my choice of words was wonky here. What I OF COURSE meant was:

“So why don’t we teach you about same-sex couples when we teach Sex Ed? Or that a lot of people choose to change their gender identity from the one they were assigned at birth?”

No-one chooses their gender in the same way that no-one chooses their eye colour. Many, many other sentences in the book reflect this truthI suppose some people can choose to ignore compelling feelings about their gender or sexual preference, but I’m not sure how happy they’d be.

The reasons I wanted to address this are twofold: One, some sassmongers up on social media be shady. I’m all for criticism, but I worry that demonising THIS BOOK IS GAY over a single sentence will prevent it from reaching the hands of young people who could really do with it in their lives.

Secondly, I wanted to hold my hands up and say I GOT IT WRONG. I really did. Sometimes I f*ck up. Unfortunately, on this occasion, my f*ck up is there where everyone can read it. I say in the book that we have to be allowed to make mistakes. Social media is getting so scarily reactionary right now that I worry people will just stop talking about things which absolutely HAVE to be talked about: gender, sexuality, race, feminism, politics. We ALL make mistakes. It’s in how we move on from them.

I apologise if any trans, cis, genderqueer or otherwise readers felt excluded by that wonky sentence. Rest assured I’m going to do everything I can to get it amended in future print runs.

James xxx

Updated – Both Hot Key Books in the UK and SourceBooks Fire in the US have agreed to amend in future print runs! Thanks lovely publishers!