Friday, 7 November 2014

YA A to Z: James Dawson including This Book Is Gay Review

As mentioned yesterday, I'm not planning on doing something about TLT's awesome YA A to Z feature EVERY day it runs, but a lot of my favourite authors seem to have surnames early in the alphabet, so it may feel that way for a few days!

(I received a copy of This Book Is Gay at the YALC Blogger Brunch - thanks to the organisers and to publishers Hot Key!)

As a former secondary school teacher myself, I have to admit that PSHCE was the most-dreaded hour of the week for me. I think that was partly because of the relative lack of training I'd received in how to teach it, compared to all the time spent preparing to teach my main subject, but I also think it takes a really special person to be a great PSHCE teacher.

I know from talking to PSHCE teacher turned author James Dawson that he is a very special person indeed, and This Book Is Gay just proves that. The perfect book for teens who are themselves LGBT*, or who know someone who is or might be (in other words, the perfect book for every teen!) this is warm, witty and altogether wonderful.

James looks at the landscape teens coming to terms with, or starting to explore, their sexuality and gender find themselves in - from coming out to nesting, and from nightclubbing to frank guides to having sex in a fun, but safe way, from both James and from gay female writer Fi Locke. To be honest, many of the tips given here - how to pull when nightclubbing and the sensible precautions to take when chatting to someone over the internet, amongst others - are of just as much use to heterosexual readers. (I know that back in the days I went to clubs myself, I'd have found one list invaluable!)

It takes an optimistic tone and recognises the progress made over recent years, although James turns a stern eye on issues which show how far some of the world still has to come (the guide to countries to avoid going on holiday to is excellent.)

There's also a couple of brilliant codas, with guidance for parents and carers, website addresses and telephone numbers for support groups, and the fantastic Guide To Recognising Your Gay Saints. This last is a section of one-line biographies, which gets bonus marks (not that this book really needs them!) for quoting awesome blogger Charlie in a Book.

One more thing - it's a beautiful book, as well as a brilliantly-written one! I love the eye-catching cover, with the six colours of the Pride flag standing out, and Spike Gerrell's illustrations are hilarious. Hugely recommended as one of the most important, and best, books of the year.

While This Book Is Gay is my favourite of James's books, his three novels are also excellent, all in slightly different ways. Hollow Pike, his debut, is still my favourite, and scared the life out of me - reading a chilling tale of village witchcraft late on a Sunday night wasn't the cleverest thing to do! However this year's Say Her Name, inspired by the urban legend of Bloody Mary and with a very 'Point Horror' feel, is another scary read while second book Cruel Summer is a very good thriller.

As well as his books, James is a great speaker and I've loved hearing him talk at YALC, where he chaired a fantastic panel with Non Pratt, Cat Clarke and Beth Reekles on sex and sexuality in YA today, at his launches, and at the fantastic event with Maureen Johnson last year where they discussed the gender gap in YA. Of course, Maureen Johnson was the 2012 Queen of Teen - a position which this year has been filled by James himself after a massively successful #boyqueen campaign, which did a great job of bringing attention to LGBT* issues. He's also always friendly and approachable, and he has perhaps the cutest pet of any YA author - meet Prince at this vlog!

Check James out on Twitter and on his blog!

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