There are several reasons I—as a long-time fan of the books and movies—won’t be reading the latest in the Harry Potter series, but the one reason that made me write this post is simple: I no longer want to read No Homo stories. You know the kind of stories I’m talking about. They involve two characters of the same sex:
- written in a relationship that—had they been of opposite sexes—would have implied a budding romance
- often has them interact in ways that imply romantic or sexual interest
- but often ends with each character making some kind of remark to confirm their heterosexuality.
It’s a kind of gas-lighting that straight writers have gotten away with for so long that it’s almost become acceptable—funny even, like a nudge to the ribs that says, “Ha! As if! But it certainly got our audience’s attention, didn’t it?” I’m sure I’ll receive comments that range from “you didn’t even read it” and “that reading of the characters’ relationship is completely incorrect”, but others have already addressed these questions, especially the second one. So, please, do your homework.
Bottom line: school stories will always be an important category of children’s literature, and seeing as how it’s September, I would like to present you with three school stories that do not treat same-sex relationships—specifically between boys, since this is a Scorbus reactionary list—as adult, taboo, and/or a sly joke:
The Turn of the Story and “Wings in the Morning” by Sarah Rees Brennan: This is, for the most part, a free novel that Sarah Rees Brennan has posted on her LiveJournal. The story follows Elliot Schafer, “the grouchiest kid in all of fantasyland”, as he navigates magic school from age thirteen to seventeen. It is, of course, replete with Brennan’s signature wit, but it also explores gender and sexuality in interesting ways. All of the links for the free story—The Turn of the Story—are collected here, along with some notes on how the story came to be. The final chapter in the story, however, is “Wings in the Morning” which is part of the Monstrous Affections anthology—well-worth hunting down at your local library.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: Everyone knows about this one, right? Simon Snow is a character that makes his first appearance in Rowell’s Fangirl. He’s written as a nod to Harry Potter and how massively Harry’s changed the way we read and experience stories. Simon Snow get his own unique story in Carry On. There’s action, intrigue, old-fashioned heroism, beautiful friendships, and some unambiguous, canon m/m romance. If you haven’t already read it, it definitely deserves to be on your TBR list!
Check Please! By Ngozi Ukazu: I can’t stop talking about this webcomic, can I? Sorry, not sorry. It’s all kinds of lovely. Check Please! is not exactly a magic school story—though there is a character who can make pies appear within five minutes of entering a kitchen and there are ghosts that haunt a frat house—but it is still an academic setting. Check Please! is about Eric R. Bittle, the newest recruit of the Samwell Men’s Hockey Team and his struggle with physicality while playing a contact sport. I don’t want to give away much, but it’s on my list for a reason, right? It’s an ongoing comic, but you can catch up easily! Just start here!
BONUS! Aristotle and Dante Explore the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: I couldn’t resist. This is an all-time favourite and, after years, a sequel has also been announced. The reason this one is a bonus is because it takes place during a summer off from school. It’s still one of the more unique novels about friendship and romance between boys because it takes into consideration how ethnicity and culture enforce (or don’t) heteronormativity.
HONOURARY MENTION! The Blood of Olympus and The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan: Riordan’s body of work is pretty daunting, but fan reactions to these books do make me want to read them all ASAP. I hear there are some well-portrayed gay characters in both of these—ones that get significant page-time. And apparently, the latter book includes a healthy relationship between two male characters. Riordan has always come highly recommended, but these books in particular have many readers celebrating.
Look, I know my list is flawed. For one, it needs more MG books, especially to counter the belief that children are too young to read/understand/experience anything but heterosexual relationships. For another, it needs more stories by LGBTQIA+ authors. Call this my starting point. Maybe these books will entertain you this month, especially if you found your Cursed Child experience lacking.