Series: Evanders School for Enchanted Personage
on August 28, 2016
Genres: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+
Buy on Amazon
When a group of mishaps are drawn together at the most prestigious magical school in Scotland, vampires meet banshees, witches meet wolves, and things begin to happen that haven’t happened for an age. For these eight teenagers, turning sixteen has never seemed so terrifying. To learn how to hone their skills, they will discover more secrets lurking behind the shadows of their mythical lives than they ever realised existed. How they survive the school is one thing. How they survive each other will be quite another.
I am so excited to have Elaine White here on Bookish Revelations today, talking about the importance of having more diversity in YA books, and the sensitivity and importance of LGBTQIA+ characters in YA novels. It is important to me as a book reviewer and human being, to branch out and be as diverse as I can in the books that I’m choosing to read and in my normal everyday life, as well.
I can’t stress how important it is to embrace these characters, to give this part of culture a life of it’s own and a face of someone that they can see themselves in, someone that they can relate to on a daily basis in every aspect of their lives. It is so important that they are made to feel as if they are welcome, are included, and have rights of their own. We are all very much a part of this inclusive, melting pot of various cultures and backgrounds, that it’s important for everyone to feel like they have someone they can see themselves in. It is important to have that role model in our lives, so that we all know that we are not alone, that there are more out there like us.
I love the way, in which this book has been written, because it symbolizes and not only brings to life LGBTQIA+ relatable characters and relationships, but explores all different scopes of them across the board. We need to see so much more of these kind of stories in YA literature, so that more young adults don’t grow up feeling alone, left out, depressed, afraid of being found out, afraid of being mocked for being different, etc.
It is so important that they are able to feel safe in their own skin, safe to share who they truly are with those they are closest to, without being ridiculed, mocked, or hurt for doing so. They need that safe haven so badly right now and I feel like books are a wonderful way to provide that, until they feel as if they are truly in a much safer place.
So, I’m thrilled to be sharing with you a guest post talking about just how important it is to show the proper sensitivity and importance of LGBTQIA+ characters portrayed in a realistic way that they come across as honest, true, and amazing role models for this younger society interested in books and reading as a means of escapism or just pure enjoyment.
I hope you will all please join me in welcoming her to Bookish Revelations, as she’s written such a wonderfully well thought out piece on the importance of this issue in YA literature.
The Sensitivity and Importance of LGBTQIA Characters in YA Books
Written by Elaine White
To have gay characters in mainstream fiction, no matter the genre, requires the story to focus on the plot rather than the characters. This is what I hoped to do in Evanders.
Evanders, like a few of my other books, blend MF (male-female) and MM (male-male) relationships/characters in the one book, giving equal weight to each. It would have been easy for me to leave out the MF relationship and make this a purely MM novel, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted Evanders to be a mirror for teenagers – for them to see a little of themselves in one of the characters, no matter which one they found themselves in. To do that, I had to show the real, honest diversity of life – the straight, the gay, the bisexual, the aromantic and asexual people that make up our world.
Honestly, most MF readers don’t consider MM to be something they would read, because they think it always has to be explicit and sexual. They feel uncomfortable picking up a novel or story that is categorised as “gay literature” or “MM romance”, because they just don’t know what to expect or how they’ll feel about reading it. Which is why I love showing the diversity of real life in each story – they can read my YA novels that contain gay relationships (both Evanders and The Belesone Pack Trilogy do this) without feeling awkward or uncomfortable. Because they’re both about more than the relationships they contain. Evanders is, first and foremost, a journey of self-discovery in a paranormal world, for eight teenagers who don’t know where they belong.
For me, the easiest way to introduce new readers to the MM genre is within YA novels. Not only do the MF and MM characters not get explicit material, which makes them more readable to those who might not have considered delving into the genre before, but it also means they’re on even footing. If they desperately need to, they can read the MM relationships as merely friendships or bromance friendships, because nothing beyond a kiss or two happens on page.
In The School of Second Chances, book 1 of Evanders School for Enchanted Personage, we begin the story focusing on the relationship/friendship between Riley and Payson, while also getting to know the eight characters who make up the bulk of the trilogy’s focus. In book 1, these two find themselves drawn to and attracted to each other, but also caught in a complicated love triangle. This was actually vital to the progression of the series, proving that not only were some feelings fate’s design, but that denying their feelings for the third member in their relationship could prove dangerous.
For me, the danger I wanted to show wasn’t of a physical or end-of-the-world nature. It was of the heart. Because, as the characters are all magical in nature, they’re used to the risk that comes with being ‘different’ already. However, I wanted to really push that difference to a level they hadn’t experienced yet. There is actually a conversation, early in the story, where Payson comes out as gay to the new students in an awkward discussion and, for me, this was a very important message I wanted to share with my readers:
“Thanks for earlier. For taking the heat off me,” he said to the banshee. He couldn’t think properly, but it seemed the right thing to say, and Riley smiled, which sent his stomach into somersaults.
“I know what it’s like to be different.” Riley shrugged it off, while admitting to a truth that neither of them wanted to face.
The mix of sensations running through Payson died on impact with those words. Suddenly, his life seemed a whole lot more complicated than it had ever been before. “Yeah, but we’re all different. I hardly thought not dating my best friend would be an issue. And now they all know I’m gay, which I wasn’t planning to broadcast,” he admitted with a sigh of disapproval.
It was difficult enough being gay at all, at an age when it seemed like the entire high school was dating. Acceptance was more widespread, but there were still the usual bigots and homophobic jibes to face at school. It was the whole reason he hadn’t come out yet and let it be known that his ‘dating’ life was private. That and his ‘tough guy’ manner, thanks to his secret vampire nature, kept them quiet. But now he’d just outed himself and didn’t know why.
“You would think that, considering I’m a vampire, you’re a banshee, and they’re wizards, it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference who I dated or when.” He sighed, disapproving of the way the world worked.
Why was it so hard, and why did no one understand? The heart chose who the heart chose, timing be damned. No one could choose who they loved.
He had tried once to convince himself to love a girl—another vampire; even Diantha—but it was no use. He had always known the truth, and denying it just to be what everyone else thought was normal was stupid. He just hadn’t ever been that interested in anyone. At least, not before Riley. And it had physically hurt him trying to convince himself otherwise. He would never do that again.
“But it does,” Riley disagreed, much to his surprise. “Being a different magical creature is one thing; it’s something we all share with each other, against the world. But being sixteen and not dating? Even worse, being sixteen and wanting to date other boys? It’s like a crime to the twins.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why they make such a big deal of it, since they’re not dating either and neither of them have to broadcast their interest. But for you and me, it’s different … dating is dangerous to us. Even in our world.”
He rose from his perch on the sofa arm and stretched again.
Payson was shocked to sense a bone-weary exhaustion in him. That shouldn’t happen; they hadn’t exchanged blood, so why could he sense Riley’s emotions?
“Yeah, well, the first one who comments on it is going to get decked,” Payson said, trying to distract himself.
He didn’t care what anyone thought about him, but if they started having a go, just because he was friends with a girl he didn’t fancy or because he was gay, he would do some damage.
His main emotion was hunger, and his thoughts were usually always focused on blood. Dating was a foreign subject, even if Riley was a new fascination.”
This was the real issue I wanted to raise. Because LGBTQIA teens face it every day. They can speak another language, be from another country or be of a different religion, race or be from a different culture as their friends and everything can be okay, because we’re raised to accept that kind of diversity. But, for some reason, sexuality is a whole new issue for teens. I’ve found that everyone is raised with the expectation of being straight – whether rightly, wrongly, deliberately or culturally – because it’s assumed that all girls will end up with boys and boys will end up with girls. I wanted Riley to break the assumption.
Riley is of a species that doesn’t know what sexuality they will be, until they find their mate. This was an attempt to show how we should be raised with no expectations and how all teens should be allowed to live with an open mind. Riley is raised to know that his heart – his Banshee soul – will lead him to his mate, whether that be a male and a female. He doesn’t care, because it’s something he just knows, instinctively. So, he doesn’t go into his attraction for Payson with uncertainty for the fact that he’s a male, but with due caution for the fact that his feelings be nothing more than a crush and he could hurt them both if that’s true.
Payson, on the flip side, represents your typical teenager. The kid who discovers he’s gay and is afraid of the implications, because it’s not what the world has told him is “normal”. But even the fact that he’s a vampire doesn’t show him that he’s already not what the world would call “normal”. To him, fitting in is the priority, so (prior to attending Evanders) he’s attempted to force himself to sit the ‘straight’ stereotype that society encourages. And it hurts him (as he explains in the quote above) In that way, he learns that it’s best to be himself and finds happiness with that, eventually. But he’s always a little uncomfortable with his sexuality and exposing it to others. The way that most teens are, when they’re still in that transitioning phase of accepting who they are.
Which is why I wrote Spike. Spike is a guy who is comfortable in his skin, bisexual, and open to any possibility, because life is unpredictable. There is a real stigma, especially in YA books, around bisexual people. Some people assume that bisexuals are the happy eater at the buffet – they can have anything they want, so they dip into everything available. That’s not true. Some bisexuals, like Spike, prefer one gender over the other. Some are a little more pansexual, dating anyone whose personality is more attractive to them.
I wanted Evanders to explore these things, in a light, comfortable way that made it important, but not the main focus of the trilogy. The relationships these characters explore with each other are, like life, secondary to the journey. It’s all about self-discovery and I hope that Evanders can show teens that people like them exist and they belong in mainstream literature.
I truly believe that part of the expectation that we’re all straight comes through in every novel, every movie and every TV show that has been accepted in previous decades. They all prioritise MF relationships and show that male-female relationships are the norm. For a long time, any novel, movie or TV show that had prominent LGBTQIA characters was kept in the darkness, online or pushed aside until recently. It began with secondary gay characters, with a few fluke shows or movies – like Will & Grace or The Birdcage – that had gay characters who were the stereotype of flamboyant gay men, very feminine in nature and mostly sexualised or perpetually single.
It wasn’t until recently that shows like Dr Who, Class, The Flash, The Originals and Glee brought LGBTQIA characters to the forefront of the storytelling.
I wanted Evanders to be that difference, too. I wanted Evanders to show teens a happy LGBTQIA teenager, exploring relationships and developing romantic feelings, while being accepted by their friends. Riley is that person. He is the one most comfortable with who he is and how he feels. Payson is the teen struggling to accept who he is, until he realises how much denial will hurt him. And Spike is the rock for them both, bringing them together and show that there is such a thing as a polyamorous relationship – where three young men can openly, happily and faithfully love each other, without shame.
I want my stories, Evanders specifically, to show teenagers that they exist; they’re visible and they deserve to crack a book, watch a TV show or a movie and see themselves in the characters they love.
Want to know more about this series?!
The Lost and the Lonely (#1.5)
Evanders School for Enchanted Personage
Author: Elaine White
Publisher: Write More Publishing
Published: August 28, 2016
Age Demographic: YA
Genre: LGBTQIA+ Paranormal
Purchase: Amazon & B&N
Phil always thought his life was going to be chaotic. Orphaned as a child and having grown up in foster care, his boyfriend Logan is the only shining light in his world, along with Phil’s two foster sisters, Ella and Estelle. But when Estelle goes off to a fancy new boarding school, suddenly everything changes. His life won’t always be dark and lonely, but it will no longer be simple, either. When the Sutherland’s enter his life, Phil has to question what secrets he’s willing to keep and where the word ‘magical’ fits into his normal, human life.
Check out the awesome giveaway that Elaine White is hosting!!!
She’s being generous and awesome enough to offer up a $25 Amazon gift card to a lucky winner, so you don’t want to miss out on this.