When I was coming out to myself, I devoured every young adult book I could locate in the public library with a queer teen in it. Once I finished those, I read any I could find online. They helped me through a really confusing time in my life and even though I’m past that (or at least I try to be), I still read them like crazy. It wasn’t until this past fall that I realized the importance of the books I’ve been reading.
Every time I question myself, I can draw confidence from these stories. It doesn’t matter that they’re fictional, they are just as meaningful to me as most non-fiction. I find bits and pieces of myself and my identity in every book. They are so valuable because when queer teens can’t find acceptance in the people around them, we can find it on the pages of books like Because of Her by K.E. Payne.
What makes this book especially significant to me is the ease with which I can relate to it. I haven’t experienced all the things these characters have, but I too have come out to parents and friends, struggled with the way peers see me, and not been able to take my eyes off “The Girl”. It provides an escape from the real world in some ways, but it also connects me to the situations I, and those around me, may be experiencing. By connecting me to these, I can look at them differently and understand them in new ways. Perhaps most importantly, I can work to move past these struggles because this book reminded me that it is possible.
While Because of Her connects me to the challenges of being a queer teen, it does something much more important than that. It connects me to all the things that are wonderful about it. How good it feels to be honest about who you are, the thrill of telling others and knowing that you are confident in your identity even if they aren’t. It reminds me that I’m never alone and that dealing with the challenges of high school doesn’t have to make them the worst four years of my life, they can be amazing because there are a lot of things to enjoy. I felt the happiness of Tabby and let it carry over into my own life. I don’t have to live vicariously through her, I can take her experiences and let them remind of the joy to be found outside of reading.
Because of Her is the kind of YA book that makes a difference without being forced. It doesn’t tell you how all people my age are supposed to feel, but it reminds us there are others who have gone through the same things as us. Everyone has been this age, but some people seem to have lost the ability to understand how it feels to be a high schooler. Thank goodness K.E. Payne hasn’t because people my age, myself included, need writers like her telling stories for and about us. Thank you to K.E. Payne and all the other authors of Bold Strokes Books Soliloquy titles for writing books with queer teens that comfort and connect us with stories like ours. Your books are so valuable and have helped me through more than you can know in more ways than you can imagine.