As bitter, homophobic parents across the country continue to attack books with LGBTQ+ content to get them banned from school libraries and classrooms, author Robbie Couch feels his mission is reaffirmed. The Michigan native is the author of two queer young adult novels, including “Blaine for the Win, which was just released through Simon & Schuster Books for Young Adults. The book is his followup to "The Sky Blues," published in 2021.
“It’s critical that kids have stories at their fingertips that affirm their identities,” he told Pride Source. “It’s much more difficult to feel like the world has a place for you in it if you can’t find characters that look like you, or love like you do or share similar life experiences. Queer YA books are literal lifesavers, and it’s vital that teens have access to them.”
Couch, 33, now living in California but originally from Clio, northwest of Flint, said the teen years are filled with so much tension, joy, despair and conflict that they’re ripe for storytelling.
“It’s such fertile ground to explore the growing pains that come with being human,” Couch said. “Layer on top of that being LGBTQ and having to navigate the largely straight, cisgender world around you, and you’ve got a genre that’s filled with storytelling potential.”
In “Blaine,” a loose retelling of the film “Legally Blonde,” Couch recounts the story of high school junior and artist Blaine Bowers. Bowers’ perfect world comes crashing down on him when his boyfriend drops him amid claims that Bowers is not serious enough. Like Elle Woods did in the film, Bowers picks himself up and decides to prove his ex wrong. No, Bowers doesn’t apply to law school — he’s only a high school junior after all — but he does decide to run for student council president. You have to read the book to find out if he wins the race (and if he wins back the heart of his ex).
The queer YA genre is still emerging, Couch said. For years, authors have been writing LGBTQ+ stories for young readers, “but often have had to push the queer characters to the margins to get their books published or use coded language related to queerness in order for their work to gain attention and mainstream.”
Thankfully, Couch said, that’s not the case anymore.
“That's changed a lot, especially in the past five to 10 years, as many queer YA authors and books have gained commercial success and proven that young readers are hungry for diverse stories,” he said.
Still, the genre is under attack by anti-LGBTQ+ forces.
“The genre is growing, but its books and authors are still vulnerable, especially if they center BIPOC and/or transgender characters,” he said. “As we've seen with Florida's ‘Don't Say Gay’ bill, there are many adults who simply want to erase LGBTQ people and our stories. It's scary, and we need to fight back.”
For Couch, doing his part means writing several days a week. "Except when I'm on tight deadlines," he said. "Then, it's closer to 24/7. My third book, a time loop romance called ‘If I See You Again Tomorrow,’ will be out in 2023, and I'm starting book four soon!”