Lili Wilkinson, 2011. I have a soft spot for books about high-school theater, and this one was no exception. The hook is great, too: teenage Ava is an out lesbian with an intellectual, bitchy girlfriend named Chloe with whom she wears black, sees Japanese films, and reads Anais Nin. Secretly, though, Ava wants to wear pink cashmere sweaters and get straight As and go to football games, so she transfers to a private school. There, she befriends the popular crowd and tries out for the school musical. Failing miserably at her audition, she joins the stage crew for a chance to participate in the musical anyway and be closer to her clean-cut, peppy new friends. As she leads a double life, switching between wardrobes and personalities, it becomes clear that the stage crew freaks (as they’re perceived by both Chloe and the perky kids), are the only ones with whom she can truly be herself.
This funny, fresh novel explores the teenage need to establish an identity by way of your friend group, and it works with Ava’s sexuality in a non-binary way I can get behind. She falls for crew boy Sam in the end, but she doesn’t renounce lesbianism just because she’s broken up with her girlfriend. Instead, she admits to Sam, “‘I like you, too…And I don’t know whether that means I’m straight or gay, or gay with a twist of straight or what.'” Sam, bless his heart, “looked at me like I was crazy. ‘I hear it’s okay to be both,’ he said, with a little shake of his head. ‘All the kids are doing it.'”