Welcome to the 20th article in our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Adam Silvera is a New York Times bestselling author who writes young adult fiction. He’s Bronx born, gay, and Puerto Rican, elements that shine through in his writing. Each of his books focus on characters who are gay and Puerto Rican (or in the case of They Both Die at the End, Cuban and bisexual) giving readers much needed representation that’s still difficult to come by in 2019.
Silvera’s debut novel, More Happy Than Not (MHTN), follows 16-year-old Aaron Soto as he grapples with his father’s recent suicide and his feelings towards his new friend Thomas. As Aaron begins to realize the way he feels about Thomas is real, he struggles to accept himself and what it would mean for his friendships and his life if he tells them he’s gay. Eventually Aaron decides he wants to undergo a memory altering procedure from the “Leteo Institute” to forget who he truly is if it means he can finally find happiness.
One of the most striking qualities of MHTN is how grounded in reality it feels — thanks to Silvera including aspects from his own life. Aaron Soto could be someone you know, with a different name or slightly different circumstances. Aaron represents members of the LGBTQ+ community who struggle to accept themselves. He represents people struggling with the idea of happiness, with depression, with suicide, and with wanting to forget who you are because you’re just the slightest bit different or “not normal.” MHTN is an emotional and wonderfully written story, but it’s also Silvera gifting validation to those who need it most.
History is All You Left Me, his second novel, gives a slightly different perspective on his gay protagonist, offering characters who are gay, open, and proud about it, but still tinged with the heart-wrenching emotions Silvera’s known for writing. The story is about Griffin, whose world is destroyed when he learns about the death of his ex-boyfriend Theo. Despite Theo moving on and finding a new boyfriend, Griffin still believed he had a future with him. After Theo’s death, Griffin goes back to his history with Theo, grieving and trying to move on. However, Griffin’s spiral into pain and heartache only intensifies when he finds comfort with Jackson, Theo’s new boyfriend.
Next up is They Both Die at the End (TBDATE), a story about two teenage boys who find each other on their “End Day” through an app called “Last Friend.” The book takes us through Rufus and Mateo’s final day, after they both receive calls from Death-Cast telling them they’re going to die. The two set out to have the best last day possible, despite the close calls and other obstacles they encounter. TBDATE, (even with its heart breaking ending), tells a beautiful story about love, loss, and grief. It is also being adapted in to an HBO miniseries.
Silvera’s latest book, What If It’s Us (WIIU), was co-written with Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and is much more light-hearted and uplifting than his prior work. WIIU gives us the gay meet-cute of Arthur and Ben. Set in New York City, Arthur, only in New York for the summer, bumps into a cute boy named Ben, who’s going to the post office to mail a break up box to his ex-boyfriend. After being separated by a flash mob and thinking they’ll never see each other again, they manage to find each other and spend the rest of the summer together. Silvera and Albertalli give Arthur and Ben a sweet, funny, and charming story, with all the awkwardness of two people who just want the universe to be on their side.
Outside his writing, Silvera is a loud and constant voice for the LGBTQ+ community. On more than one occasion, he’s spoken about experiences during his recent book tour where people asked him when he plans on writing stories about straight characters. Some seemed genuinely upset that he only writes gay characters, but others were simply curious. Whenever he’s asked (which also includes through Twitter or Instagram Q&As), he states that he won’t, because there are “no shortage of heterosexual stories.” He’s not afraid to call out people who ask or demand in harmful or aggressive ways, and he’s quick to help bring understanding to others who are just wondering.
Silvera also continues to speak about his personal experiences, and how they shaped his fictional stories and pushed him to create art that gives the LGBTQ+ community worlds to escape to and feel safe in. He pushes the importance of representation and supports others who do the same. He reminds his audience about the importance and power of storytelling, especially when he tells stories that have been lacking or non-existent. His upcoming fantasy novel Infinity Son, set for a January 2020 release, will continue to give voices to those who feel they don’t have one, and reinforce the voices trying to speak a little louder.
Stay tuned for our next installment in our 2019 Pride Month Series tomorrow, and check out the rest of the articles in the series here.