There’s an evolving landscape for queer literature written for our youth that is becoming more and more the mainstream, for all the right reasons. Rhiannon Wilde’s Henry Hamlet’s Heart is endearing, adorable, and relatable.
Books about the queer experience for young people certainly are not new. However, the way in which those stories are being told is just so much better.
There certainly remains a place in the queer narrative for stories of the difficulties of young people navigating the world. Those stories of loss and pain, struggles and acceptance are an inherent part of our existence. But more recent stories are giving way to a fresh perspective of how the next generation is growing up queer. It’s refreshing and full of hope.
Henry Hamlets Heart is a perfect example.
Don’t let the alliteration fool you. This is no children’s book. But one firmly planted in the world of young adult literature.
Set in an all-boys catholic school against the backdrop of Brisbane circa 2008, Henry Hamlets Heart is at its core a love story.
Henry is a bit of a geek. He’s not sporty. He’s on the debating team. And he’s a neurotic overthinker. Len is tall, artistic, mysterious, elusive. He’s a bit of alright.
The unlikely duo has been friends forever, entwined in each other’s lives for longer than they can remember. They exist together, flanked by their idiotic yet loveable friends as they face the end of year twelve.
Until one night at a party flips Henry’s world upside down.
One confused Henry.
Endearing, adorable, relatable
What is most special in the story that unfolds is the neurotic unravelling of Henry. His struggle to come to terms with the friends to lovers’ relationship that slowly unfolds with Len is endearing, adorable and relatable.
Henry’s story isn’t about the angst of being gay, of being outed or self-loathing. Which is what makes it all the more special.
Their story is told through the lens of a world that is less threatening, in a time that is more accepting. It’s not to say there is no queer struggle in this narrative. The author juxtaposes the beauty of Henry’s overly accepting family against the hostility of Len’s vacant and unaccommodating father. His aggression towards Len’s artistic pursuits is a thinly veiled distaste for the less masculine, less worthy in his eyes. His father is a catalyst for his indecision and inability to commit or communicate. Henry’s family on the other hand radiate joy, a symbol of the family every queer child wished they could grow up with.
Sunshine Coast author Rhiannon Wilde does a perfect job of blending the joys and angsts of adolescence and impending adulthood into this heartwarming story. The characters are endearing, adorable, they’ll make you laugh and cry.
Wilde has crafted a story that paints a hopeful picture of what life is like for our future queer generations.
This is the book we want our kids to pick up and read, a story that tells them everything, is going to be ok.
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