On ‘Girls Like Me’ and Queering YA Books: A Q&A With Author Nina Packebush

July 17, 2018

When Nina Packebush realized that she was unable to find a young adult fiction book about queer pregnant and parenting people, she set out to change this. In her debut novel, Girls Like Me, Packebush tells the story of Banjo Logan, a 16-year-old queer-identifying person who finds out she is pregnant by her gender-nonconforming partner, who died by suicide. Logan is learning how to navigate her pregnancy, mental health, family dynamics, and budding friendships, while grieving the loss of her partner and trying to imagine what life will be like when she gives birth.

As someone who has written extensively on teen pregnancy, I have always been bothered by how books on the subject tend to reflect a similar type of young pregnant person: someone who is cisgender, heterosexual, and able-bodied. Diverse protagonists are necessary because people across the gender, sexuality, and ability spectrum get pregnant and deserve to have their experiences reflected in literature.

Packebush’s character list for Girls Like Me is full of people who identify as queer in their gender or their sexuality. Additionally, the book is outstanding at incorporating mental health as a central theme without stigmatizing people who experience mental conditions. I have not seen this level of diversity in a book pertaining to the experiences of people being pregnant and parenting in their teen years, and I hope it’s just the beginning of a new wave of such books.

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