Style by Chelsea M. Cameron goes down like a spoonful of honey specifically designed to rid the bad taste of Gay-Girl Tropes sticking on the back of your throat. Style is a sweetly satisfying #OwnVoices YA romance that tells the story of Kyle and Stella, two high school girls who fall for one another.
It’s no secret fiction in all its forms whether it be literature, movies, or Television, has a problem with killing queer women and girls. It’s a trope so well known it even has its own page on TV Tropes, aptly titled Bury Your Gays. Though this trope stretches to people of all genders who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or asexual, it’s been particularly pernicious around women-loving-women characters.
Shows like “The 100” and “The Walking Dead” are excellent examples when peering into how gay women are treated as characters. Just recently, “The 100” fandom revolted when a popular half to the pairing Clexa (Lexa and Clarke) was killed off abruptly. A similar situation occurred on “The Walking Dead.”
If a queer woman character isn’t killed off, it’s common to make them suffer. Sure they might be happy at some points, but mostly they’re just sad. It’s an offshoot of the Bury Your Gays trope, that I like to call the Make Your Gays Sad trope. (Examples: Blue is the Warmest Color and “Brokeback Mountain.”)
While writing Style, Cameron deliberately avoided these tropes.
In fact, the first couple she really shipped – or, for the less-fandom involved among us, wanted to be together – was Clexa from “The 100,” so she was very aware of the impact flimsy representation can have on viewers and readers.
“I was absolutely devastated when that ship sunk,” said Cameron. “Like, I actually got sick to my stomach. It’s just ridiculous that all we see on TV of queer characters is them getting killed or maimed or written off. Media matters. What does it tell the young queer kid when they see queer characters getting shot by stray bullets constantly?
“Every single book I’ve ever written has a [happily-ever-after]. I write romance, so that’s a requirement. I approached Style the same way, and I’ll approach all my other non-heterosexual books that way. It’s also more important that queer characters get happily ever afters because there is so much negativity out there.”
Cameron is a veteran author, who’s written up to “30 something” books, many new adult and adult romances, though she began in 2012 by writing YA paranormal. Since then, her approach and genre has changed quite a bit. Writing Style was “fun and joyful” and the easiest book she’s ever written. Style was her first Young Adult f/f.
As a gay/queer identifying woman, Cameron strove to write a book she wishes she would have been able to read when she was younger.
“I wrote this one for me, but also for the other girls out there who love girls – including those who identify as bisexual, pansexual, etc. – and want to see themselves in a story that was just like they would find in a heterosexual romance,” said Cameron. “Someday I want to write bi girls and pan girls and trans girls and the works, but for this first one it was more of case of ‘write what you know.’ Plus, that also happened to be how Stella and Kyle came to me, which worked out. If either had been bi or anything else, I would have run with it.”
Cameron’s characters struggle in the same way that many people who experience sexual or romantic attraction come to terms with said attraction. In Style’s particular case: adorably.
“I knew I didn’t want this to be Tragic. I didn’t want their families to disown them, or for them to have to deal with even more stress than they already had. I didn’t want the focus of the book to be on homophobia. I wanted the focus to be on them, on their story. I know some people will say that that’s not realistic, but I don’t care. There are families out there like Kyle’s and Stella’s… I wanted to show that being queer isn’t always the end of the world. I know that in reality it can be for some, and that breaks my heart. I guess I’m just an incurable optimist who believes in love conquering all.”
There is a great deal of discussion and description of sexuality in Style. This includes masturbation, something that is not frequently found in YA books. (YA Interrobang actually has a list of ten YA books with female masturbation if you’re interested).
“I’m a huge proponent of taking the shame out of female sexuality because I’ve lived it. Sexual education just teaches about periods and sperm and the mechanics of sex, but there’s never a discussion about women’s pleasure. There’s also so much misinformation out there about women’s bodies. I could rant about this for days. Sometimes I do on Twitter.”
“I guess,” added Cameron, “being a romance author, I’m less shy talking about this than the average person. Occupational hazard. But I think it’s so important to teach girls, especially, that their bodies aren’t dirty or shameful and that female pleasure is healthy and natural and that they shouldn’t feel bad for seeking it.”
If you want to read a story about happy gay girls who stay happy, Style by Cameron M. Chelsea, is for you.
Style is available now.