Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How Beautiful the Ordinary” as Want to Read:
How Beautiful the Ordinary
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How Beautiful the Ordinary

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,015 ratings  ·  93 reviews
A girl thought to be a boy steals her sister's skirt, while a boy thought to be a girl refuses to wear a cornflower blue dress. One boy's love of a soldier leads to the death of a stranger. The present takes a bittersweet journey into the past when a man revisits the summer school where he had "an accidental romance." And a forgotten mother writes a poignant letter to the ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperTeen (first published December 29th 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I couldn’t pass up this anthology, especially after learning that Margo Lanagan is one of the contributors. I was also thrilled to see other well-known writers I haven’t discovered yet, like Francesca Lia Block, Emma Donoghue, and Julie Anne Peters.

This collection of stories focuses on teen GLT experiences from a variety of perspectives. These are well-crafted stories, filled with conflict, growth and change. Because I enjoyed the majority of these stories so well, I will forgive the omission o
Anthologies are almost always a mixed bag. Especially anthologies by multiple writers. There's always at least a few stories that I just don't like, for whatever reason. How Beautiful the Ordinary is doing good to have only two stories that didn't resonate with me.

The subtitle (Twelve Stories of Identity) is a little cagey. What does that mean, exactly? Especially in a YA, where half the genre is about discovering who you really are. Here, though, it means sexual and gender identity. Yes, this i
The story from which the title of this collection comes is by David Levithan. It took me apart. Entirely. I think Levithan writes from the same place L'Engle wrote from- that calm and sure center where love lives, that place of hope untainted by delusion. He's rapidly becoming one of my favorites. I suspect this particular piece resonated so strongly with me because I can remember so clearly the time when all the beautiful boys were dying and we were powerless and afraid and fairly certain we we ...more
Well, other than the fact that the introduction kept saying lesbian, gay, and trangender, thus excluding bi, pan, and otherwise queer identified people, and the borderline transphobia and cissexism in two of the stories, this anthology was okay. It felt very GL(t) to me, with 6 books about gay males, 3 about lesbians, 2 about trans* guys and 1 about a trans* girl. David Levithan's story was fairly good, and a good reminder to younger queer people about older members of the community did before t ...more
About a 3 and a half. Would have been a 4 if the bi-erasure in one of the stories hadn't peeved me off so much. This should not have come as such a surprise when re-reading the introduction: "This collection contains stories by twelve of our finest authors for young adults, writing about what it might mean to be gay, lesbian, or transgender." Nowhere in the entire book is "bisexual(ality)" ever mentioned.
Anna  (Bananas!)
The first story, "A Word from the Nearly Distant Past" by David Levithan, was so touching and beautiful and poignant. I teared up far too many times to be sensible in a 7-page span. Even if the rest of the books sucks a big one, it was worth it for that story. it.

More thorough review to follow.
Feb 21, 2010 Henry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teens
Recommended to Henry by: My English teacher
When I read How Beautiful The Ordinary: Twelve Stories Of Identity I thought it was great. I thought some of these stories were more for adult than teens like the story by David Levithan’s “A Word from the Nearly Distant Past,” in which Levithan recounts the experiences of generations past as they dealt with being in the closet, dealing with the AIDS crisis, and exhorts the younger generation to make sure that they live for future generations, as much as for themselves. This one was one of my f ...more
I had no idea this was an LGBT book when I picked it up - I was looking for a book of short stories to read for book club and the title and subtitle (twelve stories of identity) drew me in. I think the ambiguous cover and title might make it more appealing to teens who might not want it immediately visible what they are reading.

The stories represented a wide variety of experiences, emotions, and styles. There were one or two that just didn't click with me, but in an anthology that's not bad. And
Dani Chakra
How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity is a delightful anthology collection comprised of nontraditional short stories, comics, and prose that aims to portray 21st century LGBT culture from the perspective of today's youth. With submissions by contemporary authors such as David Levithan, Ariel Schrag, and Francesca Lia Block, this book offers a little bit of something for everyone. Though some stories included in this varied grab bag may not resonate with you, I encourage you to d ...more
As many have noted, this would be a solid three stars without a couple of standout pieces. David Levithan's is probably my favorite. He writes with the absolute conviction that it gets better, to steal the recent catchphrase. He has the power to make you see the world as a better place without leaving you feeling disappointed when you finish reading. I have to say, I didn't like Margo Lanagan's story as much as I wanted to -- she's an amazing author and I love her books, but her story didn't rea ...more
Editor Michael Cart has collected twelve stories about LGBT youth identity in the form of short stories, graphic fiction, and verse, by well-known young-adult, and adult authors including Francesca Lia Block, Gregory Maguire, Jacqueline Woodson, Ariel Schrag, Emma Donoghue, and others.

There is something for everyone in this collection: stories of ghosts and girls trapped in walls serving as metaphors for transgendered teens trapped in the wrong body; handsome highway men and soldiers for a stab
May 01, 2011 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with an open mind
Michael Cart has pulled together an interesting and fairly well-rounded sampling of lgbtq writings. The first 11 stories are fairly predictable and thoroughly enjoyable (or at least, if not whole-heartedly enjoyable to me, I can easily imagine that they would be enjoyable to others) but Gregory Maguire’s final story is a bit of a sore thumb.

*enter diatribe*

Maguire’s story is good, really good…it just doesn’t meld with the other selections. Told from the POV of a 40 year old father, flashing back
i chose to read 3 stories from this collection. the book features stories (fiction) from twelve popular authors on being glbtq. i read stories by: david levithan, francesca lia block, and julie anne peters. i've read more than one book by each before. although i love david's writing normally, i just couldn't get into his story. i'm still confused as to what it's about. block's story is told through blog entries and emails, and tells the story of a girl who has always identified as straight falli ...more
Ages 14+ (sex, sex, and sex)

I adore, I adore, I adore. Of course, that may just be the afterglow of Gregory Maguire's modern homage to Brokeback Mountain. But even without that, this is a well rounded collection of what it means to be gay, lesbian, or transgender from a series of great authors. (Julie Ann Peters, your offering was almost PWP, I never expected!) As of this note, Margo Lanagan's is the only story I haven't read, but her style has never suited me. For gay folks, straight folks, and
This book is made up of short stories, making it a real challenge to assign a rating for. There were really a few stories that deserved 5 stars, a few that I would have given 3 or 4 stars, and a few 1 stars. I decided because I liked a good part of it, and because its not possible to love every part of a compilation, the whole thing deserved 4.

A Word From the Nearly Distant Past by David Levithan was pleasing, and it offered good insights into gay kids of today as well as the struggles of gay ki
A collection of short stories from well-known young adult authors about young people searching to discover and accept who they are. Notable transgender stories:

Trev, Jacqueline Woodson (f2m)
Told in lyrical prose, Trev (short for Trevana, a combination of her parents' names) revisits the time between starting kindergarten and first grade, when he realized as a six year old that he wasn't the girl his family and fellow kindergartners expected him to be.
My Virtual World, Francesca Lia Block (f2m)
Tara Spears
This is about a 2.5 star read for me, unfortunately I rounded down because of the content of this book. This book was supposedly written for teens, is actually labeled YA, but three of the stories are NOT geared towards YA in any way, shape, or form. This dissapointed me.

Now I had to note the publication date on this and three other works by authors in this book, because the shorts contained in HBTO were novel excerpts from published works. However, due to this being published prior to the novel
Nina Higson-Sweeney
A Word From The Nearly Distant Past by David Levithan
The whole reason this book caught my eye is because I saw Levithan's name on it. After reading Will Grayson Will Grayson, which was co-written by Levithan, he has become one of my favourite authors. He has a unique style of writing that I loved - and still love! His story of identity was confusing at first, but as I read more of it, I understod it. The narrator is basically a group of deceased homosexuals who are looking down on what life is l
Nicole Field
I picked this up as it came up in a library search for Francesca Lia Block. Imagine my pleasure, then, when I realised it also had stories by David Levithan and Emma Donoghue.

David's story was the one that opened, immediately after the introduction written by Michael Cart. It was a sweet, short story written from the viewpoint of the generations that have come before, acknowledging the differences in the prejudices shown to gay people then and now and seeing that while the struggles are differen
How Beautiful The Ordinary isn't your typical story about people with troubled lives. As the description says, twelve stories of identity, it means these are twelve very different lives but with intertwining similarities. As I have read the book, I knew that not every story is for the teens (as I found this in our HS library). I know that this is for the next generation, for the understanding of what situation they're in, but not everyone will find this amusing or touching, but be rather disgust ...more
Cameron Pults
I thought this was going to be personal stories from queer adults. It wasn't. It was a ragtag collection of unusual stories, some of which barely had anything to do with being queer. I found it hard to get through and very few of the stories held any appeal for me. Possibly I would have enjoyed it more if I had known what to expect, but I doubt it.
I thought my impression was: a somewhat uneven collection. But I'm pretty sure the problem is not with the book, but with me being a long way from 17. Not all stories resonate across ages.

As a 37 year old then: David Levithan's story was brilliant: heartrending and joyous; classic and iconic and new and different and everyone should read it. Eric Shanower's comic was very well done, but...I think you have to love the storytelling tropes of comic books to appreciate it, and I don't. I love Ron Ko
Beth Kemp
I enjoyed the variety within this collection, unified nonetheless by the theme of gendered and sexual identity. The anthology includes stories of love, loss and betrayal, as well as specifically LGBT experience. Few are traditional short stories; there are two comic book stories, one novella and several use unusual voice or experiment with narration in some way. The stories are a mixture of realism and fantasy, and cover different time periods as well as a wide range of LGBT experience: male/mal ...more
I had varying feelings about each of the stories.

A world from the nearly distant past: David Levithan - 5 Stars
I cried. Just read it; it's good.

Happily Ever After: Eric Shanower - 2.5 Stars
My life as a dog: Ron Koertge - 3.5 Stars
Trev: Jacqueline Woodson - 3 Stars
My Virtual World: Francesca Lia Block - 3 Stars

A Dark Red Love-Knot: Margo Lanagan - 0 Stars
Ohhh, this one made me angry. I don't know whether it's because I love The Highwayman (original Noyes poem on which this story is based- for a
Erin Ashley
There isn't much to say about this book or a lot I really want to say to be honest, so this will be shorter than my other reviews.

I liked what this book was all about, I really did. The title jumped out at me and so did the subject matter. What didn't really capture me was a lot of the stories. I had my 2 favourites and then I skimmed over the other stories because their beginnings just did grab me like the couple I liked.

It seems that nowadays the subject of being an outcast, whether gay, strai
Truly enjoyable collection. I'd read works by David Levithan, Jacqueline Woodson, Ariel Schrag, Jennifer Finney Boylan, and Gregory Maquire in the past, so had fairly high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. What was most impressive and enjoyable was the variety of stories present - graphic story, poetry, prose, short form and long, comedy and tragedy, realistic fiction, fantasy, biography, and complex main characters who, amidst their other identity markers, identify as gay, lesbian, or transg ...more
I picked this up after reading Margo Lanagan's post about her story (, because I've loved "The Highwayman" ever since reading it in a grade-school literature book. And I did think "A Dark Red Love Knot" quite wonderful. I'm a little put off by the collection as a whole, though. The cover promises "stories of identity" and the flap details "distinctively modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification." Keep going and in the introduction you lea ...more
Like most anthologies, some of the stories are great and some are less. I loved David Leviathan's one. It was amazing. FLB's was wonderful too, I love all her writings. Emma Donnaghue's was so realistically written. JAP's was so sweet, I also loved it.

I'm a bit bothered by the lack of bisexuals, asexuals, aromantics, agenders, demisexuals, pansexuals, and others. There are more sexualities than trans gay or lesbian.

And yes this is the second book I've read today, don't judge me.
I really want to give this more stars, but I was majorly disappointed. I went into this expecting an LGBT anthology. It described itself as anthology of gay, lesbian and transgender stories. But I think a more accurate description would be "a cis gay male romance anthology with a sprinkling of lesbians and trans people thrown in." Seriously, seriously disappointed. Also, would it kill to get some representation gay/bi trans people for once?

Let's break it down:

Cis gay male stories: 7
Cis lesbian s
Zombieslayer/Alienhunter{I've forgiven what i've done}
I was expecting there to be more stories about gay and lesbian experiences, and there are a few, but a lot of the stories are about being trans.
I suppose I should've expected it, with the secondary title being '12 stories of identity'.
I really did enjoy the collection. My favorite was 'A Word from the Nearly Distant Past' by David Levithan, and I plan on reading one of his books.
Mainly a collection for trans youth, but there are gay and lesbian stories, too.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Kicked Out
  • The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Question
  • Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers
  • Crossing Lines
  • The House You Pass on the Way
  • The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to their Younger Selves
  • f2m:the boy within
  • Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present
  • Sprout
  • Jumpstart the World
  • Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction
  • The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
  • The Mariposa Club
  • Awake
  • GLBTQ*: The Survival Guide for Queer & Questioning Teens
  • Freaks and Revelations
  • Gemini Bites
  • Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie
Former Director of the Beverly Hills (CA) Public Library and a Past President of the Young Adult Library Services Association, Michael Cart is a nationally recognized expert in children's and young adult literature. Now a columnist and reviewer for ALA's Booklist magazine, he is the author or editor of eight books, including From Romance to Realism, a critical history of YA literature; MY FATHER'S ...more
More about Michael Cart...
In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism Love & Sex: Ten Stories of Truth My Father's Scar: A Novel Necessary Noise: Stories About Our Families as They Really Are

Share This Book