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The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Question

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Teens are more aware of sexuality and identity than ever, and they’re looking for answers and insights, as well as a community of others. In order to help create that community, YA authors David Levithan and Billy Merrell have collected original poems, essays, and stories by young adults in their teens and early 20s. The Full Spectrum includes a variety of writers—gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transitioning, and questioning—on a variety of subjects: coming out, family, friendship, religion/faith, first kisses, break-ups, and many others.

This one of a kind collection will, perhaps, help all readers see themselves and the world around them in ways they might never have imagined. We have partnered with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and a portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to them.

336 pages, Paperback

First published May 9, 2006

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About the author

David Levithan

107 books19.2k followers
David Levithan (born 1972) is an American children's book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

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5 stars
298 (30%)
4 stars
335 (33%)
3 stars
263 (26%)
2 stars
70 (7%)
1 star
21 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,521 reviews9,011 followers
June 3, 2016
I am in the expanded edition of this book, friends! The time has come: my first five-star Goodreads rating based only on my bias for my own writing.

I kid. This book deserves five stars for many reasons. It captures a wide range of young identities and intersections, in particular with the addition of seven new narratives in the expanded edition. Part of its proceeds go to support GLSEN, a fabulous organization doing life-saving work. And it uplifts the voices of often marginalized sexual minorities by allowing us to share our real lived experiences.

With youth comes inexperience, and you can see that lack of honed prose skill in these essays. But youth also brings vibrancy and intensity, a rawness of emotion that shines with rainbow colors in this collection. These writers touch on a wide range of experiences, ranging from religion to family to sex to disability to mental health. The best part, for me: because The Full Spectrum features such young voices, you know that there is more to come after each narrative's end. Each writer's story is really just beginning.

Thank you to Billy Merrell and David Levithan for working so hard on this collection, and thank you to all the other writers who shared their stories with such courage and style. And thank you, Goodreads community, for your love and support. Check out The Full Spectrum if you can - I, of course, would recommend it.
662 reviews25 followers
December 4, 2017
3 ⭐️

I can’t finish a book that calls itself The FULL Spectrum, yet mostly centers on the L, G and T sides of LGBT+.

I stopped at 62%, because every story in there is a lesbian, gay or transgender one. Where are the queer (I read only 1), bisexual (2, one if which made bisexual sound like undecided), pansexual, asexual, genderfluid stories? I can’t believe that a book that had 2 editions could not include the entire spectrum (or at least more than the usual orientations and identities we see everywhere nowadays).

I did like 2 of the stories enough to fave them for their wonderful writing (A Gay Grammar) and inspiring message (Trans-venture of an F2M), but the others are too Christian American centric for me. What about the Muslim LGBT+ community? What about immigrants? What about people who do not reside in the US and have a different perspective of belonging to the LGBT+ community?

This is a very poor sample to what could have been an incredible anthology. I’m disappointed, yet not surprised in the editors...
Profile Image for Patty.
2,354 reviews100 followers
June 11, 2010
I read this book because it was banned in New Jersey - not far from where I grew up. A high school library was asked to remove this from the shelves. I just wanted to see what caused all the fuss. I believe that the book should not have been banned.

Yes, some of these issues have to be hard to deal with in high school. I am sorry for any one of any age who has to deal with the reality of glbqt in their life. This country is so fearful of the whole issue of sex.

However, we can't bury our heads in the sand. There is no point. If I was unsure of my sexual orientation, this book would be a godsend. So many young people telling their life stories has got to help others.

I am sorry we are so fearful as a society. These issues do not go away if you stop talking about them.
Profile Image for Trina.
100 reviews59 followers
May 28, 2012
This is an amazing collection of short essays from the youth who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning about their experiences being who they are. The writing style is not always perfect, but each story flows and has a powerful message. The essays range from a girl embracing her transgender sibling, a bisexual woman trying to persuade her church to allow her to minister despite her church being against homosexuality, people who have been incredibly lucky to have amazing family support, to one of the most heartbreaking essays about an Egyptian man who gets thrown in jail simply for being gay. Struggles, depression, and suicide were recurring themes from people who wrote about their struggles. I think that each essay has a powerful message however, that being who you are is the best thing you can do, and even though it may be hard, it is worth it. There were so many stories of love and happiness, even within and through struggling and heartbreak. Even the the writing is not perfect, I think that this collection of essays is, and I feel that it is a must read for everyone, particularly straight people who do not understand what it is like to be something other than normal.

I also did a video review/thought dump: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdf1js...
Profile Image for Em.
421 reviews52 followers
August 27, 2019
I loved the concept of this book. I loved that it was own voice essays from so many diverse people. But we'll some of the essays were amazing and moved me so much, others were a struggle to get through.
Profile Image for Alex.
291 reviews20 followers
May 1, 2021
2.5 stars.

This is an anthology, so it's hard to write a whole review.

The separate pieces were mixed in quality, averaging around a 6/10. Some of these stories are worth a read but, if you read them all, they get very repetitive. On top of this, the fact that they're all very short means that they tend to focus on characters instead of plot.

Favourite pieces:
Snow and Hot Asphalt
When You're a Gay Boy In America
Queer: Five Letters
Don't Tell Me That I'm Overly Sensitive and Paranoid
A Boy In the Girl's Bathroom
Profile Image for Jes.
108 reviews10 followers
May 17, 2012
This book is extraordinary. I have never been one for short stories, but the way that these were put together, it had a wonderful flow. The Full Spectrum made my heart race, and sink, it made me want to cry, laugh, ache and yell. I don't know who couldn't learn something from this book, not just to do with LGBT issues, but also about life. The problems some of these individuals faced was heartbreaking but also inspirational. This is definitely a book every body should read.
Profile Image for Jessye Leger.
51 reviews
April 24, 2018
I only give this book three stars. I'm not a big fan of short story books. it was interesting to read some of these peoples experiences but I found that for a book called full spectrum it lacked some stories from the other parts of the spectrum. these stories were mostly about gay, lesbian and trans. not many bi, pan, ace and so on. I'm glad to say I read it but I don't think I will read it again.
Profile Image for Kelly.
821 reviews
June 30, 2011
Lovely collection. Some voices are represented more (and better) than others and the writing is not consistently of high quality, but I appreciate hearing the true stories of young people in their own words.
Profile Image for Jodi Walsh.
34 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2023
This is a good place to start if you have a child or friend who is thinking through gender and sexuality. Sadly, many of this stories will show you how not to react. It's heartbreaking to read so many instances of rejection and abuse. I was also struck by the many writers who shared how they navigated and struggled with their faith through these questions.

These topics tend to make me uncomfortable but I'm glad I took the time to read these stories and hopefully to become more open and understanding. It's ok to feel uncomfortable. The feeling doesn't last and that's a good place for learning to begin.
Profile Image for Kate LaChapelle.
57 reviews19 followers
January 10, 2013
The Full Spectrum was an interesting read for me for a variety of reasons. One, I'm not actually a huge fan of non-fiction unless it's stuff about writing or social psychology, like Malcolm Gladwell (who, ironically, wrote the book I started after this one), but this is an anthology of non-fiction works from GLBTQ persons and dealing with issues and learning about sexual and gender identities. You can see why it would interest me.

I suppose to some, my interest in gender and sexuality might seem strange since I am a straight, white, cis-female, but even though my gender and sexual identities are rather uncomplicated when compared to many others, I can't help a fascination with sexuality and gender. I don't know if I can pinpoint what about it draws me in so much, but I suppose it's similar to my interest in Gladwell's works and Freakonomics, perhaps it's just a thirst for knowledge. But enough about me and my extensive interests. The book.

It's a collection of 40 stories, essays, poems, and even some photographs that tell the stories of these people. Some are snapshots of moments, relationships, or tales of coming out, while others span much longer terms delving into the murky waters of gender identity and questioning. The process of acceptance, both from others and from themselves.

The anthology is aptly named since it does cover, while not perhaps the actual full spectrum, a feeling of the full spectrum and at least hints of the possibilities from the identity standpoint, the emotional standpoint, and the actual point of view.

I was surprised as to how many of the stories dealt with religion, but in a very positive manner and how their religion helped them in accepting their sexuality, rather than challenging it and acting as a catalyst for self-hatred. I actually rather enjoyed seeing how people put into their own words, their relationship with religion and how it works with their identity.

That isn't to say all the stories have happy-go-lucky relationships with religion, but I guess the spectrum comes in there too.

There was a good variety in the pieces, both in content and in form. My only qualms with the collection were that a few of the pieces I just "didn't get", which isn't to say that they were bad, just that they were on a level that I am not on. There were also a few pieces where I questioned the editing choices, but I think that's true of just about any work of literature.

I also would have appreciated more balance in the placement of stories. I have no idea how the editors chose the order in which the pieces appeared, but I guess I'm picky about that in the same way I make mix CDs, there is a rhyme and reason. But it's a bit like sentence construction, you need to mix up short and long sentences and medium sentences so it doesn't get monotonous and it wasn't necessarily the tone that was monotonous or even the contents, it was the lengths. There were periods filled with 20 pages of 1 - 3 page stories and then you went into a chunk of 15 - 20 page stories and it got a little tiresome sometimes.

In all though, I really enjoyed the anthology and I think that there are lessons to be learned by everyone, regardless of age, sexuality or gender identity.
Profile Image for Terra.
228 reviews
October 4, 2014
I wasn't sure how to rate a book with a lot of short stories, so I rated each story individually and then averaged it, coming out to like 3.04. So here are my ratings:

O.K. ***
Gay Grammar *****
It's Not Confidential, I've got Potential ***
Snow and Hot Asphalt **
When you're a Gay Boy in America ****
I Smelt the Gas of my Father's Fishing Boat ***
Fourth of July ****
My Diary: Documented. Done. *
Crying Wolfe ****
Trans-ventures of an F2M ****
Queer: Five Letters *****
Falling Off my Bike and Riding into the Sunset ***
The Night Marc Hall went to Prom **
Don't Tell me that I'm Overly Sensitive and Paranoid **
My Poems **
Sacagawea *
A Fairy's tale ***
A Boy in the Girl's Bathroom ***
Our Space *****
Four Photos ****
Break-Up In Slow Motion
A Story Called "Her" ***
Moment: This Could've Been me *****
A Quietly Queer Revolution (I couldn't finish one I hated it so much so zero stars)
Hatchback ***
Walking the Tracks ****
The Most Important Letter of our Life *****
Without a Trace ****
body isn't this ****
Nice Ass *
"Girls + Faggots" ***
Something for the Ladies ***
Click and Drag ***
Jill Sobule and Four Other Torture Devices ***
Gaydar ****
The Short Version **
All You Need is Love **
That Night ***
Continuation of the Life **
Three Sunsets **
Profile Image for Colin H.
2 reviews
December 6, 2017
It wasn't my favorite LGBTQ+ book that I've read, but nonetheless the subject matter and how it was executed overall made it a really good book. I still think a lot of the stories in the book are still relevant even eleven years after its initial release. The writing was good, although there were some stories that were hard to get through. I found myself relating to quite a few of the stories as a young queer and trans person, and if I couldn't relate to them I knew someone who could. For instance, there was this one chapter about this queer woman who talked about her faith and her queerness and I have a friend that is fairly religious and falls under the LGBTQ+ spectrum, so it would be a book/chapter I would have recommended to her. Or there was this other chapter about this guy who was gay and a boy scout turned boy scout instructor and I have a friend that also fits those labels, so I would have recommended that he read that chapter/section of the book. It was also kinda cool that not everybody labeled themselves in the book, but it was hard to follow at times because of switching of pronouns for specific authors throughout the book. Overall, this was a great read which I really enjoyed, but some of the language was a little dated, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt because it was released a little over a decade ago.
Profile Image for Danii Allen.
311 reviews6 followers
December 18, 2016
I should probably preface this by saying - I'm not a fan of poetry, at all. I just don't get it. The only reasons I read this book were to fill the 'A book of poetry' slot on the PopSugar Reading Challenge 2016, and because it had David Levithan's name on the front.

I like the idea for this book, and I liked some of the stories and poems within it, but for the most part, it was a drag to read.

I think maybe if I wasn't so comfortable already identifying as queer, I'd appreciate this book more. If it was something I needed, something to show me that there are others out there like me, maybe. But I had all that years ago, and I'm comfortable in queer identity without needing to read more of anyone else's experience.

Something that frustrated me was the fact that a lot of the stories are very America-specific, to the point where it gets confusing for someone outside of the author's specific location and situation to understand.

Also how the fuck did the poem about someone's ass make it into the final publication? What? It wasn't even queer.

Basically, I didn't expect to enjoy reading this book, and I didn't, really. Three stars for trying, having a good message (for the most part), and donating proceeds to a queer charity.
Profile Image for Rue Baldry.
543 reviews6 followers
February 3, 2018
This is an interesting collection of essays from early in the millennium, written by Americans who were then in their early twenties about their various experiences of being LGBTQIA+ (or GLBT as some of the contributors were still saying then).

Because it's an American collection, there is more emphasis on religion than there would be in a British equivalent, both the intolerance and homophobia/transphobia one might expect, but also the solace of the faiths of some of the writers.

If written today, then I think there would be the inclusion of more varieties of sexuality and 'gender variance'. I hope youngsters today experience more understanding from their parents, teachers, peers etc than these kids did, but I wouldn't bet on it.

A lot of variety in the quality of writing, as you might expect, but all stories worth hearing.
Profile Image for Angélique (Angel).
329 reviews31 followers
June 27, 2016
This beautiful collection really lives up to its title. The editors' dedication to showcasing more than one narrative of the queer experience is undeniable throughout this collection as is their dedication to sharing emotive, authentically written works. While there were so many aspects of this anthology which I loved, I was most impressed with the the willingness to include pieces that dealt with religion and queerness in more than just negative ways. As an affirming Christian, it was beautiful to see a queer work actively speak against the forced dichotomy between queerness and Christianity.
43 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2014
This book actually feels relevant to the current state of the queer community, at least as I have experienced it. I really liked the range of voices and I cried over the story of one person who felt called to be ordained in the methodist church even though that was impossible at the time. Above all I think this book can inspire a lot of peace and courage in people who are struggling. It really helps to know we are not alone, and we can make it.
Profile Image for Teddy.
10 reviews
January 24, 2019
I'm... gonna be honest and say this seemed better than it actually ended up being. The stories were mostly about gay men, then lesbians, then trans men, a few questioning people and then like one bi person and one trans woman. It would have been really neat to see a wider variety and maybe some other identities, honestly. The stories themselves were okay, though few stood out.
Profile Image for Sari.
126 reviews7 followers
January 27, 2018
I first found this book because I had been reading a lot of David Levithan books, and the idea of a non-fiction telling of experiences, good, bad, and all shades in between, in the LGBTQ+ community seemed very interesting. The stories ranged from joyous depictions of love and acceptance to heart breaking tales of how harsh and ignorant others can be when it comes to perception of others and their sexuality. It opened my eyes to many realities out in the world, and I felt, in a way, connected to the writers. They wrote from their heart in the form of diaries, stories, poetry, and more. I really loved it, and I think that it's an important read for everyone, and beyond that, just incredibly good writing. It was hard to stop reading it. Read it and cry, laugh, and enjoy. It will change your life.
Profile Image for Tamara.
334 reviews33 followers
September 20, 2017
This was quite interesting! There were LGBTQ people (mostly young people) of all kinds telling their stories.

Some stories were really interesting and very well written, others a bit less so. Many of them were very hard to read (featuring homophobia, transphobia, self harm, suicidal thoughts, abuse,...), that's why it took me a while to get through this book.

I found some of the stories a bit problematic? I don't really want to go into details but hmpf.
I really wish there would have been more poetry because the few poems that were featured were really beautiful and interesting.

All in all, this book was quite nice to read but nothing really thrilled me.
18 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2020
This book is a great resource for young LGBTQ members struggling with their identity or coming to terms with who they are. There are a lot of stories from young and inexperienced writers, meaning quite a few of the selected essays aren’t particularly strong in writing. They do however provide a hopeful and positive outlook at coming of age as a queer person. I would recommend this to queer or questioning children and young teens.
Profile Image for Christopher.
486 reviews58 followers
June 20, 2017
Don't fully know how to review this because it's a collection of nonfiction stories, poems, etc. I will say I think the pieces selected for this were really great. Emotional roller coaster for sure because some of the stories don't have the happiest leaving off points. Some were hopeful and uplifting. Some were way too relatable. It's a good collection to let yourself get engrossed in.
Profile Image for Bryan.
469 reviews3 followers
December 18, 2019
I appreciate and admire everyone who chose to contribute and share their stories and poems. Also, I'm very happy a book like this exists! However, I didn't make any real personal connections with any of the contributions and none of them really engage me or touched me enough where I will be itching to reread them.
Profile Image for Sophie Blunt.
30 reviews2 followers
December 20, 2016
Such a beautiful collection of stories about the experience of LGBTQ+ youths and adults. I am from London and shocked to read so much about religion in the stories. I guess I shouldn't be but, in my little opinion, religion really is a bitch!
Profile Image for Anna Bi.
168 reviews
July 28, 2017
It took me forever to read this but!!! It was very interesting and educational and tbh I read it in like five sittings but bc they were all separate stories I could not read it for six months and keep going. Definitely recommend!
35 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2018
I really had a hard time getting into this book. It wasn't because the stories in the book weren't good I just wasn't into it enough to keep me interested. Sorry...I'm sure there are a lot of people who might like it.
Profile Image for Ann-Cathrine.
96 reviews
May 22, 2018
More like a 3.5.
I was really hoping for some asexual representation since the title specifically states "and other identities", but who am I kidding, this was written in 2006. I loved most of the stories and poems, some were just really slow.
Profile Image for Jillian.
1,971 reviews91 followers
June 18, 2020
During Pride Month, I've been trying to make my reading as queer and diverse as possible. I've had The Full Spectrum on my Kindle for a while so it was a perfect time to dive into it. I read the expanded edition, which features both the pieces originally published in 2006 and some new pieces for the 2016 expanded edition.

My feelings on this collection are split. The original pieces, while mostly good, also feel a little dated in 2020. The introduction acknowledges this, and I did still enjoy them. However, when comparing them to the new essays, I couldn't help notice that I connected more with the newer pieces, which felt more diverse in their selection. I almost wish they had just published a new volume of The Full Spectrum to accompany the old volume. I particularly enjoyed the essays that dealt with asexuality. They made me feel very seen, and I just wanted more of that content.

Still, this is a great collection that I would recommend for anyone who likes nonfiction and essays and wants to read LGBTQIA+ content this month.
April 24, 2022
The LGBTQ+ experience of all these people in their little story wasn’t executed well. Most of the stories weren’t really gripping…it actually hurts to give this book such a low rating. Yeah, nothing wrong with every experience itself, the execution just wasn’t it.
Profile Image for hadar.
86 reviews
June 2, 2018
mostly outdated so i was like :/ i didnt finish it rip :(
Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews

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