Today on the site I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of an extremely exciting upcoming YA: the ace heist debut Aces Wild: A Heist by Amanda DeWitt, coming September 6th from Peachtree Teen! Here’s the story:
Six of Crows goes to Las Vegas in debut author Amanda DeWitt’s suspenseful casino heist, starring an entire crew of asexual teens.
Some people join chess club, some people play football. Jack Shannon runs a secret blackjack ring in his private school’s basement. What else is the son of a Las Vegas casino mogul supposed to do?
Everything starts falling apart when Jack’s mom is arrested for their family’s ties to organized crime. His sister Beth thinks this is the Shannon family’s chance to finally go straight, but Jack knows that something’s not right. His mom was sold out, and he knows by who. Peter Carlevaro: rival casino owner and jilted lover. Gross.
Jack hatches a plan to find out what Carlevaro’s holding over his mom’s head, but he can’t do it alone. He recruits his closest friends—the asexual support group he met through fandom forums. Now all he has to do is infiltrate a high-stakes gambling club and dodge dark family secrets, while hopelessly navigating what it means to be in love while asexual. Easy, right?
And here’s the wildly eye-catching cover, designed by Adela Pons with art by Víctor Bregante!
“Aces Wild isn’t a book I ever expected to write, and I never would have guessed that it would be my debut! When I first started putting the words on the page, I was intimidated by writing a contemporary story—how do you make real life exciting?! I wanted to write asexual characters, but I didn’t want to write a story about asexuality, and I wasn’t sure if that was allowed. As the pieces of the story came together, I realized how important they were to me, and how important I hoped they could be for readers someday. I would write a story about comedy and larger-than-life adventure and asexuality too, but not as something that the characters struggled with or came to understand, but as something that had brought them together.
I’ll always love this story because it’s fun and as flashy as its beautiful cover (look at that neon!), but also because it’s something I wrote during a very difficult time in my life, and so much of the love and understanding that kept me going then is held in its pages. Deep at its heart, Aces Wild is about understanding yourself in the face of loss and change, and the different types of love that help us along the way, if we allow ourselves to ask for it. It’s also about silly jokes and internet friends and blackjack too, so you could say that it has range. It means so much to me to have it out into the world, I hope readers enjoy it as much as I do!”
Amanda DeWitt is an author and librarian, ensuring that she spends as much time around books as possible. She also enjoys Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragon-ing, and even more writing, just not whatever it is she really should be writing. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Masters in Information and Library Science. She lives in Clearwater, Florida with her dogs, cats, and assortment of chickens. Aces Wild: A Heist is her debut novel.
C.E. McGill‘s OUR HIDEOUS PROGENY, pitched as a queer take on the Mary Shelley classic, in which an aspiring paleontologist and great-niece of Victor Frankenstein attempts to make her name in the patriarchal world of Victorian science by creating her own monster, only to reevaluate what monstrous truly means, to Wendy Wong at Harper, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, for publication in spring 2023, by Tamara Kawar at ICM, on behalf of Sue Armstrong at C+W (NA).
Author-illustrator of TURNING JAPANESE MariNaomi‘s I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME, a mixed media forensic journey into false memory and lost queer friendship, pitched as invoking Michelle Tea and Lauren Redniss, to Michael Nava at Amble, for publication in November 2022, by Gordon Warnock at Fuse Literary (world English).
Stonewall Award winner and Lambda Literary Award finalist Lucy Jane Bledsoe‘s TELL THE REST, about the friendship between a women’s basketball coach and a poet, who are deeply connected by a church-supported conversion therapy camp for teens where they survived and their other friend disappeared, whose missions to understand the events of that summer have landed them both back in Oregon—their paths hurtling toward each other once again, to Johnny Temple at Akashic, for publication in spring 2023, by Reiko Davis at DeFiore and Company (world).
Theodore McCombs‘s EXIT ARIAS, a story collection spanning past, present, and parallel lives, using space opera, quantum physics, calculus, and ecology to explore themes of queer difference in a monstrous world, pitched as Garth Greenwell meets Ted Chiang, and a follow-up novel expanding on one of the stories, to Deborah Ghim at Astra House, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2023, by Kirby Kim at Janklow & Nesbit (world).
CCA professor, editor of NO STRAIGHT LINES, and cartoonist Justin Hall’s untitled graphic novel, mixing memoir and historical narratives to weave together San Francisco’s queer history with the author’s own journey as a gay man, to Charlotte Greenbaum at Abrams ComicArts, for publication in spring 2024, by Anjali Singh at Ayesha Pande Literary (world).
Jane Kindred’s KING OF THIEVES, the second in her queer Demons Of Elysium series set in a Russian-inspired heaven, to Rachel Haimowitz at Riptide Publishing, in an exclusive submission, for publication in April 2022, by Sara Megibow at kt literary.
Scholar, critic, and poet Stephanie Burt’s 30 SUPER GAY POEMS, an anthology of LGBTQ+ poetry celebrating queer love, sex, visibility, and joy, alongside expository essays, to Sharmila Sen at Harvard University Press, by Matt McGowan at Frances Goldin Literary Agency (world).
Lambda Literary and Columbia MFA teaching fellow Javier Fuentes’s COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN, a queer, international, cross-class romance centered on a young, undocumented New York pastry chef forced to return to Spain, where he struggles to adapt to his new home and finds shelter with a wealthy, charming, and troubled man, who suffers major shocks of his own, to Shelley Wanger at Pantheon, for publication in 2023, by Maria Cardona at Pontas Literary & Film Agency (world English).
NEA, Stegner, and Fulbright fellow, Lambda Literary Award finalist, and author of INTO EACH ROOM WE ENTER WITHOUT KNOWING Charif Shanahan’s TRACE EVIDENCE, a poetry collection that explores the liminality of mixed-race identity, the tension of queer longing and desire, the difficulty of being present in a divided social world, and the violent legacy of anti-Blackness in the contemporary U.S. and abroad, to Alyssa Ogi at Tin House Books, for publication in winter 2023, by Annie Hwang at Ayesha Pande Literary (NA).
Author, screenwriter and playwright Paul Rudnick’s FARRELL COVINGTON AND THE LIMITS OF STYLE, the story of an absurdly handsome, fabulously wealthy young man from one of America’s most powerful, arch-conservative families and the middle-class New Jersey drama student he falls in love with at Yale, and how their tumultuous, 50-year relationship triumphs against the forces of homophobia, the Hollywood closet, AIDS, and the wrong shoes, to Peter Borland at Atria, in a pre-empt, by Esmond Harmsworth at Aevitas Creative Management (NA).
Tori Anne Martin’s THIS SPELLS DISASTER, pitched as a queer take on How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days; in which a scatterbrained witch fears she must have accidentally given her famous crush a love potion when she starts to flirt with her, and to break the spell, she must prove how wrong they are for each other, all while falling harder herself, to Sarah Blumenstock at Berkley, in an exclusive submission, for publication in 2023, by Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company (world).
K.D. Casey’s FIRE SEASON, a contemporary m/m romance in which a newly sober Jewish pitcher befriends-with-benefits his team’s recently divorced, definitely straight star player; and DIAMOND RING, in which estranged former teammates reunite for one last run at a championship, fanning old resentments and old sparks between them, again to Stephanie Doig at Carina Press, in a nice deal, in a two-book deal, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency (world English).
Children’s and Middle Grade Fiction
Author of HOW TO BECOME A PLANET Nicole Melleby‘s SAM I AM and MARINA IN THE MIDDLE, the first two books in THE HOUSE ON SUNRISE LAGOON series, about a blended family with two moms, five daughters, and one giant dog crammed into a ramshackle seaside home in coastal New Jersey; pitched as in the spirit of The Vanderbeekers, to Krestyna Lypen at Algonquin Young Readers, in a three-book deal, for publication in summer 2023, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).
Kate Fussner’s O&E, pitched as a queer in-verse retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which two middle school girls learn to love each other and themselves as they fight not to lose one another, to Sara Schonfeld at Katherine Tegen Books, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2023, by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary Agency (world English).
Laura Silverman, ed.‘s FIRSTS AND LASTS, an anthology including multiple genres from classic contemporary to suspense to fantasy that celebrates all of the thrilling first experiences and momentous last experiences of your teenage years, with contributions by Adi Alsaid, Keah Brown, Monica Gomez-Hira, Kika Hatzopoulou, Shaun David Hutchinson, Amanda Joy, Loan Le, Joy McCullough, Yamile Saied Mendez, Anna Meriano, Nina Moreno, Tess Sharpe, Rachel Lynn Solomon, Diana Urban, and Julian Winters, to Anuoluwapo Ohioma at Penguin Workshop, for publication in fall 2023, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).
Shelley Rotner and Gwen Agna’s TRUE YOU, a picture book about trans and gender nonconforming kids that leads with inclusivity, love, and empathy, accentuating trans and genderfluid joy, with photography by Rotner, to Chris Krones at Clarion, at auction, for publication in fall 2022, by Liz Nealon at Great Dog Literary (world).
Rebecca Mix’s THE MOSSHEART’S PROMISE, when a 12-year-old sets out in search of a cure for the mold that’s eating her mother alive, she makes a horrifying discovery: her entire world is actually trapped inside of a giant, rotting terrarium they were meant to leave 100 years ago; now she has only five days to find the exit—or they’ll be trapped for good, to Kristin Daly Rens at Balzer & Bray, in a good deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2023, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world English).
Video essayist and activist Rowan Ellis‘s debut HERE & QUEER, an inclusive guide for all queer girls packed with advice and info about LGBTQ+ culture, relationships, history, and pride, illustrated by Jacky Sheridan, to Lucy Menzies at Quarto Books, for publication in May 2022, by Tamara Kawar at ICM (world).
Contributor to The New Yorker and The Atlantic and New York Public Library fellow Michael Waters‘s THE OTHER OLYMPIANS, uncovering the stories of several European athletes who publicly transitioned gender in the 1930s and who were widely embraced by society until the intervention of the International Olympic Committee; a largely forgotten history that provides new context to the experiences of trans and intersex athletes, and uncanny parallels to the ways we police gender today, to Jackson Howard at Farrar, Straus, in an exclusive submission, by Michael Bourret at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).
Comedians and Very Gay Paint founders Nic Scheppard and Jenson Titus’s A VERY GAY BOOK, a parody textbook about how everything in history, science and the arts—from sports to statistics to soup—is gay, to Allison Adler at Andrews McMeel, for publication in spring 2023, by Adriana Stimola at Stimola Literary Studio (world).
Today on the site, I’m delighted to reveal the cover for Errant, Vol. 1, the very first in a new novella series by L.K. Fleet, the pen name for the formidable joined forces of K. R. Collins, Felicia Davin, and Valentine Wheeler! This f/f (bi/lesbian) fantasy releases on February 15th, and here’s the story:
Aspen Silverglade used to be a force for good, but now she’s just a sword for hire. On the run from the people she once trusted most, she needs to keep her head down and keep moving.
But old habits are hard to quit. One night in a tavern, Aspen tries to save a woman from some unwanted attention. The woman, Charm Linville, is in the middle of a subtle and delicate act of thievery, and she does not appreciate Aspen blundering in.
The disastrous and public rescue-gone-wrong makes the townspeople think Aspen and Charm are a couple. This mistake sets Aspen’s bloodthirsty betrayers on Charm’s trail, tying the two of them together.
Even if Aspen can’t run from her past any longer, Charm shouldn’t have to suffer. Despite Aspen’s determination to work alone, Charm insists on helping—and she has a past of her own. The two of them don’t care for each other’s methods, but as they journey through the villages and wildernesses of Falland, solving problems and meeting magical friends and foes, Aspen and Charm grudgingly come to care for each other. Can these two guarded, stubborn women admit their feelings, or will Aspen’s enemies kill them first?
And here’s the absolutely epic cover from the epic Laya Rose!
L. K. Fleet is the pen name for the trio of authors K. R. Collins, Felicia Davin, and Valentine Wheeler. They are longtime friends who share a love of fantasy settings and romance tropes. Errant, a series of sapphic fantasy novellas, is the first thing they have written together.
Today on the site we’ve got Brazilian queer YA rock star Vitor Martins, revealing the cover of his newest import to the US, This is Our Place, which was translated by Larissa Helena and releases from Scholastic on November 1st! Here’s the story:
If the walls of Number 8 Sunflower Street could talk …
As Ana celebrates the new millennium, she is shocked to learn that she must leave behind her childhood home, her hometown, and — hardest of all — her girlfriend for a new life in Rio de Janeiro.
Ten years later, Greg is sent to live with his aunt — who runs a video rental store from her garage and owns a dog named Keanu Reeves — as his parents work out their not-so-secret divorce.
And ten years after that, Beto must put his dreams of becoming a photographer on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic arrives in Brazil, forcing him to live with his overprotective mother and overachieving sister.
Set in and narrated by the same house, Number 8 Sunflower Street, and in three different decades – 2000, 2010, and 2020 respectively – This Is Our Place is a novel about queer teens dealing with sudden life changes, family conflict, and first loves, proving that while generations change, we will always be connected to each other.
Doesn’t that sound absolutely stunning? Well here’s the beautiful cover to match, illustrated by Douglas Lopes and designed by Stephanie Yang!
And here are a few words from the author himself!
“The story for This is Our Place came to me during 2020, a hard and challenging year for the whole world. I found myself constantly looking over my window and imagining what my neighbors were going through. Alongside with the constant desire to go back in time and enjoy life a little bit more, I came up with the story of three queers teens that lived in the same house in three different moments in time. The house itself is the narrator and it’s a quite funny house.
This is Our Place is a book about family, goodbyes, and trying times. It’s about all the shared experiences for queer youth over the decades and all details that changes perspectives in 10 years forward or backward. But it’s also a fun love story full of gay panic, house jokes and a cute dog named Keanu Reeves. I am so thrilled about this book and I just can’t wait to American readers finally meet Ana, Greg and Beto!”
Vitor Martins received his degree in journalism but works as an illustrator. He published his first YA novel Here the Whole Time in the U.S. in fall 2020. Already an established YA author in Brazil prior to coming to Scholastic, Vitor’s books have garnered much praise, including a starred review. Here the Whole Time was co-winner of the 2021 Global Literature In Libraries Initiative Translated YA Book Award. The book has been sold in several foreign territories, including The U.K./Commonwealth (Hodder Children’s Books), Germany (LYX, Bastei Lübbe AG), and Russia (Mann, Ivanov, and Ferber). It is also a finalist for the 2021 Latino Book Award for best young adult book originally in Portuguese. Additionally, Here the Whole Time‘s film rights have been optioned by Conspiração Films, one of the most prominent film producers in Brazil. Vitor is very active in the American and Brazilian YA communities – even having translated Abdi Nazemian’s Like A Love Story into Portuguese.
All Luis Gonzalez wants is to go to prom with his boyfriend, something his “progressive” school still doesn’t allow. Not after what happened with Chaz Wilson. But that was ages ago, when Luis’s parents were in high school; it would never happen today, right? He’s determined to find a way to give his LGBTQ friends the respect they deserve (while also not risking his chance to be prom king, just saying…).
When a hit on the head knocks him back in time to 1985 and he meets the doomed young Chaz himself, Luis concocts a new plan-he’s going to give this guy his first real kiss. Though it turns out a conservative school in the ’80s isn’t the safest place to be a gay kid. Especially with homophobes running the campus, including Gordo (aka Luis’s estranged father). Luis is in over his head, trying not to make things worse-and hoping he makes it back to present day at all.
To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.
Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.
Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents who disappeared one fateful night, two years ago.
Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends Zion and Aliyah decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the Queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them . . . is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?
Lethal Lit follows Tig Torres, a Cuban American teen detective, in her hometown of Hollow Falls. In season one of the hit podcast, Tig used her smarts and fearlessness to track down the infamous “Lit Killer,” a serial killer who staged his murders after death scenes from famous books. But there’s no rest for courageous, mystery-solving teens in a place like Hollow Falls, and though the Lit Killer is now behind bars, his protégé, Tig’s classmate and crush Oly, has disappeared!
And that’s not the only game afoot. Tig has caught the attention of the town’s local armchair detective group, the Murder of Crows. They’re obsessed with Hollow Falls’ dark past and fixated on a dangerous search for the missing body of the town’s founder. There are rumors about what’s buried with the body that could be life-changing for whoever finds it, and with a mission like that underway, it’s not long before a member of the Murder of Crows turns up dead.
Tig, along with her friends Max and Wyn, steps in to help, but the stakes are getting higher and the hunt more deadly. Someone’s willing to kill to keep the town’s secrets buried, and if Tig’s not careful, she’ll be the Murder of Crows’ next victim.
This original Lethal Lit story takes place between Seasons 1 and 2 of the podcast, and features a brand-new, never-before-told story starring Tig Torres and her sleuthing friends!
Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.
Except it’s all fake.
Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the façade.
But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.
Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.
So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love―and sexuality―never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.
Beth Kramer is a “townie” who returns to her sophomore year after having endured a year of judgment from her roommate, Sarah.
But Sarah Brunson knows there’s more to that story.
Amanda Priya “Spence” Spencer is the privileged daughter of NYC elites, who is reeling from the realization that her family name shielded her from the same fate as Sarah.
Ramin Golafshar arrives at Chandler as a transfer student to escape the dangers of being gay in Iran, only to suffer brutal hazing under the guise of tradition in the boys’ dorms.
And Freddy Bello is the senior who’s no longer sure of his future but has fallen hard for Spence and knows he has to stand up to his friends after what happened to Ramin.
At Chandler, the elite boarding school, these five teens are brought together in the Circle, a coveted writing group where life-changing friendships are born—and secrets are revealed. Their professor tells them to write their truths. But is the truth enough to change the long-standing culture of abuse at Chandler? And can their friendship survive the fallout?
After Philly teenager Alexis Duncan is injured in a gang shooting, her dreams of a college scholarship and pro basketball career vanish in an instant. To avoid becoming another Black teen trapped in her poverty-stricken neighborhood, she shifts her focus to the school’s STEM team, a group of nerds seeking their own college scholarships. Academics have never been her thing, but Alexis is freshly motivated by Aamani Chakrabarti, the new Indian student who becomes her mentor (and crush?). Alexis begins to see herself as so much more than an athlete. But just as her future starts to reform, Alexis’s own doubts and old loyalties pull her back into harm’s way.
This was previously published in Australia as The Boy From the Mish.
A remarkable YA love story between two Aboriginal boys — one who doesn’t want to accept he’s gay, and the boy who comes to live in his house who makes him realize who he is.
It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city — but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret — a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.
Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.
Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.
School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac?
Anishinaabe culture and storytelling meet Alice in Wonderland in this coming-of-age graphic novel that explores Indigenous and gender issues through a fresh yet familiar looking glass.
Aimée, a non-binary Anishinaabe middle-schooler, is on a class trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits known to protect the land. While stories are told about the water spirits and the threat of the land being taken over for development, Aimée zones out, distracting themselves from the bullying and isolation they’ve experienced since expressing their non-binary identity. When Aimée accidentally wanders off, they are transported to an alternate dimension populated by traditional Anishinaabe figures in a story inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
To gain the way back home, Aimée is called on to help Trickster by hunting down dark water spirits with guidance from Paayehnsag. On their journey, Aimée faces off with the land-grabbing Queen and her robotic guards and fights the dark water spirits against increasingly stacked odds. Illustrated by KC Oster with a modern take on their own Ojibwe style and cultural representation, Rabbit Chase is a story of self-discovery, community, and finding one’s place in the world.
Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.
But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.
Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.
As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.
One wild and reckless day.
Years of a tumultuous history unspooling
like thin, fraying string in the hours after they set a fire.
They were best friends. Until they became more.
Their affections grew. Until the blurry lines became dangerous.
Over the course of a single day, the depth of their past, the confusion of their present, and the unpredictability of their future is revealed.
And the girls will learn that hearts, like flames, aren’t so easily tamed.
Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist, who swept color onto Andi’s blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy even though she secretly has a dancer’s heart.
At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hope for the future.
And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. From the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, For Black Girls Like Me, comes a lyrical story about the rush of first love and the power of one life-changing summer.
For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.
have never felt like I belonged to my body. Never in the way rhythm belongs to a song or waves belong to an ocean.
It seems like most people figure out where they belong by knowing where they came from. When they look in the mirror, they see their family in their eyes, in their sharp jawlines, in the texture of their hair. When they look at family photos, they see faces of people who look like them. They see faces of people who they’ll look like in the future.
For me, I only have my imagination.
But I’m always trying.
Twelve-year-old Gabriela is trying to find their place in the world. In their body, which feels less and less right with each passing day. As an adoptee, in their all-white family. With their mom, whom they love fiercely and do anything they can to help with her depression. And at school, where they search for friends.
A new year will bring a school project, trans and queer friends, and a YouTube channel that helps Gabriela find purpose in their journey.
Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet
Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.
Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.
But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.
While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.
Nate Hargraves – stage-shy singer-songwriter – is totally stoked for his cousin’s wedding in South Africa, an all-expenses-paid trip of a lifetime. Until he finds out his sleazeball ex-boyfriend is also on the guest list.
Jai Patel – hot-as-hell high school rock-god – has troubles too. His band’s lead singer has quit, just weeks before the gig that was meant to be their big break.
When Nate saves the day by agreeing to sing with Jai’s band, Jai volunteers to be Nate’s plus-one to the wedding, and the stage is set for a summer of music, self-discovery, and simmering romantic tension. What could possibly go wrong . . . ?
Seventeen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers drawing attention for her killer eyeliner, not for being the new kid at a mostly white, very rich, Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend, she could use the fresh start.
At Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: make her mom proud, keep her brother out of trouble, and most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami.
The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And talented. And confident. And cute. So cute. Yami isn’t sure if she likes Bo or if she’s just jealous of her unapologetic nature. Either way, she isn’t ready to make the same mistake again. If word got to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection.
Growing up in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Maggie Gonzalez has always been a little messy, but she’s okay with that. After all, she has a great family, a goofy group of friends, a rocky romantic history, and dreams of being a music photographer. Tasked with picking an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, Maggie has to face the truth: that her feelings about her friends—and her future—aren’t as simple as she’d once believed.
As Maggie’s search for the perfect escort continues, she’s forced to confront new (and old) feelings for three of her friends: Amanda, her best friend and first-ever crush; Matthew, her ex-boyfriend twice-over who refuses to stop flirting with her, and Dani, the new girl who has romantic baggage of her own. On top of this romantic disaster, she can’t stop thinking about the uncertainty of her own plans for the future and what that means for the people she loves.
As the weeks wind down and the boundaries between friendship and love become hazy, Maggie finds herself more and more confused with each photo. When her tried-and-true medium causes more chaos than calm, Maggie needs to figure out how to avoid certain disaster—or be brave enough to dive right into it.
Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic – he blames the films he’s grown up watching. He has liked Karim for as long as he can remember, and is ecstatic when Karim becomes his boyfriend – it feels like love.
But when Mack’s dad gets a job on a film in Scotland, Mack has to move, and soon hediscovers how painful love can be. It’s horrible being so far away from Karim, but the worst part is that Karim doesn’t make the effort to visit. Love shouldn’t be only on the weekends.
Then, when Mack meets actor Finlay on a film set, he experiences something powerful, a feeling like love at first sight. How long until he tells Karim – and when will his old life and new life collide?
With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that—it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend, Linus, will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: He’s moving out of state at the end of the week.
To keep from completely losing it—and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad—Harrison plans a send-off à la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day together. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things—big and small—they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.
A literal star-studded anthology that delivers a love story for every star sign straight from the hearts of thirteen multicultural YA authors.
A haunted Aquarius finds love behind the veil. An ambitious Aries will do anything to stay in the spotlight. A foodie Taurus discovers the best eats in town (with a side of romance). A witchy Cancer stumbles into a curious meet-cute.
Whether it’s romantic, platonic, familial, or something else you can’t quite define, love is the thing that connects us. All Signs Point to Yes will take you on a journey from your own backyard to the world beyond the living as it settles us among the stars for thirteen stories of love and life.
These stories will touch your heart, speak to your soul, and have you reaching for your horoscope forevermore.
As an avid watcher of K-dramas, Hana knows all the tropes to avoid when she finally lands a starring role in a buzzy new drama. And she can totally handle her fake co-star boyfriend who might be falling in love with her. After all, she promised the producers a contract romance, and that’s all they’re going to get from her.
But when showrunners bring on a new girl to challenge Hana’s role as main love interest—and worse, it’s someone Hana knows all too well—can Hana fight for her position on the show while falling for her on-screen rival in real life?
Two teen vigilantes set off on an action-packed investigation to expose corruption and deliver justice in Valiant Ladies, Melissa Grey’s YA historical fiction novel inspired by real seventeenth century Latinx teenagers known as the Valiant Ladies of Potosí.
By day Eustaquia “Kiki” de Sonza and Ana Lezama de Urinza are proper young seventeeth century ladies. But when night falls, they trade in their silks and lace for swords and muskets, venturing out into the vibrant, bustling, crime-ridden streets of Potosí, in the Spanish Empire’s Viceroyalty of Peru. They pass their time fighting, gambling, and falling desperately in love with one another.
Then, on the night Kiki’s engagement to the Viceroy’s son is announced, her older brother―heir to her family’s fortune―is murdered. The girls immediately embark on a whirlwind investigation that takes them from the lowliest brothels of Potosí to the highest echelons of the Spanish aristocracy.
Syyed is pining for his ex, who left home to—save the world? He doesn’t know much more, except to wish he’d gone along when Farouk asked. But Sy is shy and timid, from a controlling Indian Muslim family, and wants most to make a life and home with people he loves. Then he meets Reggie, an heiress—is she magical or just rich?—who, in exchange for his kindness, offers to grant Sy three wishes, the first of which is a million dollars, naturally!
But soon reality bites hard: His father realizes Sy is gay and kicks him out. Homeless and alone, he’s off with Reggie and his last two wishes, chasing Farouk to lands he never dreamed to visit to find his missing love for one last, desperate chance at rebuilding his life. And he’ll find out, maybe, that there is a loophole to everything, including wishes.
Briseis has one chance to save her mother, but she’ll need to do the impossible: find the last fragment of the deadly Absyrtus Heart. If she is to locate the missing piece, she must turn to the blood relatives she’s never known, learn about their secret powers, and take her place in their ancient lineage. Briseis is not the only one who wants the Heart, and her enemies will stop at nothing to fulfill their own ruthless plans. The fates tell of a truly dangerous journey, one that could end in more heartache, more death. Bolstered by the sisterhood of ancient magic, can Briseis harness her power to save the people she loves most?
Luca Laine Thomas lives on a cursed island. To the outside world, Parris is an exclusive, idyllic escape accessible only to the one percent. There’s nothing idyllic about its history, though, scattered with the unsolved deaths of young women—deaths Parris society happily ignores to maintain its polished veneer. But Luca can’t ignore them. Not when the curse that took them killed her best friend, Polly, three years ago. Not when she feels the curse lingering nearby, ready to take her next.
When Luca comes home to police cars outside her house, she knows the curse has visited once again. Except this time, it came for Whitney, her sister. Luca decides to take the investigation of Whitney’s death into her own hands. But as a shocking betrayal rocks Luca’s world, the identity Whitney’s killer isn’t the only truth Luca seeks. And by the time she finds what she’s looking for, Luca will come face to face with the curse she’s been running from her whole life.
The Gearbreakers struck a devastating blow against Godolia on Heavensday, but the cost of victory has been steep. Months later, the few rebels who’ve managed to escape the tyrannical empire’s bloody retribution have fled to the mountains, hunted by the last Zenith–Godolia’s only surviving leader.
Eris has been held prisoner since the attack on the capital city, which almost killed her. And she begins to wish it had when she discovers Sona–the girl she loves, the girl she would tear down cities for–also survived, only to be captured and Corrupted by the Zenith. The cybernetic brainwashing that Sona has forcibly undergone now has her believing herself a loyal soldier for Godolia, and Eris’ mortal enemy.
With the rebellion shattered and Godolia moving forward with an insidious plan to begin inducting Badlands children into a new Windup Pilot program, the odds have never been more stacked against the Gearbreakers. Their last hope for victory will depend on whether Eris and Sona can somehow find their way back to each other from opposite sides of a war…
Seri’s world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.
Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she’s ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.
Enrique “Quique” Luna has one goal this summer—get over his crush on Saleem Kanazi by pursuing his other romantic prospects. Never mind that he’s only out to his best friend, Fabiola. Never mind that he has absolutely zero game. And definitely forget the fact that good and kind and, not to mention, beautiful Saleem is leaving LA for the summer to meet a girl his parents are trying to set him up with.
Luckily, Quique’s prospects are each intriguing in their own ways. There’s stoner-jock Tyler Montana, who might be just as interested in Fabiola as he is in Quique; straitlaced senior class president, Ziggy Jackson; and Manny Zuniga, who keeps looking at Quique like he’s carne asada fresh off the grill. With all these choices, Quique is sure to forget about Saleem in no time.
But as the summer heats up and his deep-seated fears and anxieties boil over, Quique soon realizes that getting over one guy by getting under a bunch of others may not have been the best laid plan and living his truth can come at a high cost.
Moon has been plunged into a swill of uncertainty and confusion. They travel to the spirit realms every night, hoping never to return to the world of the living.
But when the realm is threatened, it’s up to Moon to save the spirit world, which sparks their own healing journey through the powerful, baffling, landscape that depression can cause.
From this novel’s very first utterance, author Kacen Callender puts us behind Moon’s eyes so that we, too, are engulfed by Moon’s troubling exploration through mental illness.
Moon’s mom is trying her best, but is clueless about what to do to reach the ugly roiling of her child’s inner struggles. At the same time, though, there are those who see Moon for who they are – Blue, the Keeper, the Magician, Wolf. These creature-guides help Moon find a way out of darkness. The ethereal aspects of the story are brilliantly blended with real-world glimmers of light. Slowly, Moon grows toward hope and wholeness, showing all children that each and every one of us has a tree growing inside. That our souls emerge when we discover, and fully accept, ourselves.
As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all—they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next ten years.
Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials…or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya—daughter of Tierra, the god of earth—is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. He also can’t help but worry (reluctantly, and under protest) for Aurelio, a powerful Gold semidiós and Teo’s friend-turned-rival who is a shoo-in for the Trials. Teo wouldn’t mind taking Aurelio down a notch or two, but a one-in-ten chance of death is a bit too close for Teo’s taste.
But then, for the first time in over a century, Sol chooses a semidiós who isn’t a Gold. In fact, he chooses two: Xio, the 13-year-old child of Mala Suerte, god of bad luck, and…Teo. Now they must compete in five mysterious trials, against opponents who are both more powerful and better trained, for fame, glory, and their own survival.
New York City, 1922. Nicolás Caraveo, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Wisconsin, has no interest in the city’s glamor. Going to New York is all about establishing himself as a young professional, which could set up his future—and his life as a man—and benefit his family.
Nick rents a small house in West Egg from his 18-year-old cousin, Daisy Fabrega, who lives in fashionable East Egg near her wealthy fiancé, Tom—and Nick is shocked to find that his cousin now goes by Daisy Fay, has erased all signs of her Latina heritage, and now passes seamlessly as white.
Nick’s neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious young man named Jay Gatsby, whose castle-like mansion is the stage for parties so extravagant that they both dazzle and terrify Nick. At one of these parties, Nick learns that the spectacle is all for the benefit of impressing a girl from Jay’s past—Daisy. And he learns something else: Jay is also transgender.
As Nick is pulled deeper into the glittery culture of decadence, he spends more time with Jay, aiming to help his new friend reconnect with his lost love. But Nick’s feelings grow more complicated when he finds himself falling hard for Jay’s openness, idealism, and unfounded faith in the American Dream.
Seventeen-year-old Carter Harper may have created an award-winning iPhone app and have a 3.93 GPA, but her successes are overshadowed by brutal bullying, debilitating depression, and biting loneliness. Tired of being treated as the popular girls’ plaything, Carter hatches a plan to gain their respect, and maybe even gain a bit of popularity of her own. When that doesn’t work, she thinks her only choice is to die by suicide.
Abby Wallace is a member of “the POPS” (the Petty, Oppressive, and Popular Shitbags, according to Carter)—subordinate only to Kelsey, her best friend with benefits. The ambitious poet destroys reputations without care—especially Carter’s—to prove how cool, cruel, and strong she is, all while pushing down her past trauma and secret guilt. But she faces an unexpected adversary when Kelsey tries to make Carter her new pet project. Angry and betrayed, Abby pushes Carter to the edge—facing consequences she never could have imagined.
Carter and Abby’s tumultuous relationship comes to a boiling point when Abby stops Carter from attempting suicide. But what happens when their shared enemy tries to come for them both again, and they end up in the unfortunate position of trying to protect one another? If Carter and Abby can stand each other for more than three minutes, they can stop Kelsey’s court of misrule from harming more girls.
Lark Winters wants to be a writer, and for now that means posting on their social media accounts––anything to build their platform. When former best friend Kasim accidentally posts on Lark’s Twitter a thread declaring his love for a secret, unrequited crush, Lark’s tweets are suddenly the talk of the school—and beyond. To protect Kasim, Lark decides to take the fall, pretending they accidentally posted the thread in reference to another classmate. It seems like a great idea: Lark gets closer to their crush, Kasim keeps his privacy, and Lark’s social media stats explode. But living a lie takes a toll—as does the judgment of thousands of Internet strangers. Lark tries their best to be perfect at all costs, but nothing seems good enough for the anonymous hordes––or for Kasim, who is growing closer to Lark, just like it used to be between them . . .
In the end, Lark must embrace their right to their messy emotions and learn how to be in love.
Aria Tang West was looking forward to a summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her best friends–one last round of sand and sun before college. But after a graduation party goes wrong, Aria’s parents exile her to California to stay with her grandmother, artist Joan West.Aria expects boredom, but what she finds is Steph Nichols, her grandmother’s gardener. Soon, Aria is second-guessing who she is and what she wants to be, and a summer that once seemed lost becomes unforgettable–for Aria, her family, and the working-class queer community Steph introduces her to. It’s the kind of summer that changes a life forever.
In this modern reimagining of Anne of Green Gables, Anne is an ABBA-loving singer/actor/writer of disco-operas, queer, Japanese-American who longs to be understood for her artistic genius. Recently relocated to middle-of-nowhere Greenville and starting at a new school, Anne has a tendency to A) fall in love quickly, deeply, and effervescently and B) fly off the handle in the face of jerks. Both personality quirks quickly come into play when the soccer team boos the premiere of her disco performance, which—in a roundabout way—introduces her to her new BFF, Berry, and she soon after meets the girl of her dreams, Gilly.
Falling quickly into that age-old trap of ignoring the best friend for the new crush, Anne soon becomes embroiled in a series of dramatic and unfortunate events, and quickly finds herself wrapped up in a love triangle she never expected. Is she MTB with Gilly? Or is Berry her true soul mate? Only time (or 304 pages) will tell.
Kaori and Kairi are the first twins to survive infancy on the ancient island of Mu, where gender is as fluid as the crashing waves. One was born of fire, the other of water.
But there’s a reason why none have survived before. A prophecy that has haunted the elders since time began. A rivalry destined to sink the entire island beneath a twin catastrophe of volcano and tsunami.
As hatred spills from the forbidden twins like the deadly poison of sacrificed sea snakes, they must decide what matters to them most…
The fight for the island – for tradition and duty.
Or the fight for freedom – for love and light.
What’s more important? Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?
The summer of her senior year, seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson finds herself uprooted from her life in DC and moved into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between her mom and Mama Letty makes for an unwelcoming arrival and unearths some family drama they refuse to talk about. Everytime Avery tries to look deeper, they turn her away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.
Where Mama Letty is cantankerous and closed off, Avery finds friendship in some unexpected places: in Simone, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family— whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.
But as the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into something more—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town start to hint at something more insidious underneath. Turning to Mama Letty for answers only result in more questions, uncovering decades-old secrets that have been brewing for generations, exposing the towns racist history and threatening to topple the new life Avery’s built in Bardell County, Georgia.
Today on the site, I’m thrilled to welcome author Leslie Vedder, whose debut YA fantasy, The BoneSpindle, releases today from Razorbill/Penguin! Leslie’s here to talk about writing the characters of your heart, but first, a little more about the book, billed as Sleeping Beauty Meets Indiana Jones…
Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.
Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.
Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.
Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.
Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.
When I was a kid, one of my absolute favorite TV shows was Xena: Warrior Princess. It’s very dated now, and not without its flaws, but it still holds a special place in my heart. Xena was the first woman character I ever saw who felt like a larger-than-life hero to me. She was a badass. She was respected. She had a dark past. Nobody messed with her, and when she swaggered into a shady tavern, bad guys shook in their boots.
But she could also be funny, and loving, and flawed in all the best ways. It was a show full of camp that knew how to be silly and not take itself too seriously.
Xena was almost everything I wanted in a female character. But when it came to her sexuality…it was kind of a letdown.
Xena had an absolute glut of male love interests, and only tongue-in-cheek references to women. The show was absolutely swimming with subtext between Xena and her longtime sidekick Gabriel. But alas, it was an old show, so it could never just go there.
Xena was full of the possibility of queerness—but that’s all it could ever be. A possibility. A character who had been so bold and loud and downright brash about everything else was suddenly reduced to a wink and a nod.
I wanted an openly queer Xena. I don’t think I ever stopped wanting that. And that desire to see a character who got to be just as brash and tough and funny as Xena, but totally queer this time, was a big part of the inspiration for Shane, one of the two main characters of my debut YA fantasy, The Bone Spindle.
The Bone Spindle stars two girl treasure hunting partners, each with their own love story. Fi is a bookish historian who is in an m/f love story, and Shane is the ax-wielding lesbian mercenary of my dreams in an f/f relationship. (Also, she’s my wife’s absolute favorite character!)
Shane grew into so much more than her inception. The moment she exploded onto the page, she had her own voice and humor and desires. She’s got a secret past she’s left behind. A rivalry with a vicious cult of Witch Hunters. A love of gambling (though she’s not that good at it). She’s also loud and brash, and definitely the type to swagger into a tavern and leave bad guys shaking in their boots!
Maybe my favorite thing about Shane is that she’s unapologetically herself at every moment, whether that’s flirting with girls or breaking noses, and definitely when she starts falling head over heels for Red, a mysterious and dangerous Witch. If Shane was born in part from my desire for a queer Xena, then Red must be inspired at least a little by the idea of a queer Catwoman-esque femme fatale. Their love story is probably one I’ve been dreaming of writing for a long time (and I can’t wait to dig into them even more, in the later books of the trilogy!).
Working toward bringing out a first book is a major roller coaster, but one of the high points has definitely been hearing some early readers say they fell in love with Shane. She’s truly the character of my heart.
Queer representation has come a long way since Xena was on the air. There are so many amazing fantasy books and shows coming out these days with queer characters that would have set my teenage heart on fire! And they still mean the world to me right now. If I had a time machine, I would empty my current bookshelf through to my younger self. But in the absence of that, I’m so proud to get to share a character like Shane with today’s readers—and I hope she’ll be exactly what somebody’s looking for.
But I still wouldn’t say no to a totally queer Xena reboot!
Leslie Vedder (she/her) is a queer ace author who loves fairytale retellings with girl adventurers and heroes! She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in creative writing and currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two spoiled house cats.
When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her watching anime and sci-fi shows, walking in the woods and pretending they’re enchanted forests, or playing old video games. She always collects all the Skulltulas in Zelda and all the Dalmation puppies in Kingdom Hearts.