All posts by Dahlia Adler

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong

Today on the site I’m delighted to be revealing the cover of The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong, a found family story with an asexual protagonist releasing from Angry Robot on March 8, 2022! Here’s the story:

A circus takes down a crime-boss on the galaxy’s infamous pleasure moon!

Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon where everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job, and when the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him or face vivisection.

With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better.

And here’s the incandescent cover, designed by Kieryn Tyler!

Preorder: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Target | Angry Robot

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Khan Wong has published poetry, played cello in an earnest folk-rock duo, and been an internationally known hula hoop teacher and performer. He’s toured with a circus and produced circus arts shows in San Francisco, where he also worked as a grantmaker with a public sector arts funding agency.

Happy Hispanic & Latine Heritage Month!

Happy Hispanic & Latine Heritage Month! As usual, we’re celebrating with some books by Latinx authors and starring queer Latinx main characters! (Please note this post only features titles that weren’t already featured as “Buy Now” last year, so check out that post for even more books!)

Books to Buy Now

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

In a home where social conservatism, machismo, and masculine identity run deep, Corpus Christi, Texas high school senior Julián Luna is forced to keep his gay identity a secret. Jules’ only focus is laying low the next ten months and enjoying every moment he has left with his friends before college takes them on separate paths.

Completely doable.

Until Jules wakes up hungover and discovers he came out on Twitter in between tequila shots. In an instant, his entire life is thrown—literally—out the closet.

Helping him navigate the life that is openly gay Jules is Mat, a Twitter mutual from Los Angeles who slides into Jules’ DMs. He’s friendly, supportive, funny, and so attractive. He’s the first person Jules says the words “I’m gay” to. And, if he weren’t three states away, could definitely be Jules’ first boyfriend.

But a cute boy living halfway across the country can’t fix all Jules’ problems. There’s one thing he’ll have to face on his own: coming out to his homophobic father.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

Buy it:Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

Graphic designer Michelle Amato, after burning out in her corporate marketing career, has now built a thriving freelance business.  So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.

Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.

Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

55711622From popular LGBTQ advice columnist and writer John Paul Brammer comes a hilarious, heartwarming memoir-in-essays chronicling his journey growing up as a queer, mixed-race kid in America’s heartland to becoming the “Chicano Carrie Bradshaw” of his generation.

The first time someone called John Paul (JP) Brammer “Papi” was on the popular gay hookup app Grindr. At first, it was flattering; JP took this as white-guy speak for “hey, handsome.” Who doesn’t want to be called handsome? But then it happened again and again…and again, leaving JP wondering: Who the hell is Papi?

What started as a racialized moniker given to him on a hookup app soon became the inspiration for his now wildly popular advice column “¡Hola Papi!”, launching his career as the Cheryl Strayed for young queer people everywhere—and some straight people too. JP had his doubts at first—what advice could he really offer while he himself stumbled through his early 20s? Sometimes the best advice to dole outcomes from looking within, which is what JP has done in his column and book—and readers have flocked to him for honest, heartfelt wisdom, and of course a few laughs.

In ¡Hola Papi!, JP shares his story of growing up biracial and in the closet against the backdrop of America’s heartland, while attempting to answer some of life’s toughest questions: How do I let go of the past? How do I become the person I want to be? Is there such a thing as being too gay? Should I hook up with my grade school bully now that he’s out of the closet? Questions we’ve all asked ourselves, surely.

With wit and wisdom in equal measure, ¡Hola Papi! is for anyone—gay, straight, and everything in between—who has ever taken stock of their unique place in the world, offering considered advice, intelligent discourse, and fits of laughter along the way. As #1 New York Times bestselling author Shea Serrano says: “I loved ¡Hola Papi! I’m certain you will too.”

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Books to Preorder

The Insiders by Mark Oshiro (September 21, 2021)

San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone.

Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz (October 12, 2021)

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon  | IndieBound

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes (November 2, 2021)

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (December 28, 2021)

Ben has spent his first year of college working on his fantasy manuscript with his writing partner Mario, who is a great Spanish tutor, and an even better kisser. So why can’t he stop thinking about the fact that Arthur’s back in town two years after they called it quits?

Arthur is in New York for a dream internship on Broadway, with a boyfriend back at home that he couldn’t be happier with. But when he comes upon Ben cuddled up with a mystery boy, he starts to wonder if his feelings for Ben ever truly went away.

Even as the boys try to focus on their futures, they can’t seem to help running into each other in the present. Is the universe forcing them to question if they’re actually meant to be?

Possibly not. After all, things didn’t work the first time around.
Possibly yes. After all, the sparks are still flying.
Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and raise a glass.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado (February 1, 2022)

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 fa�ade.

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.

But it might already be too late.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

Ophelia After All by Raquel Marie (February 8, 2022)

56978109Ophelia 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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore (March 8, 2022)

In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake – but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

This is Why They Hate Us by Aaron H. Aceves (March 22, 2022)

53241064Enrique “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.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Valeja (March 22, 2022)

58802411. sy475 When his father falls ill, Andrés, a professor of public health, returns to his suburban hometown to tend to his father’s recovery. Reevaluating his rocky marriage in the wake of his husband’s infidelity and with little else to do, he decides to attend his twenty-year high school reunion, where he runs into the long-lost characters of his youth.

Jeremy, his first love, is now married with two children after having been incarcerated and recovering from addiction. Paul, who Andrés has long suspected of having killed a man in a homophobic attack, is now an Evangelical minister and father of five. And Simone, Andrés’s best friend, is in a psychiatric institution following a diagnosis of schizophrenia. During this short stay, Andrés confronts these relationships, the death of his brother, and the many sacrifices his parents made to offer him a better life.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee (May 10, 2022)

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?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (May 17, 2022)

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.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster by Andrea Mosqueda (May 24, 2022)

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.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Books to Add to Your TBR

New Releases: September 14, 2021

Young Adult

The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl

Holly Liddell has been stuck with crimped hair since 1987 when she agreed to let her boyfriend, Elton, turn her into a vampire. But when he ditches her at a gas station a few decades into their eternity together, she realizes that being young forever actually means working graveyard shifts at Taco Bell, sleeping in seedy motels, and being supernaturally compelled to follow your ex from town to town—at least until Holly meets Elton’s other exes.

It seems that Holly isn’t the only girl Elton seduced into this wretched existence. He turned Ida in 1921, then Rose in 1954, and he abandoned them both before Holly was even born. Now Rose and Ida want to kill him before he can trick another girl into eternal adolescence, and they’ll need Holly’s help to do it. And once Holly starts falling for Elton’s vulnerable new conquest, Parker, she’ll do anything to save her.

To kill Elton for good, Holly and her friends will have to dig up their pasts, rob a bank, and reconcile with the people they’ve hurt in their search for eternal love. And to win the girl, Holly will have to convince Parker that she’s more than just Elton’s crazy ex—even though she is trying to kill him.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest – and the growing darkness in herself – in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe – most of the time.

Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices.

As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful…and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all.

Buy it: Bookshop | IndieBound | B&N

Two Winters by Lauren Emily Whalen

Two WintersThe winter of 1997 is a tragedy waiting to happen. Small-town life isn’t easy for seventeen-year-old, bisexual and closeted Paulina, especially when her best friend Mia becomes pregnant and doesn’t want to tell the baby’s father, Paulina’s other best friend, Tesla. Meanwhile, Paulina’s secret relationship with volleyball star Ani is about to go public. One fateful night, everything changes forever.

In the winter of 2014, Perdita, bi and proud in Chicago, is weeks away from turning seventeen. She loves her two moms, but why won’t they talk about her adoption? When Perdita meets improv performer Fenton, she discovers both a kindred soul and a willing accomplice in her search for the truth. Will Perdita find what she’s looking for?

Two Winters is a contemporary YA retelling of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale about birth, death, Catholic school, improv comedy and the healing nature of time.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski

This is the sequel to The Midnight Lie

At the end of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the god of thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful. Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.

In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.

Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, who seeks her revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? Does Nirrim even want to be saved? As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want…for the gods have their own plans.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound 

Adult Fiction

The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall

It’s 1997 and Missy is a cellist in an indie rock and on a tour across America. At twenty-two years old, Missy gets on stage every night and plays the song about her absent mother that made the band famous. As the only girl in the band, she’s determined to party just as hard as everyone else, loving and leaving a guy in every town. But then she meets a tomboy drummer who is hard to forget, and a forgotten flap of cocaine strands her at the border.

Fortysomething Carola is just surfacing from a sex scandal at the yoga center where she has been living when she sees her daughter, Missy, for the first time in ten years–on the cover of a music magazine.

Ruth is eighty-three and planning her return to the Turkish seaside village where she spent her childhood. But when her granddaughter, Missy, winds up crashing at her house, she decides it’s time that the strong and stubborn women in her family find a way to understand one another again.

Buy it: Bookshop| B&N | IndieBound

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks

Meet Margaret. At age twelve, she was head detective of the mystery club Girls Can Solve Anything. Margaret and her three best friends led exciting lives solving crimes, having adventures, and laughing a lot. But now that she’s entered high school, the club has disbanded, and Margaret is unmoored—she doesn’t want to grow up, and she wishes her friends wouldn’t either. Instead, she opts out, developing an eating disorder that quickly takes over her life. When she lands in a treatment center, Margaret finds her path to recovery twisting sideways as she pursues a string of new mysteries involving a ghost, a hidden passage, disturbing desires, and her own vexed relationship with herself.

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body reimagines nineties adolescence—mashing up girl group series, choose-your-own-adventures, and chronicles of anorexia—in a queer and trans coming-of-age tale like no other. An interrogation of girlhood and nostalgia, dysmorphia and dysphoria, this debut novel puzzles through the weird, ever-evasive questions of growing up.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

The Actual Star: A Novel by [Monica Byrne]The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents —collapsing three separate timelines into one cave in the Belizean jungle.

An epic saga of three reincarnated souls, this novel demonstrates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, love and hate. The book jumps forward and backward in time among a pair of twins who ruled a Maya kingdom, a young American on a trip of self-discovery, and two dangerous charismatics in a conflict that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change.

In each era, age-old questions about existence and belonging and identity converge deep underground. Because only in complete darkness can one truly see the stars.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

Both MCs are bisexual

Graphic designer Michelle Amato, after burning out in her corporate marketing career, has now built a thriving freelance business.  So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.

Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.

Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Peter Cabot Gets Lost by Cat Sebastian

57658678. sy475 Summer 1960: After years of scraping by, Caleb Murphy has graduated from college and is finally getting to start a new life. Except he suddenly has no way to get from Boston to Los Angeles. Then, to add to his misery, there’s perfect, privileged Peter Cabot offering to drive him. Caleb can’t refuse, even though the idea of spending a week in the car with a man whose luggage probably costs more than everything Caleb owns makes him want to scream.

Peter Cabot would do pretty much anything to skip out on his father’s presidential campaign, including driving across the country with a classmate who can’t stand him. After all, he’s had plenty of practice with people not liking him much—his own family, for example. The farther Peter gets from his family’s expectations, the more he starts to think about what he really wants, and the more certain he becomes that what he wants is more time with prickly, grumpy Caleb Murphy.

As they put more miles between themselves and their pasts, they both start to imagine a future where they can have things they never thought possible.

Buy it:  Amazon | Books2Read

Essays, Memoir, and Poetry

A Quilt for David by Steven Reigns

In the early 1990s, eight people living in a small conservative Florida town alleged that Dr. David Acer, their dentist, infected them with HIV. David’s gayness, along with his sickly appearance from his own AIDS-related illness, made him the perfect scapegoat and victim of mob mentality. In these early years of the AIDS epidemic, when transmission was little understood, and homophobia rampant, people like David were villainized. Accuser Kimberly Bergalis landed a People magazine cover story, while others went on talk shows and made front page news.

With a poet’s eulogistic and psychological intensity, Steven Reigns recovers the life and death of this man who also stands in for so many lives destroyed not only by HIV, but a diseased society that used stigma against the most vulnerable. It’s impossible not to make connections between this story and how the twenty-first century pandemic has also been defined by medical misinformation and cultural bias.

Inspired by years of investigative research into the lives of David and those who denounced him, Reigns has stitched together a hauntingly poetic narrative that retraces an American history, questioning the fervor of his accusers, and recuperating a gay life previously shrouded in secrecy and shame.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

New Release Spotlight: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

I know everyone’s moving on to spooky season and so there will be about five billion rec lists accordingly over the next couple of months, but first, let me squeeze in a little bit of delightful joy in the form of this absolutely delightful m/m romance. The Charm Offensive is like the show UnReal meets Red, White & Royal Blue, with both great mental health rep and great ace-spec rep. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and you will too, so check it out!

56898248Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Under the Gaydar: Bi (and Ace!) YA Fantasy

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This edition is dedicated to YA Fantasy with bi protags, with a bonus of three of them also having POV characters on the ace spectrum. As ever in this series, this fact isn’t shown on the cover or in the copy, so those who need safer choices to bring home can rely on these for the quietly queer content you need.

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria – A personal favorite, this fantasy’s got you hooked alllll the way up: gay, bi, and ace protags make up 3/4 of the cast, including a very cute m/m relationship. Great choice if you’re a fan of “friends on a quest”-type fantasy.

The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke – This is, as the blurb suggests, a sibling-centric Historical Fantasy…but those siblings happen to consist of a bi girl and a demisexual boy in love with his (male) best friend. Great for Jewish rep, too!

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim – a demisexual girl and bisexual boy anchor this fantasy adventure take on The Count of Monte Cristo!

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – or, in five words, Bi Brooklyn Bruja in Wonderland! Yes, it looks extremely heterosexual from the blurb, which works very nicely in our favor, because it is not.

It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts – here for your Queer MC at Magic School needs, this standalone stars bisexual Alka Chelrazi as she infiltrates a prestigious academy to get her revenge. My official blurb: “An addictive and invigorating tale of romance, revenge, and rebellion. Alka Chelrazi is a heroine I’d gladly follow to the ends of the earth.”

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust – What luck that maybe my favorite YA standalone fantasy also happens to be a bisexual f/f YA? Based on Persian mythology and exploring monstrousness in the most glorious way, I cannot advocate harder for adding this one to your shelf. (Bookshop) – reposted from Under the Gaydar: F/F YA Fantasy

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine This book about a girl who’s supposed to become a queen with massive powers and then just …doesn’t is pretty epic on its own, but the main character is also quite besotted with her handmaiden. As per usual in Fantasy, the word “bisexual” isn’t used, but the differentiation of her feelings from simply being friendly is done clearly, and the guy she ends up with never feels like a romance she settled for. It’s followed by The Cursed Queen, which is also bi, but f/f, and caps off with The True Queen, which brings together the MCs of the first two books. – paraphrased from Under the Gaydar: YA Fantasy Worlds

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – Yup, we’re gonna open and close with the same author, because why not! Dragons! Sisters, one of whom is bisexual! Honestly, what more do you need?

 

Fave Five: Queer YA for Dark Academia Lovers

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

People Like Us by Dana Mele

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

As I Descended by Robin Talley

Bonus: Coming in 2022, My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham

 

New Releases: September 7, 2021

Today’s post is sponsored in honor of the paperback release of His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined, ed. by Dahlia Adler (Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound). Thirteen authors take on The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Raven, and more, including queer spins on Ligeia, The Purloined Letter, Annabel Lee, Hop-Frog, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Murders at the Rue Morgue, in a collection the New York Times Book Review says “brims over with fierce delight and uncanny invention.”

Picture Book

Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster by Manka Kasha

The worry kept growing day by day, until… one morning Small Knight woke up to see a huge inky black monster in their room.

When Small Knight feels pressure from their parents to be a perfect princess, an anxiety monster shows up. No one else can see the monster, so Small Knight and their best friend Tiny Bear, decide that it is up to them to save themselves. They set off on a magical quest, only to discover that the answer was inside themselves all along. Turning to face the Anxiety Monster, they learn how to keep it under control.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Middle Grade

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water—to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo

Tennessee Lancaster has a hidden gift.

She can pry into folks’ memories with just a touch of their belongings. It’s something she’s always kept hidden — especially from her big, chaotic family. Their lives are already chock-full of worries about Daddy’s job and Mama’s blues without Tennie rocking the boat.

But when the Lancasters move to the mountains for a fresh start, Tennie’s gift does something new. Instead of just memories, her touch releases a ghost with a terrifying message: Trouble is coming. Tennie wants to ignore it. Except her new friend Fox — scratch that, her only friend, Fox — is desperate to go ghost hunting deep in the forest. And when Tennie frees even more of the spirits, trouble is exactly what she gets… and it hits close to home. The ghosts will be heard, and now Tennie must choose between keeping secrets or naming an ugly truth that could tear her family apart.

Magic and mayhem abound in this spooky story about family legacies, first friendships, and how facing the ghosts inside can sometimes mean stirring up a little bit of ruckus.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Young Adult

Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan (2nd)

Baby Teeth CoverThe blood
Feeds the hunger
That threatens everything

It starts when Claudia offers her a yellow rose.
Immy has been in love before – many times, across many lifetimes. But never as deeply, as intensely as this.
Claudia has never been in love this before either. But then, this is her first time with a vampire.
The forbidden thirst for blood runs deep in Immy. And within her mind clamour the voices, of all the others she has been, their desires, and their wrongs.

A unique verse novel by the award-winning author of The Deepest Breath and The Space Between.

Buy it: Waterstones | Book Depository | Little Island

Major Detours by Zachary Sergi

It’s the summer before college and four best friends—Amelia, Chase, Cleo, and Logan—are on the first leg of their road trip inspired by the unique tarot deck that Amelia inherited from her grandmother. However, their trip full of visiting occult shops, bonding, and sightseeing quickly takes a major detour when they discover that their tarot deck is more valuable—and coveted—than they could’ve ever imagined. Suddenly pursued by collectors who are after the legendary “lost” work of an infamous cult-following artist, the four friends will discover the fortunes that await those who unearth the deck’s four missing cards.

As the reader, you’ll get to make actual choices to further the friends’ road trip adventure in this first-of-its-kind interactive novel. Will you help the main characters, Amelia and Chase, learn and grow? How will you navigate Amelia’s steamy budding romances and overcome the challenges facing Chase and Logan’s queer-teen relationship?  Will you uncover the mysteries of the tarot deck? The choices are yours to make!

Major Detours is more than the branching-path books from your childhood. Instead, this fresh format bridges the gap between nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure and the modern style of digital interactive fiction, with choices that always lead you forward in the story and feature four diverse, queer characters navigating relationships and self-discovery. In Major Detours, the reader can interactively engage in two queer romances (from 2 alternating POVs), between the challenges facing a teen cis-male monogomous long-term relationship and a budding discovery of pansexual and nonbinary identities.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

A Clash of Steel by CB Lee

Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Act Cool by Tobly McSmith

Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition.

August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends.

But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh

55588056Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Privately, she’s a supernatural skeptic. But publicly, she’s keeping her doubts to herself—because she’s the voice of Attachments, her brand-new paranormal investigation podcast, and she needs her ghost-loving listeners to tune in.

That’s what brings her to Arrington Estate. Thirty years ago, teenager Atheleen Bell drowned in Arrington’s lake, and legend says her spirit haunts the estate. Dare’s more interested in the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death—circumstances that she believes point to a living culprit, not the supernatural. Still, she’s vowed to keep an open mind as she investigates, even if she’s pretty sure what she’ll find.

But Arrington is full of surprises. Good ones like Quinn, the cute daughter of the house’s new owner. And baffling ones like the threatening messages left scrawled in paint on Quinn’s walls, the ghastly face that appears behind Dare’s own in the mirror, and the unnatural current that nearly drowns their friend Holly in the lake. As Dare is drawn deeper into the mysteries of Arrington, she’ll have to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. Because if something is lurking in the lake…it might not be willing to let her go.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Night When No One Had Sex by Kalena Miller

Cover for The Night When No One Had SexIt’s the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex’s grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe’s trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale―and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison’s chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia’s fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character’s perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Adult/General

Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn

In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick—not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster—the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down…but even the most powerful men can be defeated.

Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all…but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

55748103One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott

Erin and her brother Alex were the last children abducted by ‘the Father’, a serial killer who only ever took pairs of siblings. She escaped, but her brother was never seen again. Traumatised, Erin couldn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the Father was never caught.

Eighteen years later, Erin has done her best to put the past behind her. But then she meets Harriet. Harriet’s young cousins were the Father’s first victims and, haunted by their deaths, she is writing a book about the disappearances and is desperate for an interview. At first, Erin wants nothing to do with her. But then she starts receiving sinister gifts, her house is broken into, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After all these years, Erin believed that the Father was gone, but now she begins to wonder if he was only waiting…

Buy it: Book Depository

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

56898248Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

How to Wrestle a Girl: Stories by Venita Blackburn

56269289Venita Blackburn’s characters bully and suffer, spit and tease, mope and blame. They’re hyperaware of their bodies and fiercely observant, fending off the failures and advances of adults with indifferent ease. In “Biology Class,” they torment a teacher to the point of near insanity, while in “Bear Bear Harvest™,” they prepare to sell their excess fat and skin for food processing. Stark and sharp, hilarious and ominous, these pieces are scabbed, bruised, and prone to scarring.

Many of the stories, set in Southern California, follow a teenage girl in the aftermath of her beloved father’s death and capture her sister’s and mother’s encounters with men of all ages, as well as the girl’s budding attraction to her best friend, Esperanza. In and out of school, participating in wrestling and softball, attending church with her hysterically complicated family, and dominating boys in arm wrestling, she grapples with her burgeoning queerness and her emerging body, becoming wary of clarity rather than hoping for it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Witch, Please by Ann Aguirre

Danica Waterhouse is a fully modern witch―daughter, granddaughter, cousin, and co-owner of the Fix-It Witches, a magical tech repair shop. After a messy breakup that included way too much family “feedback,” Danica made a pact with her cousin: they’ll keep their hearts protected and have fun, without involving any of the overly opinionated Waterhouse matriarchs. Danica is more than a little exhausted navigating a long-standing family feud where Gram thinks the only good mundane is a dead one and Danica’s mother weaves floral crowns for anyone who crosses her path.

Three blocks down from the Fix-It Witches, Titus Winnaker, owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery, has family trouble of his own. After a tragic loss, all he’s got left is his sister, the bakery, and a lifetime of terrible luck in love. Sure, business is sweet, but he can’t seem to shake the romantic curse that’s left him past thirty and still a virgin. He’s decided he’s doomed to be forever alone.

Until he meets Danica Waterhouse. The sparks are instant, their attraction irresistible. For him, she’s the one. To her, he’s a firebomb thrown in the middle of a family war. Can a modern witch find love with an old-fashioned mundane who refuses to settle for anything less than forever?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Eighty Days by A.C. Esguerra

54303232“Map A Course, Arrive Safe Home. That’s The Measure Of Your Achievement.” A pilot wants nothing more than to fly. Or so he thought, until he crosses paths with a mysterious thief whose tricks draw him into unchartered territory and new adventure. In a life where the truth changes as quickly as clouds in the sky, the pilot must decide for himself what freedom really means. Award-winning cartoonist A.C. Esguerra presents an unforgettable love letter to flight, the quest for freedom and the greatest adventure of all – love.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw

The All-Consuming World - final cover - high-res - 2020-09-17.jpgMaya has died and been resurrected into countless cyborg bodies through the years of a long, dangerous career with the infamous Dirty Dozen, the most storied crew of criminals in the galaxy, at least before their untimely and gruesome demise.

Decades later, she and her diverse team of broken, diminished outlaws must get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade . . . but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir.

The highly evolved AI of the galaxy have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humanity from ever regaining control. As Maya and her comrades spiral closer to uncovering the AIs’ vast conspiracy, this band of violent women—half-clone and half-machine—must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Non-Fiction

The Breaks by Julietta Singh

In a letter to her six-year-old daughter, Julietta Singh writes toward a tender vision of the world, offering children’s radical embrace of possibility as a model for how we might live. In order to survive looming political and ecological disasters, Singh urges, we must break from the conventions we have inherited and begin to orient ourselves toward more equitable and revolutionary paths.

The Breaks celebrates queer family-making, communal living, and Brown girlhood, complicating the stark binaries that shape contemporary US discourse. With nuance and generosity, Singh reveals the connections among the crises humanity faces—climate catastrophe, extractive capitalism, and the violent legacies of racism, patriarchy, and colonialism—inviting us to move through the breaks toward a tenable future.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Authors in Conversation: Julian Winters Interviews The Taking of Jake Livingston Author Ryan Douglass

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Douglass and a few other authors in a roundtable entitled “Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA?” The interviewees were all obvious rising stars, in my opinion, but the very next queer Black male voice to rise up in YA after that post actually belonged to an author I didn’t know yet named Julian Winters.

Fast forward to now, when Douglass has debuted on the New York Times bestseller list (and also managed to publish a volume of poetry called Boy in Jeopardy even before that), Winters is three books in with a fourth, Right Where I Left You, on the way, and both of them are here today to talk about The Taking of Jake Livingston. Here’s a little more on the book, first:

Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.

Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | IndieBound

And now, please welcome Julian Winters and Ryan Douglass!

Julian: Ryan! It’s always an honor to chat with you, but this feels especially fantastic because I’m getting to talk to Ryan Douglass, instant New York Times bestselling author of The Taking of Jake Livingston! How wild is that? One week we’re chatting on the day the book is released, then you’re a bestselling author with your debut novel!

Ryan: I don’t even think it’s even sunk in. It’s pretty cool and I’m so glad people have responded well to this story.

42371064. sy475 JW: Interviewing you for LGBTQ Reads is an extra special occasion for me. A few years ago, you did an interview on here that kind of changed my life as an author. The discussion you had about being a queer, Black author and writing queer Black boys as protagonists gave me the courage I needed to finally sit down and written my sophomore novel, How to Be Remy Cameron. I didn’t know if queer Black boys had the space they deserved as the protagonists in the Young Adult world until I read that interview. It made me want to ensure they did have their voices heard.

Jake’s story continues to inspire me and others to write our books where queer Black boys are at the heart. Where we can celebrate their uniqueness and joy as well as discussing their struggles.

Where did the inspiration for Jake come from? What made you jump into Horror, a genre that doesn’t often showcase Black and/or queer teens as protagonists?

RD: Thank you for saying that. I was very interested in what this book would do for representation politics at the beginning but it’s since become less of a concern. I don’t feel like I’m writing about the “Black queer experience” as much as a slice of life where the MC happens to be Black and queer. I was interested in horror because of the way it explored trauma and fear, how the psyche operates in moments of desperation and the choices people make in perilous situations. That developed as a kid before I realized what it meant to be Black, institutionally, and how the genre treats its Black characters. Later I was able to assess the injustice that occurs in media representation. I wanted to write characters that felt true to me so I put them into the genre I was interested in working in. Since it’s horror, that ends up feeling naturally subversive since the genre usually kills off its Black characters when left to white creators.

JW: I love that this book is gives me old school, paranormal horror vibes, but also looks at the real-life horror Black teens face. It’s very much The Frighteners meets Get Out and so much more. What are some of the themes you wanted to explore, both from the supernatural and real world?

RD: A big theme in the book is how whiteness invades Black consciousness when we’re trying to succeed. It erodes our cultural norms under the guise of professionalism. It’s so normalized to go to PWIs or get a corporate job and link that to merit and moving up. But what you’re doing is negotiating your culture for prestige or financial gain. We’re climbing into systems rooted in a slave system that has never been reformed, and the way we’re treated today mirrors slavery in a way that is better branded. We talk about it but we don’t change these systems in serious ways. It’s so normalized that “talking about it” is a thriving market to make money in. Jake angles into these issues by featuring a Black boy who’s been ripped out of his community and now feels he’s going insane because he can’t get whiteness (Sawyer) off his back. It’s also a book about the ways boys are raised in violence and how hard it becomes to communicate when you feel like you’re being abused and you can’t come up for air. As for the supernatural elements, they’re mostly there to supplement the contemporary issues, and they enhance this “superhero origin story” feel that the book ends up taking on. Black queer boys need superhero icons.

JW: Writing Horror is such a skilled art to me. To be honest, you had me sleeping with the lights on while reading this book! What are the challenges you faced trying to craft out such a terrifying world?

RD: A big challenge when I first chose horror was understanding how it comes to life in literature and how that may be similar or different from what you see in movies. You can’t use jump scares or make use of music and lighting, which are naturally spooky tactics in film. Evoking an unsettling atmosphere with words is the big challenge because it’s so reliant on a sense of dread and zeroing in on the darker aspects of language, imagery, and metaphor. You also have to be irreverent enough to take risks with what is psychologically comfortable.

JW: This book is told from dual POVs. Jake’s story in real time, then the antagonist Sawyer Doon’s world through his diary entries. Sawyer is a frightening character. I love that, through his entries, you explore what brought him to the point he’s at in the novel. But you do it without redeeming him. You don’t excuse away his actions. You weave a tragic story in a way that doesn’t give him exoneration but really dives deep into the psyche of someone pushed to their edge.

What was it like writing a character like Sawyer?

RD: I always sigh with relief when I hear that because a big worry of mine was that he might come off as redeemable or else too evil to for a normal person to tolerate reading from his perspective. Writing Sawyer was all about achieving the right balance. I had to constantly ask myself how much distance I wanted to keep from any vulnerabilities this character might have. That then opens questions of how much distance this character keeps from himself. What about him disturbs himself, and what about his surroundings have disturbed his way of thinking? That’s when I got into the meat of where this character comes from in a way that felt like it wasn’t softening him too much but centering an exploration of how empathy and connection comes into his world as this fleeting object but the crux of him is evil.

JW: Besides all the scary imagery you describe so perfectly, another part of this novel I love is the way you explore queer Black boys like Jake and their relationships with others. Specifically, Jake’s older brother, Benji.

What were some of the things you hope readers get from their relationship, along with the one Jake has with his mother?

RD: I like these boys because they ring true as Black boys without there being any performative emphasis on how “Blackity Black” they are. I want readers to get a slice of human experience without the primary mission being to convince white people that Black people are people too. When the mission is not saying to the reader “hey guys, Black people are actually human”, we’re able to dive into intracommunity issues like the relationships between straight Black men and queer Black men, how straight Black women may support homophobic actions of their straight Black partners at the expense of the queer boys or men in their lives. There’s the issue of whiteness but at the center of Jake’s trauma are the issues he dealt with at home. The experience of living in his identity is having layers of trauma to work through. I think readers who are not of that experience or of an intersectional experience can learn from that.

JW: Let’s talk about Allister! From the moment he appeared on the page, I felt like Jake—like I could breathe again. He’s this amazing addition in Jake’s life. Someone who doesn’t question who Jake is, what he’s going through, nor does he brush off Jake’s struggles. And let’s be real—their romance made me swoon.

Who is Allister to this book and why was it so important for you two show that kind of relationship between two queer Black boys?

RD: Allister serves as a breath of fresh air to the narrative. I didn’t have a lot of time to develop his relationship to Jake because I was trying to develop other things in a time crunch during edits. But I ended up liking how simple it was. I like that Jake has someone in his life that doesn’t feel untrustworthy or overly complicated. I don’t know if boys as perfect as Allister exist, but I think it’s important that gay teens are able to see what healthy love looks like.

JW: As an avid fan of yours, I know you love music! I get some of my best recs from your social media posts. If (or when?) this book becomes a movie, who would be on the soundtrack? What songs or artist would best accompany Jake’s story?

RD: I’m a big fan of the artists that come out of NUXXE, which is Shygirl’s record label. It’s gritty, often spooky experimental pop. I’d want Shygirl, Sega Bodega, COUCOU CHLOE, Y1640 and similar sounding artists to be on the soundtrack. I think their sounds really mirror the tone of the book.

JW: People are gobbling this book up! I know I did. We all have to know: What can we expect next from Ryan Douglass?

RD: I’m working on another YA horror currently. I’ve been trying several genres in recent years, from historical fantasy to paranormal romance to rom-com. I want to tap into so many genres but teen horror and dark academia come naturally. I’m good at that so I’m developing in that genre as a writer for now. Later I plan to spread out to other things.

Ryan Douglass was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where he currently resides, cooking pasta and playing records. He enjoys wooden-wick candles, falling asleep on airplanes, and advocating for stronger media representation for queer Black people.

Julian Winters is the best-selling author of contemporary young adult fiction. His debut, Running With Lions (Duet, 2018), won accolades for its positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer. How to Be Remy Cameron is his second novel.

Backlist Book of the Month: The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

Honestly, how dare Marie Rutkoski not only write my favorite YA fantasy trilogy of all time, but then go on to write my favorite Sapphic YA fantasy series opener as well? It’s just rude, is what it is. Not sure what I’m talking about? Then get thee to the buy links below and grab yourself a copy of the sharp and clever The Midnight Lie! (Already read and loved it? Good news: sequel The Hollow Heart releases this month!)

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

54860160. sy475 But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound