All posts by Dahlia Adler

Book Giveaway: The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Today on the site, we’re doing a  super giveaway in partnership with Tor Books to celebrate the July 13th release of Flash Fire, the sequel to T.J. Klune’s The Extraordinaries! Tor is giving away up to ten sets of the combo of a hardcover of The Extraordinaries and an Advance Reader Copy of Flash Fire, so check out the details below to dive right in to this gay YA superhero series!

The Extraordinaries (Book One):

An Indie Bestseller!
An Indie Next Pick!
A Gold Nautilus Book Award Winner!

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer’s Renegades in TJ Klune’s YA debut.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Macmillan

Flash Fire (Book Two):

Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

“Uproariously funny, this razor-sharp book is half a love-letter to fandom, half self-aware satire, and wholly lovable. I haven’t read anything quite like this before!” —Sophie Gonzales, author of Only Mostly Devastated

“The most down-to-earth book about superheroes I’ve ever read.” —Mason Deaver, bestselling author of I Wish You All the Best

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Macmillan

No purchase necessary. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada (excluding Quebec) 18 and older. Entry period begins at 12:00 p.m. EST on 6/17/21 and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on 6/24/21. Void where prohibited.

To enter, tell us your favorite superhero (and why!) in the comments! Winners will be notified on June 25th!

Most Anticipated LGBTQA Middle Grade: July-December 2021

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar (September 7th)

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 (September 7th)

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

Other Boys by Damian Alexander (September 7th)

In Other Boys, debut author Damian Alexander delivers a moving middle grade graphic memoir about his struggles with bullying, the death of his mother, and coming out.

Damian is the new kid at school, and he has a foolproof plan to avoid the bullying that’s plagued him his whole childhood: he’s going to stop talking. Starting on the first day seventh grade, he won’t utter a word. If he keeps his mouth shut, the bullies will have nothing to tease him about―right?

But Damian’s vow of silence doesn’t work―his classmates can tell there’s something different about him. His family doesn’t look like the kind on TV: his mother is dead, his father is gone, and he’s being raised by his grandparents in a low-income household. And Damian does things that boys aren’t supposed do, like play with Barbies instead of GI Joe. Kids have teased him about this his whole life, especially other boys. But if boys can be so cruel, why does Damian have a crush on one?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

The Insiders by Mark Oshiro (September 21st)

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

City of Thieves by Alex London (September 21st)

54671391. sy475 In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart.

Once, dragons nearly drove themselves to extinction. But in the city of Drakopolis, humans domesticated them centuries ago. Now dragons haul the city’s cargo, taxi its bustling people between skyscrapers, and advertise its wares in bright, neon displays. Most famously of all, the dragons battle. Different breeds take to the skies in nighttime bouts between the infamous kins―criminal gangs who rule through violence and intimidation.

Abel has always loved dragons, but after a disastrous showing in his dragon rider’s exam, he’s destined never to fly one himself. All that changes the night his sister appears at his window, entrusting him with a secret…and a stolen dragon.

Turns out, his big sister is a dragon thief! Too bad his older brother is a rising star in Drakopolis law enforcement…

To protect his friends and his family, Abel must partner with the stolen beast, riding in kin battles and keeping more secrets than a dragon has scales.

When everyone wants him fighting on their side, can Abel figure out what’s worth fighting for?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

This is Our Rainbow ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby (October 19th)

The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.

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

The Golden Hour by Niki Smith (October 26th)

The Golden HourStruggling with anxiety after witnessing a harrowing instance of gun violence, Manuel Soto copes through photography, using his cell-phone camera to find anchors that keep him grounded. His days are a lonely, latchkey monotony until he’s teamed with his classmates, Sebastian and Caysha, for a group project.

Sebastian lives on a grass-fed cattle farm outside of town, and Manuel finds solace in the open fields and in the antics of the newborn calf Sebastian is hand-raising. As Manuel aides his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A-Okay by Jarad Greene (November 2nd)

When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.

Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee (November 9th)

Born in Paris, Kentucky, and raised on her gram’s favorite country music, Cline Alden is a girl with big dreams and a heart full of song. When she finds out about a young musicians’ workshop a few towns over, Cline sweet-talks, saves, and maybe fibs her way into her first step toward musical stardom.

But her big dreams never prepared her for the butterflies she feels surrounded by so many other talented kids—especially Sylvie, who gives Cline the type of butterflies she’s only ever heard about in love songs.

As she learns to make music of her own, Cline begins to realize how much of herself she’s been holding back. But now, there’s a new song taking shape in her heart—if only she can find her voice and sing it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

New Releases: June 15-29, 2021

Indestructible Object by Mary McCoy (15th)

For the past two years, Lee has been laser-focused on two things: her job as a sound tech at a local coffee shop and her podcast “Artists in Love,” which she cohosts with her boyfriend Vincent.

Until he breaks up with her on the air right after graduation.

When their unexpected split, the loss of her job, and her parent’s announcement that they’re separating coincide, Lee’s plans, her art, and her life are thrown into turmoil. Searching for a new purpose, Lee recruits her old friend Max and new friend Risa to produce a podcast called “Objects of Destruction,” where they investigate whether love actually exists at all.

But the deeper they get into the love stories around them, the more Lee realizes that she’s the one who’s been holding love at arm’s length. And when she starts to fall for Risa, she finds she’ll have to be more honest with herself and the people in her life to create a new love story of her own.

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

The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite (15th)

The Hellion's Waltz: Feminine Pursuits by [Olivia Waite]It’s not a crime to steal a heart… 

Sophie Roseingrave hates nothing more than a swindler. After her family lost their piano shop to a con man in London, they’re trying to start fresh in a new town. Her father is convinced Carrisford is an upright and honest place, but Sophie is not so sure. She has grave suspicions about silk-weaver Madeline Crewe, whose stunning beauty doesn’t hide the fact that she’s up to something.

All Maddie Crewe needs is one big score, one grand heist to properly fund the weavers’ union forever. She has found her mark in Mr. Giles, a greedy draper, and the entire association of weavers and tailors and clothing merchants has agreed to help her. The very last thing she needs is a small but determined piano-teacher and composer sticking her nose in other people’s business. If Sophie won’t be put off, the only thing to do is to seduce her to the cause.

Will Sophie’s scruples force her to confess the plot before Maddie gets her money? Or will Maddie lose her nerve along with her heart?

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The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc (15th)

As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. Giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity and allowed him to project a more masculine self. And yet, when his partner Anna adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as “the natural mother of the child.”

By considering how the experiences contained under the umbrella of “motherhood” don’t fully align with Belc’s own experience, The Natural Mother of the Child journeys both toward and through common perceptions of what it means to have a body and how that body can influence the perception of a family. The Natural Mother of the Child is a visual memoir-in-lyric-essays, an archive of Belc’s queerness. By engaging directly with the documentation often thought to constitute a record of one’s life—childhood photos, birth certificates—Belc creates a new kind of life record, one that addresses his own ambivalence about the “before” and “after” so prevalent in trans stories, which feels apart from his own.

The Natural Mother of the Child is the story of a person moving past societal expectations to take control of his own narrative, with prose that delights in the intimate dailiness of family life and explores how much we can ever really know when we enter into parenting.

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Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon (15th)

A young gay man in a perfect marriage will do anything to keep a dangerous indiscretion from his loving husband.

Oliver Park, a recovering addict from Indiana, finally has everything he ever wanted: sobriety and a loving, wealthy partner in Nathan, a prominent DC trauma surgeon. Despite their difference in age and disparate backgrounds, they’ve made a perfect life together. With everything to lose, Oliver shouldn’t be visiting Haus, a gay bathhouse. But through the entrance he goes, and it’s a line crossed. Inside, he follows a man into a private room, and it’s the final line. Whatever happens next, Nathan can never know. But then, everything goes wrong, terribly wrong, and Oliver barely escapes with his life.

He races home in full-blown terror as the hand-shaped bruise grows dark on his neck. The truth will destroy Nathan and everything they have together, so Oliver does the thing he used to do so well: he lies.

What follows is a classic runaway-train narrative, full of the exquisite escalations, edge-of-your-seat thrills, and oh-my-god twists. P. J. Vernon’s Bath Haus is a scintillating thriller with an emotional punch, perfect for readers curious for their next must-read novel.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Target | Book Depository

The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor (15th)

54895478Part historical fiction, part magical realism, and 100 percent adventure. Thirteen-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine while she works in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885.

Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman’s daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan–reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch.

Anchoring herself with stories of Auntie Po, Mei navigates the difficulty and politics of lumber camp work and her growing romantic feelings for her friend Bee. The Legend of Auntie Po is about who gets to own a myth, and about immigrant families and communities holding on to rituals and traditions while staking out their own place in America.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (15th)

The Sweetness of Water: A Novel by [Nathan Harris]In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

House of Agnes by Fiona Zedde (16th)

A lesbian romance filled with intrigue and sizzling sexual tension as enemies discover that the other side of hatred…is desire.

Agnes Noble is private, mysterious, and untouchable. She rules House of Agnes, the most exclusive escort agency on the East Coast, with a diamond fist. Crossing her is a mistake no one makes twice.

Investigative reporter Lola Osbourne is not afraid. She’s gunning for the House and its so-called queen. She’ll make sure no other innocent gets dragged into Agnes’s alluring web, to be used and discarded the way Lola’s sister was.

But her plan to get close to the elusive madam shatters the moment her eyes meet the Queen’s. One look and everything’s different. More complicated. Dangerous.

Now, Lola’s not just fighting to topple a queen from her throne, she’s also scrambling to escape their explosive collision with her suddenly vulnerable heart intact.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (22nd)

When she was twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye still moves through life entirely—and unrepentantly—on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Maybe her junior high classmates weren’t wrong when they voted her “Most Likely to Be Single” instead of “Most Ride-or-Die Homie,” but at least she’s always been free to do as she pleases.

Then a twelve-year-old girl tracks Skye down during one of her brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia and informs Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.

Things get even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt, and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafés.

With its endearingly prickly narrator and a cast of characters willing to both challenge her and catch her when she falls, this novel is a clever, moving portrait of a woman and the relationships she thought she could live without.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Violet Ghosts by Leah Thomas (22nd)

Dani’s best friend, Sarah, is a ghost. But maybe that’s normal when you’ve spent your childhood running from an abusive parent.

Dani and Sarah might be more than friends, though Dani dares not say so. Dani is afraid that if he tells Sarah he’s trans, she won’t bother haunting him anymore. Sarah’s got good reason to distrust boys, having been strangled by one.

After Sarah and Dani come across another ghost haunted by her own brutal murder, they set out to bring peace and safety to spirits like her. But when an old rival reenters Dani’s life, their unexpected friendship gives Dani a strange new feeling of belonging. As Dani starts to find his place in the living world, he’ll need to let go of his ghosts.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (22nd)

In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty.

One of the breakout literary stars of 2020, Brandon Taylor has been hailed by Roxane Gay as “a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways.” With Filthy Animals he renews and expands on the promise made in Real Life, training his precise and unsentimental gaze on the tensions among friends and family, lovers and others. Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir (22nd)

56080010Growing up a Guyanese Indian immigrant in Central Florida, Rajiv Mohabir is fascinated by his family’s abandoned Hindu history and the legacy of his ancestors, who were indentured laborers on British sugarcane plantations. In Toronto he sits at the feet of Aji, his grandmother, listening to her stories and songs in her Caribbean Bhojpuri. By now Aji’s eleven children have immigrated to North America and busied themselves with ascension, Christianity, and the erasure of their heritage andCaribbean accents. But Rajiv wants to know more: where did he come from, and why does he feel so out of place?

Embarking on a journey of discovery, he lives for a year in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, perfecting his Hindi and Bhojpuri and tracing the lineage of his Aji’s music. Returning to Florida, the cognitive dissonance of confederate flags, Islamophobia, and his father’s disapproval sends him to New York, where finds community among like-minded brown activists, work as an ESL teacher, and intoxication in the queer nightlife scene. But even in the South Asian paradise of Jackson Heights, Rajiv feels like an outsider: “Coolie” rather than Desi. And then the final hammer of estrangement falls when his cousin outs him as an “antiman”—a Caribbean slur for men who love men—and his father and aunts disown him.

But Aji has taught Rajiv resilience. Emerging from the chrysalis of his ancestral poetics into a new life, he embraces his identity as a poet and reclaims his status as an antiman—forging a new way of being entirely his own. Rapturous, inventive, and devastating in its critique of our own failures of inclusion, Antiman is a hybrid memoir that helps us see ourselves and relationships anew, and announces an exciting new talent in Rajiv Mohabir.

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Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon (22nd)

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting.

Long-time friends.

Bitter exes.

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall (22nd)

Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.

So when a shadowy faction approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (29th)

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer―as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…

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

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (29th)

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Stranger Things: Rebel Robin by AR Capetta (29th)

56631878High school is a monster, and it’s eating everyone Robin knows. As sophomore year starts, Robin’s Odd Squad friends have decided to try to be just like everyone else. Her best friends couple up and expect her to come along for the ride. They can’t stop talking about school and college and careers. But Robin has bigger problems–she’s been hiding out with the band kids since middle school, hoping nobody would notice that she’s something even stranger than a French horn player who can speak four languages: she’s gay.

She’s convinced the only way she can learn to be herself is by fleeing to Europe for a summer to experience real life. But she has no money, no permission, and no one to share the adventure with. How is she supposed to be her true self in Hawkins, Indiana? The weirdest girl in Hawkins has spent her whole life trying to fit in. Now, she’s going to break out.

Sprinkled with Easter eggs that reference our favorite Stranger Things characters, this contemporary coming-of-age story set in the ’80s is about one girl’s realization that the only person she needs to be accepted by is herself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Most Anticipated LGBTQA Adult Fiction: July-December 2021

Everyone in this Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R. Austin (July 6th)

Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.

In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Very Nice Box by Eve Gleichman and Laura Blackett (July 6th)

Ava Simon designs storage boxes for STÄDA, a slick Brooklyn-based furniture company. She’s hard-working, obsessive, and heartbroken from a tragedy that killed her girlfriend and upended her life. It’s been years since she’s let anyone in.

But when Ava’s new boss—the young and magnetic Mat Putnam—offers Ava a ride home one afternoon, an unlikely relationship blossoms. Ava remembers how rewarding it can be to open up—and, despite her instincts, she becomes enamored. But Mat isn’t who he claims to be, and the romance takes a sharp turn.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Impacted by Benji Carr (July 6th)

56777668With every trip he makes to the dentist, Wade’s pain only gets worse. His smile has faded. He’s clenching his jaw and grinding his teeth more, not because of bad oral hygiene or any mishaps in orthodontics. Wade’s teeth don’t need straightening out, but the rest of his life could use that kind of adjustment. Wade has fallen in love with handsome Dr. Emmett, and their office visits in the afternoon have become decidedly more personal than professional. And poor Wade is sure his girlfriend Jessa would punch him in the mouth if she found out.

After all, Jessa did just abandon her church and her family to be with him. And she did just have Wade’s baby. So their relationship has already caused enough gossip in the small Georgia town of Waverly.

When Wade tries to end the affair, the breakup takes a brutal turn, leaving Wade in a state of panic. His life is under threat. His secrets could be exposed, and his family may fall apart before he realizes what kind of person he wants to be.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Target | IndieBound

Bolla by Pajtim Statovsi, trans. by David Hackston (July 6th)

Bolla: A Novel by [Pajtim Statovci, David Hackston]April 1995. Arsim is a twenty-four-year-old, recently married student at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo, keeping his head down to gain a university degree in a time and place deeply hostile to Albanians. In a café he meets a young man named Miloš, a Serb. Before the day is out, everything has changed for both of them, and within a week two milestones erupt in Arsim’s married life: his wife announces her first pregnancy and he begins a life in secret.

After these fevered beginnings, Arsim and Miloš’s unlikely affair is derailed by the outbreak of war, which sends Arsim’s fledgling family abroad and timid Miloš spiraling down a dark path, as depicted through chaotic journal entries. Years later, deported back to Pristina after a spell in prison and now alone and hopeless, Arsim finds himself in a broken reality that makes him completely question his past. What happened to him, to them, exactly? How much can you endure, and forgive?

Entwined with their story is a re-created legend of a demonic serpent, Bolla; it’s an unearthly tale that gives Arsim and Miloš a language through which to reflect on what they once had. With luminous prose and a delicate eye, Pajtim Statovci delivers a relentless novel of desire, destruction, intimacy, and the different fronts of war.

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Out of Character by Annabeth Albert (July 6th)

Milo Lionetti is not a gamer. Not even close. But when a stupid bet costs him his brother’s prized cards, he’ll do anything to replace them before anyone notices they’re gone. To do that, he’ll need a little help from the best gamer he knows…who also happens to hate him.

Jasper Quigley is known for moonlighting on a popular gaming blog, but he’s eager to stop playing the sidekick. The last thing he wants is to help out Milo and dredge up feelings he’d rather forget. But helping Milo comes with some perks, including getting his help running a cosplay event at the local children’s hospital. All that forced proximity was not supposed to come with kissing, and definitely not falling in love…

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The Calyx Charm by May Peterson (July 13th)

Violetta Benedetti knows how to hide things. She spent years concealing herself behind the persona her father expected of her. Now she hides in the dark corners of Vermagna’s underworld, lying low to keep her father from using her magic in his unending quest for power.

But her biggest secret is her love for her best friend, who only knew her as Mercurio Benedetti, not the woman she is today. Now he’s dead, and she’ll never be able to tell him the truth.

Tibario Gianbellicci was dead. And then…he wasn’t. Reborn as an immortal, he has powers he never imagined. Powers his crime boss mother wants to tap into to destroy their longtime rivals: House Benedetti.

But Tibario is hiding something, too: his best friend is a Benedetti—and the love of his life. With a second chance at life, he’ll have to risk revealing his heart.

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (13th)

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

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The Rebellious Tide by Eddy Boudel Tan (July 13th)

Sebastien has heard only stories about his father, a mysterious sailor who abandoned his pregnant mother thirty years ago. But when his mother dies after a lifetime of struggle, he becomes obsessed with finding an explanation—perhaps even revenge.

The father he’s never met is Kostas, the commanding officer of a luxury liner sailing the Mediterranean. Posing as a member of the ship’s crew, Sebastien stalks his unwitting father in search of answers to why he disappeared so many years ago.

After a public assault triggers outrage among the ship’s crew, Sebastien finds himself entangled in a revolt against the oppressive ruling class of officers. As the clash escalates between the powerful and the powerless, Sebastien uncovers something his father has hidden deep within the belly of the ship—a disturbing secret that will force him to confront everything he’s always wondered and feared about his own identity.

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She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker-Chan (July 20th)

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

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Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton (July 27th)

Gala, a young trans woman, works at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. She is obsessed with the Get Happies, the quintessential 1960s Californian band, helmed by its resident genius, B—-. Why did the band stop making music? Why did they never release their rumored album, Summer Fun?

Gala writes letters to B—- that she light not only on the Get Happies, but paint an extraordinary portrait of Gala. The parallel narratives of B—- and Gala form a dialogue about creation–of music, identity, self, culture, and counterculture.

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All Are Welcome by Liz Parker (August 1st)

58187215. sy475 Tiny McAllister never thought she’d get married. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t think girls from Connecticut married other girls. Yet here she is with Caroline, the love of her life, at their destination wedding on the Bermuda coast. In attendance―their respective families and a few choice friends. The conflict-phobic Tiny hopes for a beautiful weekend with her bride-to-be. But as the weekend unfolds, it starts to feel like there’s a skeleton in every closet of the resort.

From Tiny’s family members, who find the world is changing at an uncomfortable speed, to Caroline’s parents, who are engaged in conspiratorial whispers, to their friends, who packed secrets of their own―nobody seems entirely forthcoming. Not to mention the conspicuous no-show and a tempting visit from the past. What the celebration really needs now is a monsoon to help stir up all the long-held secrets, simmering discontent, and hidden agendas.

All Tiny wanted was to get married, but if she can make it through this squall of a wedding, she might just leave with more than a wife.

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Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (August 3rd)

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I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander (August 3rd)

Noa Birnbaum has just gotten a job as a makeup assistant on a movie, thanks to her roommate. She’s thrilled when she learns that Lilah Silver will be the star—she’s had a crush on the leading lady for a while. But when she meets Lilah at the studio, Noa is unimpressed – Lilah is distant and shallow, and Noa isn’t in any hurry to get to know her.

Lilah Silver is tired of being in B-rate movies and has finally landed a leading role—in a sci-fi creature feature. Worried that no one will take her seriously, she’s hidden herself behind her pageant queen persona. Lilah is awed by Noa’s self-confidence and style, but how can she convince Noa she’s not a snobby scream queen when she can’t find the right words without a script in her hands?

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The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert (August 3rd)

Clementine is a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with a penchant for impeccably tailored suits. Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down in 1930 and opens a shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.

Now it’s 1941 and Clem’s favorite haunt, Madame Boulette’s, is crawling with Nazis, while Clem’s people–the outsiders, the artists, and the hustlers who used to call it home–are disappearing. Clem’s first instinct is to go to ground–it’s a frigid Paris winter and she’s too old to put up a fight. But when the cabaret’s prize songbird, Zoe St. Angel, recruits Clem to steal the recipe book of a now-missing famous Parisian perfumer, she can’t say no. Her mark is Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who wants the book and Clem’s expertise to himself. Hoping to buy the time and trust she needs to pull off her scheme, Clem decides to tell Voss the real story of the life and loves she came to Paris to escape. But Clem doesn’t have much practice telling the truth and it turns out to be more dangerous than she could have imagined.

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After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang (August 19th)

57544433Dragons were fire and terror to the Western world, but in the East they brought life-giving rain…

Now, no longer hailed as gods and struggling in the overheated pollution of Beijing, only the Eastern dragons survive. As drought plagues the aquatic creatures, a mysterious disease—shaolong, or “burnt lung”—afflicts the city’s human inhabitants.

Jaded college student Xiang Kaifei scours Beijing streets for abandoned dragons, distracting himself from his diagnosis. Elijah Ahmed, a biracial American medical researcher, is drawn to Beijing by the memory of his grandmother and her death by shaolong. Interest in Beijing’s dragons leads Kai and Eli into an unlikely partnership. With the resources of Kai’s dragon rescue and Eli’s immunology research, can the pair find a cure for shaolong and safety for the dragons? Eli and Kai must confront old ghosts and hard truths if there is any hope for themselves or the dragons they love.

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Child in the Valley by Gordy Sauer (August 24th)

Seventeen-year-old Joshua Gaines is the orphaned foster son of a failed doctor on the run from his father’s debt. In 1849, he travels to Independence, Missouri and falls in with the mysterious, four-fingered Renard, and his companion, formerly-enslaved Free Ray. Joshua offers his medical expertise to their party, and together they embark on the fifteen-hundred mile overland journey to Gold Rush California.

Following the hardship, disease, and death on the trail, the company abandons panning the river in favor of robbery and murder. Engulfed by violence, the young doctor-turned-marauder must reckon with his own morality, his growing desire for the men around him, and the brutality that has haunted him all his life.

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For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes (August 31st)

April French doesn’t do relationships and she never asks for more.

A long-standing regular at kink club Frankie’s, she’s kind of seen it all. As a trans woman, she’s used to being the scenic rest stop for others on their way to a happily-ever-after. She knows how desire works, and she keeps hers carefully boxed up to take out on weekends only.

After all, you can’t be let down if you never ask.

Then Dennis Martin walks into Frankie’s, fresh from Seattle and looking a little lost. April just meant to be friendly, but one flirtatious drink turns into one hot night.

When Dennis asks for her number, she gives it to him.

When he asks for her trust, well…that’s a little harder.

And when the desire she thought she had such a firm grip on comes alive with Dennis, April finds herself wanting passion, purpose and commitment.

But when their relationship moves from complicated to impossible, April will have to decide how much she’s willing to want.

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In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu (August 31st)

In the Watchful CityThe city of Ora is watching.

Anima is an extrasensory human tasked with surveilling and protecting Ora’s citizens via a complex living network called the Gleaming. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from harm.

When a mysterious outsider enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around with the world with a story attached to each item, Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist. But such knowledge leaves Anima with a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?

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Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn (September 7th)

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.

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The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (September 7th)

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.

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The Final Child by Fran Dorricott (September 7th)

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…

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Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune (September 21st)

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

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MENAFTER10 by Casey Hamilton (September 28th)

MENAFTER10 is a geosocial online dating application for gay “urban men looking for urban men.” Among its users is Chauncey Lee, who is always online, always looking. What exactly he’s looking for is a mystery even to him, but he does his best trying to find it by dating in bedrooms across an unnamed city. Brontae Williams is just the opposite. He’s lonely and desperately wants to settle down into a long-term relationship. His biggest problem is that the only thing anyone wants these days is quick and casual sex. LeMilion Meeks, however, is used to the fast life. With his big personality, he might come off as content with snorting coke in club bathrooms, but he’s learning that knowing his HIV status is entirely different than knowing what to do with it.

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Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (September 28th)

Lee Mandelo’s debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by hungry ghost.

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers to possess him.

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Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (September 28th)

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

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Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper (October 5th)

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

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The Other Man by Farhad J. Dadyburjor (October 12th)

Heir to his father’s Mumbai business empire, Ved Mehra has money, looks, and status. He is also living as a closeted gay man. Thirty-eight, lonely, still reeling from a breakup, and under pressure from his exasperated mother, Ved agrees to an arranged marriage. He regrettably now faces a doomed future with the perfectly lovely Disha Kapoor.

Then Ved’s world is turned upside down when he meets Carlos Silva, an American on a business trip in India.

As preparations for his wedding get into full swing, Ved finds himself drawn into a relationship he could never have imagined―and ready to take a bold step. Ved is ready to embrace who he is and declare his true feelings regardless of family expectations and staunch traditions. But with his engagement party just days away, and with so much at risk, Ved will have to fight for what he wants―if it’s not too late to get it.

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The Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon (October 19th)

56269273Liselle Belmont is having a dinner party. It seems a strange occasion—her husband, Winn, has lost his bid for the state legislature and they’re having the key supporters over to thank them for their work. Liselle was never sure about Winn becoming a politician, never sure about the limelight, about the life of fundraising and stump speeches. Now that it’s over she is facing new questions: Who are they to each other, after all this? How much of herself has she lost on the way—and was it worth it? Just before the night begins, she hears from an FBI agent, who claims that Winn is corrupt. Is it possible? How will she make it through this dinner party?

Across town, Selena is making her way through the same day, the same way she always does—one foot in front of the other, keeping quiet and focused, trying not to see the terrors all around her. Homelessness, starving children, the very living horrors of history that made America possible: these and other thoughts have made it difficult for her to live a normal life. The only time she was ever really happy was with Liselle back in college. But they’ve lost touch, so much so that when they run into each other at a drugstore just after Obama is elected president, they barely speak. But as the day wears on, Selena’s memories of Liselle begin to shift her path.

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Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell (October 26th)

Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.

Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…

When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?

Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.

Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.

One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.

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A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske (November 2nd)

Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.

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Brickmakers by Selva Almada (November 2nd)

Brickmakers: A Novel by [Selva Almada]Oscar Tamai and Elvio Miranda, the patriarchs of two families of brickmakers, have for years nursed a mutual hatred, but their teenage sons, Pájaro and Ángelito, somehow fell in love. Brickmakers begins as Pájaro and Marciano, Ángelito’s older brother, lie dying in the mud at the base of a Ferris wheel. Inhabiting a dreamlike state between life and death, they recall the events that forced them to pay the price of their fathers’ petty feud.

The Tamai and Miranda f­amilies are caught, like the Capulets and the Montagues, in an almost mythic conflict, one that emerges from stubborn pride and intractable machismo. Like her heralded debut, The Wind That Lays Waste, Selva Almada’s fierce and tender second novel is an unforgettable portrayal of characters who initially seem to stand in opposition, but are ultimately revealed to be bound by their similarities.

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Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park (November 9th)

Love in the Big City is the English-language debut of Sang Young Park, one of Korea’s most exciting young writers. A runaway bestseller, the novel hit the top five lists of all the major bookstores and went into nine printings. Both award-winning for its unique literary voice and perspective, and particularly resonant with young readers, it has been a phenomenon in Korea and is poised to capture a worldwide readership.

Told in four parts that recall the structure of Han Kang’s The VegetarianLove in the Big City is an energetic, joyful, and moving novel that depicts both the glittering nighttime world of Seoul and the bleary-eyed morning-after. Young is a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student who pinballs from home to class to the beds of recent Tinder matches. He and Jaehee, his female best friend and roommate, frequent nearby bars where they push away their anxieties about their love lives, families, and money with rounds of soju and ice-cold Marlboro Reds that they keep in their freezer. Yet over time, even Jaehee leaves Young to settle down, leaving him alone to care for his ailing mother and to find companionship in his relationships with a series of men, including one whose handsomeness is matched by his coldness, and another who might end up being the great love of his life.

A brilliantly written novel filled with powerful sensory descriptions and both humor and emotion, Love in the Big City is an exploration of millennial loneliness as well as the joys of queer life, that should appeal to readers of Sayaka Murata, Tao Lin, and Cho Nam-Joo.

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Dark Tourist by Hasanthika Sirisena (December 3rd)

(Blogger’s Note: This is an essay collection, not a work of fiction.)

Dark tourism—visiting sites of war, violence, and other traumas experienced by others—takes different forms in Hasanthika Sirisena’s stunning excavation of the unexpected places (and ways) in which personal identity and the riptides of history meet. The 1961 plane crash that left a nuclear warhead buried near her North Carolina hometown, juxtaposed with reflections on her father’s stroke. A visit to Jaffna in Sri Lanka—the country of her birth, yet where she is unmistakably a foreigner—to view sites from the recent civil war, already layered over with the narratives of the victors. A fraught memory of her time as a young art student in Chicago that is uneasily foundational to her bisexual, queer identity today. The ways that life-changing impairments following a severe eye injury have shaped her thinking about disability and self-worth.

Deftly blending reportage, cultural criticism, and memoir, Sirisena pieces together facets of her own sometimes-fractured self to find wider resonances with the human universals of love, sex, family, and art—and with language’s ability to both fail and save us. Dark Tourist becomes then about finding a home, if not in the world, at least within the limitless expanse of the page.

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Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel (December 7th)

49247150Renu Amin always seemed perfect: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Renu is binge-watching soap operas and simmering with old resentments. She can’t stop wondering if, thirty-five years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, has everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories he fled a decade ago. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally say goodbye and move on.

Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. Renu sends an innocent Facebook message to the man she almost married, sparking an emotional affair that calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself. Akash slips back into bad habits as he confronts his darkest secrets―including what really happened between him and the first boy who broke his heart. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created, between making each other happy and setting themselves free.

By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.

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Read Between the Lines by Rachel Lacey (December 14th)

Books are Rosie Taft’s life. And ever since she took over her mother’s beloved Manhattan bookstore, they’ve become her home too. The only thing missing is her own real-life romance like the ones she loves to read about, and Rosie has an idea of who she might like to sweep her off her feet. She’s struck up a flirty online friendship with lesbian romance author Brie, and what could be more romantic than falling in love with her favorite author?

Jane Breslin works hard to keep her professional and personal lives neatly separated. By day, she works for the family property development business. By night, she puts her steamier side on paper under her pen name: Brie. Jane hasn’t had much luck with her own love life, but her online connection with a loyal reader makes Jane wonder if she could be the one.

When Rosie learns that her bookstore’s lease has been terminated by Jane’s company, romance moves to the back burner. Even though they’re at odds, there’s no denying the sparks that fly every time they’re together. When their online identities are revealed, will Jane be able to write her way to a happy ending, or is Rosie’s heart a closed book?

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis (December 28th)

As executive chef at one of the hottest restaurants in DC, DeShawn Franklin has almost everything he’s ever wanted. He’s well-known, his restaurant is Michelin starred and he can write his own ticket anywhere he wants. Until his grandmother calls him home and drops two bombshells:

1) She has cancer and she’s not seeking treatment.

2) She’s willing half her estate to DeShawn’s ex-husband, Malik.

Make that three bombshells. 

3) That whole divorce thing? It didn’t quite go through. DeShawn and Malik are still married.

And when DeShawn’s shady uncle contests Grandma’s will, there’s only one path back to justice: play it like he and Malik have reconciled. They need to act like a married couple just long enough to dispense with the lawsuit.

Once DeShawn is back in Malik’s orbit, it’s not hard to remember why they parted. All the reasons he walked away remain—but so do all the reasons he fell in love in the first place.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

Queer Enough: a Guest Post by Fair Youth Authors M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum

“Am I queer enough?” feels like the question that circulates the most around Pride month, and today on the site, M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum, authors of the brand-new Shakespeare reimagining Fair Youth, are here to talk about just that. Before we get to their post, here’s a little more on the book, which released June 7th from Ninestar Press!

Cover by Natasha Snow

Billie tried to make a small town life as a doctor’s fiancée work for her, but the dream of trading in Kentucky for the glitz and glamor of LA and selling her screenplays was too strong to fight. Unfortunately, the devil hides behind every corner in the City of Angels and she finds nothing but cockroach infested hotel rooms and broken dreams.

Everything changes when she meets an enigmatic and illustrious fellow writer named Kit. Struck with attraction and intrigue, Billie begins to question not only her dedication to her past life, but also her own sexuality. Kit comes with amazing connections and Billie’s work is getting more recognition than ever, until a powerful studio executive sets his sights on more than just her screenplays. His infatuation could cost Billie her career and, maybe, one of them their lives.

Buy it: Ninestar Press | Amazon

And here’s the post!

One of us is outgoing, the other is terribly shy. One is list-oriented and organized, the other is a hot mess with a soft spot for spontaneity. One of us is super open about their sexuality, the other never talks about it publicly.

You know, like a 21st century odd couple, but with queer authors.

Despite our differences, our fear about writing Fair Youth was the exact same – will they think we’re queer enough?

One of us is a blazing bi-sexual married to a man. The other is demi/bi-romantic. So the answer is obvious, right? We’re queer. We’re part of the community. But we’re both also straight-passing and a lot of times that means we get to experience both not being straight enough for the straights, nor queer enough to have our queerness validated by others in the community.

In the time between the first words being typed and the release of this book:

  • An author was attacked because she’d never vocally admitted to being queer and made to come out when she wasn’t ready.
  • There was discourse about bisexual main characters not counting as queer unless they ended up with someone of the same gender.
  • A reviewer of one of our other books DNF’ed it, gave it one star, and blatantly let their homophobia spew out all over Goodreads because we’d dared to make Beauty fall in love with the French maid instead of the Beast.
  • A gay NYT best selling author was accused of queerbaiting because a bi-sexual female in one of his books has a male partner.
  • An agent turned us down because the romance didn’t end up queer enough for them. (Spoiler alert: its hella queer)
  • Another agent turned us down because it was too queer for their tastes.
  • We were denied a review from a queer review site because our characters don’t end up in same sex relationships.
  • One of M.’s other bisexual stories was attacked online and accused of “baiting readers into reading hetero stories”

When we started writing, we knew we would have to muster up bravery that we weren’t sure we had. One of us lives in the Deep South, and (at the time) worked at a company that could (and would) fire her if they found out about this book. Bookstore and library signings are often out of the question for small press books, even more so for books with LGBTQ+ themes. Even our own families and friends would be hesitant to show public support for our book, not only because it was queer but also because of the “spice”.

(Side note: why is hetero sex seen as romance, but Sapphic sex is automatically erotica even when its not graphic?)

We prepared ourselves for these things. We just didn’t know that we would have to prepare ourselves to face so much backlash and scrutiny from our own community.

This book started out as something incredibly fun and light. It was an evolution of completely random Twitter DMs while streaming a TNT show about Shakespeare.

What if Shakespeare was alive today?
What if he was a woman?

What if he and Kit Marlowe had a thing?
(BTW: Kit Marlowe is the most punk Elizabethan poet and we will fight anyone about it.)

Approximately half way though we came to an inevitable fork in the road. Stay true to the historical figures we were writing or defy all evidence and come up with something completely new. Basically, let Shakespeare live out his queer, happy life with Kit Marlowe and continue to write beautiful poems about him (the version we wish happened IRL) – or send him back to his wife after Kit perishes under mysterious circumstances (the version that happened IRL).

We found our own workaround that did both (you’ll have to read to find out how!) but that’s when the feelings of inadequacy, fear, and judgement really hit.

Because we knew how it had to end. But we also knew that if people didn’t write us off because we weren’t openly in relationships with the same sex, they’d do it because our characters don’t end up in them.

And that’s not even counting the people that were going to write us off completely because–as one review said–“[they] don’t come to retellings for LGBT stories,” or worse, because they’re just blatantly homophobic.

So why didn’t we give up? It would have been so much more comfortable to leave this story on our hard drives and continue on with our lives. But we knew there had to be more people like us out there. People that have felt like Billie does–like she never even considered her sexuality until Kit challenges it. People that have felt like Kit – out and proud but angry that she has to keep fighting against stereotypes and misogyny. People like us who constantly wondered if they’re queer enough.

So please let this guest post serve as a reminder:

  • You ARE queer enough
  • You belong
  • You are worthy of love and art
  • Your life and sexuality are valid
  • Pick up a copy of Fair Youth

And just so you are wondering if you are still valid even with the gnawing fear inside you, this is the conversation from the two of us when this blog post was done.

M. Dalto: It’s a harsh truth and reality but there it is

Laynie: I think it’s something that a lot of people like us (and our readers) will relate to.

M. Dalto: Are you ready to out yourself to the literary world?

Laynie: No, but that’s why we wrote the post. Because it doesn’t matter if I’m ready. If we want readers to love our characters, I have to be. And Billie and Kit deserve it.

***

Co-authors, co-owners, and best friends – M. and Laynie combine their strengths to create queer characters with sass in the contemporary and fantasy genres.

When writing alone, M. is most well-known for her The Empire Series works and Laynie for Adeline’s Aria. Together they have published Faust University and Escaping the Grey through EQP and Fair Youth through Ninestar Press .

When they aren’t crafting their own characters, they are the co-owners of Sword and Silk Books, an independent publishing company focused on engaging stories that empower readers.

New Pride Month Picture Books!

It has been an absolutely fabulous season for picture books that embody Pride, so whether you’ve got a little one to shop for, a library to fill, or you just love beautiful words and artwork, check out these new picture books!

Prince & Knight: Tale of the Shadow King
Text: Daniel Haack
Illustration: Stevie Lewis
Out now from GLAAD and Little Bee Books

Have you heard the thrilling tale
of the prince and his dear knight?
Their love for one another
inspired everyone in sight.

Our brave and dashing heroes, the prince and the knight, are happily married and their kingdom is prospering, but soon, a fog of darkness that blocks the sun spreads across their land. They get word that the cause of this is a dark and mysterious Shadow King, and they rush off to find and stop him, but encounter many obstacles along the way. Will they be able to restore the light to their kingdom?

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Grandad’s Camper
Text and Illustration by Harry Woodgate
Out now from Little Bee Books

Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. Gramps just made everything extra special. But after Gramps died, granddad hasn’t felt like traveling anymore. So, their amazing granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to fix up the old camper and get Grandad excited to explore again.

This beautiful picture book honors love and reminds us not only to remember those we have lost, but to celebrate them.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

The Pirate Mums
Text: Jodie Lancet-Grant
Illustration: Lydia Corry
Out Now from Oxford University Press

Billy’s family is not what you’d call ordinary. His mums won’t listen to NORMAL music. They love to sing sea shanties and dance jigs in the lounge. Their clothes are highly unusual, they have a rude parrot for a pet, and their taste in house design is, well . . . FISHY. Billy wishes his family could be more like everyone else’s. Until a swashbuckling adventure changes everything!

Buy It: Blackwell’s | Book Depository

Two Grooms on a Cake
Text: Rob Sanders
Illustration: Robbie Cathro
Out now from GLAAD and Little Bee Books

This is the story of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell and their inspiring story becoming the first married gay couple in the US fifty years ago.

Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Pride Puppy
Text: Robin Stevenson
Illustration: Julie McLaughlin
Out now from Orca Book Publishers

A young child and their family are having a wonderful time together celebrating Pride Day–meeting up with Grandma, making new friends and eating ice cream. But then something terrible happens: their dog gets lost in the parade! Luckily, there are lots of people around to help reunite the pup with his family.

This rhyming alphabet book tells a lively story, with rich, colorful illustrations that will have readers poring over every detail as they spot items starting with each of the letters of the alphabet. An affirming and inclusive book that offers a joyful glimpse of a Pride parade and the vibrant community that celebrates this day each year.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Daddy & Dada
Text: Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster
Illustration: Lauren May
Out now from Little Brown

Hi, I’m Rumi.
Some of my friends have one mom and one dad.
Some have one mom or one dad.
I have two dads. Daddy and Dada.

Daddy sings songs with me. Dada reads me stories.
Every family is different.
And that’s pretty cool.

This sweet, open-hearted book began as a love letter from authors Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster to their daughter—and became a joyous celebration of love, family, and acceptance for all to read and share.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns
Text: Katherine Locke
Illustration: Anne Passchier
Out now from Little Brown

Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away–sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.

Filled with bright, graphic illustrations, this simple and poignant story about finding yourself is the perfect introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns for readers of all ages.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Llama Glamarama
Text: Simon James Green
Illustration: Garry Parsons
Out now from Orchard Books

Larry lives a slow and quiet life at the barn with all the other llamas, just the way they like it. But at night when everyone has gone to bed, Larry loves to dress up in bright costumes and DANCE! He has to hide this from the others, for fear that they won’t approve of his raucous ways. One day, he stumbles upon the Llama Glamarama, a carnival full of music, laughter, and yes-dancing!

Will this vibrant celebration give Larry the pride he needs to bring his dance back home? A bright and colorful rhyming story with a powerful message about celebrating differences, Llama Glamarama is the perfect Pride picture book for everyone!

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

My Two Dads and Me
Text: Michael Joosten
Illustration: Izak Zenou
Out now from Random House Children’s Books

Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy dads and their kids throughout their day–eating breakfast, getting dressed, heading out to the park, and settling back in at night with a bubble bath and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this diverse and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup. It’s an ideal baby-shower and first-birthday gift in a children’s book market where gay parents are still greatly underrepresented.

With artwork by acclaimed and much-followed fashion illustrator Izak Zenou, this is a stylish, smart, humorous, family-focused book that will have babies and their two dads giggling as they enjoy it together.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster
Text and Illustration: Manka Kasha
coming August 10th from Feiwel & Friends

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.

Personal and whimsical, Manka Kasha’s debut picture book is a beautiful story about understanding your anxiety and finding the courage to face it.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

 

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington

I have been anticipating this book for about a billion years (like, you truly cannot imagine how closely I have stalked this book on Goodreads to look for a pub date), so I am extremely excited to be revealing the cover today for In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington, a contemporary Middle Grade novel releasing April 26, 2022 from FSG BYR! Here’s the story:

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.

And here’s the dreamy, beautiful cover, illustrated by Tonya Engel and designed by Mallory Grigg!

And here’s Mariama with three things she wants you to know about In The Key Of Us and this stunning cover:

1. I’ve been a big fan of Tonya Engel’s work ever since I saw her beautiful art on the cover of Kacen Callender’s Hurricane Child. While my publisher worked with Engel on the initial drafts, I did get to give input on the cover along the way. I wanted the cover to convey the way that a Black girl’s skin is radiant during summer and also make it clear that this is a first-love story full of adventure. I think Engel has nailed my vision here and I love that Andi and Zora are holding hands, that they are floating in a kayak and staring into all that the sky has to offer.

2. This book is written in the voices of my two main characters— Andi and Zora, and writing a dual POV story was a huge challenge. Initially, Andi’s voice came to me clearer than Zora’s, but I think that’s because Zora and I share more similarities to one another and it was harder to distance myself from her. In many ways, I was and still am a Zora when it comes to being a perfectionist and not wanting to let people down. As much as I think the trumpet is an amazing instrument, like Zora I grew up playing the flute. Andi in many ways is a mash-up of the kind of girl I wanted to be.

3. In the Key of Us is my ode to Queer, Black girls who love music, art, and the outdoors. It was important to me to write a story about first love, but also about friendship, artistic passion, and what it means to grieve and grow-up. I hope that this book will provide those who find it with validation, a sense of adventure, and permission to make or listen to music often, love themselves fully, and know that even when life gets hard, they are never alone.

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Mariama J. Lockington is a transracial adoptee, author, and educator. She has been telling stories and making her own books since the second grade, when she wore shortalls and flower leggings every day to school. Her debut middle grade novel For Black Girls Like Me (FSG BYR 2019) is an ALA Notable Middle Grade Book, a Booklist Editors Choice title, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard title, a Project LIT Book Club 2019-2020 selection, and has earned five starred reviews from Shelf Awareness, Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Mariama’s second middle grade novel In the Key Of Us (FSG BYR) will be out in April of 2022 and her debut YA novel Forever is Now (FSG BYR) is also forthcoming. Mariama calls many places home, but currently lives in Kentucky with her partner and her little sausage dog, Henry. You can find her on Twitter @marilock and on Instagram @forblackgirlslikeme.

Better Know an Author: Kyle Lukoff

I am truly beyond excited to have Kyle Lukoff on the site today to discuss his work, and if you think I’m exaggerating, please know that this is the first interview I’ve been able to do in like a year because so many questions burst out of my it was like my excitement shook me out of a cursed state. His newest is his debut Middle Grade, Too Bright to See, which has received approximately as many stars as the sky in Montana, and he’s here to talk about that, his other work, and some pretty fascinating current events!

First of all, huge congrats on your first Middle Grade! Too Bright to See is such a beautiful book, and it’s fascinating to see a book for young readers so grounded in death. How did you come to choose that approach to tell Bug’s journey?

Thank you!!

54786049. sy475 The brainstorm that led to this book was the decision that instead of writing two different middle grade novels (a trans boy book and a ghost story using an old writing prompt of my dad’s), I could kill two birds with one stone. So I never intended to write a book about death, loss, and grief, but for there to be a ghost there has to be a dead person, and a relationship between the dead person and the alive person, so that part came about almost as an afterthought. But I have always loved kids books about death–I have really strong memories of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, and read The Bridge to Terabithia countless times, and as a kid I always felt like the books that dealt with death well were the only books being honest to kids, about how sometimes bad things happen and then you feel bad. I didn’t have any experience with death as a kid (aside from a few pets), but felt bad a lot, and think I channeled a lot of that into Too Bright To See.

Bug finds some wonderful acceptance among friends, which is a really great thing to see on the page, especially for readers who could use the encouragement of knowing it’s possible, but it also reminded me of the first time I was on a queer panel where we got a question about whether we were “making it look too easy” by writing happy stories. What’s your feeling on portraying happier vs. harsher experiences in queer and/or trans lit?

Well! If anyone accuses me of “making it look too easy” I will invite them to look around at a) the world and b) the vast majority of books featuring trans kids and how they also feature transphobia. If they are concerned that showing positive responses to coming out will give kids the wrong idea, they’ll be thrilled to learn that my approach is a distinct aberration.

I do like writing positive experiences of coming out, in some ways fo idealistic reasons–showing kids, parents, siblings, etc. that it is possible, that you can respond with love and acceptance, and that there’s no earthly reason to do anything else. But the real reason I don’t focus on transphobia in my books is because, quite frankly, I don’t find it interesting. I’ve experienced plenty of it in my life. It’s hard, and it’s bad. But it’s also boring, because instead of just getting on with my day, I have to deal with some cis person and their ignorant and/or hateful ideas, none of which are new, or unique, or interesting, or intellectually sound, they’re all just rehashed and reheated talking points from before I was born. I’d rather write books about trans characters getting on with their lives instead of reacting to other people’s banal, unimaginative prejudice or bigotry.

Speaking of both happy and harsh experiences, you’ve had quite a 2021 so far, which is culminating in your traveling to the Utah State Capitol to give a reading and speech at a rally for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Schools. Can you walk us through the events here and maybe give us a glimpse into what your visit?

“Culminating” is an optimistic word for May! But, yes, it’s been a Lot. Basically, what happened is that a school district outside of Salt Lake City decided to “pause” a program distributing books to kids that focused on progressive themes, mostly racial justice, because a child brought one of my books (which wasn’t even included in that program) to school and asked his teacher to read it. It turned into a tremendous transphobic kerfuffle, and teachers used it as a catalyst to organize a rally calling for more LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. You can read my speech on my website here. Also, one month later a similar situation erupted outside of Austin, Texas.

I am 37 years old, came out as trans when I was around twenty, and have spent most of my adult life just being some guy doing stuff. It’s strange and upsetting to suddenly have to convince or remind people that we share a common humanity, and that my trans identity is one aspect of my lived experience rather than a rhetorical gotcha or a talking point. It’s also, as I said, boring. But I also feel really grateful that I’m only doing this work now that I’m firmly set into my life as a trans adult, because I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to advocate for yourself when you’re just discovering who that is.

You’ve now published books for three different age groups, but the Max and Friends series in particular is targeted to one that feels extremely left behind in queer literature. Why do you think that is, and do you have any recommendations for other LGBTQ+ titles for the early reader (or “pre-MG”) age group?

51648108. sx318 sy475 Early readers across the board have been in need of diversification for a long time. I can’t speak to why that is, but entrenched conservative opinions in publishing are likely the cause of it! Just, longstanding ideas of what is “right” for kids, and who exactly they think of when they think of “kids.” These are also books that are more likely to be selected by parents and educators, and then disseminated to kids, instead of kids choosing for themselves.

And then, well, it is tricky to organically incorporate LGBTQ themes into books for younger audiences. You can have those identities among parents, siblings, community members, etc., but the stories should be focused on the children. And little kids are still in so many ways forming their identities, that it’s challenging to honestly represent how a queer identity might manifest in someone that age. I would love to see what other authors come up with, because I’m kind of out of ideas!

We of course also must discuss When Aidan Became a Brother, your beautiful and critically acclaimed picture book illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. What was that collaborative process like, especially for a book so close to you personally?

39987021Authors typically have very little, if any, collaboration with their illustrators! When it came to Aidan, Kaylani had free rein to interpret my words in a way that matched her creative vision for the story–the outfits, the setting, the emotional tenor of each scene. She’s Black and Filipina, which is why she depicted Aidan’s family that way, and I love telling kids about how we both put parts of our story into this book.

I did ask for a few small changes–the only one I remember is something hinting at what Aidan’s old name was, but since I never imagined what his name used to be, I asked to replace that detail because I didn’t want to give people permission to speculate. But I largely trusted her, not just because I’m not a visually-minded person, and now I can’t imagine the book any other way.

Also, Aidan is not especially close to me personally. It is close to me politically, in that I have a lot of opinions about transmasculinity and misogyny, parental responsibility, gender reveal parties, etc. etc., but my life story isn’t at all close to Aidan’s–I came out when I was in college, I don’t have a little sibling, etc. etc. I might feel more protective if someone were to make a picture book biography of me! (no one do that ever please and thank you).

You have so much professional experience with children, and prior to COVID, school visits were also a big part of being an author for you. What do you think adult authors of queer literature for kids misunderstand the most about their audiences, and what should they keep in mind when writing for them?

Kids are entire human beings with inner lives and moral compasses all their own, and you cannot mold a person’s sense of self by just telling them what to think. I read a lot of scenes in books (not just queer-themed) where there are moments that are so clearly didactic, imparting important lessons about intersectionality or assimilation or privilege or what-have-you, and I’m not sure if those land as clearly as the authors are hoping they will. When I read middle grade novels aloud to my students, I would often stop to discuss important scenes, and what kids took away from them was often nothing like what the author had intended (in some cases I knew the author and could ask about their intent, in other cases it was just clear to me as an adult). So I wish authors focused more on telling a story and allowing for varied answers to complex questions, instead of trying to tell kids what they should believe. I’m definitely guilty of that too, so I’m also telling this to myself.

Of all the age groups you’ve written for, is there one that’s closest to your heart and/or one you feel is most specifically in need of trans literature written by an actual trans person? Is there one you simply prefer most from a craft perspective?

Fifth grade is very close to my heart, because that’s the year my students graduate from the school I worked at–so, they were generally the kids I knew the longest (the 5th grade class of 2021 includes students I met when they were two!), and it was incredible to watch them develop into sophisticated, mature thinkers. When I write middle grade I think, more than anything, of my fifth grade students, because in one class a kid might be re-reading Wimpy Kid and another might be tackling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Martian (true story!). I love trying to reach all those kids at once.

I do think that all ages would benefit from trans-themed books by trans writers, because…well, why not? I feel really grateful I’ve been able to build a career in so many different genres (more to come! including a board book! keep an eye out for announcements) and want that for my peers.

From a craft perspective, I will always love the challenge of writing as much as possible in as few words as possible. I’ve been branching out into more creative structures; I have one book coming out that is the simplest story imaginable, told in a complex rhyme scheme that I think I invented, and that is the most fun I’ve putting a book together (well, “fun” in that I pulled out my notebook during an evening of existential despair, and putting words together like jigsaw pieces helped). I have another forthcoming project that’s an epistolary picture book, and I loved the restrictions that puts on the story. Basically the more restrictions on a project the more fun I have with it–someday I might attempt a novel written in blank verse or just (“just”) iambic pentameter, but that might be too ambitious.

I imagine launching your debut novel in a pandemic sucks, even if it’s not your first published work. What do you feel like you missed out on the most as a result, and were there any pleasant surprises that came with it? How did you celebrate?

It does suck! One piece of gratitude I’ve been holding onto, though, is that Aidan came out in 2019, and I took that fall off from my day job (which I’ve since quit) to travel all over the country. If I had had to cancel all that, I don’t know what kind of emotional state I’d be in (not a good one, I think!) so I have so much sympathy for my author friends debuting into this.

So, I know a lot of what I missed out on–baths in hotel rooms that someone else paid for, kid-made signs welcoming me to their school, a significant percentage of my projected income. But on the other hand, I don’t think I would have made my deadline for novel #2 if I hadn’t been just home writing. I also sold a bunch of other projects, for a bunch of different age groups. Too Bright To See still got six starred reviews. I still got to launch with Maulik, which was dreamy. I’m not good at celebrating in the best of times, but right after the virtual launch a neighborhood friend took me out for a beer and some microwaved crinkle fries. It was really nice weather, and I think it’ll be a good memory, everything aside.

Of course there’s already a lot of work under your belt in such a short time, but are there any other categories or genres you’d really like to publish that you haven’t attempted yet?

I love writing short stories (for adults) and have a lot of them that I keep trying to get published and they keep getting rejected! I am also not trying very hard, I suppose, because that whole process is really unpleasant. But in general I would love to branch out into adult fiction, not least of which because I’m worried that all the fun and cool adult trans writers think that I’m the FTM Mr. Rogers and I want them to think that I’m a fun and cool grown-up too.

Are there any queer and/or trans books you’d particularly like to recommend, especially if you don’t think they’ve gotten sufficient airtime?

So, my favorite thing is intra-community conflict and dialogue. As I said earlier, about why I don’t really write about transphobia, I simply don’t think that anything cis/straight people have to say about trans/queer people is interesting, but I am endlessly fascinated with how we treat each other, and how conflict within LGBTQIA+ communities play out, in both deadly serious ways and more frivolous ones. There are quite a few authors doing this, but I especially love Lev Rosen’s YA novels Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) and Camp.

What’s up next for you?

I’m really excited for my first nonfiction picture book, a biography that I wrote with Gavin Grimm. He’s the trans activist who, as a teenager, worked with the ACLU (and Chase Strangio) to fight his school’s bathroom policy. It’s called If You’re A Kid Like Gavin, and will be out in summer of ’22 from Katherine Tegen Books, illustrated by J Yang. I also have…um…5? or 6? new books that haven’t been announced yet, so keep an eye out for those as well!

***

(c) Erin Jones-Le
Cat: Jasmine

Kyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people. Right now you can read his debut middle grade novel TOO BRIGHT TO SEE, A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS, WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER (which won the 2020 Stonewall Award!), the MAX AND FRIENDS series, and EXPLOSION AT THE POEM FACTORY. You will be able to read more books by him in the next years, including a non-fiction picture book about teenage trans activist Gavin Grimm, and a book for babies.

Kyle spent eight years as an elementary school librarian, but now he writes full time and presents on children’s and youth literature all across the country. He got hired at a bookstore when he was sixteen, which means he’s been working at the intersection of books and people for well over half his life.

Kyle is represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch. Find him on Twitter at @KyleLukoff and Facebook at fb.me/kylelukoffwrites. All purchasing links are through his affiliate page at Bookshop.org.

New Releases: June 8th, 2021

Middle Grade

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow

Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding–meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Both Can Be True by Jules Machias

Ash is no stranger to feeling like an outcast. For someone who cycles through genders, it’s a daily struggle to feel in control of how people perceive you. Some days Ash is undoubtedly girl, but other times, 100 percent guy. Daniel lacks control too—of his emotions. He’s been told he’s overly sensitive more times than he can count. He can’t help the way he is, and he sure wishes someone would accept him for it.

So when Daniel’s big heart leads him to rescue a dog that’s about to be euthanized, he’s relieved to find Ash willing to help. The two bond over their four-legged secret. When they start catching feelings for each other, however, things go from cute to complicated. Daniel thinks Ash is all girl . . . what happens when he finds out there’s more to Ash’s story?

With so much on the line—truth, identity, acceptance, and the life of an adorable pup named Chewbarka—will Ash and Daniel forever feel at war with themselves because they don’t fit into the world’s binaries? Or will their friendship help them embrace the beauty of living in between?

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Young Adult

Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

53284187. sy475 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.

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Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura

When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.

That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.

Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.

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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

The Marvelous by Claire Kann

Everyone thinks they know Jewel Van Hanen – heiress turned actress turned social media darling who created the massively popular video-sharing app, Golden Rule.

After mysteriously disappearing for a year, Jewel made her dramatic return with an announcement: Three lucky Golden Rule users have been chosen to compete in a mystery treasure hunt at her private estate – all for an unimaginable cash prize. Luna: fifteen, fearless, and Jewel’s biggest fan. Nicole: the new Queen of Golden Rule given an invitation she couldn’t refuse. Stella: the brilliant outsider with a killer ulterior motive.

As the weekend goes on, the line between reality and the game begins to blur and the players begin to realize that money isn’t the only thing at stake.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson

In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.

As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Queen of All by Anya Josephs

The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.

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Every Body Shines: Sixteen Stories About Living Fabulously Fat ed. by Cassandra Newbould

54860255An intersectional, feminist YA anthology from some of today’s most exciting voices across a span of genres, all celebrating body diversity and fat acceptance through short stories.

Fat girls and boys and nonbinary teens are: friends who lift each other up, heroes who rescue themselves, big bodies in space, intellects taking up space, and bodies looking and feeling beautiful. They express themselves through fashion, sports and other physical pursuits, through food, and music, and art. They are flirting and falling in love. They are loving to themselves and one another. With stories that feature fat main characters starring in a multitude of stories and genres, and written by authors who live these lives too, this is truly a unique collection that shows fat young people the representation they deserve.

With a foreword by Aubry Gordon, creator of Your Fat Friend, and with stories by:

Nafiza Azad, Chris Baron, Sheena Boekweg, Linda Camacho, Kelly deVos, Alex Gino, Claire Kann, amanda lovelace, Hillary Monahan, Cassandra Newbould, Francina Simone, Rebecca Sky, Monique Gray Smith, Renée Watson, Catherine Adel West, Jennifer Yen

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Monstrous Design by Kat Dunn (10th)

1794, London: Camille and Al are desperately hunting Olympe’s kidnapper. From the glamorous excesses of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to the city’s seedy underbelly, they are caught in a dangerous game of lies and deceit. And a terrible new enemy lies in wait with designs more monstrous than they could ever imagine… Can Camille play on to the end or will she be forced to show her hand?

In Paris, the Duc is playing his own dangerous games. With Ada in his thrall, old loyalties are thrown into question. The Battalion are torn apart as never before, and everything – Ada’s love for Camille, her allegiance to the battalion itself – is under threat.

Buy it: Book Depository

Adult

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

This was previously published in the UK by Dialogue Books

In the 1950s, ex-boxer Norman Alonso is a determined and humble Jamaican who has immigrated to Britain with his wife and children to secure a brighter future. Blighted with unexpected illness and racism, Norman and his family are resilient, but are all too aware that their family will need more than just hope to survive in their new country.

At the turn of the millennium, Jesse seeks a fresh start in London, escaping a broken immediate family, a repressive religious community and his depressed hometown in the industrial Black Country. But once he arrives he finds himself at a loss for a new center of gravity, and turns to sex work, music and art to create his own notions of love, masculinity and spirituality.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

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Doubting Thomas by Matthew Clark Davison

Thomas McGurrin is a fourth-grade teacher and openly gay man at a private primary school serving Portland, Oregon’s wealthy progressive elite when he’s falsely accused of inappropriately touching a male student. The accusation comes just as Thomas is thrust back into the center of his unusual family by his younger brother’s battle with cancer. Although cleared of the accusation, Thomas is forced to resign from a job he loves during a potentially life-changing family drama.

Davison’s novel explores the discrepancy between the progressive ideals and persistent negative stereotypes among the privileged regarding social status, race, and sexual orientation and the impact of that discrepancy on friendships and family relations.

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The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

55338994Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires.

In order to save himself and a beloved friend, Percy, Lord Holland must go against every gentlemanly behavior he holds dear to gain what he needs most: a book that once belonged to his mother, a book his father never lets out of his sight and could be Percy’s savior. More comfortable in silk-filled ballrooms than coffee shops frequented by criminals, his attempts to hire the roughly hewn highwayman, formerly known as Gladhand Jack, proves equal parts frustrating and electrifying.

Kit refuses to participate in the robbery but agrees to teach Percy how to do the deed. Percy knows he has little choice but to submit and as the lessons in thievery begin, he discovers thievery isn’t the only crime he’s desperate to commit with Kit.

But when their careful plan goes dangerously wrong and shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, can these stolen hearts overcome the impediments in their path?

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Nowhere Else by Felicia Davin

This is the third book in the Nowhere series.

Nowhere Else by [Felicia Davin]Solomon Lange was a brilliant, ambitious physicist until a catastrophe in his lab trapped him in the void between worlds. Newly rescued but traumatized and uncontrollably telekinetic, Lange no longer feels at home in the world or in his body. All he wants is to return to the Nowhere.

But one crew member—the intolerable, imperturbable, incredibly patient, unbearably gentle Jacob McCreery—refuses to let him. Jake insists that Lange is the only one who can fix the damage in his lab, a breach to the Nowhere that’s simultaneously devouring and distorting the space around it. Left open, the growing breach threatens all of humanity. Jake’s not ready to give up on saving the world just yet—and he’s willing to dodge whatever Lange throws at him.

Working together brings Lange and Jake closer than they’ve ever allowed themselves to be with anyone else. Can two wounded, lonely people repair each other in time to repair the world?

Buy it: Amazon

Memoir

55711622Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

From 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

Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi

In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free. Now, in this extraordinary memoir, the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji reveals the harrowing yet resolute truths of their own life. Through candid, intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family, Emezi traces the unfolding of a self and the unforgettable journey of a creative spirit stepping into power in the human world. Their story weaves through transformative decisions about their gender and body, their precipitous path to success as a writer, and the turmoil of relationships on an emotional, romantic, and spiritual plane, culminating in a book that is as tender as it is brutal.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

TBRainbow Alert: 2021 YA Starring QBIPoC, Part 2

For part 1, click here!

The Marvelous by Claire Kann (June 8th)

Everyone thinks they know Jewel Van Hanen – heiress turned actress turned social media darling who created the massively popular video-sharing app, Golden Rule.

After mysteriously disappearing for a year, Jewel made her dramatic return with an announcement: Three lucky Golden Rule users have been chosen to compete in a mystery treasure hunt at her private estate – all for an unimaginable cash prize. Luna: fifteen, fearless, and Jewel’s biggest fan. Nicole: the new Queen of Golden Rule given an invitation she couldn’t refuse. Stella: the brilliant outsider with a killer ulterior motive.

As the weekend goes on, the line between reality and the game begins to blur and the players begin to realize that money isn’t the only thing at stake.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon (22nd)

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting.

Long-time friends.

Bitter exes.

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (June 29th)

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (July 13th)

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 | Amazon | IndieBound

A Clash of Steel by CB Lee (September 7th)

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

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles (September 21st)

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her … and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure … especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love – whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (September 21st)

52459864The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger (October 12th)

Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She’s always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he’s been cast from home. He’s found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli’s best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven’t been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

Darcie Little Badger introduced herself to the world with Elatsoe. In A Snake Falls to Earth, she draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes (November 2nd)

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 28th)

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