All posts by Dahlia Adler

Finding Myself Through Writing Queer Romance, a Guest Post by Wench Author Maxine Kaplan

Fun fact: one of the last things I did before the pandemic hit was have lunch with this author, so you can say I’ve been looking forward to this book for a loooong time. Maxine Kaplan’s Wench releases today from Amulet/Abrams, and here’s the story:

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

And here’s Maxine, with a guest post that’s very close to my heart about finding herself through writing Wench and its bi main character!

I started writing Wench with a clear and deeply-held agenda: There would be no romance.

It’s not something I talked about a lot. When I talked about the book, I talked about my simultaneous love for and frustration with classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy; I talked about how I wanted to flesh out fantasy archetypes with humor and humanity; and I mostly talked about my titular tavern wench, Tanya, and how I’d never seen that ubiquitous non-playable background character get to have her own adventure, or even a name most of the time. What I didn’t say was that I was determined to get Tanya through one (1) whole entire epic quest without the interference or influence of a love interest.

I thought of it as a secret mission. I knew how much readers, and especially readers of YA fantasy, expected at least a glimmer of romantic or sexual tension, and I didn’t want to turn them off before they even cracked the spine. But it was that very expectation of romance that bothered me. I hated the expectation that a girl couldn’t have an epic adventure without falling in love along the way. I cringed at the idea of Tanya achieving self-discovery and actualization through the medium of who she wanted to kiss. It felt wrong to me—even anti-feminist. I loathed the idea that something I wrote could reinforce the message that young people receive every day that says: You are nothing and no one until somebody wants to make out with you.

Tanya was going on a quest to win back her tavern. The world I had devised and the story engine I had built didn’t need any romance to make it go. And I was determined that I wouldn’t shoe-horn in a romance (and especially not a love triangle) just to fit the market—because Tanya deserved better, damn it!

And then Tanya taught me that I was wrong. Because, despite my clear intentions to the contrary, two characters showed up who would just not stop having chemistry with Tanya. One was a boy and he was very much within my own crush wheelhouse historically speaking: smart, funny, and angry. I think I just liked writing him and, slowly, he and Tanya fell into chemistry, like real people do. It was quiet, but it was on the page. I couldn’t deny it.

The other was a girl and nothing in my own writing has ever surprised me more.

This girl was always part of the story, for sure. She had been in my outline from go. I knew she was a happy-go-lucky rogue; a thief who loved violence and smiled a lot. So that’s how I wrote her and, without my even having to try, she and hyper-competent, independent, snarky Tanya smacked into each other with the electricity of a lightning storm. Writing good sexual tension—satisfying, believable tension–is hard to do. I know it is, because I’ve tried to do it. But with these two, I didn’t have to try. I didn’t even think about it, not once. It just was.

It got to the point that my strict avoidance of any mention of romance was rendering the story legitimately confusing for any reader. That’s how clear the chemistry between these two was—the completely unplanned, unlooked for, and even unwanted chemistry. But however inadvertent the romance between the two girls was, I eventually had to own up to a simple fact: I wrote it, so I was invested in it.

I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s as a cis female. It was a time when calling oneself bisexual had a lot of cultural connotations that I was frankly uncomfortable with. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I had a lot of internalized biphobia. I remember being “scared” that I might be attracted to girls—because, sometimes, I was. But I was also attracted to guys. I had no confusion on that score, so I quietly filed all the moments of attraction to girls away in a mental folder labeled “anomalies” and got on with my life as a straight woman.

That was a mistake. That was short-sighted. I wish that, when I was Tanya’s age, I had paid better attention to who and what I actually was: queer. And the thing is? I think that if I had been Tanya’s age today, in 2021, I wouldn’t have had that problem. Because I would have had books like the ones LGBTQReads writes about every day.

And that’s how I came around on romance in my YA. Wench is a book, at its heart, about found families and finding community, which in and of itself, is a process hardwired to identity. You can’t find where you belong without knowing who you are. And you can’t find out who you are by shutting down, or shutting out, the voices in your head telling you who you want. A good book romance isn’t about finding a partner; it’s about a character learning more about themselves, and, sometimes, a romance—whether it’s successful, disastrous, or unrequited— can help with that process. It can be a means to an end as much as it can be its own happily ever after.

The romance I found in Wench helped me remember who I was. It reminded me to honor what has always been true about me. And there’s nothing anti-feminist about that.

***

Maxine Kaplan is a private investigator and writer. Her books are The Accidental Bad Girl and Wench. She lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY, where she caters to the whims of her dim, but soulful cat. Follow her on Twitter @maxinegkaplan.

2021 Paperback Redesigns

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis (January 5)

New cover by Chung-Yun Yoo

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls—they know their luck is anything but.

Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings.

Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally kills a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

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

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton (January 5)

Art by Sebastian Giacobino

Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost.

Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy.

Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire.

These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.

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Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (January 12)

Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song.

In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he’s come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student’s confession recalls his own first love, a stranger’s seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with another foreigner opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.

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Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (January 19)

Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with the lesson that the city is safe for everyone. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature who some might call monstrous but, in reality, is anything but, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a true monster–and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. No one has encountered monsters in years, though, and Jam’s quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth is met with doubt and disbelief.

This award-winning novel from a rising-star author asks: What really makes a monster, and how do you save the world from something if no one will admit it exists?

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Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (February 16)

New design by Kristin Boyle
Once a year, a road appears in the forest. And at the end of it, the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons. Lucy’s game isn’t for the faint of heart. If you win, you escape with your life. But if you lose….Sara’s sister disappeared one year ago–and only Sara knows where she is. Becca went to find the ghost of Lucy Gallows and is trapped on the road that leads to her. In the sleepy town of Briar Glen, Lucy’s road is nothing more than local lore. But Sara knows it’s real, and she’s going to find it.When Sara and her skeptical friends meet in the forest to search for Becca, the mysterious road unfurls before them. All they have to do is walk down it. But the path to Lucy is not of this world, and it has its own rules. Every mistake summons new horrors. Vengeful spirits and broken, angry creatures are waiting for them to slip, and no one is guaranteed safe passage. The only certainty is this: the road has a toll and it will be paid.Sara knows that if she steps onto the road, she might not come back. But Becca needs her.And Lucy is waiting.

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They Never Learn by Layne Fargo (April 21)

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, Dr. Clark searches for the worst man at Gorman University–professor, student, or otherwise–and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself…but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Dr. Clark insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident–everything Carly wishes she could be–and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay…and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

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Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman (May 11)

On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.

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The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski (May 11)

New art by Ruben Ireland

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

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

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

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You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan (June 1)

This is a special edition with bonus material from the authors.

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, author of Watch Over Me, We Are Okay, Hold Still, and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green).

Buy it: Bookshop | IndieBound

New Release Spotlight: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Look, it has been an impossible month for reading, but if there’s any premise that should absolutely grab you by the face at this time, it’s a trans woman’s novel about detransitioning, because, well, you’re up on recent discussions, yes? Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (published January 7th by Serpent’s Tail in the UK, and coming January 12th in the US via One World) is just such an attention-commanding novel, and though I haven’t gotten to read it yet, I absolutely cannot resist featuring it this month.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

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

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles

We’re honored to have Jay Coles on the site today, revealing the cover of his sophomore novel, Things We Couldn’t Say, which releases from Scholastic on September 21st, 2021! (Preorder links down below!) Here’s the story:

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.

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Baily Crawford and accompanied by a few words from the author!

I’m so very, very excited for the world to see the cover for Things We Couldn’t Say and for the world to eventually read what’s inside it! I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin and how he writes about the unique intersections and complexities of Blackness and queerness, racism and homophobia. I’ve always wanted to write a book attempting to explore that, too. I was and (continue to be) inspired by Mr. Baldwin. In fact, two of the main characters in Things We Couldn’t Say are named after the two main characters in Mr. Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.

During the process of writing this book, I faced trials of many kinds: crippling anxiety, depression, family conflicts. Together, we faced horrific racial injustices and a global pandemic, among other things. Throughout all of this, I felt burnt out, broken, beaten down, defeated, and thought I’d lost my way, my voice. I thought I couldn’t write anymore. But I kept thinking about what this book might mean to a Black kid and QPOC all over the world. This story sort of demanded that I write it. And I’m so, so thrilled that I did. This book saved me in so many ways. It helped me fight. It helped me process the things I couldn’t say. It made me brave. At the very least, I hope this book inspires you to be brave to talk about all the things you couldn’t say before!

–Jay Coles

Preorder Things We Couldn’t Say: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

(c) Victoria Ruth Photography

24-year-old Jay Coles is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, teaching middle school students, and composing for various music publishers. His acclaimed debut novel Tyler Johnson Was Here is based on true events in his life and inspired by police brutality in America. He resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Unofficial Ranking of Top Queer Villains: a Guest Post by Be Dazzled Author Ryan La Sala

I am delighted to welcome Reverie author Ryan La Sala to the site today to celebrate the publication of his dazzling new contemporary YA romance, Be Dazzled, which just released from Sourcebooks Fire yesterday! Before we get to Ryan’s absolutely hilarious and marvelously on-point post, here’s a little more about the book:

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

***

And here’s Ryan’s post, an unofficial ranking of queer villains! Take it away, Ryan!

***

As persistent as the fatiguingly masculine stalwart hero is the trope of their devious counterbalance—the bad guy who is effeminate, dramatic, and sassy. Wickedly fashionable. Prone to monologues. And, of course, queer-coded to hell. That’s right! Today, we’re talking about the Queer Villain.

A lot, and I mean a LOT, has been written about queer villainy. Its toxic recurrence as lazy storytelling shorthand in narrative arts, its destructive repercussions on the psyche of queer youth, and so on. That’s all good and well and important, but I’d like to take a brief break from the discourse to approach the subject from a different point of view—one of glorious appreciation.

You see, I love queer villains. I practically am one myself, what with all the velvet capes and cackling behind large paper fans. Growing up, I saw these characters not as destructive stereotypes but as answers to the question society kept asking little gay me: How will you survive a society that won’t accept you? What does an intolerant world deserve?

Queer villains answer this in their every action and inevitable yet fabulous failure, and I often root for them. When you understand a villain as queer, a lot of what they do to undermine the status quo starts to make a lot more sense. And so here I go with my unofficial ranking of my top queer villains.

1. HIM (The Powerpuff Girls) — The undeniably BEST queer villain is, of course, HIM. Flamboyant, powerful, and constantly high-kicking in thigh-high spiked heels, HIM is an aspiration in red, a demonic Santa Claus in satanic satin. My personal hero, and the tippity top of my queer, villainous Christmas tree.

2. Ursula (The Little Mermaid) — This is a no-brainer. Ursula is quite literally based on Divine the drag queen. Because of her, for years, I begged my dad to buy me a birdbath (which is what I thought Ursula’s cauldron looked like) so I, too, could trick pretty girls into depending on me for bad boy advice and potions. And never have I forgotten the importance of body language, ha!

3. The Grinch (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) — I think the Grinch is queer. I really do. Disagree? Well then, riddle me this: Have you ever seen a straight person stitch together an entire costume just to center themselves at a holiday party? That’s what I thought. Oh, and let’s not forget the emblematic image of the Grinch plucking bobbles from a Christmas tree using those long, furry fingers. That wrist looks preeetty limp to my little gay eye.

4. Mystique (X-Men) — Mystique is canonically queer, but who needs the canon when you are quite literally the icon of shapeshifting disguises, gender fluidity, and a swept-back hairdo dyed lesbian crisis red? Plus, she has the one power every little gay boy is drawn to: absurd flexibility and a fighting style that incorporates senseless gymnastics.

5. Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender) — Reading Azula as queer was a personal choice right up until she decided to give herself asymmetrical bangs. Then it was canon.

6. Bugs Bunny — Stylish, annoying, and cross-dressing for theatrical antics, Bugs was an early model for the infinite ways we, as queer people, may outsmart and belittle those who invade our spaces in the name of the hunt. Was Bugs petty? Yes. Iconically so. And that’s why they’re on this list.

7. Team Rocket — Messy, dramatic, and constantly in costume, Team Rocket is the queer found family we all make fun of but are actually a part of. I mean, Jessie’s mullet defies gravity, and James never misses a chance to get into drag. And the gayest thing of all? They take orders from their cat.

8. Rita Repulsa — Is Rita queer? I have no idea. Do I unflinchingly embrace the daydream in which she’s my lesbian aunt who brings her roommate over for holiday meals and buys me Sailor Moon action figures even though my parents insist I’ll grow out of my “doll phase” soon? Absolutely.

9. Jafar (Aladdin) — Jafar is adored, yet I still believe he’s deserving of more credit for all he’s done for queer villainy. We need to talk about the wingtip eyeliner. And the perplexingly eccentric choice to imprison Jasmine in a kitschy hourglass. And the fact that the moment he got ultimate power, he gave himself a beefy chest and black acrylic nails. I would make all those choices too.

10. The Trunchbull (Matilda) — Olympian, educator, chocolate lover. The range of this butch icon goes on and on, much like the children she catapults into the sky. Somehow, that feels a little gay too. I’m still not sure why.

11. Yzma & Kronk (The Emperor’s New Groove) — This duo is everything a queer duo should be. Fashionably costumed, theatrically incompetent, and rife with miscommunications that get people turned into llamas.

12. Lady Deathstrike (X-Men) — If you were in the theater with me when I saw Lady Deathstrike bare her indestructible nails, you watched my life change. Sure, she probably is not queer herself, but there is nothing gayer than using your adamantium manicure to skewer Hugh Jackman. Quote me on that.

13. Cheryl Blossom (Riverdale) — I knew Cheryl was queer from episode one. I’ve never known a straight person to combine ambition, charisma, and tartan skirts so well. And, spoiler alert: Cheryl has since been treated to a lesbian love story on Riverdale, and I’m happy for her.

14. Gaston — Bi. Bi as hell. If Gaston isn’t bisexual, explain the brandishing pectorals furred in hair. Explain the flourish of pride when he sings “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” Explain how he instantly knew how to use that gay little hand mirror to telephone our hound-face hottie, the Beast? I have talked to Gaston on Grindr, and he is not nice. But he is queer.

15. Shego (Kim Possible) — I don’t know if you know this, but Shego, the very cool and very bored nemesis of Kim Possible, received her powers when she was exposed to…a rainbow-hued comet. So. There you have it.

16. Barbara Covett (Notes on a Scandal) — Okay, here we have a literal queer villain. I won’t say much because you need to hear it all from Barbara yourself. Her acidic wit, her shrewd fixation on Cate Blanchett, and the fact that she is unrelentingly writing to you through a diary should be all you need to know to seek out the movie Notes on a Scandal or the book it’s based on by Zoë Heller. I highly recommend both.

17. SpongeBob SquarePants (SpongeBob SquarePants) — Don’t laugh. Don’t you dare laugh. It is absolutely undeniable that SpongeBob is chaotic evil. He ruins everything, compulsively. And anyone who pretends their nose is a piccolo in their theme song? And lives in a pineapple? SpongeBob may just be the scariest person on this list.

18. Scar (The Lion King) — Big goth kitty with a smoky eye and a large following kept in line by witty retorts they have no hope of understanding? And the affected accent? We never see Scar with a love interest, but I have more than enough evidence to fortify my head canon in which Scar summers in Andalucía with another male lion named Marc.

19. Skeletor (Masters of the Universe) — Look no further than Skeletor’s fashion if you’re wondering why he’s on this list. A harness…with a hood? A loin cloth….over briefs? Knee-high boots…with a sensible heel? This sort of describes everyone in the Masters of the Universe universe, which is all the more reason for me to keep on believing Skeletor is my eventual final form.

20. Jareth (The Labyrinth) — What can be said about Jareth that hasn’t already been said by David Bowie’s prominent pelvis presented to a crowd of puppets? It’s offensive to even ask me to explain Jareth’s inclusion.

21. Dr. Frank-N-Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) — I’m shivering with antici…patory fear that adding Dr. Frank-N-Furter to this list is going to get me in trouble. But I must! There’s a lot to overlook, yes, but if it means I get to appreciate a sissy in STEM who pulls off a lab coat and pearls, it will have all been worth it.

22. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) — There is a STRONG case for Maleficent’s queerness. Firstly, her best friend is a bird. Second, I’ve never seen a straight person successfully pull off purple and neon green. And lastly, I truly cannot think of anything gayer than showing up to a straight baby shower bearing the gift of curses and then the curse itself is along the lines of “I’m going to give your child a fascination with old-timey sewing machines.”

23. Every other Disney villain — I have a hard time thinking of a single Disney villain that isn’t, in my gay little head, super queer.

24. Every villain from Sailor Moon — That’s right. All of them. Even the weekly monsters. I can’t quite explain why, but there’s something SO self-explanatorily queer about a monstrous, sexy vacuum lady. And the sexy pegasus carousel man. And the fact that every person in Sailor Moon, except for the sailor scouts themselves, gets to use dark magic while wearing couture.

25. Sinister (X-Men) — Often overlooked but absolutely deserving of a spot on this list is Sinister, a baddie who wears a cape made out of ribbons and hasn’t quite found the right foundation to match their icy undertones. And if you want to know Sinister’s power, they themselves will tell you that it’s “overthrowing tyrants and being absolutely fabulous.”

26. Xerxes (300) – When I first saw Xerxes, I had no idea what to think other than “this movie is about the wrong person.” I like the whole hero journey, but if given the choice between a buff guy with airbrushed abs versus a person who shows up to war wearing every accessory they own? I’m going with the warlord who just pillaged Claire’s. Sorry.

27. Snow Miser (The Year Without Santa Claus) — Anyone who makes you watch a whole dance number before agreeing to help you is, by definition, a queer hero, but technically, Snow Miser is kinda bad. I guess. But the little hat! The gleeful pride in being “too much!” We should be encouraging this.

Ryan La Sala writes about surreal things happening to queer people. He is the author behind the riotously imaginative Reverie, and the brilliantly constructed Be Dazzled, both of which made the Kids’ Indie Next List. He has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Tor.com, and one time Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race called him cute! Ryan is also the co-host the Celebrity Book Club Podcast, and a frequent speaker at events/conferences. When not writing, Ryan does arts and crafts and, if he’s lucky, he sometimes remembers to film his escapades for his long-suffering YouTube channel subscribers.

New Releases: January 2021

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. (5th)

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

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

Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (5th)

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Outlawed by Anna North (5th)

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht (5th)

Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.

Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.

Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

This is Not the End by Sidney Bell (11th)

Zacary Trevor is the love of Anya Alexander’s life. Their sometimes tumultuous marriage has survived ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. With successful careers, a lovely home, and a beautiful child, domestic bliss is a hard-earned reality for two people whose hedonistic days are in the not-so-distant past. They’re happy. Enter Zac’s best friend, the deeply reserved Cal Keller.

Zac’s friendship with Cal is the foundation of his career and—until Anya and their son came along—the most important relationship of his life. Cal’s a cipher, someone Anya can’t help but gravitate to, even if they don’t always get along. Even more, she’s drawn to the Zac she sees when he’s with Cal—a careful, cautious version of her husband, someone with hidden thoughts and desires kept secret even from her. Inviting Cal into their home, deeper into their life, is a risk.

Zac should say no. He knows he should. But he doesn’t. From the first, the hint at the life the three of them could have together is exhilarating. And finding a new definition for family just might be worth the risk to every bond that exists between them.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (12th)

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

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

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner (12th)

Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.

Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

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

Pedro’s Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land by Marcos Gonzales (12th)

41z2obk-enl._sx331_bo1204203200_There are many Pedros. One goes to a school where they take away his language, replace it with another. At home, he is afraid to find the words to explain the things they call him. Another crosses the desert, leaving behind a backpack. It contains no clues as to whether he successfully made it across the border and into a new life. A Cousin Pedro comes to visit, awakening feelings that others are afraid to make plain. One goes missing so completely it’s as if he was never there to go missing at all. Another watches his father from afar, unable to ever find ways to close the gap. A Pedro keeps his distance from the other Pedros, in hopes the Meghans and the Johns will think he is one of them instead. One returns to a place he’s never been, to the place his father left, hoping to find him there. Many Pedros journey to many Promised Lands only to learn they may not be promising after all.

Pedro’s Theory is an exploration of these many Pedros, several of them are the author himself, others are the men he might have been in other circumstances. It is a tender exploration of the gap between who the world sees in the author and who he sees in himself, and a unified theory of how racism operates in small town America and shapes so many lives.

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Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner (19th)

Life’s tough when you didn’t expect to be living it. But now that Journey has a future, she apparently also has to figure out what that future’s supposed to look like.

Some days the pain feels as fresh as that day: the day she attempted suicide. Her parents don’t know how to speak to her. Her best friend cracks all the wrong jokes. Her bipolar II disorder feels like it swallows her completely.

But other days—they feel like revelations. Like meeting the dazzling Etta, a city college student who is a world unto herself. Or walking into the office of the volunteer hotline, and discovering a community as simultaneously strong and broken as she is.

Or uncovering the light within herself that she didn’t know existed.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (19th)

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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Wench by Maxine Kaplan (19th)

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Get a Clue by Tiffany Schmidt (19th)

The game’s afoot in the next book of the Bookish Boyfriends series—this time starring Huck and Winston! After Ms. Gregoire assigns the works of Sherlock Holmes in English class, a mystery deepens at Reginald R. Hero High. Huck and Win—Curtis’s younger brother—team up to solve the case . . . and while the sleuths gather clues, another swoon-worthy romance blooms in the school halls.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson (19th)

When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.

Boy is he wrong.

Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.

However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.

Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.

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Patience & Esther: an Edwardian Romance by SW Searle (26th)

Patience is a kindhearted country girl, eking out a living in Edwardian England as tremors of social change rock the world around her. When she starts her employment in formal service on the grounds of an opulent country manor, she has no idea that her own personal revolution is about to begin.

Selfless, dutiful, and just a touch naive, she takes to both her place as a parlor maid and to her new roommate, the bookish and progressive lady’s maid, Esther. In another time, the two women would have kept one another’s company forever in their little attic bedroom, living out their days in the employ of a Lord. But it’s now the dawn of a new age. The expanding empire has brought with it not only plundered wealth, but worldliness and new ideas. Suffragists agitate in the street, idle-rich bohemians challenge sexual mores, and Patience and Esther slowly come to realize the world is wider and full of more adventure and opportunity than they ever imagined . . . so long as they find the will to seize it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (26th)

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage . . .

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When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi (26th)

Nineteen-year-old Tara Muvvala didn’t mean to lead a double life. But her bone-deep aversion to math + a soul-deep desire to please her mother = her failing math grade + exploding food vlog ‘this masala life’.

Enter her mother’s research intern and resident math genius Farah Ahmed. Tara makes a deal with Farah – help her pass the math course and she’ll welcome Farah into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society.

Grumpy girl gets life lessons…

After losing her mom to a heart attack, dumping her small-minded boyfriend (she’s bisexual, not confused) and reluctantly moving to the US to be near her dad – all in the span of eighteen months, twenty-three-year-old Farah has hit the full quota on LIFE. Two things keep her going – her internship with a brilliant statistics professor and the possibility of meeting her dancing idol through the Bollywood Drama & Dance Society. That is, if her new hot-mess housemate will let her.

Soon Tara and Farah are bonding over chicken biryani, dancing to Bollywood Beats at midnight and kissing… against all the odds. And maybe beginning to realize that while life’s even more complicated than math, love is the one variable that changes everything!

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover (January 26th)

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

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

A Dowry of Blood by Saint Gibson (31st)

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Buy it: Amazon

Most Anticipated LGBTQ Middle Grade Fiction: January-June 2021

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Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (January 5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (January 5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Middletown by Sarah Moon (April 6th)

Thirteen-year-old Eli likes baggy clothes, baseball caps, and one girl in particular. Her seventeen-year-old sister Anna is more traditionally feminine; she loves boys and staying out late. They are sisters, and they are also the only family each can count on. Their dad has long been out of the picture, and their mom lives at the mercy of her next drink. When their mom lands herself in enforced rehab, Anna and Eli are left to fend for themselves. With no legal guardian to keep them out of foster care, they take matters into their own hands: Anna masquerades as Aunt Lisa, and together she and Eli hoard whatever money they can find. But their plans begin to unravel as quickly as they were made, and they are always way too close to getting caught.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (May 11th)

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .

But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake (May 25th)

Hazel Bly used to live in the perfect house with the perfect family in sunny California. But when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong, Mum is suddenly gone forever and Hazel is left with crippling anxiety and a jagged scar on her face. After Mum’s death, Hazel, her other mother, Mama, and her little sister, Peach, needed a fresh start. So for the last two years, the Bly girls have lived all over the country, never settling anywhere for more than a few months.

When the family arrives in Rose Harbor, Maine, there’s a wildness to the small town that feels like magic. But when Mama runs into an old childhood friend—Claire—suddenly Hazel’s tight-knit world is infiltrated. To make it worse, she has a daughter Hazel’s age, Lemon, who can’t stop rambling on and on about the Rose Maid, a local 150-year-old mermaid myth.

Soon, Hazel finds herself just as obsessed with the Rose Maid as Lemon is—because what if magic were real? What if grief really could change you so much, you weren’t even yourself anymore? And what if instead you emerged from the darkness stronger than before?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby (May 25th)

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow (June 8th)

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 (June 8th)

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?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Thank You, and Good Riddance 2020

As we all bid Good Riddance to 2020, a quick thank-you post from me to close out this true disaster of a year:

Huge thank you to all of the LGBTQReads donors and Patrons who keep this place running and give me some necessary justification for all the time I spend on it <3

One of the things that money goes to is the assistants who help with the tremendous amount of formatting and linking that goes into a site like this, and who make the lovely cover collages I absolutely cannot – huge thank-you to them: Rachel Strolle, Shauna Morgan, Angie, and Mark O’Brien seriously helped carry this site through the year.

Massive thanks to all those who promoted the site and helped it find a larger audience. This year the most special thanks in that regard goes to @spideysunflower, who mentioned it in a reply to Rick Riordan, including some screenshots, and literally gained the Twitter account thousands of followers overnight.

Also very grateful to the booktubers, bloggers (especially at Book Riot and the Lesbrary) who direct people here, and the authors who put shoutouts to the site on their own websites.

And while we’re on authors who are tremendous friends of the site, I want to take a minute to talk about what was, for me personally, the absolute worst part of 2020: losing Corey Alexander/Xan West. As most people reading this probably know, Corey’s work was incredibly special, and I don’t just mean their books; I mean the way they worked to make literature a safe space where marginalized people could find themselves, the way they covered things no one else was, the way they made people excited to write books that Corey might like; I know that was definitely on my mind as I worked on the Chanukah rom-com I hope to self-pub next year. They were a literal inspiration – someone who made you want to write and want to do better and want to write the kind of work that would make them happy; there’s really no overstating how rare and special that is.

I feel very privileged to have gotten to feature some of Corey’s work on the site, and if you haven’t already checked it out, there’s never a better time:

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West!

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Nine of Swords, Reversed by Corey Alexander

Not much more to say after that, but hoping for much happier, healthier times in 2021! I myself have two books coming (That Way Madness Lies/Flatiron Books, March 16 and Cool for the Summer/Wednesday Books, May 11), so look for me to find a billion ways to talk about them, and of course, I’ll be doing more preview posts both here and on Buzzfeed. (Keep an eye on the latter for my upcoming Winter LGBTQ+ YA preview, which has 25 titles!)

Also coming in 2021? The fifth anniversary of LGBTQReads, which I hope to be turning into a fun fundraiser with the help of wonderful authors etc. so more info to come on that! (If you’re someone who’d like to help, please feel free to drop me a line at LGBTQReads@gmail.com!)

Aaaand that’s a wrap on 2020 – stay safe and healthy, and keep on reading under the rainbow <3

xoxo,
Dahlia

 

7 New December eBooks for Under $5!

The Longest Night by E.E. Ottoman (Contemporary m/m Trans Romance, free)

Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine (Contemporary m/m Romance, $1.99)

Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (Contemporary f/f Romance, $2.99)

Secret Santa by Eli Wray (Contemporary non-binary Romance, $2.99)

Yet a Stranger by Gregory Ashe (Contemporary m/m Romance, $2.99)

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (Non-binary Fantasy, $3.99)

Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde (Contemporary f/f Romance, $4.99)

All links are Amazon affiliate. A percentage of each purchase goes back into the site.

December 2020 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Rachel Lacey‘s READ BETWEEN THE LINES, pitched as an #OwnVoices sapphic retelling of You’ve Got Mail, featuring a bisexual bookstore owner and a property developing corporate executive with more than one secret, to Lauren Plude at Montlake, in an exclusive submission, in a two-book deal, by Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency (world).

Katharine Schellman‘s LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTINGALE, an #OwnVoices queer murder mystery set in 1920s New York, where a seamstress escapes drudgery at a speakeasy, but when she discovers a body behind the club, she finds herself caught between the dangers of New York’s underground and the world of the city’s wealthy and careless, where money can hide any sin and the lives of the poor are considered disposable—including her own, to Nettie Finn at Minotaur, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Whitney Ross at Irene Goodman Agency (NA).

2020 National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree and author of BESTIARY K-Ming Chang‘s RESIDENT ALIENS, a short story collection that evokes the splendor and peculiar nature of families, the grotesque and wondrous parts of the body, and the wild and poignant battles of queer love, to Nicole Counts at One World, by Julia Kardon at HG Literary.

Ally Wilkes‘s ALL THE WHITE SPACES, set in the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, in which a trans man narrates the fate of an expedition as something unnamed and terrible picks off his shipmates one by one, against the backdrop of the pitch-black polar night, to Lara Jones at Emily Bestler Books, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Oliver Munson at A.M. Heath (NA).

Helena Greer‘s MY FIRST NOELLE, pitched as a queer and Jewish Hallmark-style holiday rom-com about a free-spirited bisexual artist who’s forced to return home when she inherits her family’s Christmas tree farm, and has an unexpected romance with the farm’s grumpy butch manager, to Amy Pierpont and Sam Brody at Forever, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2022, by Rebecca Podos at Rees Literary Agency (world).

Winner of the 60th Gunzo New Writer’s Award for Excellence in 2017 Li Kotomi‘s SOLO DANCE, depicting the painful coming-of-age of a gay woman in Taiwan and the salaryman’s world in Japan; an account of a person’s search for hope after trauma and depression, to Judith Uyterlinde at World Editions (Netherlands), in a nice deal, in a pre-empt, for publication in fall 2022, by Li Kangqin at New River Literary (world English).

Three-time Pushcart prize winner and Stegner fellow Lydia Conklin’s RAINBOW RAINBOW, a collection of stories exploring the complex inner lives of queer, trans, and nonbinary characters, pitched as appealing to fans of Garth Greenwell, Jenny Zhang, and Katherine Dunn, to Leigh Newman at Catapult, for publication in June 2022, by Samantha Shea at Georges Borchardt.

Center for Fiction First Novel Prize nominee Celia Laskey’s THE BRIDESMAID, exploring contemporary female friendship, platonic queer-straight dynamics, and the absurdity of the wedding industrial complex; and UNDER THE RAINBOW, her debut novel, to Cicely Aspinall at HQ, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Jennifer Helinek at Trident Media Group, on behalf of Alexa Stark.

Children’s Fiction

Hazel Newlevant‘s QUEER AND HOW WE GOT HERE, in which the author blends their personal story of coming out with explorations of important moments from queer history to draw a parallel between the growth of a community and the growth of the author’s personal identity, to Andrea Colvin at Little, Brown Children’s, in an exclusive submission, for publication in early 2024, by Tanya McKinnon at McKinnon Literary (world).

Will Taylor‘s THE LANGUAGE OF SEABIRDS, in which a 12-year-old boy confined to two weeks at a beach house with his freshly divorced father meets a local boy and his world is flipped as he struggles find some way to share the truths flooding his heart—things he’s never spoken to anyone, not even himself, to David Levithan at Scholastic, for publication in summer 2022, by Brent Taylor at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world).

Detroit-based illustrator and designer Oli Franey’s MONSTER CRUSH, pitched as BEETLE AND THE HOLLOWBONES meets Teen Wolf, in which a 16-year-old closes herself off from the world after her parents split, until she meets a girl; as the two of them fight off school bullies, the girl accidentally reveals her ability to transform into a monstrous beast, and reveals the world of monsters, to Brett Israel at Dark Horse, for publication in 2023, by Claire Draper at The Bent Agency (world English).

Young Adult Fiction

Epic Reads founder Margot Wood‘s FRESH, a queer coming-of-age story that follows a freshman at Emerson College as she navigates the highs and lows of her first year away from home, to Maggie Lehrman at Abrams Children’s, at auction, for publication in fall 2021, by Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English).

Author of THE DEAD AND THE DARK Courtney Gould’s ECHO SUNSET, following two sisters who, after their mother dies, learn about her mysterious ties to an isolated Arizona town; when they decide to investigate, nothing and no one is who they seem, including the daughter of the town’s enigmatic leader, to Jennie Conway at Wednesday Books, for publication in 2022, by Claire Friedman and Jessica Mileo at Inkwell Management (NA).

Illustrator and comic artist on Tapas The Kao’s MAGICAL BOY, in which a trans man just trying to get through high school as his true self has his life turned upside down when he discovers that he is descended from a long line of magical girls tasked with defending humanity from a dark, ancient evil; with a sassy feline sidekick and loyal group of friends by his side, he must take on his destiny, save the world, and become the first magical boy, to Michael Moccio at Scholastic, for publication in fall 2021, by Liz Parker at Verve Talent & Literary (world).

Author of the #murdertrending series and GET EVEN Gretchen McNeil‘s DIG TWO GRAVES, pitched as a YA Strangers on a Train with a queer twist in which a school pariah meets her new best friend at summer camp where they jokingly fantasize about killing each other’s bullies, until those fantasies become disturbing realities and she finds herself blackmailed into committing murder, to Kieran Viola at Disney-Hyperion, in a two-book deal, by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown (world).

Author of ACE OF SHADES Amanda Foody and author of THE DEVOURING GRAY Christine Lynn Herman‘s ALL OF US VILLAINS, set in a blood-soaked city, where seven families compete every generation in a tournament to the death for control of high magic; one powerful, villainous family has won nearly every tournament, but this year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, each of the other families has the means to win, to Melissa Frain at Tor Teen, with Ali Fisher editing, in a major deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021 and 2022, by Whitney Ross at Irene Goodman Agency for Foody, and by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary Agency for Herman (world English).

Naz Kutub‘s THE LOOPHOLE, pitched as a speculative SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA with a focus on identity, found family, and friendship, following a queer Indian Muslim boy traveling the world for a second chance at love after a possibly magical heiress grants him three wishes, to Claire Stetzer at Bloomsbury Children’s, in a very nice deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Literary Agency (world).

Cayla Keenan’s RAVENSONG, the first in a contemporary fantasy duology with Northeastern Gothic vibes, in which a 17-year-old girl is one third of a war goddess triad, sworn to slay demons with her sisters and guard the gate to hell in their coastal town, yet is stuck in high school, counting down the days until her 18th birthday, when her powers fully unlock—until she meets a girl with secrets of her own who’ll force her to choose between duty and love, to Amanda Ramirez at Simon & Schuster Children’s, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2023, by Patrice Caldwell at New Leaf Literary & Media (NA).

Dahlia Adler ed.’s AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, a collection of classic fairy tales reimagined by authors Melissa Albert, Tracy Deonn, Hafsah Faizal, Brigid Kemmerer, Stacey Lee, Darcie Little Badger, Malinda Lo, Alex London, Anna-Marie McLemore, Rebecca Podos, Rory Power, Meredith Russo, Justin Reynolds, and Randy Ribay, to Sarah Barley at Flatiron Books, for publication in fall 2022, by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world).

Andrea Mosqueda’s debut JUST YOUR LOCAL BISEXUAL DISASTER, following a self-described romantic disaster, a bisexual Chicana living in the Rio Grande Valley, as she tries to figure out whom she wants to ask to be her escort at her little sister’s upcoming quinceanera: her charming ex-boyfriend twice over, her first crush and gorgeous best friend, or the mysterious new girl with the romantic baggage?, to Kat Brzozowski at Feiwel and Friends, for publication in 2022, by Lauren Macleod at The Strothman Agency (world English).

Saundra Mitchell’s OUT THERE, the future-set third and final anthology in a series that began with the historical ALL OUT and contemporary OUT NOW; its contributors include Kayla Ancrum, Kalynn Bayron, Z Brewer, Mason Deaver, Alechia Dow, ZR Ellor, Leah Johnson, Naomi Kanakia, Claire Kann, Alex London, Jim McCarthy, Abdi Nazemian, Emma K. Ohland, AJ Sass, Nita Tyndall, and two slots to be filled through an open call, to Natashya Wilson at Inkyard Press, for publication in spring 2022, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Non-Fiction

Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year finalist for his poetry collection TONGUES OF FIRE Sean Hewitt‘s ALL DOWN DARKNESS WIDE, an excavation of the year following his partner’s suicide attempt, a confrontation with the specters of shame, and a love letter to queer literature that illuminates a path ahead, to Caroline Sydney at Penguin Press, in a pre-empt, by Adam Eaglin at The Cheney Agency on behalf of Matthew Marland at Rogers, Coleridge & White (NA).

Cultural historian, performer, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in English at the University of Cambridge, and BBC New Generation Thinker Diarmuid Hester’s NOTHING EVER JUST DISAPPEARS: A NEW HISTORY OF QUEER CULTURE THROUGH ITS SPACES, a history of queer identity from the late 1800s to the present, following seven artists and writers whose lives and work are inextricable from a sense of place, including E.M. Forster, Josephine Baker, Claude Cahun, James Baldwin, and Derek Jarman; interweaving their stories with the author’s own experiences as a queer person, arguing for the centrality of place in the formation of identity, culture, and politics, while showing all that is lost when queer spaces are forgotten, to Maria Bedford at Allen Lane, at auction, for publication in November 2022, by Matthew Marland at Rogers, Coleridge & White (world English).

Sibling duo, journalist, and archivist Alison Nastasi and PJ Nastasi’s QUEER ICONS AND THEIR CATS, a celebration of LGBTQ+ icons past and present, and their furry feline friends, to Bridget Watson Payne at Chronicle, with Natalie Butterfield editing, for publication in May 2021 (world).