December 1st was World AIDS Day, and there’s a lot familiar in the horrible handling and terrible ignorance of it for anyone who was around during the AIDS crisis. Whether that’s a history that’s familiar to you or not, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a YA novel that handles it more poignantly than Abdi Nazemian’s Stonewall Honor sophomore YA, Like a Love Story, which follows three teens each experiencing the effects of the disease in different ways. Check it out:
It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.
Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.
Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.
Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.
As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.
These are tough times, and if you, like me, particularly appreciate books that balance fun escapism with not entirely pretending there is an idyllic and just world around you, then Erin Gough has good news for you, in the form of Amelia Westlake (or, as it was published in the US, Amelia Westlake Was Never Here). It’s a delightful opposites-attract dual-POV contemporary f/f YA romance with one of my absolute favorite kinds of MC: high bookish IQ meets low emotional/social IQ, set at a school for the privileged that’s got some major issues. Or, as the official blurb goes:
Harriet Price has the perfect life: she’s a prefect at Rosemead Grammar, she lives in a mansion, and her gorgeous girlfriend is a future prime minister. So when she risks it all by creating a hoax to expose the school’s many problems – with help from notorious bad-girl Will Everheart, no less – Harriet tells herself it’s because she’s seeking justice. And definitely not because she finds Will oddly fascinating.
But as Will and Harriet’s campaign heats up, it gets harder for them to remain sworn enemies – and to avoid being caught. As tensions burn throughout the school, how far will they go to keep their mission – and their feelings for each other – a secret?
You may know In at the Deep End by Kate Davies as “Queer Bridget Jones,” and it definitely has those elements, but my deep love for this book about a woman realizing her sexual identity as a lesbian and embarking upon her first relationship with another woman is in its depiction of a toxic relationship that pushes all her boundaries. Don’t dive into the deep end of this one (sorry, I had to) without being aware that’s the true heart of the book, but for anyone else who struggles with toxicity in relationships and may need an eye-opener, I hope you love this one as much as I did!
Julia hasn’t had sex in three years. Her roommate has a boyfriend—and their sex noises are audible through the walls, maybe even throughout the neighborhood. Not to mention, she’s treading water in a dead-end job, her know-it-all therapist gives her advice she doesn’t ask for, and the men she is surrounded by are, to be polite, subpar. Enough is enough.
So when Julia gets invited to a warehouse party in a part of town where “trendy people who have lots of sex might go on a Friday night”—she readily accepts. Whom she meets there, however, is surprising: a conceptual artist, also a woman.
Julia’s sexual awakening begins; her new lesbian life, as she coins it, is exhilarating. She finds her tribe at queer swing dancing classes, and guided by her new lover Sam, she soon discovers London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs, and . . . the complexities of polyamory. Soon it becomes clear that Sam needs to call the shots, and Julia’s newfound liberation comes to bear a suspicious resemblance to entrapment . . .
Historical f/f Romance (especially Regency) is definitely having a moment, and whether or not it sounds like your jam, I submit The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite as the title that will tell you for sure. It’s smart and sexy, but my favorite thing about it is the way both heroines are passionate about not just each other but their personal skills. It feels groundbreaking and defiant while being beautifully queer, and there’s no better time to pick it up because the second in the series, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, releases later this month!
As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.
Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.
While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?
Do you know what is almost definitely missing from your life? A paranormal YA with two leads, one of whom is a genderqueer zombie and the other of whom is a lesbian werewolf, set in an increasingly unsettling police state and full of murder and mystery. Luckily, Hal Schrieve is here to help you fix that during these unsettling times with Out of Salem, which by the way was a National Book Award nominee for YA. Did I mention it has a fourteen-year-old protag, something we almost never get in YA now?? So yeah, check it out!
When genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.
With sequel The First 7 releasing on March 7th, now is the perfect time to grab this alien sci-fi with a queer cast, including aromantic bisexual lead Clover. I am not typically a sci-fi reader, and this one had me on the edge of my seat the entire time and dying to see what comes next, so if you’re even on the fence because it isn’t your typical read, rest assured it’s the perfect choice to yank you out of your comfort zone a little bit without really doing that at all, especially if you love found family vibes!
A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
If you’re anything like me, you desperately pled for a queer YA version of Mean Girls, and then you read People Like Us by Dana Mele back in February 2018 and were wildly thrilled at how it delivered. If you’re not like me, you might’ve missed this vicious whirlwind of a psych thriller, so I’m here to help you remedy that mistake, especially since a sequel is reported to be coming in the nearish future.
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
It’s the start of a new year, and with that comes resolutions. One of mine? To read more adult fiction. So it’s probably a good thing I’ve been stocking up on it for the last couple of years. One of the first books I purchased toward that end was Garth Greenwell’s debut, What Belongs to You, about an American teacher who begins an illicit affair with a Bulgarian hustler he meets and pays for sex in the well-hidden bathrooms under Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. Those who actually read my intros to these posts know I vastly prefer to have read a book before featuring it, but Greenwell’s sophomore, Cleanness, releases on the 14th of this month, so what better time to draw attention? (Plus it was lauded by pretty much every reviewer on the planet, so do you really need to take my word for it?) Come join me in reading it this month!
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and disease.
‘Tis the season for winter holiday books! And okay yes, I never read these because they’re almost always about Christmas, which I don’t celebrate, but how damn cute does this one look? And the main character is an author! Which, okay, again a little biased but who really cares? Christmas is coming early this year and it’s coming with lesbians.
Samantha Evans, popular lesbian romance author, has writer’s block and a book due by New Year’s Eve. When she signs up for a writing retreat in an attempt to overcome her lack of creativity, she expects a single-occupancy cabin and plenty of silence for crafting her new book.
What she doesn’t expect is a roommate. A gorgeous, woman roommate.
Gia Torres is an aspiring novelist eager to break into the publishing world and leave her horrible day job as a barista behind. She travels to a Colorado retreat to finish her very first novel, not expecting to find beautiful Samantha waiting for her there.
The only problem? The two women hate each other.
How will they overcome their first impressions and let Christmas sparks fly?
The policy here for what constitutes “backlist” is that it has to be a year old. So did I literally put Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria into my schedule to promote the very single month it became eligible, even though it’s technically kind of the author’s frontlist? Sure did! Because it is great and underread and has gay, bi, and ace rep and it’s “friends on a quest” which is my favorite kind of contemporary (think Finnikin but gay!) and if you haven’t yet read it, you absolutely should!
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.