Category Archives: Backlist Book of the Month

Backlist Book of the Month: I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

It’s been a year since this ridiculously fun, delightful, romantic, and inspiring YA released, and if you’re looking for the perfect bit of joy to extend Pride month, you’ve found it in Lyla Lee’s K-Pop bi/bi m/f romance, I’ll Be the One! (Or, if you’d rather wait for the paperback, that’ll be out on December 21st!)

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

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

Backlist Book of the Month: Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby

However you refer to the month of April (and I’m digging seeing Autism Pride Month start to catch on), there’s no question it’s a good time for some queer autistic rep! Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby has a bi autistic protag, a spaceship, and aliens, so let’s all strap in for a good time, shall we?? (Plus the ebook is $2.99…)

As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.

Buy it: Amazon | Gumroad | Book Depository

Backlist Book of the Month: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Literally nobody on Earth needs me to extol the virtues of Akwaeke Emezi’s writing; pretty sure all their awards and accolades do a fine job at that on their own. But if you somehow haven’t read Pet, their speculative 2019 YA debut starring a Black trans girl who goes hunting for the most insidious kind of monster in a world that’s supposed to be safe from them, I am legally* obligated to make sure you do that, and to remind you that no matter how much increased rep we see in other areas, we’re still not seeing a real increase in transfeminine YA heroines in traditionally published YA novels, and certainly not trans girls of color.

But this isn’t a “read it because the rep is so special” call, even though the rep is so special, and nothing brings on more like increasing the success of what exists; it’s a “read it because it’s one of the only times in my life I’ve ever been completely hooked by a novel on page 1.” Read it because it does something brilliant and special with the gentle way it handles CSA and both sides of the fear and bravery coin. Read it because it’s so damn smart in such a slim profile. Read it because I said so.

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?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Backlist Book of the Month: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

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.

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

Backlist Book of the Month: Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

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?

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

For Australian retailers, check out the Hardie Grant page

Backlist Book of the Month: In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

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 . . .

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

Backlist Book of the Month: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

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?

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

Backlist Book of the Month: Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

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!

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Out of SalemWhen 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.

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

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Backlist Book of the Month: The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

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!

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

The Last 8 (The Last 8, #1)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.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Backlist Book of the Month: People Like Us by Dana Mele

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.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound