Category Archives: Cover Reveal

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Forever Place by J.C. Lillis

Fabulous news for fans of You First by J.C. Lillis (or fans of superhero stories, second chance romance, found family, and general adorableness): sequel The Forever Place releases on August 18th, and we’ve got the cover reveal right here, so come check it out!

Since his breakup with his longtime boyfriend, small-town superhero Levon Ludlow has undergone an extreme life makeover. He’s got two new jobs, a remodeled house, custom-tailored trousers, and the power to talk to an even wider array of snarky and cantankerous animals. He swears he’s too busy with his new life to miss his old love—so when Jay calls with a problem only Levon can help with, he’s sure he can keep it professional and drama-free. Even if it DOES involve two weeks at a honeymoon resort with his ex.

Pairing up as a makeshift team, Levon and Jay head for the Valentines island resort in the Florida Keys, where an outbreak of scandalous guest behavior is linked to a flock of red birds and their strange and alluring song. Levon’s mission: use his animal-talking expertise to decode the birds’ song, uncover their goal, and send them back where they came from. Jay’s mission: use his water-moving skills to protect the island from a storm that’s brewing on the horizon. As Levon and Jay work together and reminisce in this land of heart-shaped tubs and vibrating beds, a flood of old feeling pulls them under—but unresolved issues and guilty secrets could kill their second chance before it gets off the ground. Can they come back together, once and for all, and find a new forever place that works for them both?

The sun-drenched sequel to the bittersweet YOU FIRST, this adult romcom is a funny valentine to superhero stories, found families, and love of all kinds, the old and the new.

Here’s the absolutely lovely cover designed in collaboration between the author and Mindy Dunn!

Preorder it: Amazon

J.C. Lillis is the author of contemporary YA novels HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART, WE WON’T FEEL A THING, and A&B, plus various other stories about fandom, friendship, love, and art. She lives in Baltimore with her patient family, a possibly haunted dollhouse, and a cat who intends to eat her someday. YOU FIRST and THE FOREVER PLACE are her first adult novels.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson

Welcome to part two of the Kosoko Jackson Cover Reveal Extravaganza here on LGBTQReads! (If you missed the reveal for I’m So (Not) Over You, it’s time to remedy that immediately!) In the space of approximately no time, Jackson is jumping from contemporary adult romance to YA sci-fi thriller, and I know everyone’s along for the ride, so let’s get to showing off Survive the Dome, which releases March 1, 2022 from Sourcebooks Fire!

The Hate U Give meets Internment in this pulse-pounding thriller about an impenetrable dome around Baltimore that is keeping the residents in and information from going out during a city-wide protest.

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.

And here’s the powerful cover, with art by Jeff Manning!

Preorder: Amazon | IndieBound

Kosoko Jackson is a digital media specialist, focusing on digital storytelling, email, social and SMS marketing, and a freelance political journalist. Occasionally, his personal essays and short stories have been featured on Medium, Thought Catalog, The Advocate, and some literary magazines. When not writing YA novels that champion holistic representation of black queer youth across genres, he can be found obsessing over movies, drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog, or spending far too much time on Twitter.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Step aside, because today on the site we have an utter icon, doing iconic things! Like publishing a beautiful romance between two neuroatypical nonbinary Mexican teens! Anna-Marie McLemore’s Lakelore releases March 8, 2022 from Feiwel & Friends! Here’s the story:

“Lovely and deep, colourful and creeping, perfect magic.”
#1 New York Times best-selling author E. K. Johnston

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

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.

And here’s the beautiful, affirming cover, illustrated by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor and designed by Liz Dresner!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Anna-Marie McLemore (they/them) grew up hearing la llorona in the Santa Ana winds, and now writes books as queer, Latinx, and nonbinary as they are. They are the author of The Weight of Feathers, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; Wild Beauty, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist best book of 2017; Blanca & Roja, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time; Dark and Deepest Red, a Winter 2020 Indie Next List title; The Mirror Season, a Junior Library Guild Selection; and the forthcoming Lakelore (March 8, 2022) and Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix (Fall 2022). Find them online at annamariemclemore.com and on Twitter at @LaAnnaMarie.

 

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson

I am absolutely flailing to get to reveal for you today the cover and a fabulous excerpt for Kosoko Jackson’s upcoming gay rom-com, I’m So (Not) Over You, which releases from Berkley on February 22, 2022! You may already know Kosoko from his gay YA time travel romance, Yesterday is History, but this is his first foray into Adult and I am ridiculously hyped. Check out this fauxmantic second-chance story and you’ll get get the hype too!

It’s been months since aspiring journalist Kian Andrews has heard from his ex-boyfriend, Hudson Rivers, but an urgent text has them meeting at a café. Maybe Hudson wants to profusely apologize for the breakup. Or confess his undying love. . . But no, Hudson has a favor to ask—he wants Kian to pretend to be his boyfriend while his parents are in town, and Kian reluctantly agrees.

The dinner doesn’t go exactly as planned, and suddenly Kian is Hudson’s plus one to Georgia’s wedding of the season. Hudson comes from a wealthy family where reputation is everything, and he really can’t afford another mistake. If Kian goes, he’ll help Hudson preserve appearances and get the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in media. This could be the big career break Kian needs.

But their fake relationship is starting to feel like it might be more than a means to an end, and it’s time for both men to fact-check their feelings.

And here’s the super shippable cover, illustrated by Adriana Bellet with art direction by Colleen Reinhart!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! Yeah, we’ve got an excerpt, so read on!

***

            “…and that’s when I threw the drink on his face.”

A day and a half later, I’m far away from Hudson on the other side of town, sitting at a table meant for four but housing five people at The Patriot. It’s not often me and my brother Jamal get together; he’s too busy at Harvard triple-majoring in god knows what right now. Something impressive that’ll make him a capitalist shill, I’m sure.

But a monthly dinner has been on the books since he started at the Ivy almost two years ago, and we’ve only done it a half a dozen times. Maybe it’s fate, or that brotherly connection people rave about, after the mess with Hudson, we find a way to make it work.

“I’m sorry, you need to start from the beginning,” Divya says, tilting her drink back, downing the remainder of her Dark and Stormy. “Again.”

I take three swigs of water to fend off a hangover tomorrow, and to buy me some time. As if some god will pity me, and a drunk clown will burst into the bar, distract everyone, and I won’t have to repeat myself again.

But there’s no such luck because I, Kian Andrews, am not that lucky.

“He asked me to pretend to be his boyfriend. Said his parents are coming in from out of town, and he never told them we broke up and…” I take a deep breath and speak on the exhale, “…he needs me to cover for him.”

I repeat it to the table for the fourth time. The table consisting of Jamal, my brother, who brought his best friend Emily with him, plus Divya, who, and I quote, is simply obsessed with Jamal, so of course, she tagged along. And being the secret bleeding-heart Jamal is, Emily’s boyfriend Todd, an entrepreneur trying to start a brewery that specializes in using flowers as the flavor base (aka broke), is here for the free food.

“That’s insane,” Divya mutters.

“He’s bold,” Jamal chimes in.

“Or crazy—wait, we don’t use that word anymore, right?” Todd asks.

“It’s ableist, babe. Well? What did you say?” Emily asks, leaning forward with earnest. She’s an English major. Romantic misfires interest her far more than they should.

“Of course, he said no,” Divya scoffs at Emily, like it was the most ridiculous thing she could have possibly said. “Right?”

“Mhm.”

Which isn’t entirely accurate. Sure, I didn’t actually say the words, but throwing your coffee on a guy is just like saying no, right? Hudson is a smart guy; he got the message. And even if he didn’t, it doesn’t matter. I’ve officially blocked him on all platforms – again.

And I’ve been forbidden from returning to The Watering Hole—worth it.

“As you should have,” Jamal adds. He flags down the bartender from our spot, and through some secret code, orders us more drinks. Unlike me, Jamal has natural charisma. People like him—no—they adore him whenever they first meet. Making friends? Easy. Finding a posse? Easy. I feel, as the older, more awkward brother, I should be teaching him things when, in fact, it’s often the other way around.

“I wouldn’t have gone to see him in the first place,” Todd, Emily’s blonde, muscular Instagram Influencer-esque boyfriend adds while sipping his frothy IPA. “You can’t be friends with your ex.”

“Woah,” Divya chimes in, looking up from her phone. “I’m the president of the ‘I Hate Hudson Club,’ but that? False.”

“Look, I hate siding with a White Man, but I think Todd’s right,” Jamal adds.

Thank you,” Todd chimes in.

“Don’t get too excited, Colonizer,” Jamal replies. “I just don’t think it’s possible. There’s too much baggage there. You two dated for what? Two years?”

“Year and a half,” I correct.

“Three if you include the overly dramatic and excessively long pining period,” Divya adds.

“No one considers that,” I remind her.

“I do and I’m somebody, so it matters,” Divya cheekily winks.

“See? That’s a long time,” Emily adds, chin still in her hand like she’s watching her favorite reboot of Pride and Prejudice.

“Right. And in gay years? That’s what? Two years?” Divya asks.

“Four,” Jamal and I say at the same time.

“I’m just saying; there are roots between you two. And to ask you to pretend to date him? That’s cruel,” Jamal closes.

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

***

Kosoko Jackson is a digital media specialist, focusing on digital storytelling, email, social and SMS marketing, and a freelance political journalist. Occasionally, his personal essays and short stories have been featured on Medium, Thought Catalog, The Advocate, and some literary magazines. When not writing YA novels that champion holistic representation of black queer youth across genres, he can be found obsessing over movies, drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog, or spending far too much time on Twitter.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson

Historical YA is maybe the slowest-growing of all queer YA genres, so when we get a new one, and when it looks this good, it is exciting. Thus, I am thrilled to be sharing the cover for Kip Wilson’s upcoming The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin, releasing March 29, 2022 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, on the site today! Here’s the story:

After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, an orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world hoping to find her place. She comes up short, at least until she stumbles into Café Lila, a vibrant cabaret full of love and music, and meets Rosa, the club’s waitress and performer, whom she can’t take her eyes off of. There, Hilde starts to find her voice and embrace her blossoming feelings for Rosa.

But Berlin is in turmoil. Between elections, protests in the streets, and the growing unrest in Café Lila itself, Hilde will have to decide what’s best for her future . . . and what it means to love a place that will soon be changed forever.

And here’s the appropriately “dazzling” (but really though!!) cover, designed by Samira Iravani with art by Ana Novaes!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

***

(c) Roseanne Samson

Kip Wilson is the author of WHITE ROSE, which won the Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature and was the Poetry Editor of the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for five years before joining Voyage in 2020. She lives in Boston, MA. Find her online at www.kipwilsonwrites.com, on Twitter @kiperoo, and on Instagram @kipwilsonwrites.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Unexpected Goals by Kelly Farmer

Today I am excited to share the cover for book two in Kelly Farmer’s Out on the Ice series, Unexpected Goals, which releases from Carina Press on November 2, 2021! Here’s the story behind this enemies-to-lovers hockey romance between two on-ice rivals:

If you can’t play nice, play hockey

Canadian goalie Maisy Goode is wary of American Jen Donato and her dirty playing. She’s been on the receiving end of Jen’s aggressive style and doesn’t like it one bit. Now that they’re on the same women’s pro team, keeping her eyes off Jen is a struggle.

Jen signed up to win it all with the Boston Ice. Her very public clashes with their hot goalie aren’t going to derail her championship plans. Jen’s a professional. But there’s just something about Maisy that gets under her skin.

The media loves the tension, but the more time Maisy and Jen are forced to spend together, the more they discover what’s between them isn’t entirely hostile.

At all.

Banter turns into flirting, and flirting turns into more. The closer they get to the playoffs, the more pressure weighs on the team—and the couple. Maisy needs Jen’s support. Jen needs to know Maisy’s all in. And it all needs to get sorted out before the season—and their relationship—closes out.

And here’s the freaking adorable cover, designed by John Kicksee of Kix by Design!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | BookBub

Kelly Farmer (she/her) has been writing romance novels since junior high. In those days, they featured high school quarterbacks named Brad who drove Corvettes and gals with names like Desireé because her own name was rather plain. Her stories since then have ranged from historical and contemporary male/female romances to light women’s fiction to LGBTQ+ romance. One theme remains the same: everyone deserves to have a happy ending.

Kelly’s debut novel, Out on the Ice, was released by Carina Press during a global pandemic. This is very on-brand for her long and winding journey toward publication. She is a past president of Chicago-North Romance Writers and is also a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

When not writing, she enjoys being outside in nature, quoting from Eighties movies, listening to all kinds of music, and petting every dog she comes in contact with. All of these show up in her books. She also watches a lot of documentaries to satisfy her hunger for random bits of trivia. Kelly lives in the Chicago area, where she swears every winter is her last one there.
To connect with Kelly, talk about current TV binges, and share photos of your adorable pets, please head over to:

http://www.KellyFarmerAuthor.com/
http://www.Facebook.com/KellyFarmerAuthor
http://www.Twitter.com/KellyFarmerAuth

Exclusive Cover Reveal: All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown

Today on the site I’m thrilled to be sharing the cover of All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown, a post-Apocalyptic m/m (gay and bi) YA releasing March 8, 2022 from Balzer+Bray! Here’s the story:

When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie’s house, he’s injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. And if this new world has taught them anything, it’s to be scared of what other desperate people will do . . . so why does it seem so easy for them to trust each other?

After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn’t adding up about Andrew’s story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He’s starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey.

The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.

And here’s the cover (complete with glorious finger graze oh my God I died when I saw this), designed by Chris Kwon with art by Na Yeon Kim!

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

***

Erik J. Brown (he/him) is a writer of genre-blending books for young adults. His debut novel, ALL THAT’S LEFT IN THE WORLD, will be published by HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray in March 2022. When not writing, he enjoys traveling (pre-pandemic), collecting disco compilations on vinyl, remodeling his haunted house, and embarking on the relentless quest of appeasing his Shiba Inu.  He lives in Philadelphia with his husband. You can find his website at erikjbrown.com, on Twitter @WriterikJB, and Instagram @ErikJB.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: From Dust, A Flame by Rebecca Podos

Today on the site I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of Rebecca Podos’s extremely Jewish contemporary bi YA fantasy, From Dust, A Flame, which releases from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins on February 8, 2022! Here’s the story:

Hannah’s whole life has been spent in motion. Her mother has kept her and her brother, Gabe, on the road for as long as she can remember, leaving a trail of rental homes and faded relationships behind them. No roots, no family but one another, and no explanations.

All of that changes on Hannah’s seventeenth birthday when she wakes up transformed, a pair of golden eyes with knife-slit pupils blinking back at her from the mirror—the first of many such impossible mutations. Promising that she knows someone who can help, her mother leaves Hannah and Gabe behind to find a cure. But as the days turn to weeks and their mother doesn’t return, they realize it’s up to them to find the truth.

What they discover is a family they never knew, and a history more tragic and fantastical than Hannah could have dreamed—one that stretches back to her grandmother’s childhood in Prague under the Nazi occupation, and beyond, into the realm of Jewish mysticism and legend.  As the past comes crashing into the present, Hannah must hurry to unearth their family’s secrets—and confront her own hidden legacy in order to break the curse and save the people she loves most, as well as herself.

Rebecca Podos, award-winning author of Like Water, returns with a contemporary fantasy of enduring love, unfathomable loss, and the power of stories to hold us together when it seems that nothing else can.

And here’s the cover, designed by Sarah Kaufman and illustrated by Lisa Sheehan!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | B-A-M

(c) Zaynah Qutubuddin

Rebecca Podos’ debut novel, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a B&N Best YA Book of 2016. Her second book, LIKE WATER, won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children’s and Young Adult. THE WISE AND THE WICKED, her third novel, was recently released. Forthcoming books include FOOLS IN LOVE (Running Press Kids, 2021), a co-edited YA anthology with Ashley Herring Blake, and FROM DUST, A FLAME (Balzer + Bray, 2022). An agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston, she can be found on her website, Rebeccapodos.com.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Forward March by Skye Quinlan

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of Skye Quinlan’s debut, Forward March, which releases from Page Street on February 1, 2022 and promises to the band geek ace YA of all of our dreams! Take a look:

All Harper McKinley wants is for her dad’s presidential campaign to not interfere with her senior marching band season.

But Harper’s world gets upended when the drumline’s punk-rock section leader, Margot Blanchard, tries to reject her one day after practice. Someone pretending to be Harper on Tinder catfished Margot for a month and now she’s determined to get to know the real Harper.

But the real Harper has a homophobic mother who’s the dean and a father who is running for president on the Republican ticket. With the election at stake, neither of them are happy about Harper’s new friendship with out-and-proud Margot.

As the election draws closer, Harper is forced to figure out if she even likes girls, if she might be asexual, and if it’s worth coming out at all.

And now feast your eyes on the festive cover, designed by Laura Benton and illustrated by Alex Cabal!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Can’t wait until February? Good news! We’ve got an excerpt right here, so check it out!

Unless you want your instrumental section to shun you for the entire season, you never start a story with, “This one time at band camp.” It’s an official rule of marching band, one that’s been carved into the missing door of the tuba locker, somewhere between “tie your shoes” and “keep your eyes on the field commander.”

But the door isn’t actually missing from the locker. Mrs. Devereaux ripped it from the hinges after Natalie Portman—no, not that Natalie Portman—had been caught having sex with her boyfriend inside. I still don’t know how they’d fit, even after Nadia and I squeeze inside to test our latest theory.

“Obviously, they took out the tubas.” Nadia’s great at stating the obvious. It’s one of the things I love most about her. What I don’t love is her elbow currently wedged between my ribs. She’s standing on top of a muddy tuba case, her forehead against my temple to avoid hitting the shelf above our heads, the bottom of which is covered in wads of old, still-tacky bubblegum. “But Matt is tall, and Natalie has a bad knee. Maybe they did it on the floor?”

“I don’t know.” I shove my hands against Nadia’s boney shoulders, her bronze skin slick with a sheen of sweat from rehearsal.

“But I’m pretty sure there’s gum in my hair, and I think I smell mold in here.” I tilt my head forward, and my hair snags on some- thing that feels gross and sticky and that I might have to cut out of my curls later. With my back pressed into the far corner of the locker, Nadia pushes against my front, her knee digging painfully into my hip. “No one’s cleaned this locker out for months,” I say glumly. My hair snags again, and I groan; this is why gum is illegal in the band room. “Not since Natalie tainted it. Let me out before I die of something worse than suffocation.”

Nadia snorts and sprays my cheek with spit. Her dark eyes gleam a golden brown like the polished brass of her trumpet, except maybe with a touch more deviance. She’s kissed a few boys in here, too, but she swears that the mechanics are different. I’ve never cared enough to ask how, and I still don’t know why Nadia brought me in here. Bellamy or Evelyn would’ve done this with far more enthusiasm. “Natalie wasn’t the first to get laid in here, you know.”

“No,” I say dryly, wiping off my cheek. “But she’s pregnant and people think it’s cursed.”
“It’s not cursed, Harper, for God’s sake. Natalie poked a hole in the condom.”
Tomayto, tomahto, who cares? I don’t want to be in this locker.

I twist my hips and force Nadia off the tuba case. She slides down with a grumble of protest, then stands in the doorway and narrows her eyes, pondering a new theory. “Let me out, Nadia. It’s hot, you’re sweaty, and I feel gross. I want to take a shower while there’s still hot water in the bathroom, preferably before the color guard takes it over. The mystery of the sex-locker can wait.”

Nadia hops out of the locker and stumbles over a flip-folder with sheet music from next week’s halftime show. She kicks it aside, knowing I’ll slip on the folder’s plastic pages and break my neck if she leaves it there. “Shower after dinner,” Nadia says. As soon as I’m free from the locker, she loops her arm through my elbow. “You promised to help me clean the dorm, and I won’t let you weasel your way out of it again.”

Our dorm is on the south side of campus, tucked behind the empty field where the band practices every afternoon. It isn’t messy, per se; Nadia’s half of our shared bedroom is spotless, not a book out of place or even a shoe left out on the floor. She likes it that way, the sparkling cleanliness that makes my skin crawl. I thrive in the organized chaos that’s my half, my clothes and books and a pencil or three scattered across the stained beige carpet. Everything I have has a place, on the floor, beneath my bed, or on the rotting window- sill, but at least I know where everything is. As organized as Nadia might be, she can never find anything she’s looking for.
And if there’s a week-old slice of pizza that’s still sitting out on my desk, well . . . it’s entirely Nadia’s fault. She shouldn’t have Door-Dashed pizza last weekend.

“The room is starting to smell, and I don’t know how you can even tolerate it with your asthma. Honestly, Harp, you have no self-preservation. If not for me, you’d be—”
Dead. I don’t need the reminder.

If not for Nadia Juliette, I would have died last spring when our boarding school’s cafeteria served seafood for the first time. On top of forgetting both my allergy to fish and my EpiPen, I’d for- gotten to make sure that a piece of shrimp hadn’t swum onto my plate by accident. Nadia had stabbed me in the leg with one of the extra pens she keeps stashed in her backpack for emergencies, hard enough to leave a bruise that lasted for weeks. She never lets me forget it, though it’s usually more of a reminder for me to take care of myself than it is for her to boast about having saved me. It depends on her mood that day.

She has one of my emergency inhalers, too, stuffed into the spe- cial “Harper Bag” she’d made for her backpack after I’d collapsed during band camp sophomore year.
I wouldn’t say I’m forgetful, but Nadia begs to differ. Things just slip my mind.

“Can we not talk about how much I suck at being a human?” I ask, shoving open the back doors of the band room.

A warm blast of stifling, end-of-summer air heats my sun-burnt skin. I breathe in deep and can smell the rain on the wind, can feel the sticky mugginess that plays hell with my lungs and makes my shirt cling to all the wrong parts of me. “Is it supposed to storm tonight?”
The clouds above are an ominous gray and rumble low in answer. Nadia’s smile is sympathetic. “We can blast Demi Lovato if you want?”

“I knew there was a reason we still live together.”

Nadia and I have been rooming together since we were seven, when my mom became the dean of Golden Oaks Academy and Nadia’s father uprooted their family from Indonesia for better job opportunities. We transferred late in the semester, and since there hadn’t been anywhere else to put us, they shoved us both into the smallest room in the dormitories. It was either that or a broom closet. We’ve come a long way since then—now we have the second smallest room on campus. Mom keeps offering to place us in one of the empty suites in the faculty building, but I don’t want any special treatment. Being her daughter already makes me the school pariah. Besides, no one wants to live with their teachers, and Nadia and I have a good system: I keep my chaos contained to my side of the room, and Nadia won’t smother me in my sleep. It works best with a limited amount of space for me to dirty up.

Beyond the faculty parking lot that stretches like an inky sea of black, blistering pavement, our sprawling green practice field is a flurry of stick-spinning motion. The drumline always stays late after rehearsal to practice their crappy cadences. They draw in crowds from all over campus, mostly upperclassmen who clap and cheer and stomp their feet in sync with the snares and bass drums. They’ll beat on their drums for hours, crashing their cymbals until my skull is splitting and I hide beneath a pillow to escape it.

Drums are my absolute least favorite instrument. They’re loud, and our drumline sucks.

Nadia and I trudge through the muddy grass, the blades tram- pled flat from the day’s long hours of high-stepping. The yard lines, painted fresh every morning, are nearly gone from the abuse of slides and crab-walks. They’ll disappear entirely if it rains tonight. But the lines that mark out the end zones are still clear, and the drumline has gathered in the nearest one in a circle. Stick a penta- gram in the middle and they’re a cult.

“Drummers,” Nadia scoffs, the word like acid on her tongue. She tugs on my arm and we give them a wide berth on our way back to the dorm. Zander Bryant purposely beats his mallet through the warped head of his bass drum and cackles. “I can’t believe I dated one freshman year. It’s like all they care about are sticks and mallets and banging on a drum until it breaks.”

I stifle a snort behind my fingers. She says it loud enough that they probably hear her. “That’s not nice, Nadia. That’s like saying that all trumpets are obnoxious and only care about blasting their horns in people’s ears.”

“We are obnoxious, and it’s not my fault that trumpets are naturally loud.”

She’s not even the slightest bit wrong; I’ve never met a trumpeter who wasn’t full of themselves. “Truer words have never been spoken.” Nadia bumps my shoulder and grins at me, her lip gloss from this morning still shining. Or maybe she put more on. She keeps a mirror in her trumpet case. “What do you think they say about people who play the saxophone?” she asks.

My freckled shoulders are the color of a lobster left in the sun for too long, properly baked and overdone. Shrugging them at Nadia makes me wish she had some aloe in the drawstring bag she carries around with her everywhere. “We’re wise.”

Nadia’s hoot of laughter cleaves through the field, and I pretend not to notice the heads that swivel in our direction. “Have you met Michael Briggs? That is absolutely not true.”

“Hey, McKinley! Wait up!”

I whirl around on my heels, a quick “to the rear,” like the call of my name is a command given by Mrs. Devereaux. My shoes twist into the mud with a gross squelching sound, and Nadia squeals as I wrench her around with me. “Christ, Harper, a little warning would be nice!”

A snare drum and harness thud into the grass from inside the drumline’s circle, splattering mud on a set of sparkling blue tenors. A pair of multicolored sticks clack against the snare’s silver rim, and discontent ripples through the drumline in the form of cursing and groans.

Margot Blanchard squeezes between two bass drums, phone in hand as she jogs toward Nadia and me. I don’t have the slight- est idea why Margot would ever want to talk to me, though the drumline doesn’t need her, not with ten other drummers still harnessing their snares. But as their fiery section leader, she’s the only one among them who can keep a steady beat while screaming at the football team on game nights.

I’ve never spoken to her before. Margot transferred here from Canada in the eighth grade because her dad is the ambassador for the Canadian embassy in D.C. I’ve seen them together at fund- raisers, but in the great wide world of politics, my dad doesn’t like Margot’s dad because, apparently, he’s “too damn liberal.”
Nadia raises an eyebrow and nudges me with her elbow. “How do you know Margot?”

“I don’t.” I smile nervously and raise my hand in greeting. “Hi, Margot.”

“Hey.” Margot stops in front of me. She rolls her shoulders and stretches her arms until her spine cracks like a glow stick. Snares are heavy and even though they’re padded, their harnesses look uncomfortable. As little as she is, I don’t know how Margot even carries one. “Look,” she begins, panting to catch her breath. Mar- got has a slight French accent, a pretty lilt I could listen to for days if she were anyone else. “I know that we, uh, don’t really know each other, but . . . do you think we could talk? Just for a minute. It’s important. If you’re busy, I won’t keep you, but we really need to talk.”
I tilt my head and take this opportunity to stare at her. Margot will have to take it out once classes start, but she’s biting on the back of the silver stud pierced through her thin bottom lip. “Talk about what?”

Margot glances at Nadia and shifts her feet in the mud. “Do you mind if we talk alone?”

Nadia bristles, crossing her arms and puffing out her chest like a bird whose feathers have been ruffled. “Anything you want to tell Harper, you can tell me, too. We live together, and I’ll find out anyway.”
“She’s right,” I warn, not unkindly. There’s nothing I keep from Nadia. “What’s up?”

Her sigh is more annoyed than resigned, as if we’ve given her the runaround. Margot drums her fingers against the back of her phone, and I notice her nails are painted black. “Look,” she says again. She turns to face me and ignores Nadia entirely. “I really appreciate that you think my hair is cool and that I rock some lesbian aesthetic, or whatever, but we are never going to work. I’m sorry.”
It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard because it’s something I would never say, especially to Margot Blanchard.

My eyes instinctually dart to the top of her head.
Margot’s curly black hair is shaved on the sides and longer on top than in the back. It compliments her golden-brown skin, the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and the beauty mark that’s just above her lip. But the longer I look at Margot, the more I realize she’s a walking dress-code violation. Her tattered black shorts are nowhere near the required length of just above the knee. She’s wearing a loose-fitting tank top with some weird indie band logo across the front, one that’s dingy and sweaty and shows off the straps of her bra, and an old red flannel is tied around her waist by the sleeves.

I guess she is some kind of punkish, lesbian stereotype; every- one knows that Margot likes girls. We’ve all seen her kiss plenty at football games. But I’ve never spoken to her before now, and I’ve definitely never told her that I like her hair or her aesthetic. I do kind of like her combat boots, though. They’re cute.

“What on earth are you talking about?”

Margot has the nerve to look guilty, her mouth pinching at the corners. “You’re funny, Harper, and I like talking to you about books. But I think it’s best for both of us if we stop this whole thing right now. I’m moving back to Canada once we graduate, you know? I don’t want to be tied down.”

Nadia’s suspicion is palpable, as if she truly believes I’ve lied to her about knowing Margot. I can feel the heat of my best friend’s glare burning its way through my temple. “Stop what now?” I ask, absently picking at my fingernails. I tear at a cuticle until it bleeds, a nervous tick that I’ve been trying to break for years. “We’ve never even talked before today.”

Margot frowns and glances sidelong at Nadia. “We’ve talked every day for a month, Harper. Since the end of band camp. See, this is why I said we should talk alone, in case you were keeping this a secret. I’m not judging you; I know your dad’s a Republican or whatever, but—”

“Keeping what a secret?” My heart is beating in the back of my throat. I can hear my pulse roaring in my ears as if my head has been shoved underwater, Margot calling out to me from just above the surface with some outlandish accusation. It feels as if I’m being outed to Nadia when there’s nothing to actually “out” me for. I don’t know what Margot is talking about. “I don’t know who you think you’ve been talking to, Margot, but it’s not me. I didn’t even know you knew my name.”

Margot’s frown only deepens. It carves out the dimples in her cheeks. “You really have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Not a freakin’ clue.”

Margot unlocks her phone. She taps and scrolls with her thumb. “I’m on Tinder,” she says. I don’t point out the irony that she’s just told me she doesn’t want to be tied down. She turns her phone around to show me and Nadia the screen. It’s cracked. “And apparently it’s news to you, but you’re on Tinder, too.”

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Skye Quinlan is a debut author. She lives in the Midwest with her girlfriend and two dogs.

 

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

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

Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist, who swept color onto Andi’s blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy even though she secretly has a dancer’s heart.

At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hope for the future.

And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. From the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, For Black Girls Like Me, comes a lyrical story about the rush of first love and the power of one life-changing summer.

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

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

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

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

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

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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