Hello, North African-inspired Sapphic military fantasy with heavy themes of colonialism and rebellion, and welcome to the party of can’t-miss adult SFF out this year. The Unbroken by debut author C.L. Clark is about a soldier who’s been stationed in the very same land from which she was taken and conscripted as a child and the princess of the empire behind it all, who’s determined to take her place as its rightful heir. It’s heartbreaking, maddening, and all kinds of charged, and it releases from Orbit Books on March 23rd!
Oh, how I love this book. Let me count the ways! A) It’s perfect on the coming-of-age front, B) it has found family in multiple iterations, C) it has a Black lesbian heroine in STEM from a military background that I know anyone who was an overachieving child (and especially those pushed by parents) will identify with, more and more so the closer you get to Grace’s identity, and D) the romance is so. Freaking. Cute. It’s not what you’re picturing when you think “Got married while drunk in Vegas” but it’s such a great take on it that you are not gonna be mad about it!
Honey Girl releases February 23 from Park Row Books, so please make good use of those buy links below to preorder!
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
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?
As I always repeat on the rare occasions I do it, I almost never choose a book for the spotlight that I haven’t yet read. But thanks to COVID and a scarcity of print ARCs and the world generally being a trashfire, that’s true for way too many titles, so this month, I’m spotlighting one that looks way too beautiful, fascinating, complex, and necessary not to get to some attention, especially given *waves arms* everything. The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar follows three generations of Syrian Americans through a quest of identity and truth, and it releases on November 24th. Here’s the official story, with (mostly affiliate) buy links below!
Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.
One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.
As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
I know, I know, everyone is tired of hearing how good this book is, but it’s just so much fun, so inventive, has such great representation, is one of the very few gay trans books out there, and you just know it’s written by an Author to Watch. If you’re approximately the only person who hasn’t already, check out Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas!
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Magic in Appalachia? Rival families working against each other? An intersex protagonist? In Middle Grade Fantasy?? There are so many reasons to check out Cattywampus by debut author Ash van Otterloo (who already has another queer MG, A Touch of Ruckus, on the books for 2021! But first, let’s get to the book at hand!
In the town of Howler’s Hollow, conjuring magic is strictly off-limits. Only nothing makes Delpha McGill’s skin crawl more than rules. So when she finds her family’s secret book of hexes, she’s itching to use it to banish her mama’s money troubles. She just has to keep it quieter than a church mouse — not exactly Delpha’s specialty.
Trouble is, Katybird Hearn is hankering to get her hands on the spell book, too. The daughter of a rival witching family, Katy has reasons of her own for wanting to learn forbidden magic, and she’s not going to let an age-old feud or Delpha’s contrary ways stop her. But their quarrel accidentally unleashes a hex so heinous it resurrects a graveyard full of angry Hearn and McGill ancestors bent on total destruction. If Delpha and Katy want to reverse the spell in time to save everyone in the Hollow from rampaging zombies, they’ll need to mend fences and work together.
Is anyone on earth still unaware of how much I loved this Persian mythology-inspired bisexual f/f YA fantasy? Probably not, but if you thought I was going to miss a huge chance to recommend it every day of the month, you were sorely mistaken! If you are at all into YA fantasy, Sapphic books, mythology, or Things That Are Very Good, I think I’ve said all I need to say. Go do yourself a favor.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
Clever, funny, romantic, and empowering, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Scholastic, June 1) is just so much of what makes both Contemporary YA and YA Romance great. (And yes, it is an f/f Romance!) The second I finished reading it I wanted to pass my ARC around like candy, and while maybe that kind of sharing isn’t the best idea these days, I definitely recommend getting your hands on your own as soon as you can!
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
Jordan Collins doesn’t need a man.
What he needs is for his favorite author to release another one of her sexy supernatural novels and more people to sign up for the romance book club that he fears is slowly and steadily losing its steam. He also needs for the new employee at his local bookstore to stop making fun of him for reading things meant for “grandmas.”
The very last thing he needs is for that same employee, Rex Bailey, to waltz into his living room and ask to join Meet Cute Club. Despite his immediate thoughts—like laughing in his face and telling him to kick rocks—Jordan decides that if he wants this club to continue thriving, he can’t turn away any new members. Not even ones like Rex, who somehow manage to be both frustratingly obnoxious and breathtakingly handsome.
As Jordan and Rex team up to bring the club back from the ashes, Jordan soon discovers that Rex might not be the arrogant troll he made himself out to be, and that, like with all things in life, maybe he was wrong to judge a book by its cover.
Buy it: Amazon
Out on April 7th, this intense contemporary I’d argue borders on thriller has traditional publishing’s first bigender MC, and we love a new trad pub milestone in this house! Check it out:
Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert
After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.
But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.