Queer Middle Grade is having a banner year, and there’s no better way to kick it off than with this killer fantasy graphic novel by debut Niki Smith, about siblings who must disguise themselves as girls in order to escape a murderous, rebellious relative. But for one of them, “girl” isn’t truly a disguise, and the idea of saving the day and returning things to their original state is bittersweet, especially since girl-dom has come with a lovely new role she’s wholeheartedly embraced.
After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.
As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home.While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I can say about Reverie that’s going to top the very fact of its containing a drag queen sorceress, but in five words, this is The World’s Gayest Fever Dream, so I hope that helps any reluctant readers over the fence! It also happens to be a B&N book club pick, so bonus points for being able to participate in that after you read! And now, onward to the blurb and buy links!
Reveries are worlds born from a person’s private fantasies, and once they manifest they can only be unraveled by bringing their conflicts to resolution. Reveries have rules and plots, magic and monsters, and one wrong step could twist the entire thing into a lethal, labyrinthine nightmare. Unraveling them is dangerous work, but it’s what Kane and The Others do.
Or did, until one of The Others purged Kane of his memories. But now Kane is back, and solving the mystery of his betrayal is the only way to unite his team and defeat reality’s latest threat: Poesy, a sorceress bent on harvesting the reveries for their pure, imaginative power.
But what use might a drag queen sorceress have with a menagerie of stolen reveries? And should Kane, a boy with no love for a team that betrayed him, fight to stop her, or defect to aid her?
Now, as you may know, dear reader, the whole staff of B&N Teen Blog, including yours truly, was let go with approximately no warning, and I had a bunch of interviews lined up as part of my Get to Know a YA Author series, including one by Ryan La Sala himself! And so, I’m gonna go ahead and continue the delight here so you can Get to Know Ryan La Sala!
Describe your new release in 5 words.
I need at least six.
As this is a book blog, let’s hear three recommendations for favorite queer YAs!
We Set the Dark on Fire – Tehlor Kay Mejia – a gorgeously written, compelling story that I return to again and again. The queerness is central to the plot, and the world is incredibly rendered. I adored.
Black Wings Beating – Alex FREAKING London!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a mind, what an imagination. Proxy was the first book of his that I read, and I would have been a life long fan with just that. But lucky for humanity, he consistently is delivering excellent books. We are so blessed.
The Wise and the Wicked – Rebecca Podos — Wow did I adore this book. It’s creepy, grim, fantastical, and has one of my fav recent romances. I actually didn’t know much going in, and I’m glad. I hope you read it, and love discovering it as much as I did.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing or reading?
Anybody who’s been to my house could answer this: arts and crafts. I have a constant need to create stuff using my hands. Along with drawing, I’ve recently been doing a lot of bedazzling and fabric work. My second book is all about arts and crafts, and specifically cosplay, and it’s directly inspired by my own fascination with using materials to shape an idea into something tangible, cool, and a little magical.
I also go to the gym a lot. Maybe you think that means working out, but it actually means sashaying on a treadmill to Broadway dance numbers, at very high speeds, until a get flung backwards all at once.
Where’s your dream Book Tour stop?
The Vatican. Wouldn’t that be just wild? But the Pope and I haven’t texted in years. So instead I’ll say: DragCon. It’s a massive drag convention organized by RuPaul, and I would love the opportunity to meet many of the queens that inspired me to write Poesy, my own queen in Reverie. It would also give me a chance to talk to young, queer readers, who are the people I’m most interested in reaching with my work.
If you could retell any story as a YA novel, what would it be and why?
I have major aspirations of digging into some of my favorite, old operas and doing YA retellings. In operatic fantasy, there are simply no rules. Just none. It all comes down to the drama, the performance, and the emotion. And I love applying that same production to my books.
That, or CATS, for all the same reasons.
What’s your favorite way to reward yourself for publishing a book?
For any of my achievements, I tend to lean heavy into retail therapy. But not like, “Oh I want this cute sweater” retail therapy. I mean, “decide I’m now a person who cannot bear to sit on a couch that’s not made from crushed velvet” retail therapy. I think it’s because I spend so much time being an anthropomorphic crab person on my way towards publication, what with all the writing and shut-in-tendencies and all that. By the time I actually hit a milestone, I’m ready to husk off my entire self and just reinvent me. And usually the most expedient way to do that is to buy something so bizarre to your everyday life that it feels like an ejection.
What are you working on now?
Between you, me, and the entire internet? A sequel. 🙂
Ryan La Sala grew up in Connecticut, but only physically. Mentally, he spent most of his childhood in the worlds of Sailor Moon and Xena: Warrior Princess, which perhaps explains all the twirling. He studied Anthropology and Neuroscience at Northeastern University before becoming a project manager specialized in digital tools. He technically lives in New York City, but has actually transcended material reality and only takes up a human shell for special occasions, like brunch, and to watch anime (which is banned on the astral plane). Reverie is Ryan’s debut novel. You can visit him at ryanlasala.com.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett is one of those books that just nails it, from concept to voice to nuance, and Simone is one of the main characters you just can’t forget. She’s handling friendships, a budding romance, questioning her sexuality, and directing the student play, all while managing being HIV-positive and everything that comes with it, including keeping her diagnosis a secret as needed, even under the threat of blackmail. There’s nothing quite like it out there right now so do yourself a favor and pick it up!
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…
One of my favorite things about blogging is pushing myself into reading new things, and I could not have made a better choice for my first graphic novel than Mooncakes, written by Suzanne Walker and drawn by Wendy Xu. This book is a freaking delight, targeted to a YA audience and featuring a queer hard-of-hearing witch who lives with her grandmas and is delighted at the return of her old friend, a non-binary werewolf. Together, they fight a demon and celebrate Jewish and Chinese heritage and honestly it is all just glorious!
A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
Confession: this was my first adult SFF read. Verdict? Extreeeeemely solid place to start. You’ve definitely already heard about this book as “lesbian necromancers in space!!” and…yep, that’s what it is! And it’s smart and bloody and brutal and has in Gideon one of my favorite voices I’ve read in ages. I know I don’t need to appeal to fantasy fans when it comes to picking this one up, but if you’re on the fence because adult SFF isn’t usually your jam? As long as killer voice and slow-burn friendship are, go ahead and make an exception.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Picking a spotlight book every month, when so much greatness keeps coming out, is a challenge, but every now and again I stumble upon a book I hadn’t even known was queer and am so completely walloped by it that I need to spread the gospel ASAP. There’s no pun intended, as this is in fact another one of YA’s rare “reliqueer” titles, i.e. books that explore the intersection of queerness and religion. In this case, Mormon Ellis is questioning whether she’s bisexual, and the way religion, questioning, sexuality, love, and mental health all come together in this sophomore novel, Let’s Call it a Doomsday by Katie Henry, just knocked me off my feet. If you’ve been seeking such a thing, I hope it does the same for you!
There are many ways the world could end. A fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one.
What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.
Despite Ellis’s anxiety—about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones—the two girls become friends. But time is ticking down, and as Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, their search for answers only raises more questions.
When does it happen? Who will believe them? And how do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?
This book is basically…all my favorite things rolled into one? I mean, how can you go wrong with a bisexual psychological thriller set in the world of theatre? Turns out, you can’t! Or at least Layne Fargo doesn’t, because Temper is a beautifully violent delight with unexpected edges peeking out from every page. If this sounds as much like your crack as it is mine, good news! It’s already out, and you can read on and make it yours!
After years of struggling in the Chicago theater scene, ambitious actress Kira Rascher finally lands the role of a lifetime. The catch? Starring in Temper means working with Malcolm Mercer, a mercurial director who’s known for pushing his performers past their limits—onstage and off.
Kira’s convinced she can handle Malcolm, but the theater’s cofounder Joanna Cuyler is another story. Joanna sees Kira as a threat—to her own thwarted artistic aspirations, her twisted relationship with Malcolm, and the shocking secret she’s keeping about the upcoming production. But as opening night draws near, Kira and Joanna both start to realize that Malcolm’s dangerous extremes are nothing compared to what they’re capable of themselves.
I’m so, so excited that Felix Yz author Lisa Bunker has another MG out, and so excited that there’s another great trans girl book out, and wouldn’t you know it but those books are one and the same! Zenobia July is thoughtful and fun and handles its subject matter so well and has such a great secondary cast and I love that Zen is a cybergenius and the most major secondary character is genderqueer and it’s just so good. (Content notes: There is some bigotry, including transphobia, Islamophobia, and misgendering, though the latter is not of the MC. The MC is not deadnamed.) Check it out:
The critically acclaimed author of Felix Yz crafts a bold, heartfelt story about a trans girl solving a cyber mystery and coming into her own.
Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she’s in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she’s coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.
When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school’s website, Zenobia knows she’s the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time. Timely and touching, Zenobia July is, at its heart, a story about finding home.
In case you’re not already aware, this book is a Very Big Deal, being the first contemporary YA from a major publisher (in this case, Scholastic) with an on-page non-binary MC by an openly non-binary author. It’s also sweet and affirming and I could not agree with that front-cover blurb by Becky Albertalli more: this book will save lives. So let’s get to it!
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
I really couldn’t not feature a book that’s a genderbent King Arthur legend with a queer female Arthur (aka Ari) in an f/f romance, a gay teenaged Merlin, a nonbinary Lamorak who uses they/them pronouns, and so on and so forth, by two of the best names queer YA has to offer. (Full disclosure but really it’s more like bragging: I did moderate their NYC launch, and it was fabulous.) This book is wildly fun and inclusive and I’m so excited it’s the first in a series. Get thee to it!
I’ve been chased my whole life. As an illegal immigrant in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.
Now I’m done hiding.
My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.