Today on the site I’m thrilled to have two authors with new YA releases out this month! You may already know Mark Oshiro from Anger is a Gift and Lauren Shippen from The Infinite Noise, and they’re both here to discuss their work, its themes, and what’s up next! (And make sure you check out the September New Releases post for info and buy links for Each of Us a Desert and A Neon Darkness!) The authors have jumped right into their conversation, and so shall we!
Lauren: Mark!! It is so wonderful to talk to you, virtually, as we’ve been doing for the past few months with online book events! We’ve both been making the social distancing rounds for Pride Month events to promote our upcoming books – my second novel, A Neon Darkness, and your new book, Each of Us a Desert. Both of our stories center queer characters and have themes of self-discovery, love, and companionship. For me, the theme of self-discovery is the big one. The protagonist of A Neon Darkness, Robert Gorham, arrives in LA as a lost eighteen year old with a terrible supernatural power and discovers a group of people like him who help him learn more about himself. The whole novel is a discussion about how we define ourselves – is it our intentions or our actions that matter – and about how communities of people and found family help hone those definitions. Rob learns about himself through the eyes of the people he’s learning to love and they, in turn, learn about themselves and their limits. It’s a dark book to be sure, filled with difficult choices. Each of Us a Desert is also about difficult choices, and the consequences of those choices – how do those themes feature in your book?
Mark: HI, LAUREN! I wish this wasn’t digital I WANT TO YELL AT YOUR FACE ABOUT YOUR BOOK. This shall suffice, though!
There’s a lot in Each of Us a Desert that works as a reaction–conscious or not–to what I tried to deal with in Anger is A Gift, my debut. I definitely went into this new book wanting to talk about queerness in a different way. Moss already had his wonderful community in his friends, but that wasn’t my experience growing up. I was eager to explore the notion of queerness in rural communities, and how that intersects with feeling isolated. So many of us grew up in places where we saw out and happy queer people far away from where we lived. Desert doesn’t deal in homophobia–it doesn’t really exist in the world I created–but rather uses a fantastical narrative to speak in metaphor for this experience, which is still centered on two girls who are desperate for someone to see them for who they really are. To me, that’s what love is in all its forms: being seen. Like, TRULY seen!
I was very conscious of what sort of queer representation I was putting on the page, too. I wanted a dark, challenging struggle, but I also didn’t want to repeat what I’d done in Anger. This HAD to be a happy ending. So I’m curious, especially since A Neon Darkness is so much darker than The Infinite Noise: How do you address that balance between joy and tragedy in a queer narrative?
Lauren: Someday in the hopefully not too distant future we can stand in the same spot and yell at each other because I want to SCREAM ABOUT YOUR BOOK TOO.
I love that you brought up that homophobia doesn’t really exist in this world you’ve created and that you were insistent on a happy ending. There is such a place in my heart for those difficult coming out stories, those tragic star-crossed romances, but DAMN! Queer folx need HEAs too and we don’t get them in media nearly as much as we should. That was something I decided when I created the world of The Bright Sessions: homophobia is almost a completely distant memory in this alternate universe and coming out is never traumatic.
Now, that being said, plenty of difficult and traumatic things happen to my characters and I can’t claim a happy ending for everyone inA Neon Darkness. In writing a darker story, I made sure to focus on the fact that any of the tragedy the characters endure isn’t because they are queer. The central queer relationship in the story, between Neon and Indah, brings them joy and also sorrow–but that’s real life relationships! The sorrow they experience isn’t because they’re two women in a relationship, it’s because human relationships are hard. Which is something Robert discovers as well–the tragedies he experiences and the ones he inflicts aren’t a result of his or anyone’s sexuality. Robert goes on his own journey of trying to figure out what he wants in intimate relationships in this book and, even though he doesn’t land anywhere specific by the end, the tragedy is not his inability to define his sexuality, but his inability to connect at all.
Life is full of joy and pain, regardless of how you identify, so in our beautiful, homophobia-free worlds, queer characters are free to go through struggles unrelated to their sexuality. BUT that doesn’t mean the struggles they experience are easy: Xo and Emilia go on quite the journey in Each of Us a Desert and I’m curious how you went about building certain elements of that journey. Writing violence and its horrible consequences is not new for you, but I’m always so enraptured by how you’re able to write difficult, visceral things that are frightening and real, but that never leave me feeling unsafe as a reader. How do you do that??? How do you write violence in a YA setting without it going too far?
Mark: Look, I RELATE TO THIS SO MUCH. Because Anger is a much more dark and more traumatic novel for reasons that are obvious, and I love that you say that you’re trying to find that darkness outside of homophobia, too. I love fiction that is challenging and intense and scary, and we need more queer stories like that, too.
ANYWAY. I would love to tell you I planned everything out ahead of time and fully intended for Xochitl’s and Emilia’s respective journeys to end up as they did when I first began writing the book. But Emilia didn’t even exist until like… the second rewrite. The original draft of Desert was a very different story and a different genre, but it still contained a long journey across a frightening, mysterious desert.
The answer is editing. I was inspired by my editor, Miriam Weinberg, to pursue a much more fantastical story, and almost ALL of the worldbuilding and those frightening moments were created over two sessions at a Le Pain Quotidien in Manhattan. This might make fantasy purists furious, but I crafted all the worldbuilding for the characters, not the other way around. Everything happens and exists to support the journey I came up with, and so I believe there’s a much more intimate sense of stakes and drama because of that. So when I was coming up with the pesadillas–the nightmares that come to life–the character was fully formed and real at that point. So any violence happening… I knew it was happening to a person. I tried to construct the more horrific stuff with empathy in mind. Why is this person seeing this terrifying manifestation? And how can the reader understand it?
I feel like empathy is a HUGE theme across your work, both on your podcast and in your two novels. Like… your work is about stepping into someone else’s shoes and understanding them. How do you see the intersection of empathy and queerness within your fiction? Do you think that fiction can provide empathy for other people?
Lauren: I love what you said about the violence happening to a real person. It isn’t devoid of context. I think if any fantasy purists take issues with how you’ve built your world, they’ve missed the point completely. World building that comes from character first is so powerful, and it’s why your world feels so real and high-stakes. The consequences feel grounded because your characters are grounded.
That’s how I try to approach everything too–I always start with character and build outwards. And you’re absolutely right that empathy is a huge theme. It’s really the only way I know how to write characters at all. I try to understand everyone I create, even the villains, and feel empathy for them and their choices, even when I intellectually understand that they might be bad ones.
For me, queerness is just another element of a character’s being and because I’m queer too, I never think much about how I feel empathy for that aspect of their experience–it’s baked right in. But I do focus on how the other characters approach it within the world and, similarly to the “no homophobia” rule, I always have their queerness met with empathy.
I really do think that fiction can be a force for good and for changing the way people see the world, and the thing I’m always trying to do is just show that queer people are human. It feels so silly to say that to another queer author, for an interview we’re doing for a queer publication, but we both know that there’s still a lot of people out there who have a hard time processing that concept! I want to help those people feel empathy for a person they were taught not to feel empathy for and that means feeling empathy for the WHOLE person. I want my queer characters to be flawed and messy and kind and challenging; I want them to be human, and all the pros and cons that come with that.
I ADORE that all of that scary and fantastical stuff was ideated in a Le Pain Quotidien–not only is the juxtaposition of the incredible world you created and a perfectly normal restaurant a wonderful image, but it really does speak to the power of fiction and how our imaginations can transport us. This is your first fantasy novel – how do queerness and fantasy intersect in your work? And more broadly, what do you think about the way queerness fits into the fantasy genre overall?
Mark: Wow, I’m seriously so mad we don’t get to do this in person. I feel like we could just go back and forth on this stuff forever.
Like you, it’s a default when I’m writing. I center queer people of color in my fiction because we have historically been left out of this world, and I want younger queer kids to see themselves in ways I do not. I came into fantasy more as an adult, so I’ve also had the luxury of getting to see so many rich depictions of queerness in fantasy, but I know it’s been a struggle. What’s so frustrating about it is how much push back there’s been against this sort of realism. (And that’s what it is: realism. The world has queer people in it, the end? It’s not a point to be debated.) I grew up seeing this in multiple genres, but its application to the fantasy world is infuriating because… we can literally do what we want in secondary fantasy. Why are we holding to gender binary? Or to a monotony in sexual identity? How can you imagine a world of dragons and magic and wizards and witches and a million different things we don’t have in our world, but the imagination doesn’t extend to queerness?
So with Each of Us a Desert, I wanted that queerness to be upfront: you meet queer people along the journey. You see Xochitl’s own growing desire for another woman and the conflict that comes from not knowing whether she’s right for her or if this is even the right time to be having feelings of that sort. But there’s a metaphorical element to it all, too: This is a book about being a rural queer person and feeling left out of the world. Granted, where I grew up was geographically large (Riverside, CA), but it felt like a small town. I lived next to a wildlife preserve, I had lots of friends who grew up on farms, and all the cool shit in the world was happening so, so far away. What happens when you feel isolated? When you haven’t found your community where you live and you ache so fully to escape?
If you can’t tell, I love writing about gay angst IT IS MY ENTIRE CHILDHOOD.
Lauren: Yes!! I cannot WAIT to speak with you in person someday soon and talk about all the ways in which fantasy and scifi are the perfect genres in which to break all the binaries and have queerness thrive. I can’t wait to read how everything we’ve discussed will manifest in your upcoming work–that YA contemporary especially sounds terrifying and wonderful! I’m exploring more fantastical elements myself at the moment as I finish up my third and final novel in The Bright Sessions universe, about a girl named Rose who can walk inside people’s dreams. The protagonist of A Neon Darkness appears in that final book as well, so I hope people grab it when it comes out on September 29th, 2020. Thank you so much for talking with me virtually, Mark, and happy happy Pride!!
MarkOshiro is the young adult author of Anger is a Gift (Tor Teen), winner of the 2019 Schneider Family Book Award and nominated for a 2019 Lammy Award, as well as Each of Us a Desert and their middle grade debut, The Insiders. When they are not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters for their online Mark Does Stuff universe, or traveling, Mark is busy trying to fulfill their lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.
Lauren Shippen is a writer most known for her work in fiction podcasts. She was the creator and sole writer of the popular audio drama The Bright Sessions. She went on to executive produce The AM Archives and co-produce Passenger List before founding Atypical Artists, a company dedicated to audio storytelling. She wrote MARVELS, an audio adaptation of the popular comic, set for release in 2019 by Marvel and Stitcher. She was named one of Forbes 2018 30 Under 30 in Media and one of MovieMaker Magazine and Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch. Shippen grew up in New York, where she spent most of her youth reading and going to Panic! at the Disco shows. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she does the same thing. Visit her at www.LaurenShippen.com and on social @laurenshippen.
Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented extreme winter.
With grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, she begins a journey, determined to start over away from Appalachian Ohio. But the icy roads and strangers hidden in the hills are treacherous. After a harrowing encounter with a violent cult, Wylodine and her small group of exiles become a target for its volatile leader. Because she has the most valuable skill in the climate chaos: she can make things grow.
Urgent and poignant, Road Out of Winter is a glimpse of an all-too-possible near future, with a chosen family forged in the face of dystopian collapse. With the gripping suspense of The Road and the lyricism of Station Eleven, Stine’s vision is of a changing world where an unexpected hero searches for a place hope might take root.
Caroline Lawson is three months away from freedom, otherwise known as graduation day. That’s when she’ll finally escape her rigid prep school and the parents who thought they could convert her to being straight. Until then, Caroline is keeping her head down, pretending to be the perfect student even though she is crushed by her family and heartbroken over the girlfriend who left for California. But when her best friend Madison disappears, Caroline feels compelled to get involved in the investigation. She has her own reasons not to trust the police, and she owes Madison — big time.
Suddenly Caroline realizes how little she knew of what her friend was up to. Caroline has some uncomfortable secrets about the hours before Madison disappeared, but they’re nothing compared to the secrets Madison has been hiding. And why does Mr. McCormack, their teacher, seem to know so much about them? It’s only when Caroline discovers other missing girls that she begins to close in on the truth. Unlike Madison, the other girls are from the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike Madison’s, their disappearances haven’t received much attention. Caroline is determined to find out what happened to them and why no one seems to notice. But as every new discovery leads Caroline closer to the connection between these girls and Madison, she faces an unsettling truth. There’s only one common denominator between the disappearances: Caroline herself.
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.
Two transgender elders must learn to weave from Death in order to defeat an evil ruler—a tyrant who murders rebellious women and hoards their bones and souls—in the first novella set in R. B. Lemberg’s award-winning queer fantasy Birdverse universe
Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night
The Surun’ nomads do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But aged Uiziya must find her aunt in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana in the springflower city of Iyar, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter, as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother. As his past catches up, the man must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya – while Uiziya must discover how to challenge the evil Ruler of Iyar, and to weave from deaths that matter.
The war on the ground has ended, but the war with the sky has just begun. After the Siege of the Six Villages, the ghost eagles have trapped Uztaris on both sides of the conflict. The villagers and Kartami alike hide in caves, huddled in terror as they await nightly attacks. Kylee aims to plunge her arrows into each and every ghost eagle; in her mind, killing the birds is the only way to unshackle the city’s chains. But Brysen has other plans.
While the humans fly familiar circles around each other, the ghost eagles create schemes far greater and more terrible than either Kylee or Brysen could have imagined. In the final installment of the Skybound Saga, the tug-of-war between love and power begins to fray, threatening bonds of siblinghood and humanity alike.
When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great- grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor — and whether he’s willing to sacrifice his identity and community in order to survive.
I know I’m not gay. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both.
I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes―but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.
Aaron and Tillie don’t know each other, but they are both feeling suicidal, and arrive at the George Washington Bridge at the same time, intending to jump. Aaron is a gay misfit struggling with depression and loneliness. Tillie isn’t sure what her problem is — only that she will never be good enough.
On the bridge, there are four things that could happen:
When her father falls ill, Billie returns home to the Yorkshire farm which she left behind for life in London. The transition back to country lass from city girl isn’t easy, not least because leaving London means leaving her relationship with Joely Chevalier, just as it was heating up.
And when she gets to Yorkshire, Billie’s shocked to discover the family dairy farm is in dire straits – the last thing Billie expected was a return to the life of a farmer but it isn’t long before she’s up at 5am with manure up to her wellies.
Battling misogyny, homophobia and some very unpredictable dairy cows, Billie must find a way to keep the cows happy, save the farm and save herself…
In Stone and Steel, when General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.
Powerful shipping magnate Evelyn Perdanu lives a tight, contained life, holding herself at a distance from all who would get close to her. Her family is dead, her country is dying, and when something foul comes to the city of Delphinium, the brittle, perilous existence she’s built for herself is strained to breaking.
When one of her ships arrives in dock, she counts herself lucky that it made it through the military blockades slowly strangling her city. But one by one, the crew fall ill with a mysterious sickness: an intense light in their eyes and obsessive behavior, followed by a catatonic stupor. Even as Evelyn works to exonerate her company of bringing plague into her besieged capital city, more and more cases develop, and the afflicted all share one singular obsession: her.
Panicked and paranoid, she retreats to her estate, which rests on a foundation of secrets: the deaths of her family, the poisons and cures that hasten the dissolution of the remaining upper classes, and a rebel soldier, incapacitated and held hostage in a desperate bid for information. But the afflicted are closing in on her, and bringing the attention of the law with them. Evelyn must unearth her connection to the spreading illness, and fast, before it takes root inside her home and destroys all that she has built.
Comic book geek Wesley Hudson excels at two things: slacking off at his job and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local used bookstore, is threatened when a coffeeshop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his annoying brother needs wedding planning advice. When all three problems converge, Wes comes face-to-face with the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.
Now, confronted with reality, can Wes balance saving the bookstore and his strained sibling relationship? Can he win the heart of his crush, too?
Terminally Ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and fine a cure.
When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.
For too long the cruel, beautiful Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing the humans who live there. But the human revolution is on the rise, and at its heart is Ayla. Once handmaiden, now fugitive, Ayla escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl Ayla had planned to kill . . . but instead fell in love with. Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, whom she believes can accomplish the ultimate goal of the human rebellion: destroy the Iron Heart. Without it, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction.
But playing at Ayla’s memory are the powerful feelings she developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among travelling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.
As their paths collide, neither are prepared for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.
coffee days, whiskey nights is a collection of poetry, prose, and aphorisms that juxtaposes the hopefulness a brand new day can bring with the lingering thoughts that often keep us up into the late-night hours. A lot can happen between the first sip of coffee and the last taste of whiskey, and this book takes a look at the way a single day can change our outlook on everything from relationships with others, to our relationships with ourselves, and everything in between. Ultimately, coffee days, whiskey nights illustrates that no matter how hopeless we may feel at the end of the day, a new one is only a few hours away.
In the vast palace of the empress lives an orphan girl called Nothing. She slips within the shadows of the Court, unseen except by the Great Demon of the palace and her true friend, Prince Kirin, heir to the throne. When Kirin is kidnapped, only Nothing and the prince’s bodyguard suspect that Kirin may have been taken by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, a powerful woman who has plagued the land for decades. The sorceress has never bothered with boys before, but Nothing has uncovered many secrets in her sixteen years in the palace, including a few about the prince.
As the empress’s army searches fruitlessly, Nothing and the bodyguard set out on a rescue mission, through demon-filled rain forests and past crossroads guarded by spirits. Their journey takes them to the gates of the Fifth Mountain, where the sorceress wields her power. There, Nothing will discover that all magic is a bargain, and she may be more powerful than she ever imagined. But the price the Sorceress demands for Kirin may very well cost Nothing her heart.
This is the third and final book in the Market of Monsters trilogy, and has the main characters realizing they’re aromantic and asexual.
Nita finally has Fabricio, the boy who betrayed her to the black market, within her grasp. But when proof that Kovit’s a zannie—a monster who eats pain in order to survive—is leaked to the world, Nita must reevalute her plans.
With enemies closing in on all sides, the only way out is for Nita and Kovit to take on the most dangerous man in the world: Fabricio’s father. He protects the secrets of the monsters who run the black market. Stealing those secrets could be the one thing that stands between Nita and Kovit and certain death in the thrilling conclusion to the trilogy that began with the critically acclaimed Not Even Bones.
In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. TheBone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
In the city of Bath, in the year 1865, an extraordinary young woman renowned for her nursing skills is convinced that some other destiny will one day show itself to her. But when she finds herself torn between a dangerous affair with a female lover and the promise of a conventional marriage to an apparently respectable doctor, her desires begin to lead her towards a future she had never imagined.
Meanwhile, on the wild island of Borneo, an eccentric British ‘rajah’, Sir Ralph Savage, overflowing with philanthropy but compromised by his passions, sees his schemes relentlessly undermined by his own fragility, by man’s innate greed and by the invasive power of the forest itself.
Jane’s quest for an altered life and Sir Ralph’s endeavours become locked together as the story journeys across the globe – from the confines of an English tearoom to the rainforests of a tropical island via the slums of Dublin and the transgressive fancy-dress boutiques of Paris.
For five friends, it was supposed to be one last getaway before they went their separate ways—a time to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past 3 years. But they all have their own demons to deal with and they’re all hiding secrets.
Finn hasn’t been able to trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.
And things take a deadly twist when the game turns against them.
Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.
His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”
But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.
When Paul and Julian meet as university freshmen in early 1970s Pittsburgh, they are immediately drawn to one another. A talented artist, Paul is sensitive and agonizingly insecure, incomprehensible to his working-class family, and desolate with grief over his father’s recent death.
Paul sees the wealthy, effortlessly charming Julian as his sole intellectual equal—an ally against the conventional world he finds so suffocating. He idolizes his friend for his magnetic confidence. But as charismatic as he can choose to be, Julian is also volatile and capriciously cruel. And admiration isn’t the same as trust.
As their friendship spirals into an all-consuming intimacy, Paul is desperate to protect their precarious bond, even as it becomes clear that pressures from the outside world are nothing compared with the brutality they are capable of inflicting on one another. Separation is out of the question. But as their orbit compresses and their grip on one another tightens, they are drawn to an act of irrevocable violence that will force the young men to confront a shattering truth at the core of their relationship.
Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.
Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.
One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
There are two things that Corinne Parker knows to be true: that she is in love with Maggie Bailey, the captain of the rival high school’s cross-country team and her secret girlfriend of a year, and that she isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s bisexual.
But then Maggie dies, and Corinne quickly learns that the only thing worse than losing Maggie is being left heartbroken over a relationship no one knows existed. And to make things even more complicated, the only person she can turn to is Elissa — Maggie’s ex and the single person who understands how Corinne is feeling.
As Corinne struggles to make sense of her grief and what she truly wants out of life, she begins to have feelings for the last person she should fall for. But to move forward after losing Maggie, Corinne will have to learn to be honest with the people in her life…starting with herself.
When Hazel Stanczak was born, an interdimensional rift tore open near her family’s home, which prompted immediate government attention. They soon learned that if Hazel strayed too far, the rift would become volatile and fling things from other dimensions onto their front lawn—or it could swallow up their whole town. As a result, Hazel has never left her small Pennsylvania town, and the government agents garrisoned on her lawn make sure it stays that way. On her sixteenth birthday, though, the rift spins completely out of control. Hazel comes face-to-face with a surprise: a second Hazel. Then another. And another. Three other Hazels from three different dimensions! Now, for the first time, Hazel has to step into the world to learn about her connection to the rift—and how to close it. But is Hazel—even more than one of her—really capable of saving the world?
In 2004, college students Eleanor Suzuki and Leena Shah meet in an elevator. Both girls are on the brink of adulthood, each full of possibility and big ideas, and they fall into a whirlwind romance. Years later, Eleanor and Leena collide on the streets of San Francisco. Although grown and changed and each separately partnered, the two find themselves, once again, irresistibly pulled back together.
Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends.
Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?
With the start of eighth grade, Jo March decides it’s time to get serious about her writing and joins the school newspaper. But even with her new friend Freddie cheering her on, becoming a hard-hitting journalist is a lot harder than Jo imagined.
That’s not all that’s tough. Jo and her sisters—Meg, Beth, and Amy—are getting used to a new normal at home, with their dad deployed overseas and their mom, a nurse, working overtime.
And while it helps to hang out with Laurie, the boy who just moved next door, things get complicated when he tells Jo he has feelings for her. Feelings that Jo doesn’t have for him…or for any boy. Feelings she’s never shared with anyone before. Feelings that Jo might have for Freddie.
What does it take to figure out who you are? Jo March is about to find out.
Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.
Miss Meteor by Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia (22nd)
There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.
Every Body Looking is a heavily autobiographical novel of a young woman’s struggle to carve a place for herself–for her black female body–in a world of deeply conflicting messages.
Told entirely in verse, Ada’s story encompasses her earliest memories as a child, including her abuse at the hands of a young cousin, her mother’s rejection and descent into addiction, and her father’s attempts to create a home for his American daughter more like the one he knew in Nigeria.
The present-tense of the book is Ada’s first year at Howard University in Washington D.C., where she must finally confront the fundamental conflict between who her family says she should be and what her body tells her she must be.
Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.
And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.
When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.
The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.
Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with mysterious powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth — and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family’s history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.
Amateur detective Pepper Blouse has always held true to this rule, even if it meant pushing people away. But when the results of Pepper’s latest case cost her any hope of the girl she likes returning her feelings, she decides that maybe she should lay low for a while.
That is, until her Great Aunt Florence passes away under mysterious circumstances. And even though her dad insists there’s nothing to investigate, Pepper can’t just ignore rule fourteen: Trust your gut.
But there’s nothing in the rulebook that could’ve prepared her for this.
Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?
But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.
Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.
Audrey and Clare may be twins, but they don’t share a school, a room, a star sign, or even a birthday. Ever since their brother Adam’s death, all they’ve shared is confusion over who they are and what comes next.
Audrey, tired of being seen as different from her neurotypical peers, is determined to return to public school. Clare is grappling with her gender fluidity and is wondering what emerging feelings for a nonbinary classmate might mean. Will first crushes, new family dynamics, and questions of identity prove that Audrey and Clare have grown too different to understand each other—or that they’ve needed each other all along?
Rosa, also known as Red Riding Hood, is done with wolves and woods.
Hou Yi the Archer is tired, and knows she’s past her prime.
They would both rather just be retired, but that’s not what the world has ready for them.
When deadly sunbirds begin to ravage the countryside, threatening everything they’ve both grown to love, the two must join forces. Now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, they begin a quest that’s a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.
This is the second novel in the Bright Sessions series
Robert Gorham always gets what he wants. But the power of persuasion is as potent a blessing as it is a curse.
Robert is alone until a group of strangers who can do impossible things―produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past―welcome him. They call themselves Unusuals and they give Robert a new name too: DAMIEN.
Finally, finally he belongs. As long as he can keep his power under control.
But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.