“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.
This edition is dedication to YA with trans and/or nonbinary main characters, with the aim of helping readers find books that explore gender identity and can more safely be read in unsafe spaces. Please note that most of these have some potentially triggering content, including transphobia and abuse, so I do encourage reading reviews, if that’s helpful to you. (And please do read the notes below as well.)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – This absolutely lovely m/f romance steeped in magical realism includes trans boy Sam as one half of the couple.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi – This was a Backlist Book of the Month on the site in 2021, so you can read a lot more about it here. For the sake of this post, I’ll just mention that the protagonist is a trans girl and that’s not in the copy.
I Was Born for Thisby Alice Oseman – Note: this is only under the gaydar with the British copy; the copy on the version coming out in the US in October 2022 does state that Jimmy is trans. You can get the UK version via Book Depository, Waterstones, or Blackwell’s.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall – Note: This blurb can be read as Sapphic, so do read it carefully and consider your environment, but there’s no visible nod to the fact that the main character is either genderfluid or bigender.
Even if We Break by Marieke Nijkamp – In this gaming-themed thriller, there are five POVs, one of which belongs to a trans boy and another of which belongs to a nonbinary kid. The copy is 100% thriller-centric with no descriptions of the POVs to be found. (You can also find hidden nonbinary rep in one of the three POVs of Nijkamp’s newest YA thriller,At the End of Everything.)
For a books with gender questioning as a non-central element, check out This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano. (This is also true of And They Lived… by Steven Salvatore, though obviously that book is not under the gaydar. Feels like I should mention it, though, in case this is a thing someone is looking for where it’s not mentioned on the cover.)
Non-queer-specific anthologies are also great resources for hidden trans and/or nonbinary rep. You can find trans stories in:
Featuring stories by Adiba Jaigirdar, Bogi Takács, C.T. Callahan, Elly Ha, Gabriela Martins, Julia Rios, Kate Brauning, Kess Costales, Mary Fan, Mayara Barros, Megan Manzano, Shenwei Chang, Sofia Soter, and Vanshika Prusty.
Keep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion, unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe, unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself. Keep faith, in other planets and other houses; be it in the face of danger, grief, or while you spread your arms and laugh. Keep faith the same way you keep hope, bright and shiny, ever present. Keep faith in all your queer, beautiful self. Because you deserve it.
This is an anthology of 14 short stories, by 14 queer authors, where faith and queerness intersect. Incidental, purposeful, we-exist-and-that’s-why queerness. And faith meaning whatever you want it to mean.
Gloomy teenager Manee Srikwan wears long sleeves and keeps her hands to herself for a good reason–whenever she touches a person for the first time, she sees a vision of how they will die. Manee’s weird powers cause those around her nothing but misery and she’s long resigned herself to a life of loneliness. But her vivacious classmate, Stephanie Pierce, changes all that. She smashes through every wall Manee puts up and overturns every expectation. Much to Manee’s shock, Stephanie believes her about her powers. What’s more, she insists they can stop the deaths Manee sees from happening. When the two of them are together, it feels like they can do anything.
As the girls grow closer, Manee’s feelings for Stephanie blossom into love. She yearns to be more intimate but is anxious about breaking her all-important “hands-off ” rule. When she finally gives in to temptation, she sees a terrifying future where Stephanie is murdered — and Manee is her killer! Now Manee has a choice to make— will she fight this fate or let it rule her?
Three words scrawled in bloodred wine. A note furtively passed into the hand of a handsome stranger. Only death can free Mio from his mother’s political schemes. He’s put his trust in the enigmatic Rhodry—an immortal moon soul with the power of the bear spirit—to put an end to it all.
But Rhodry cannot bring himself to kill Mio, whose spellbinding voice has the power to expose secrets from the darkest recesses of the heart and mind. Nor can he deny his attraction to the fair young sorcerer. So he spirits Mio away to his home, the only place he can keep him safe—if the curse that besieges the estate doesn’t destroy them both first.
In a world teeming with mages, ghosts and dark secrets, love blooms between the unlikely pair. But if they are to be strong enough to overcome the evil that draws ever nearer, Mio and Rhodry must first accept a happiness neither ever expected to find.
From the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of The Gods of Tango, a revolutionary new novel about five wildly different women who, in the midst of the Uruguayan dictatorship, find one another as lovers, friends, and ultimately, family.
In 1977 Uruguay, a military government has crushed political dissent with ruthless force. In an environment where citizens are kidnapped, raped, and tortured, homosexuality is a dangerous transgression. And yet Romina, Flaca, Anita “La Venus,” Paz, and Malena–five cantoras, women who “sing”–somehow, miraculously, find on another and then, together, discover an isolated, nearly uninhabited cape, Cabo Polonio, which they claim as their secret sanctuary. Over the next thirty-five years, their lives move back and forth between Cabo Polonio and Montevideo, the city they call home, as they return, sometimes together, sometimes in pairs, with lovers in tow, or alone. And throughout, again and again, the women will be tested–by their families, lovers, society, and one another–as they fight to live authentic lives.
A genre-defining novel and De Robertis’s masterpiece, Cantorasis a breathtaking portrait of queer love, community, forgotten history, and the strength of the human spirit. At once timeless and groundbreaking, Cantoras is a tale about the fire in all our souls and those who make it burn.
In this rollicking queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman (Stonewall Award Honor Book As the Crow Flies) puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they team up to thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory. When Flor–also known as the notorious Ghost Hawk–robs the stagecoach that Grace has used to escape her Georgia home, the first thing on her mind is ransom. But when the two get to talking about Flor’s plan to crash a Confederate gala and steal some crucial documents, Grace convinces Flor to let her join the heist.
In this thrilling sequel to Black Wings Beating, twins Kylee and Brysen are separated by the expanse of Uztar, but are preparing for the same war – or so they think.
Kylee is ensconsed in the Sky Castle, training with Mem Uku to master the Hollow Tongue and the Ghost Eagle. But political intrigue abounds and court drama seems to seep through the castle’s stones like blood from a broken feather. Meanwhile, Brysen is still in the Six Villages, preparing for an attack by the Kartami. The Villages have become Uztar’s first line of defense, and refugees are flooding in from the plains. But their arrival lays bare the villagers darkest instincts. As Brysen navigates the growing turmoil, he must also grapple with a newfound gift, a burgeoning crush on a mysterious boy, and a shocking betrayal.
The two will meet again on the battlefield, fighting the same war from different sides―or so they think. The Ghost Eagle has its own plans.
Fifteen-year-old Verdad doesn’t think she has time for love. She’s still struggling to process the recent death of her best friend, Blanca; dealing with the high expectations of her hardworking Puerto Rican mother and the absence of her remarried father; and keeping everyone at a distance. But when she meets Danny, a new guy at school–who happens to be trans–all bets are off. Verdad suddenly has to deal with her mother’s disapproval of her relationship with Danny as well as her own prejudices and questions about her identity, and Danny himself, who is comfortable in his skin but keeping plenty of other secrets.
Michael is content to live in the shadow of his best friends, James, an enigmatic teen performance artist who everyone wants and no one can have and Becky, who calls things as she sees them, while doing all she can to protect those she loves. His brother, Connor, has already been kicked out of the house for being gay and laying low seems to be his only chance to avoid the same fate.
To pass the time before graduation, Michael hangs out at The Echo where he can dance and forget about his father’s angry words, the pressures of school, and the looming threat of AIDS, a disease that everyone is talking about, but no one understands.
Then he meets Gabriel, a boy who actually sees him. A boy who, unlike seemingly everyone else in New York City, is interested in him and not James. And Michael has to decide what he’s willing to risk to be himself.
In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot.
When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious.
And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again.
The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me.
Societies thrive on order, and the Rating System is the ultimate symbol of organized social mobility.
The higher it soars, the more valued you are. The lower it plummets, the harder you must work to improve yourself. For the students at the prestigious Maplethorpe Academy, every single thing they do is reflected in their ratings, updated daily and available for all to see.
But when an act of vandalism sullies the front doors of the school, it sets off a chain reaction that will shake the lives of six special students — and the world beyond.
Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question-How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.
Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-proud, super-likable guy who’s admired by friends, faculty, and fellow students alike for his cheerful confidence. The only person who isn’t entirely sure about Remy Cameron is Remy himself. Under pressure to write an A+ essay defining who he is and who he wants to be, Remy embarks on an emotional journey toward reconciling the outward labels people attach to him with the real Remy Cameron within.
This anthology contains queer contributions by Tessa Gratton, Caleb Roehrig, Marieke Nijkamp, Dahlia Adler, Emily Lloyd-Jones, and Rin Chupeco
Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.
In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.
Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.
The Promby Saundra Mitchell, Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, and Matthew Sklar (10th)
Seventeen-year-old Emma Nolan wants only one thing before she graduates: to dance with her girlfriend at the senior prom. But in her small town of Edgewater, Indiana, that’s like asking for the moon.
Alyssa Greene is her high school’s “it” girl: popular, head of the student council, and daughter of the PTA president. She also has a secret. She’s been dating Emma for the last year and a half.
When word gets out that Emma plans to bring a girl as her date, it stirs a community-wide uproar that spirals out of control. Now, the PTA, led by Alyssa’s mother, is threatening to cancel the prom altogether.
Enter Barry Glickman and Dee Dee Allen, two Broadway has-beens who see Emma’s story as the perfect opportunity to restore their place in the limelight. But when they arrive in Indiana to fight on Emma’s behalf, their good intentions go quickly south.
Between Emma facing the fray head-on, Alyssa wavering about coming out, and Barry and Dee Dee basking in all the attention, it’s the perfect prom storm. Only when this unlikely group comes together do they realize that love is always worth fighting for.
Are You Listening? is an intimate and emotionally soaring story about friendship, grief, and healing from Eisner Award winner Tillie Walden.
Bea is on the run. And then, she runs into Lou.
This chance encounter sends them on a journey through West Texas, where strange things follow them wherever they go. The landscape morphs into an unsettling world, a mysterious cat joins them, and they are haunted by a group of threatening men. To stay safe, Bea and Lou must trust each other as they are driven to confront buried truths. The two women share their stories of loss and heartbreak—and a startling revelation about sexual assault—culminating in an exquisite example of human connection.
This magical realistic adventure from the celebrated creator of Spinning and On a Sunbeam will stay with readers long after the final gorgeously illustrated page.
The Not Wives traces the lives of three women as they navigate the Occupy Wall Street movement and each other. In the midst of economic collapse and class conflict, late-night hookups and polyamorous girlfriends, they piece together a new American identity of resistance—against financial precarity, gentrifying New York, and the traditional role of a wife.
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
Nico Tortorella is a seeker. Raised on a steady regimen of Ram Dass and raw food, they have always been interested in the more spiritual aspects of life. That is, until the desire for fame and fortune eclipsed their journey toward enlightenment and sent Nico on a downward spiral of addiction and self-destructive behavior. It wasn’t until they dug deep and began to examine the fluidity of both their sexuality and gender identity that they became more comfortable in their own skin, got sober from alcohol, entered into an unconventional marriage with the love of their life, and fully embraced a queer lifestyle that afforded them the opportunity to explore life outside the gender binary. It was precisely in that space between that Nico encountered the diverse community of open-minded, supportive peers they’d always dreamed of having.
By expanding on themes explored on their popular podcast, The Love Bomb, Nico shares the intimate details of their romantic partnerships, the dysfunction of their loud but loving Italian family, and the mining of their feminine and masculine identities into one multidimensional, sexually fluid, nonbinary individual. Nico is a leading voice of the fluidity movement by encouraging open dialogue and universal acceptance. Space Between is at once an education for readers, a manifesto for the labeled and label-free generation, and a personal memoir of love, identity, and acceptance.
This anthology contains queer contributions by Alex London, David Levithan, Katherine Locke, and Hannah Moskowitz.
A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party.
From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.
Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.
A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic… and her own flesh and blood.
A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption—or his downfall.
A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery—but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.
A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime—and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward—she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.
This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives—and begin to change the world.
In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.
Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?
It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.
From the iconic musicians Tegan and Sara comes a memoir about high school, detailing their first loves and first songs in a compelling look back at their humble beginnings.
High School is the revelatory and unique coming-of-age story of Sara and Tegan Quin, identical twins from Calgary, Alberta, who grew up at the height of grunge and rave culture in the nineties, well before they became the celebrated musicians and global LGBTQ icons we know today. While grappling with their identity and sexuality, often alone, they also faced academic meltdown, their parents’ divorce, and the looming pressure of what might come after high school. Written in alternating chapters from both Tegan’s and Sara’s points of view, the book is a raw account of the drugs, alcohol, love, music, and friendship they explored in their formative years. A transcendent story of first loves and first songs, High School captures the tangle of discordant and parallel memories of two sisters who grew up in distinct ways even as they lived just down the hall from each another. This is the origin story of Tegan and Sara.
This anthology contains contributions from queer contributors Mason Deaver, Alex Gino, Samantha Irby, Sarah Hollowell, Miguel M. Morales, Julie Murphy, Amy Spalding
The definitive collection of art, poetry, and prose, celebrating fat acceptance
Chubby. Curvy. Fluffy. Plus-size. Thick. Fat. The time has come for fat people to tell their own stories. The (Other) F Word combines personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art to create a relatable and attractive guide about body image and body positivity. This YA crossover anthology is meant for people of all sizes who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty. By combining the talents of renowned fat YA and middle-grade authors, as well as fat influencers and creators, The (Other) F Word offers teen readers and activists of all ages a guide for navigating our world with confidence and courage.
Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.
Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”
Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy―he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.
Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist―who seems to know a lot more than she lets on―and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.
Still reeling from her recent battle (and grounded until she graduates) Alice must cross the Veil to rescue her friends and stop the Black Knight once and for all. But the deeper she ventures into Wonderland, the more topsy-turvy everything becomes. It’s not until she’s at her wits end that she realizes—Wonderland is trying to save her.
There’s a new player on the board; a poet capable of using Nightmares to not only influence the living but raise the dead. This Poet is looking to claim the Black Queen’s power—and Alice’s budding abilities—as their own.
Dreams have never been so dark in Wonderland, and if there is any hope of defeating this mystery poet’s magic, Alice must confront the worst in herself, in the people she loves, and in the very nature of fear itself.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, some things cannot be explained.
Sixteen-year-old Samuel, son of devout cleric, has endured shame and prejudice his entire life. Although he is destined to become clergy too, he longs for an ordinary life in the whitelands away from demons and holy roots.
When the mayor claims to have captured a mute demon girl, Samuel is forced to become her caretaker. But as Samuel gets to know the prisoner, he finds her not to be very demonlike. Instead, she is intelligent, meek, and an exceptional artist. Despite her seeming goodness, some more concerning things cannot be explained. Samuel is hard-pressed to reconcile her uncanny strength and speed, missing arm, ambiguous gender, and the mysterious scars covering most of her body.
Samuel forms a deep attachment to the girl with predator eyes and violent outbursts, against his father’s advice. Their friendship could turn into something more. But when Samuel discovers the mayor’s dark intentions, he must decide whether to risk his own execution by setting her free or watch as the girl is used as a pawn in a dangerous game of oppression, fear, and murder
Barsalayaa Shefali, famed Qorin adventurer, and the spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, have survived fights with demon armies, garnered infamy, and ruled an empire. Raised together since birth, then forced into exile after their wedding, and reunited amidst a poisonous invasion—these bold warrior women have faced monumental adventures and catastrophic battles.
As they come closest to fulfilling the prophecy of generations―Shefali and Shizuka will face a their greatest test yet.
What can we hope for at the end of the world? What can we trust in when community has broken our hearts? What would it mean to pursue justice without violence? How can we love in the absence of faith?
In a heartbreaking yet hopeful collection of personal essays and prose poems, blending the confessional, political, and literary, Kai Cheng Thom dives deep into the questions that haunt social movements today. With the author’s characteristic eloquence and honesty, I Hope We Choose Love proposes heartfelt solutions on the topics of violence, complicity, family, vengeance, and forgiveness. Taking its cues from contemporary thought leaders in the transformative justice movement such as adrienne maree brown and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, this provocative book is a call for nuance in a time of political polarization, for healing in a time of justice, and for love in an apocalypse.
When Jackson Bird was twenty-five, he came out as transgender to his friends, family, and anyone in the world with an internet connection. Assigned female at birth and having been raised a girl, he often wondered if he should have been born a boy. Jackson didn’t share this thought with anyone because he didn’t think he could share it with anyone. Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, he had no transgender role models. He barely remembers meeting anyone who was openly gay, let alone being taught that transgender people existed outside of punchlines.
Today, Jackson is a writer, YouTuber, and LGBTQ+ advocate living openly and happily as a transgender man. So how did he get here? In this remarkable, educational, and uplifting memoir, Jackson chronicles the ups and downs of growing up gender confused. Illuminated by journal entries spanning childhood to adolescence to today, he candidly recalls the challenges he faced while trying to sort out his gender and sexuality, and worrying about how to interact with the world. With warmth and wit, Jackson also recounts how he navigated the many obstacles and quirks of his transition––like figuring out how to have a chest binder delivered to his NYU dorm room and having an emotional breakdown at a Harry Potter fan convention. From his first shot of testosterone to his eventual top surgery, Jackson lets you in on every part of his journey—taking the time to explain trans terminology and little-known facts about gender and identity along the way. Through his captivating prose, Bird not only sheds light on the many facets of a transgender life, but also demonstrates the power and beauty in being yourself, even when you’re not sure who “yourself” is.
This is a trans f/m asexual romance short story in the Lilywhite Boys series
Music-hall singer Miss Christiana is in serious debt, and serious trouble. She owes more than she can pay to a notorious criminal, and now he plans to make an example of her. There’s no way out.
But Christiana has an admirer. Stan Kamarzyn has watched her sing for a year and he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. Stan’s nobody special―just a dodgy bloke from Bethnal Green―but he’s got useful friends. Friends who can get a girl out of trouble, for a price. Christiana’s not sure what it will cost her…
The two slowly reach an understanding. But Christiana is no criminal, and she can’t risk getting mixed up with the law. What will happen when Stan’s life as the fence for the notorious Lilywhite Boys brings trouble to his doorstep?
I’m wildly excited for this month’s featured author, who’s written one of my favorite gay YAs ever, which is also one of my favorite mystery/thriller novels ever, and who just released his sophomore novel on April 24. He’s also got some killer (no pun intended) work coming up and one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, so basically, yeah, he’s a good guy to know! Get to know Caleb Roehrig and you’ll become a huge fan too!
New book! New book! I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but by all accounts, White Rabbit is nooo victim of the Sophomore Slump, and you know I’m a massive fan of your debut, Last Seen Leaving. Can you tell us a little about White Rabbit and what it was like to write book 2?
White Rabbit is about a boy named Rufus Holt who has one night to prove his sister is being framed for murder, with no allies to trust or count on but the ex-boyfriend who crushed his heart. The entire story unfolds over the course of about eight hours, and I call it my tribute to Agatha Christie—a murder mystery with a small pool of suspects, all of whom have something to hide.
As for writing Book 2, let me assure you that Second Book Syndrome is no joke! I actually completed a manuscript in between Last Seen Leaving and White Rabbit, but was in such a weird head space that I never felt comfortable with it. Once it was done, I shelved the project and started all over again. It was absolutely the right choice; the new story—this one—felt right from the very beginning, and I’m so excited to share it with the world!
You also recently announced a new book called Death Prefers Blondes, which I am so excited about. What can you share about it, and in what ways is it a departure from your previous work?
What I can say about Death Prefers Blondes is this: it’s my take on Hamlet, wherein Hamlet is a rebel heiress and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a pack of kickboxing drag queens. It’s a story I’ve told myself in one form or another since I was a teenager, and in many ways it feels surreal to finally have it captured in a manuscript. I tell everyone my signature content is Murder, Mayhem, & Make-outs, and Blondes has all of that in spades; but otherwise, it’s a huge departure for me. It’s less a whodunit than an action/adventure story, and I’ve never written a character quite like my protagonist, Margo—a wise-cracking, death-defying, face-punching socialite, hell-bent on revenge!
As a thriller master, you’ve got to get yourself into some pretty dark places, and do some really twisted plotting. What are your favorites ways to both get yourself into those modes and pull yourself back out as needed?
This is probably going to be an unsatisfying answer, but once upon a time, I was a professional actor; and as such, I have long experience with finding my way in and out of dark places. Acting is storytelling, of course—conjuring emotions out of words, and communicating that journey to the audience. The difference is that now I get to choose the tale that’s told, and how my reader will enter and exit the more intense scenes. To be honest, getting myself in and out of those frames of mind is easier than you might think; I get a lot of satisfaction when I feel like the mood is working right. In a way, creating misery is perversely rewarding.
Talk to me about your main characters. What do you see as common threads between Caleb Roehrig leads, and in what ways do they differ? How much do their very different romantic situations play into that?
I think my protagonists tend to be sarcastic, self-righteous, and prone to overthinking things. As for their differences, Flynn is definitely more of a joiner, and Rufus is more of a proud outcast. In terms of their respective journeys, Rufus has been out for a couple of years before the events White Rabbit, while Flynn is only just embarking on that journey in Last Seen Leaving, which definitely plays into their respective attitudes.
It’s hard to explain how being closeted affects a person, but the best way I can describe it is to say that it’s like living with a ten-second delay. Every word that comes out of your mouth has to clear the censors first, to be sure it won’t give away your secret. A lot of Flynn’s actions and interests are directed by what he thinks will best help him fit in with his friend group; on the flipside, Rufus has had more time to accept and embrace what makes him different, which is, in part, what helps him find his friend group.
As a result, Flynn’s romance is complicated by the fact that he’s put so much time and effort into resisting what he really wants, so that breaking through that shell is a challenge. For Rufus, knowing what he wants isn’t enough—because the boy he wants it with runs in a different social circle, and is going through a difficult journey of his own.
Anyone who doesn’t follow you on Instagram might not know that you take some seriously gorgeous travel photography, and are a hell of a traveler. What are your top 3 travel spots, and what are the top 3 on your travel bucket list? (Also, so everyone can see what I’m talking about, please share a fave travel photo!)
This one is hard! I’ve been a lot of places, but mostly in Europe, because I lived there for four years. That said, I think my top three might be: Venice, Italy; literally anywhere in Norway; and Vevey, Switzerland.
My bucket list includes: Tokyo, Marrakesh, and Rio de Janeiro. And Machu Picchu. And Australia.
As for a fave travel photo, please enjoy the attached snapshot I took of Silvaplana, a town in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, while hiking the Alps!
And as long as we’re discussing travel, if you were going to set a book outside the US, where would it be and why?
Without giving too much away, there’s a sequence in Death Prefers Blondes that takes place in Europe; but as for setting an entire novel outside the US, I definitely have every intention to do so! I was so fortunate to live in Finland for a while, and to get to know that part of the world in an intimate way, and I would love to set a book there. It would mean a lot to me to bring that country alive on the page as a personal love letter.
I would also love to set something in Stockholm. It’s another of my favorite world cities, and I have kind of an affinity for Swedish culture. I’ve been low-key studying the language for the past seven years, which involves reading tons of gritty, Nordic crime fiction, and it’s been making my imagination run wild.
We’ve been seeing some more discussion lately about the importance of queer-guy YA written by queer guys, and as one of my favorite authors bringing #ownvoices gay YA to the canon, what are some books/voices you’d love to see get some more attention? And what milestones would you still like to see hit?
One of my absolute favorite #ownvoices novels is Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me, and I think it deserve more love. It’s a beautifully-written work about some very ugly emotions, and digs its fingers into some situations that are very specific to the gay experience, and which ring with an authenticity that gay readers deserve. I’m also really fond of Tim Floreen’s Willful Machines, Cale Dietrich’s The Love Interest, and Simon Curtis’s Boy Robot, all of which are SciFi/Spec Fic stories with thriller sentimentalities and queer protagonists. I am 110% here for books about kids who navigate their queerness as only one element of a more expansive plot, because that’s how it works in real life, too.
As for milestones I’d like to see hit, well…there are so many. I’d love for more queer writers to hit The List with #OV fiction, of course, but beyond that I would love to see readers really engage with queer art. When we express ourselves in our own words, we communicate truths that can get lost in translation when others tell our stories for us, and sometimes those borrowed narratives deliberately misrepresent the queer experience to appeal to non-queer readers. (I want to add here: writing outside your lane with respect and accuracy is absolutely possible, and I’ve got a list of an incredibly well-done books in that vein to rec as well!)
Honestly, I could talk for ages about this, but to keep it short, I’ll go with this: a milestone I would love to see hit is for #OV gay YA writers to earn awards and recognition based on genre as much as on category. I’d love to see readers abandon their preconceptions and embrace a fuller representation of what queerness is.
Heading back to the root of my fandom, now that you’re a ways away from publication of Last Seen Leaving, what have your takeaways been from the experience, especially with gay YA thrillers being so rare?
My experience has so far been great. It’s funny…I always thought of myself as a thriller writer, because I’ve been telling murder mysteries since long before I ever believed I could sell a book with a gay protagonist. Last Seen Leaving was actually my first attempt at an #OwnVoices novel, and when I first started it, I didn’t actually expect it to go anywhere. So it took me a while to internalize that I’m also a queer lit writer.
I’m really lucky, I think, because with one foot in the genre world and another in the growing field of queer rep for young readers, I get the opportunity to speak on a number of topics that I’m really passionate about. And what’s so great is to know that the gay YA thriller is a growing subcategory right now. I’m not sure where it comes from, but most of the gay men I know love horror movies, and I think—I hope—that more and more OV books are on their way about queer teens fighting monsters and busting crime!
For better or for worse, what’s the earliest LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember reading or seeing onscreen?
I think the very first time that I saw definitively queer rep (something more than subtext) it was in excerpts of Madonna: Truth or Dare, the controversial documentary of the 1991 music tour, Blonde Ambition. I remember these black-and-white clips being played on the news, showing Madonna sitting around with her flamboyant and unapologetically gay back-up dancers, speaking in blunt, provocative terms. Everything featured on the news was heavily censored, of course, but they were there. Madonna was one of the most influential artists in the world at the time, and I’m not sure people can really appreciate what her deliberate and highly visible acceptance of the queer community meant at the time.
Other than Death Prefers Blondes, what’s up next for you? (This is only slightly leading for an HHH plug. Really.)
So, in addition to Death Prefers Blondes, I have a fourth book scheduled with Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, and then I’m contributing a short story to an anthology of Edgar Allen Poe retellings, entitled His Hideous Heart, edited by one Dahlia Adler! (For those keeping score, I’ll be tackling The Pit and the Pendulum.) I’m also contributing to a second anthology, which has not been announced yet, and tweaking an adult fiction project I’ve been working on for a while. So…I think I have a busy year ahead!
Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.