A toxic obsessive romantic best-friendship between two Black girls who know that to actually give in and get together would spark the most dangerous flame, and who also set real ones together? A meditation on how not all friendships are meant to last, even if it’s the most compelling relationship of your life? One of the most stunning novels in verse you’ll ever read? If you haven’t yet picked up Nothing Burns as Bright As You, the only better time than now is yesterday.
One wild and reckless day.
Years of a tumultuous history unspooling
like thin, fraying string in the hours after they set a fire.
They were best friends. Until they became more.
Their affections grew. Until the blurry lines became dangerous.
Over the course of a single day, the depth of their past, the confusion of their present, and the unpredictability of their future is revealed.
And the girls will learn that hearts, like flames, aren’t so easily tamed.
All Luis Gonzalez wants is to go to prom with his boyfriend, something his “progressive” school still doesn’t allow. Not after what happened with Chaz Wilson. But that was ages ago, when Luis’s parents were in high school; it would never happen today, right? He’s determined to find a way to give his LGBTQ friends the respect they deserve (while also not risking his chance to be prom king, just saying…).
When a hit on the head knocks him back in time to 1985 and he meets the doomed young Chaz himself, Luis concocts a new plan-he’s going to give this guy his first real kiss. Though it turns out a conservative school in the ’80s isn’t the safest place to be a gay kid. Especially with homophobes running the campus, including Gordo (aka Luis’s estranged father). Luis is in over his head, trying not to make things worse-and hoping he makes it back to present day at all.
To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.
Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.
Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents who disappeared one fateful night, two years ago.
Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends Zion and Aliyah decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the Queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them . . . is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?
Lethal Lit follows Tig Torres, a Cuban American teen detective, in her hometown of Hollow Falls. In season one of the hit podcast, Tig used her smarts and fearlessness to track down the infamous “Lit Killer,” a serial killer who staged his murders after death scenes from famous books. But there’s no rest for courageous, mystery-solving teens in a place like Hollow Falls, and though the Lit Killer is now behind bars, his protégé, Tig’s classmate and crush Oly, has disappeared!
And that’s not the only game afoot. Tig has caught the attention of the town’s local armchair detective group, the Murder of Crows. They’re obsessed with Hollow Falls’ dark past and fixated on a dangerous search for the missing body of the town’s founder. There are rumors about what’s buried with the body that could be life-changing for whoever finds it, and with a mission like that underway, it’s not long before a member of the Murder of Crows turns up dead.
Tig, along with her friends Max and Wyn, steps in to help, but the stakes are getting higher and the hunt more deadly. Someone’s willing to kill to keep the town’s secrets buried, and if Tig’s not careful, she’ll be the Murder of Crows’ next victim.
This original Lethal Lit story takes place between Seasons 1 and 2 of the podcast, and features a brand-new, never-before-told story starring Tig Torres and her sleuthing friends!
Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.
Except it’s all fake.
Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the façade.
But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.
Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.
So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love―and sexuality―never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.
Beth Kramer is a “townie” who returns to her sophomore year after having endured a year of judgment from her roommate, Sarah.
But Sarah Brunson knows there’s more to that story.
Amanda Priya “Spence” Spencer is the privileged daughter of NYC elites, who is reeling from the realization that her family name shielded her from the same fate as Sarah.
Ramin Golafshar arrives at Chandler as a transfer student to escape the dangers of being gay in Iran, only to suffer brutal hazing under the guise of tradition in the boys’ dorms.
And Freddy Bello is the senior who’s no longer sure of his future but has fallen hard for Spence and knows he has to stand up to his friends after what happened to Ramin.
At Chandler, the elite boarding school, these five teens are brought together in the Circle, a coveted writing group where life-changing friendships are born—and secrets are revealed. Their professor tells them to write their truths. But is the truth enough to change the long-standing culture of abuse at Chandler? And can their friendship survive the fallout?
After Philly teenager Alexis Duncan is injured in a gang shooting, her dreams of a college scholarship and pro basketball career vanish in an instant. To avoid becoming another Black teen trapped in her poverty-stricken neighborhood, she shifts her focus to the school’s STEM team, a group of nerds seeking their own college scholarships. Academics have never been her thing, but Alexis is freshly motivated by Aamani Chakrabarti, the new Indian student who becomes her mentor (and crush?). Alexis begins to see herself as so much more than an athlete. But just as her future starts to reform, Alexis’s own doubts and old loyalties pull her back into harm’s way.
This was previously published in Australia as The Boy From the Mish.
A remarkable YA love story between two Aboriginal boys — one who doesn’t want to accept he’s gay, and the boy who comes to live in his house who makes him realize who he is.
It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city — but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret — a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.
Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.
Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.
School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac?
Anishinaabe culture and storytelling meet Alice in Wonderland in this coming-of-age graphic novel that explores Indigenous and gender issues through a fresh yet familiar looking glass.
Aimée, a non-binary Anishinaabe middle-schooler, is on a class trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits known to protect the land. While stories are told about the water spirits and the threat of the land being taken over for development, Aimée zones out, distracting themselves from the bullying and isolation they’ve experienced since expressing their non-binary identity. When Aimée accidentally wanders off, they are transported to an alternate dimension populated by traditional Anishinaabe figures in a story inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
To gain the way back home, Aimée is called on to help Trickster by hunting down dark water spirits with guidance from Paayehnsag. On their journey, Aimée faces off with the land-grabbing Queen and her robotic guards and fights the dark water spirits against increasingly stacked odds. Illustrated by KC Oster with a modern take on their own Ojibwe style and cultural representation, Rabbit Chase is a story of self-discovery, community, and finding one’s place in the world.
Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.
But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.
Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.
As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.
One wild and reckless day.
Years of a tumultuous history unspooling
like thin, fraying string in the hours after they set a fire.
They were best friends. Until they became more.
Their affections grew. Until the blurry lines became dangerous.
Over the course of a single day, the depth of their past, the confusion of their present, and the unpredictability of their future is revealed.
And the girls will learn that hearts, like flames, aren’t so easily tamed.
Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist, who swept color onto Andi’s blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy even though she secretly has a dancer’s heart.
At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hope for the future.
And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. From the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, For Black Girls Like Me, comes a lyrical story about the rush of first love and the power of one life-changing summer.
For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.
have never felt like I belonged to my body. Never in the way rhythm belongs to a song or waves belong to an ocean.
It seems like most people figure out where they belong by knowing where they came from. When they look in the mirror, they see their family in their eyes, in their sharp jawlines, in the texture of their hair. When they look at family photos, they see faces of people who look like them. They see faces of people who they’ll look like in the future.
For me, I only have my imagination.
But I’m always trying.
Twelve-year-old Gabriela is trying to find their place in the world. In their body, which feels less and less right with each passing day. As an adoptee, in their all-white family. With their mom, whom they love fiercely and do anything they can to help with her depression. And at school, where they search for friends.
A new year will bring a school project, trans and queer friends, and a YouTube channel that helps Gabriela find purpose in their journey.
Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet
Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.
Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.
But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.
While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.
Nate Hargraves – stage-shy singer-songwriter – is totally stoked for his cousin’s wedding in South Africa, an all-expenses-paid trip of a lifetime. Until he finds out his sleazeball ex-boyfriend is also on the guest list.
Jai Patel – hot-as-hell high school rock-god – has troubles too. His band’s lead singer has quit, just weeks before the gig that was meant to be their big break.
When Nate saves the day by agreeing to sing with Jai’s band, Jai volunteers to be Nate’s plus-one to the wedding, and the stage is set for a summer of music, self-discovery, and simmering romantic tension. What could possibly go wrong . . . ?
Seventeen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers drawing attention for her killer eyeliner, not for being the new kid at a mostly white, very rich, Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend, she could use the fresh start.
At Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: make her mom proud, keep her brother out of trouble, and most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami.
The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And talented. And confident. And cute. So cute. Yami isn’t sure if she likes Bo or if she’s just jealous of her unapologetic nature. Either way, she isn’t ready to make the same mistake again. If word got to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection.
Growing up in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Maggie Gonzalez has always been a little messy, but she’s okay with that. After all, she has a great family, a goofy group of friends, a rocky romantic history, and dreams of being a music photographer. Tasked with picking an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, Maggie has to face the truth: that her feelings about her friends—and her future—aren’t as simple as she’d once believed.
As Maggie’s search for the perfect escort continues, she’s forced to confront new (and old) feelings for three of her friends: Amanda, her best friend and first-ever crush; Matthew, her ex-boyfriend twice-over who refuses to stop flirting with her, and Dani, the new girl who has romantic baggage of her own. On top of this romantic disaster, she can’t stop thinking about the uncertainty of her own plans for the future and what that means for the people she loves.
As the weeks wind down and the boundaries between friendship and love become hazy, Maggie finds herself more and more confused with each photo. When her tried-and-true medium causes more chaos than calm, Maggie needs to figure out how to avoid certain disaster—or be brave enough to dive right into it.
Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic – he blames the films he’s grown up watching. He has liked Karim for as long as he can remember, and is ecstatic when Karim becomes his boyfriend – it feels like love.
But when Mack’s dad gets a job on a film in Scotland, Mack has to move, and soon hediscovers how painful love can be. It’s horrible being so far away from Karim, but the worst part is that Karim doesn’t make the effort to visit. Love shouldn’t be only on the weekends.
Then, when Mack meets actor Finlay on a film set, he experiences something powerful, a feeling like love at first sight. How long until he tells Karim – and when will his old life and new life collide?
With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that—it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend, Linus, will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: He’s moving out of state at the end of the week.
To keep from completely losing it—and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad—Harrison plans a send-off à la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day together. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things—big and small—they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.
A literal star-studded anthology that delivers a love story for every star sign straight from the hearts of thirteen multicultural YA authors.
A haunted Aquarius finds love behind the veil. An ambitious Aries will do anything to stay in the spotlight. A foodie Taurus discovers the best eats in town (with a side of romance). A witchy Cancer stumbles into a curious meet-cute.
Whether it’s romantic, platonic, familial, or something else you can’t quite define, love is the thing that connects us. All Signs Point to Yes will take you on a journey from your own backyard to the world beyond the living as it settles us among the stars for thirteen stories of love and life.
These stories will touch your heart, speak to your soul, and have you reaching for your horoscope forevermore.
As an avid watcher of K-dramas, Hana knows all the tropes to avoid when she finally lands a starring role in a buzzy new drama. And she can totally handle her fake co-star boyfriend who might be falling in love with her. After all, she promised the producers a contract romance, and that’s all they’re going to get from her.
But when showrunners bring on a new girl to challenge Hana’s role as main love interest—and worse, it’s someone Hana knows all too well—can Hana fight for her position on the show while falling for her on-screen rival in real life?
Two teen vigilantes set off on an action-packed investigation to expose corruption and deliver justice in Valiant Ladies, Melissa Grey’s YA historical fiction novel inspired by real seventeenth century Latinx teenagers known as the Valiant Ladies of Potosí.
By day Eustaquia “Kiki” de Sonza and Ana Lezama de Urinza are proper young seventeeth century ladies. But when night falls, they trade in their silks and lace for swords and muskets, venturing out into the vibrant, bustling, crime-ridden streets of Potosí, in the Spanish Empire’s Viceroyalty of Peru. They pass their time fighting, gambling, and falling desperately in love with one another.
Then, on the night Kiki’s engagement to the Viceroy’s son is announced, her older brother―heir to her family’s fortune―is murdered. The girls immediately embark on a whirlwind investigation that takes them from the lowliest brothels of Potosí to the highest echelons of the Spanish aristocracy.
Syyed is pining for his ex, who left home to—save the world? He doesn’t know much more, except to wish he’d gone along when Farouk asked. But Sy is shy and timid, from a controlling Indian Muslim family, and wants most to make a life and home with people he loves. Then he meets Reggie, an heiress—is she magical or just rich?—who, in exchange for his kindness, offers to grant Sy three wishes, the first of which is a million dollars, naturally!
But soon reality bites hard: His father realizes Sy is gay and kicks him out. Homeless and alone, he’s off with Reggie and his last two wishes, chasing Farouk to lands he never dreamed to visit to find his missing love for one last, desperate chance at rebuilding his life. And he’ll find out, maybe, that there is a loophole to everything, including wishes.
Briseis has one chance to save her mother, but she’ll need to do the impossible: find the last fragment of the deadly Absyrtus Heart. If she is to locate the missing piece, she must turn to the blood relatives she’s never known, learn about their secret powers, and take her place in their ancient lineage. Briseis is not the only one who wants the Heart, and her enemies will stop at nothing to fulfill their own ruthless plans. The fates tell of a truly dangerous journey, one that could end in more heartache, more death. Bolstered by the sisterhood of ancient magic, can Briseis harness her power to save the people she loves most?
Luca Laine Thomas lives on a cursed island. To the outside world, Parris is an exclusive, idyllic escape accessible only to the one percent. There’s nothing idyllic about its history, though, scattered with the unsolved deaths of young women—deaths Parris society happily ignores to maintain its polished veneer. But Luca can’t ignore them. Not when the curse that took them killed her best friend, Polly, three years ago. Not when she feels the curse lingering nearby, ready to take her next.
When Luca comes home to police cars outside her house, she knows the curse has visited once again. Except this time, it came for Whitney, her sister. Luca decides to take the investigation of Whitney’s death into her own hands. But as a shocking betrayal rocks Luca’s world, the identity Whitney’s killer isn’t the only truth Luca seeks. And by the time she finds what she’s looking for, Luca will come face to face with the curse she’s been running from her whole life.
The Gearbreakers struck a devastating blow against Godolia on Heavensday, but the cost of victory has been steep. Months later, the few rebels who’ve managed to escape the tyrannical empire’s bloody retribution have fled to the mountains, hunted by the last Zenith–Godolia’s only surviving leader.
Eris has been held prisoner since the attack on the capital city, which almost killed her. And she begins to wish it had when she discovers Sona–the girl she loves, the girl she would tear down cities for–also survived, only to be captured and Corrupted by the Zenith. The cybernetic brainwashing that Sona has forcibly undergone now has her believing herself a loyal soldier for Godolia, and Eris’ mortal enemy.
With the rebellion shattered and Godolia moving forward with an insidious plan to begin inducting Badlands children into a new Windup Pilot program, the odds have never been more stacked against the Gearbreakers. Their last hope for victory will depend on whether Eris and Sona can somehow find their way back to each other from opposite sides of a war…
Seri’s world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.
Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she’s ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.
Enrique “Quique” Luna has one goal this summer—get over his crush on Saleem Kanazi by pursuing his other romantic prospects. Never mind that he’s only out to his best friend, Fabiola. Never mind that he has absolutely zero game. And definitely forget the fact that good and kind and, not to mention, beautiful Saleem is leaving LA for the summer to meet a girl his parents are trying to set him up with.
Luckily, Quique’s prospects are each intriguing in their own ways. There’s stoner-jock Tyler Montana, who might be just as interested in Fabiola as he is in Quique; straitlaced senior class president, Ziggy Jackson; and Manny Zuniga, who keeps looking at Quique like he’s carne asada fresh off the grill. With all these choices, Quique is sure to forget about Saleem in no time.
But as the summer heats up and his deep-seated fears and anxieties boil over, Quique soon realizes that getting over one guy by getting under a bunch of others may not have been the best laid plan and living his truth can come at a high cost.
Moon has been plunged into a swill of uncertainty and confusion. They travel to the spirit realms every night, hoping never to return to the world of the living.
But when the realm is threatened, it’s up to Moon to save the spirit world, which sparks their own healing journey through the powerful, baffling, landscape that depression can cause.
From this novel’s very first utterance, author Kacen Callender puts us behind Moon’s eyes so that we, too, are engulfed by Moon’s troubling exploration through mental illness.
Moon’s mom is trying her best, but is clueless about what to do to reach the ugly roiling of her child’s inner struggles. At the same time, though, there are those who see Moon for who they are – Blue, the Keeper, the Magician, Wolf. These creature-guides help Moon find a way out of darkness. The ethereal aspects of the story are brilliantly blended with real-world glimmers of light. Slowly, Moon grows toward hope and wholeness, showing all children that each and every one of us has a tree growing inside. That our souls emerge when we discover, and fully accept, ourselves.
As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all—they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next ten years.
Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials…or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya—daughter of Tierra, the god of earth—is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. He also can’t help but worry (reluctantly, and under protest) for Aurelio, a powerful Gold semidiós and Teo’s friend-turned-rival who is a shoo-in for the Trials. Teo wouldn’t mind taking Aurelio down a notch or two, but a one-in-ten chance of death is a bit too close for Teo’s taste.
But then, for the first time in over a century, Sol chooses a semidiós who isn’t a Gold. In fact, he chooses two: Xio, the 13-year-old child of Mala Suerte, god of bad luck, and…Teo. Now they must compete in five mysterious trials, against opponents who are both more powerful and better trained, for fame, glory, and their own survival.
New York City, 1922. Nicolás Caraveo, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Wisconsin, has no interest in the city’s glamor. Going to New York is all about establishing himself as a young professional, which could set up his future—and his life as a man—and benefit his family.
Nick rents a small house in West Egg from his 18-year-old cousin, Daisy Fabrega, who lives in fashionable East Egg near her wealthy fiancé, Tom—and Nick is shocked to find that his cousin now goes by Daisy Fay, has erased all signs of her Latina heritage, and now passes seamlessly as white.
Nick’s neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious young man named Jay Gatsby, whose castle-like mansion is the stage for parties so extravagant that they both dazzle and terrify Nick. At one of these parties, Nick learns that the spectacle is all for the benefit of impressing a girl from Jay’s past—Daisy. And he learns something else: Jay is also transgender.
As Nick is pulled deeper into the glittery culture of decadence, he spends more time with Jay, aiming to help his new friend reconnect with his lost love. But Nick’s feelings grow more complicated when he finds himself falling hard for Jay’s openness, idealism, and unfounded faith in the American Dream.
Seventeen-year-old Carter Harper may have created an award-winning iPhone app and have a 3.93 GPA, but her successes are overshadowed by brutal bullying, debilitating depression, and biting loneliness. Tired of being treated as the popular girls’ plaything, Carter hatches a plan to gain their respect, and maybe even gain a bit of popularity of her own. When that doesn’t work, she thinks her only choice is to die by suicide.
Abby Wallace is a member of “the POPS” (the Petty, Oppressive, and Popular Shitbags, according to Carter)—subordinate only to Kelsey, her best friend with benefits. The ambitious poet destroys reputations without care—especially Carter’s—to prove how cool, cruel, and strong she is, all while pushing down her past trauma and secret guilt. But she faces an unexpected adversary when Kelsey tries to make Carter her new pet project. Angry and betrayed, Abby pushes Carter to the edge—facing consequences she never could have imagined.
Carter and Abby’s tumultuous relationship comes to a boiling point when Abby stops Carter from attempting suicide. But what happens when their shared enemy tries to come for them both again, and they end up in the unfortunate position of trying to protect one another? If Carter and Abby can stand each other for more than three minutes, they can stop Kelsey’s court of misrule from harming more girls.
Lark Winters wants to be a writer, and for now that means posting on their social media accounts––anything to build their platform. When former best friend Kasim accidentally posts on Lark’s Twitter a thread declaring his love for a secret, unrequited crush, Lark’s tweets are suddenly the talk of the school—and beyond. To protect Kasim, Lark decides to take the fall, pretending they accidentally posted the thread in reference to another classmate. It seems like a great idea: Lark gets closer to their crush, Kasim keeps his privacy, and Lark’s social media stats explode. But living a lie takes a toll—as does the judgment of thousands of Internet strangers. Lark tries their best to be perfect at all costs, but nothing seems good enough for the anonymous hordes––or for Kasim, who is growing closer to Lark, just like it used to be between them . . .
In the end, Lark must embrace their right to their messy emotions and learn how to be in love.
Aria Tang West was looking forward to a summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her best friends–one last round of sand and sun before college. But after a graduation party goes wrong, Aria’s parents exile her to California to stay with her grandmother, artist Joan West.Aria expects boredom, but what she finds is Steph Nichols, her grandmother’s gardener. Soon, Aria is second-guessing who she is and what she wants to be, and a summer that once seemed lost becomes unforgettable–for Aria, her family, and the working-class queer community Steph introduces her to. It’s the kind of summer that changes a life forever.
In this modern reimagining of Anne of Green Gables, Anne is an ABBA-loving singer/actor/writer of disco-operas, queer, Japanese-American who longs to be understood for her artistic genius. Recently relocated to middle-of-nowhere Greenville and starting at a new school, Anne has a tendency to A) fall in love quickly, deeply, and effervescently and B) fly off the handle in the face of jerks. Both personality quirks quickly come into play when the soccer team boos the premiere of her disco performance, which—in a roundabout way—introduces her to her new BFF, Berry, and she soon after meets the girl of her dreams, Gilly.
Falling quickly into that age-old trap of ignoring the best friend for the new crush, Anne soon becomes embroiled in a series of dramatic and unfortunate events, and quickly finds herself wrapped up in a love triangle she never expected. Is she MTB with Gilly? Or is Berry her true soul mate? Only time (or 304 pages) will tell.
Kaori and Kairi are the first twins to survive infancy on the ancient island of Mu, where gender is as fluid as the crashing waves. One was born of fire, the other of water.
But there’s a reason why none have survived before. A prophecy that has haunted the elders since time began. A rivalry destined to sink the entire island beneath a twin catastrophe of volcano and tsunami.
As hatred spills from the forbidden twins like the deadly poison of sacrificed sea snakes, they must decide what matters to them most…
The fight for the island – for tradition and duty.
Or the fight for freedom – for love and light.
What’s more important? Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?
The summer of her senior year, seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson finds herself uprooted from her life in DC and moved into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between her mom and Mama Letty makes for an unwelcoming arrival and unearths some family drama they refuse to talk about. Everytime Avery tries to look deeper, they turn her away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.
Where Mama Letty is cantankerous and closed off, Avery finds friendship in some unexpected places: in Simone, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family— whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.
But as the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into something more—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town start to hint at something more insidious underneath. Turning to Mama Letty for answers only result in more questions, uncovering decades-old secrets that have been brewing for generations, exposing the towns racist history and threatening to topple the new life Avery’s built in Bardell County, Georgia.
It’s a fabulous year for YA authors shifting over to Adult Romance, and if you’re as excited as I am about Claire Kann being one of the writers to make the shift, then just wait until you see this cover. The Romantic Agenda releases from Berkley on April 12, 2022, and here’s the story:
Thirty, flirty, and asexual Joy is secretly in love with her best friend Malcolm, but she’s never been brave enough to say so. When he unexpectedly announces that he’s met the love of his life—and no, it’s not Joy—she’s heartbroken. Malcolm invites her on a weekend getaway, and Joy decides it’s her last chance to show him exactly what he’s overlooking. But maybe Joy is the one missing something…or someone…and his name is Fox.
Fox sees a kindred spirit in Joy—and decides to help her. He proposes they pretend to fall for each other on the weekend trip to make Malcolm jealous. But spending time with Fox shows Joy what it’s like to not be the third wheel, and there’s no mistaking the way he makes her feel. Could Fox be the romantic partner she’s always deserved?
And here’s the gorgeous cover with art by Alex Cabal and design by Rita Frangie!
Claire Kann is the author of Let’s Talk About Love, If It Makes You Happy, The Marvelous and an award-winning online storyteller. In her other life she works for a non-profit you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Douglass and a few other authors in a roundtable entitled “Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA?” The interviewees were all obvious rising stars, in my opinion, but the very next queer Black male voice to rise up in YA after that post actually belonged to an author I didn’t know yet named Julian Winters.
Fast forward to now, when Douglass has debuted on the New York Times bestseller list (and also managed to publish a volume of poetry called Boy in Jeopardy even before that), Winters is three books in with a fourth, Right Where I Left You, on the way, and both of them are here today to talk about The Taking of Jake Livingston. Here’s a little more on the book, first:
Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.
Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.
And now, please welcome Julian Winters and Ryan Douglass!
Julian: Ryan! It’s always an honor to chat with you, but this feels especially fantastic because I’m getting to talk to Ryan Douglass, instant New York Times bestselling author of The Taking of Jake Livingston! How wild is that? One week we’re chatting on the day the book is released, then you’re a bestselling author with your debut novel!
Ryan: I don’t even think it’s even sunk in. It’s pretty cool and I’m so glad people have responded well to this story.
JW: Interviewing you for LGBTQ Reads is an extra special occasion for me. A few years ago, you did an interview on here that kind of changed my life as an author. The discussion you had about being a queer, Black author and writing queer Black boys as protagonists gave me the courage I needed to finally sit down and written my sophomore novel, How to Be Remy Cameron. I didn’t know if queer Black boys had the space they deserved as the protagonists in the Young Adult world until I read that interview. It made me want to ensure they did have their voices heard.
Jake’s story continues to inspire me and others to write our books where queer Black boys are at the heart. Where we can celebrate their uniqueness and joy as well as discussing their struggles.
Where did the inspiration for Jake come from? What made you jump into Horror, a genre that doesn’t often showcase Black and/or queer teens as protagonists?
RD: Thank you for saying that. I was very interested in what this book would do for representation politics at the beginning but it’s since become less of a concern. I don’t feel like I’m writing about the “Black queer experience” as much as a slice of life where the MC happens to be Black and queer. I was interested in horror because of the way it explored trauma and fear, how the psyche operates in moments of desperation and the choices people make in perilous situations. That developed as a kid before I realized what it meant to be Black, institutionally, and how the genre treats its Black characters. Later I was able to assess the injustice that occurs in media representation. I wanted to write characters that felt true to me so I put them into the genre I was interested in working in. Since it’s horror, that ends up feeling naturally subversive since the genre usually kills off its Black characters when left to white creators.
JW: I love that this book is gives me old school, paranormal horror vibes, but also looks at the real-life horror Black teens face. It’s very much The Frighteners meets Get Out and so much more. What are some of the themes you wanted to explore, both from the supernatural and real world?
RD: A big theme in the book is how whiteness invades Black consciousness when we’re trying to succeed. It erodes our cultural norms under the guise of professionalism. It’s so normalized to go to PWIs or get a corporate job and link that to merit and moving up. But what you’re doing is negotiating your culture for prestige or financial gain. We’re climbing into systems rooted in a slave system that has never been reformed, and the way we’re treated today mirrors slavery in a way that is better branded. We talk about it but we don’t change these systems in serious ways. It’s so normalized that “talking about it” is a thriving market to make money in. Jake angles into these issues by featuring a Black boy who’s been ripped out of his community and now feels he’s going insane because he can’t get whiteness (Sawyer) off his back. It’s also a book about the ways boys are raised in violence and how hard it becomes to communicate when you feel like you’re being abused and you can’t come up for air. As for the supernatural elements, they’re mostly there to supplement the contemporary issues, and they enhance this “superhero origin story” feel that the book ends up taking on. Black queer boys need superhero icons.
JW: Writing Horror is such a skilled art to me. To be honest, you had me sleeping with the lights on while reading this book! What are the challenges you faced trying to craft out such a terrifying world?
RD: A big challenge when I first chose horror was understanding how it comes to life in literature and how that may be similar or different from what you see in movies. You can’t use jump scares or make use of music and lighting, which are naturally spooky tactics in film. Evoking an unsettling atmosphere with words is the big challenge because it’s so reliant on a sense of dread and zeroing in on the darker aspects of language, imagery, and metaphor. You also have to be irreverent enough to take risks with what is psychologically comfortable.
JW: This book is told from dual POVs. Jake’s story in real time, then the antagonist Sawyer Doon’s world through his diary entries. Sawyer is a frightening character. I love that, through his entries, you explore what brought him to the point he’s at in the novel. But you do it without redeeming him. You don’t excuse away his actions. You weave a tragic story in a way that doesn’t give him exoneration but really dives deep into the psyche of someone pushed to their edge.
What was it like writing a character like Sawyer?
RD: I always sigh with relief when I hear that because a big worry of mine was that he might come off as redeemable or else too evil to for a normal person to tolerate reading from his perspective. Writing Sawyer was all about achieving the right balance. I had to constantly ask myself how much distance I wanted to keep from any vulnerabilities this character might have. That then opens questions of how much distance this character keeps from himself. What about him disturbs himself, and what about his surroundings have disturbed his way of thinking? That’s when I got into the meat of where this character comes from in a way that felt like it wasn’t softening him too much but centering an exploration of how empathy and connection comes into his world as this fleeting object but the crux of him is evil.
JW: Besides all the scary imagery you describe so perfectly, another part of this novel I love is the way you explore queer Black boys like Jake and their relationships with others. Specifically, Jake’s older brother, Benji.
What were some of the things you hope readers get from their relationship, along with the one Jake has with his mother?
RD: I like these boys because they ring true as Black boys without there being any performative emphasis on how “Blackity Black” they are. I want readers to get a slice of human experience without the primary mission being to convince white people that Black people are people too. When the mission is not saying to the reader “hey guys, Black people are actually human”, we’re able to dive into intracommunity issues like the relationships between straight Black men and queer Black men, how straight Black women may support homophobic actions of their straight Black partners at the expense of the queer boys or men in their lives. There’s the issue of whiteness but at the center of Jake’s trauma are the issues he dealt with at home. The experience of living in his identity is having layers of trauma to work through. I think readers who are not of that experience or of an intersectional experience can learn from that.
JW: Let’s talk about Allister! From the moment he appeared on the page, I felt like Jake—like I could breathe again. He’s this amazing addition in Jake’s life. Someone who doesn’t question who Jake is, what he’s going through, nor does he brush off Jake’s struggles. And let’s be real—their romance made me swoon.
Who is Allister to this book and why was it so important for you two show that kind of relationship between two queer Black boys?
RD: Allister serves as a breath of fresh air to the narrative. I didn’t have a lot of time to develop his relationship to Jake because I was trying to develop other things in a time crunch during edits. But I ended up liking how simple it was. I like that Jake has someone in his life that doesn’t feel untrustworthy or overly complicated. I don’t know if boys as perfect as Allister exist, but I think it’s important that gay teens are able to see what healthy love looks like.
JW: As an avid fan of yours, I know you love music! I get some of my best recs from your social media posts. If (or when?) this book becomes a movie, who would be on the soundtrack? What songs or artist would best accompany Jake’s story?
RD: I’m a big fan of the artists that come out of NUXXE, which is Shygirl’s record label. It’s gritty, often spooky experimental pop. I’d want Shygirl, Sega Bodega, COUCOU CHLOE, Y1640 and similar sounding artists to be on the soundtrack. I think their sounds really mirror the tone of the book.
JW: People are gobbling this book up! I know I did. We all have to know: What can we expect next from Ryan Douglass?
RD: I’m working on another YA horror currently. I’ve been trying several genres in recent years, from historical fantasy to paranormal romance to rom-com. I want to tap into so many genres but teen horror and dark academia come naturally. I’m good at that so I’m developing in that genre as a writer for now. Later I plan to spread out to other things.
Ryan Douglass was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where he currently resides, cooking pasta and playing records. He enjoys wooden-wick candles, falling asleep on airplanes, and advocating for stronger media representation for queer Black people.
Julian Winters is the best-selling author of contemporary young adult fiction. His debut, Running With Lions (Duet, 2018), won accolades for its positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer. How to Be Remy Cameron is his second novel.
Oh, how I love this book. Let me count the ways! A) It’s perfect on the coming-of-age front, B) it has found family in multiple iterations, C) it has a Black lesbian heroine in STEM from a military background that I know anyone who was an overachieving child (and especially those pushed by parents) will identify with, more and more so the closer you get to Grace’s identity, and D) the romance is so. Freaking. Cute. It’s not what you’re picturing when you think “Got married while drunk in Vegas” but it’s such a great take on it that you are not gonna be mad about it!
Honey Girl releases February 23 from Park Row Books, so please make good use of those buy links below to preorder!
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
Literally nobody on Earth needs me to extol the virtues of Akwaeke Emezi’s writing; pretty sure all their awards and accolades do a fine job at that on their own. But if you somehow haven’t read Pet, their speculative 2019 YA debut starring a Black trans girl who goes hunting for the most insidious kind of monster in a world that’s supposed to be safe from them, I am legally* obligated to make sure you do that, and to remind you that no matter how much increased rep we see in other areas, we’re still not seeing a real increase in transfeminine YA heroines in traditionally published YA novels, and certainly not trans girls of color.
But this isn’t a “read it because the rep is so special” call, even though the rep is so special, and nothing brings on more like increasing the success of what exists; it’s a “read it because it’s one of the only times in my life I’ve ever been completely hooked by a novel on page 1.” Read it because it does something brilliant and special with the gentle way it handles CSA and both sides of the fear and bravery coin. Read it because it’s so damn smart in such a slim profile. Read it because I said so.
Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with the lesson that the city is safe for everyone. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature who some might call monstrous but, in reality, is anything but, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a true monster–and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. No one has encountered monsters in years, though, and Jam’s quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth is met with doubt and disbelief.
This award-winning novel from a rising-star author asks: What really makes a monster, and how do you save the world from something if no one will admit it exists?
I’m really thrilled to have Katrina Jackson back on the site today for this beautiful essay on finding queer Black love in literature. I asked her to write it after seeing her Twitter threads about it, and I’m so grateful that she did. You can see more about Kat and her books here, but frankly, I’m antsy to get to the post, so, onward!
I didn’t start reading romance with any kind of intention until I was an adult, but I have loved love stories my entire life, especially Black love stories. There was something about seeing movies with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and realizing that they had spent decades sharing their passion for art and activism with one another, that made my heart swell. It still does. I’ve also always loved queer love stories for as long as I can remember, even when I didn’t understand that I loved queer love stories for the same reasons I loved Black love stories: I was searching for depictions of love that reflected pieces of myself. I was searching for something that felt like a little slice of me on the big and small screens.
The first DVD I bought was The Color Purple. It was one of those old-school DVDs where the movie was split between two discs with those cheap plastic covers. I cherished that DVD, because once it was mine, I could watch that scene of Celie and Shug’s tentative kiss – with the juke joint providing a muffled backdrop – whenever I wanted. And I wanted to watch it over and over and over again. I felt similarly engrossed, years later as I watched the climax of Moonlight. I was a puddle of happy, relieved tears as the tumult of Chiron’s life culminates in this hardened, resilient man sitting across a diner table, staring at his childhood love with softness and warmth in his eyes. These two scenes, among so many others, spoke to that quietest part of my heart and the longing many of us hold to look at someone we love and feel fully and completely seen and loved for all that we are.
I turned to romance books while getting my master’s degree. I was in the depths of one of the worst depressive episodes of my adult life. Every day I received messages from professors and other students, that I did not belong, and I dreamt about abandoning the program and running home to the places and people who loved me. I didn’t leave, but I did start reading romance. Finding love stories that centered people who looked like me made the world feel much less alone and allowed me to start down a years-long road to fully identifying as bisexual, even though I’ve always known that I wasn’t straight. It took a little work to find queer stories with Black people, but once I found one, I found more and more and more.
The point I’m trying to make is that I have looked for Black queer love stories for most of my life and I have found them! They have buoyed me when I was at my lowest, when life seemed bleak and when looking at the news made my entire body hurt so much that I spent days in bed mourning.
So you can imagine how much it hurt when, in the midst of the most recent cluster of stories about American police officers killing Black people like Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I saw bookish twitter accounts – some I follow, some I don’t – begin recommending books by Black authors that refused to recognize the full breadth of Black life and humanity. Romance accounts, specifically, were so cavalier in their lists that many recommended books by non-Black authors who wrote Black characters, sometimes problematically, because they didn’t read much romance by Black authors, but refused to cede space to reviewers and readers who did. Across the board, I watched romance outlets, writers, reviewers and readers, recommend books that focused on white characters, books filled with anti-Black stereotypes, and on top of all that many patently ignored queer Black authors and books with queer Black characters.
While I don’t particularly agree with recommending fiction in a moment where people need to confront the depths of their anti-blackness and begin to consider the realities of global white supremacy, watching romance readers who imagined themselves as supportive of diversity, erase (queer) Black people (authors and characters) dug deep in my chest. It sent the message that people like me and the characters I write don’t actually matter, even while people were putting the hashtag in their bios. It was an erasure that struck a painful chord because it reminded me that the people and stories I love – who are the center of my life – are so easily forgotten and ignored.
I love Black people. I love queer Black people and QPOC. They don’t just matter to me, they are precious. I would not be alive today without them. I would not be writing without them. And I would not have the solace of these stories on the days when I still can’t get out of bed because everything hurts. At least with the stories that Black authors have written, my heart doesn’t have to hurt nearly as much, because it is so full of love for queer Black people.
Unfortunately, even when I’m depressed, I have a near obsessive desire to catalog books, so I took to twitter to begin a thread of queer romance written by Black authors. I began with books I love by authors I respect and appreciate and asked for recommendations. What I found in this process was instructive in many ways. I made a few caveats for recommendations that might have seemed random at the time but were not. I asked that the author identify as Black, since I’d seen so many outlets recommending non-Black authors. It mattered to me that if the response to Black murder was to uplift Black authors, that those authors better be Black and stand firm in their blackness. I wanted to focus specifically on adult romance because the YA book community had rallied their recommendations firmly behind Black authors (trans, cis, queer and het). It was exciting to watch and frustrating to compare to the adult romance community.
The other critical requirement was that the books feature Black characters and all the love interests should be Black or other people of color. Again, this was not arbitrary. Romance, like other literary genres, is steeped in white supremacist narratives. It is not just that so many traditionally published romance authors are white, it is that the foundation of the genre is based on whiteness as the norm. The tropes and story structures and even the Happily Ever After (the only requirement of romance literature) have been defined by a white default, even when some of the characters are people of color.
The proliferation of romance stories (traditionally published, indie and self-pub) that peddle in anti-Black, homophobic, transphobic, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is alarming, but not new. What feels new are the ways in which so many of these books are classified as “diverse” and “inclusive” even when they are not. So when I asked that all the recommendations focus on Black and POC characters, it was because I wanted to create a list of queer romances that rejected the white supremacist narrative in romance that centers whiteness, that demands white love interests and requires a translation of queer love between characters of color for white audiences. I wanted to find books by Black authors who, hopefully, wrote for readers of color.
What I found in this process was a mixed bag, as much of life is. On the downside, I found that I spent hours of my day clarifying fairly clear instructions, asking readers to verify that the authors and characters were Black and POC. I found that some people were disinterested in the idea of queer Black people and QPOC loving one another. I found that readers, writers and reviewers – many who jumped at the chance to make recommendation lists themselves – had become comfortable ignoring blackness. They considered it incidental or a box to check on the list of diversity brownie points. They were perfectly fine to tokenize Black authors and characters but were never challenged to consider why.
But the other, far better, thing I discovered was the wealth of queer romance written by Black authors. There was Black Romance and IR, polyamorous, m/m, and even the apparently elusive f/f romance. There were so many bisexual and pansexual characters! I found contemporary and historical and paranormal and urban. Certainly, there is room to grow in many areas, for instance so far there is only one trans Black romance recommendation (noted below) and ace spectrum representation is similarly lacking. In this moment, I choose to celebrate that the few books we have exist, but I hope for more.
There were many highs and lows in this process. I won’t pretend that I didn’t often wish I hadn’t decided to field the barrage of twitter notifications in a moment when I really should have given myself peace and quiet. Self-care is a thing I’m working on, especially now. But for all the new books and authors I and others discovered, I’ve decided that the exercise was worth it.
Below are a sample of books that emerged in the conversation, some I’ve read, some I’ve moved up my TBR and some I’m waiting impatiently to be released. These are books that remind me of the things that were true at the beginning of this all. I love being Black with every cell in my body. This is not incidental to me. And queer Black people are still PRECIOUS and CRUCIAL to my life and well-being.
For even more recommendations put together by Katrina, check out this list on Goodreads! (Blogger’s Note: Please do not add to this list anything that does not fit the above-stated requirements or I may do a murder.)
Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.
She’s super active on twitter. Follow her: @katrinajax
*All links are affiliate, bringing a small percentage of each purchase back to the site (Amz = Amazon | Bks = Bookshop)
You know those covers that are just so badass you barely even need to know what it’s inside to know you need it? But then you see what’s inside and you know you need it? I present to you today exhibit A, in the form of Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar, which is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series and releases on September 5, 2020. Here’s a little more about it:
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.
“Stone and Steel is a sharp and sexy story of love, loyalty and magic. Eboni has given us a world where Black Queerness reigns supreme, and our world is better for it.” — Danny Lore, co-author of Queen of Bad Dreams
And here is the glorious cover, painted by Odera Igbokwe and designed by dave ring!
Eboni Dunbar is a queer, black woman who writes queer and black speculative fiction. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner. She received her BA from Macalester College and her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. She is a VONA Alum, an associate editor for PodCastle, an acquiring editor for FIYAH Literary Magazine and a freelance reviewer. Her work can be found in FIYAH, Drabblecast, Anathema: Spec from the margins and Nightlight Podcast. She can be found online at www.ebonidunbar.com and on Twitter as @sugoionna87.