Tag Archives: Kaylani Juanita

Better Know an Author: Kyle Lukoff

I am truly beyond excited to have Kyle Lukoff on the site today to discuss his work, and if you think I’m exaggerating, please know that this is the first interview I’ve been able to do in like a year because so many questions burst out of my it was like my excitement shook me out of a cursed state. His newest is his debut Middle Grade, Too Bright to See, which has received approximately as many stars as the sky in Montana, and he’s here to talk about that, his other work, and some pretty fascinating current events!

First of all, huge congrats on your first Middle Grade! Too Bright to See is such a beautiful book, and it’s fascinating to see a book for young readers so grounded in death. How did you come to choose that approach to tell Bug’s journey?

Thank you!!

54786049. sy475 The brainstorm that led to this book was the decision that instead of writing two different middle grade novels (a trans boy book and a ghost story using an old writing prompt of my dad’s), I could kill two birds with one stone. So I never intended to write a book about death, loss, and grief, but for there to be a ghost there has to be a dead person, and a relationship between the dead person and the alive person, so that part came about almost as an afterthought. But I have always loved kids books about death–I have really strong memories of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, and read The Bridge to Terabithia countless times, and as a kid I always felt like the books that dealt with death well were the only books being honest to kids, about how sometimes bad things happen and then you feel bad. I didn’t have any experience with death as a kid (aside from a few pets), but felt bad a lot, and think I channeled a lot of that into Too Bright To See.

Bug finds some wonderful acceptance among friends, which is a really great thing to see on the page, especially for readers who could use the encouragement of knowing it’s possible, but it also reminded me of the first time I was on a queer panel where we got a question about whether we were “making it look too easy” by writing happy stories. What’s your feeling on portraying happier vs. harsher experiences in queer and/or trans lit?

Well! If anyone accuses me of “making it look too easy” I will invite them to look around at a) the world and b) the vast majority of books featuring trans kids and how they also feature transphobia. If they are concerned that showing positive responses to coming out will give kids the wrong idea, they’ll be thrilled to learn that my approach is a distinct aberration.

I do like writing positive experiences of coming out, in some ways fo idealistic reasons–showing kids, parents, siblings, etc. that it is possible, that you can respond with love and acceptance, and that there’s no earthly reason to do anything else. But the real reason I don’t focus on transphobia in my books is because, quite frankly, I don’t find it interesting. I’ve experienced plenty of it in my life. It’s hard, and it’s bad. But it’s also boring, because instead of just getting on with my day, I have to deal with some cis person and their ignorant and/or hateful ideas, none of which are new, or unique, or interesting, or intellectually sound, they’re all just rehashed and reheated talking points from before I was born. I’d rather write books about trans characters getting on with their lives instead of reacting to other people’s banal, unimaginative prejudice or bigotry.

Speaking of both happy and harsh experiences, you’ve had quite a 2021 so far, which is culminating in your traveling to the Utah State Capitol to give a reading and speech at a rally for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Schools. Can you walk us through the events here and maybe give us a glimpse into what your visit?

“Culminating” is an optimistic word for May! But, yes, it’s been a Lot. Basically, what happened is that a school district outside of Salt Lake City decided to “pause” a program distributing books to kids that focused on progressive themes, mostly racial justice, because a child brought one of my books (which wasn’t even included in that program) to school and asked his teacher to read it. It turned into a tremendous transphobic kerfuffle, and teachers used it as a catalyst to organize a rally calling for more LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. You can read my speech on my website here. Also, one month later a similar situation erupted outside of Austin, Texas.

I am 37 years old, came out as trans when I was around twenty, and have spent most of my adult life just being some guy doing stuff. It’s strange and upsetting to suddenly have to convince or remind people that we share a common humanity, and that my trans identity is one aspect of my lived experience rather than a rhetorical gotcha or a talking point. It’s also, as I said, boring. But I also feel really grateful that I’m only doing this work now that I’m firmly set into my life as a trans adult, because I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to advocate for yourself when you’re just discovering who that is.

You’ve now published books for three different age groups, but the Max and Friends series in particular is targeted to one that feels extremely left behind in queer literature. Why do you think that is, and do you have any recommendations for other LGBTQ+ titles for the early reader (or “pre-MG”) age group?

51648108. sx318 sy475 Early readers across the board have been in need of diversification for a long time. I can’t speak to why that is, but entrenched conservative opinions in publishing are likely the cause of it! Just, longstanding ideas of what is “right” for kids, and who exactly they think of when they think of “kids.” These are also books that are more likely to be selected by parents and educators, and then disseminated to kids, instead of kids choosing for themselves.

And then, well, it is tricky to organically incorporate LGBTQ themes into books for younger audiences. You can have those identities among parents, siblings, community members, etc., but the stories should be focused on the children. And little kids are still in so many ways forming their identities, that it’s challenging to honestly represent how a queer identity might manifest in someone that age. I would love to see what other authors come up with, because I’m kind of out of ideas!

We of course also must discuss When Aidan Became a Brother, your beautiful and critically acclaimed picture book illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. What was that collaborative process like, especially for a book so close to you personally?

39987021Authors typically have very little, if any, collaboration with their illustrators! When it came to Aidan, Kaylani had free rein to interpret my words in a way that matched her creative vision for the story–the outfits, the setting, the emotional tenor of each scene. She’s Black and Filipina, which is why she depicted Aidan’s family that way, and I love telling kids about how we both put parts of our story into this book.

I did ask for a few small changes–the only one I remember is something hinting at what Aidan’s old name was, but since I never imagined what his name used to be, I asked to replace that detail because I didn’t want to give people permission to speculate. But I largely trusted her, not just because I’m not a visually-minded person, and now I can’t imagine the book any other way.

Also, Aidan is not especially close to me personally. It is close to me politically, in that I have a lot of opinions about transmasculinity and misogyny, parental responsibility, gender reveal parties, etc. etc., but my life story isn’t at all close to Aidan’s–I came out when I was in college, I don’t have a little sibling, etc. etc. I might feel more protective if someone were to make a picture book biography of me! (no one do that ever please and thank you).

You have so much professional experience with children, and prior to COVID, school visits were also a big part of being an author for you. What do you think adult authors of queer literature for kids misunderstand the most about their audiences, and what should they keep in mind when writing for them?

Kids are entire human beings with inner lives and moral compasses all their own, and you cannot mold a person’s sense of self by just telling them what to think. I read a lot of scenes in books (not just queer-themed) where there are moments that are so clearly didactic, imparting important lessons about intersectionality or assimilation or privilege or what-have-you, and I’m not sure if those land as clearly as the authors are hoping they will. When I read middle grade novels aloud to my students, I would often stop to discuss important scenes, and what kids took away from them was often nothing like what the author had intended (in some cases I knew the author and could ask about their intent, in other cases it was just clear to me as an adult). So I wish authors focused more on telling a story and allowing for varied answers to complex questions, instead of trying to tell kids what they should believe. I’m definitely guilty of that too, so I’m also telling this to myself.

Of all the age groups you’ve written for, is there one that’s closest to your heart and/or one you feel is most specifically in need of trans literature written by an actual trans person? Is there one you simply prefer most from a craft perspective?

Fifth grade is very close to my heart, because that’s the year my students graduate from the school I worked at–so, they were generally the kids I knew the longest (the 5th grade class of 2021 includes students I met when they were two!), and it was incredible to watch them develop into sophisticated, mature thinkers. When I write middle grade I think, more than anything, of my fifth grade students, because in one class a kid might be re-reading Wimpy Kid and another might be tackling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Martian (true story!). I love trying to reach all those kids at once.

I do think that all ages would benefit from trans-themed books by trans writers, because…well, why not? I feel really grateful I’ve been able to build a career in so many different genres (more to come! including a board book! keep an eye out for announcements) and want that for my peers.

From a craft perspective, I will always love the challenge of writing as much as possible in as few words as possible. I’ve been branching out into more creative structures; I have one book coming out that is the simplest story imaginable, told in a complex rhyme scheme that I think I invented, and that is the most fun I’ve putting a book together (well, “fun” in that I pulled out my notebook during an evening of existential despair, and putting words together like jigsaw pieces helped). I have another forthcoming project that’s an epistolary picture book, and I loved the restrictions that puts on the story. Basically the more restrictions on a project the more fun I have with it–someday I might attempt a novel written in blank verse or just (“just”) iambic pentameter, but that might be too ambitious.

I imagine launching your debut novel in a pandemic sucks, even if it’s not your first published work. What do you feel like you missed out on the most as a result, and were there any pleasant surprises that came with it? How did you celebrate?

It does suck! One piece of gratitude I’ve been holding onto, though, is that Aidan came out in 2019, and I took that fall off from my day job (which I’ve since quit) to travel all over the country. If I had had to cancel all that, I don’t know what kind of emotional state I’d be in (not a good one, I think!) so I have so much sympathy for my author friends debuting into this.

So, I know a lot of what I missed out on–baths in hotel rooms that someone else paid for, kid-made signs welcoming me to their school, a significant percentage of my projected income. But on the other hand, I don’t think I would have made my deadline for novel #2 if I hadn’t been just home writing. I also sold a bunch of other projects, for a bunch of different age groups. Too Bright To See still got six starred reviews. I still got to launch with Maulik, which was dreamy. I’m not good at celebrating in the best of times, but right after the virtual launch a neighborhood friend took me out for a beer and some microwaved crinkle fries. It was really nice weather, and I think it’ll be a good memory, everything aside.

Of course there’s already a lot of work under your belt in such a short time, but are there any other categories or genres you’d really like to publish that you haven’t attempted yet?

I love writing short stories (for adults) and have a lot of them that I keep trying to get published and they keep getting rejected! I am also not trying very hard, I suppose, because that whole process is really unpleasant. But in general I would love to branch out into adult fiction, not least of which because I’m worried that all the fun and cool adult trans writers think that I’m the FTM Mr. Rogers and I want them to think that I’m a fun and cool grown-up too.

Are there any queer and/or trans books you’d particularly like to recommend, especially if you don’t think they’ve gotten sufficient airtime?

So, my favorite thing is intra-community conflict and dialogue. As I said earlier, about why I don’t really write about transphobia, I simply don’t think that anything cis/straight people have to say about trans/queer people is interesting, but I am endlessly fascinated with how we treat each other, and how conflict within LGBTQIA+ communities play out, in both deadly serious ways and more frivolous ones. There are quite a few authors doing this, but I especially love Lev Rosen’s YA novels Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) and Camp.

What’s up next for you?

I’m really excited for my first nonfiction picture book, a biography that I wrote with Gavin Grimm. He’s the trans activist who, as a teenager, worked with the ACLU (and Chase Strangio) to fight his school’s bathroom policy. It’s called If You’re A Kid Like Gavin, and will be out in summer of ’22 from Katherine Tegen Books, illustrated by J Yang. I also have…um…5? or 6? new books that haven’t been announced yet, so keep an eye out for those as well!

***

(c) Erin Jones-Le
Cat: Jasmine

Kyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people. Right now you can read his debut middle grade novel TOO BRIGHT TO SEE, A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS, WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER (which won the 2020 Stonewall Award!), the MAX AND FRIENDS series, and EXPLOSION AT THE POEM FACTORY. You will be able to read more books by him in the next years, including a non-fiction picture book about teenage trans activist Gavin Grimm, and a book for babies.

Kyle spent eight years as an elementary school librarian, but now he writes full time and presents on children’s and youth literature all across the country. He got hired at a bookstore when he was sixteen, which means he’s been working at the intersection of books and people for well over half his life.

Kyle is represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch. Find him on Twitter at @KyleLukoff and Facebook at fb.me/kylelukoffwrites. All purchasing links are through his affiliate page at Bookshop.org.

New Releases: June 2019

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (4th)

When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it’s the culmination of years of yearning to be reunited with Cicely, her oldest friend and secret love, who left home years before for the “land of opportunity.” Patsy’s plans do not include her religious mother or even her young daughter, Tru, both of whom she leaves behind in a bittersweet trail of sadness and relief. But Brooklyn is not at all what Cicely described in her letters, and to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a bathroom attendant, and ironically, as a nanny. Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, Tru struggles with her own questions of identity and sexuality, grappling every day with what it means to be abandoned by a mother who has no intention of returning. Passionate, moving, and fiercely urgent, Patsy is a haunting depiction of immigration and womanhood, and the silent threads of love stretching across years and oceans.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, ill. by Kaylani Juanita (4th)

42250114When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.

Buy it: AmazonB&N

Not Your Backup by CB Lee (4th)

Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities that the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, and she isn’t always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when that’s done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | The Ripped Bodice

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (4th)

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies (4th)

Julia hasn’t had sex in three years. Her roommate has a boyfriend—and their sex noises are audible through the walls, maybe even throughout the neighborhood. Not to mention, she’s treading water in a dead-end job, her know-it-all therapist gives her advice she doesn’t ask for, and the men she is surrounded by are, to be polite, subpar. Enough is enough.

So when Julia gets invited to a warehouse party in a part of town where “trendy people who have lots of sex might go on a Friday night”—she readily accepts. Whom she meets there, however, is surprising: a conceptual artist, also a woman.

Julia’s sexual awakening begins; her new lesbian life, as she coins it, is exhilarating. She finds her tribe at queer swing dancing classes, and guided by her new lover Sam, she soon discovers London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs, and . . . the complexities of polyamory. Soon it becomes clear that Sam needs to call the shots, and Julia’s newfound liberation comes to bear a suspicious resemblance to entrapment . . .

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (4th)

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.  

Buy it: Amazon | B&N 

Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas (4th)

In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence’s name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro’s citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.

Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he’s either known as the “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.

When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families’ pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward?

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If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann (4th)

40851643High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.”

Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

All Eyes On Us by Kit Frick (4th)

44584622Pretty Little Liars meets People Like Us in this taut, tense thriller about two teens who find their paths intertwined when an anonymous texter threatens to spill their secrets and uproot their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: Wouldn’t you look better without a cheater on your arm?
AMANDA: Who is this?

The daughter of small town social climbers, Amanda Kelly is deeply invested in her boyfriend, real estate heir Carter Shaw. He’s kind, ambitious, the town golden boy—but he’s far from perfect. Because behind Amanda’s back, Carter is also dating Rosalie.

PRIVATE NUMBER: I’m watching you, Sweetheart.
ROSALIE: Who IS this?

Rosalie Bell is fighting to remain true to herself and her girlfriend—while concealing her identity from her Christian fundamentalist parents. After years spent in and out of conversion “therapy,” her own safety is her top priority. But maintaining a fake, straight relationship is killing her from the inside.

When an anonymous texter ropes Amanda and Rosalie into a bid to take Carter down, the girls become collateral damage—and unlikely allies in a fight to unmask their stalker before Private uproots their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: You shouldn’t have ignored me. Now look what you made me do…

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The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner (4th)

40849937Seventeen-year-old Laurel Graham has a singular, all-consuming ambition in this life: become the most renowned nature photographer and birder in the world. The first step to birding domination is to win the junior nature photographer contest run by prominent Fauna magazine. Winning runs in her blood—her beloved activist and nature-loving grandmother placed when she was a girl.

One day Gran drags Laurel out on a birding expedition where the pair hear a mysterious call that even Gran can’t identify. The pair vow to find out what it is together, but soon after, Gran is involved in a horrible car accident.

Now that Gran is in a coma, so much of Laurel’s world is rocked. Her gran’s house is being sold, developers are coming in to destroy the nature sanctuary she treasures, and she still can’t seem to identify the mystery bird.

Laurel’s confusion isn’t just a group of warblers—it’s about what means the most to her, and what she’s willing to do to fight to save it. Maybe–just maybe-if she can find the mystery bird, it will save her gran, the conservatory land, and herself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Where I End and You Begin by Preston Norton (4th)

41736961Ezra Slevin is an anxious, neurotic insomniac who spends his nights questioning his place in the universe and his days obsessing over Imogen, a nerdy girl with gigantic eyebrows and a heart of gold.

For weeks, Ezra has been working up the courage to invite Imogen to prom. The only problem is Imogen’s protective best friend, Wynonna Jones. Wynonna has blue hair, jams to ’80s rock, and has made a career out of tormenting Ezra for as long as he can remember.

Then, on the night of a total solar eclipse, something strange happens to Ezra and Wynonna–and they wake up in each other’s bodies. Not only that, they begin randomly swapping back and forth every day! Ezra soon discovers Wynonna’s huge crush on his best friend, Holden, a five-foot-nothing girl magnet with anger management problems. With no end to their curse in sight, Ezra makes Wynonna a proposition: while swapping bodies, he will help her win Holden’s heart…but only if she helps him woo Imogen.

Forming an uneasy alliance, Ezra and Wynonna embark on a collision course of mistaken identity, hurt feelings, embarassing bodily functions, and a positively byzantine production of Twelfth Night. Ezra wishes he could be more like Wynonna’s badass version of Ezra–but he also realizes he feels more like himself while being Wynonna than he has in a long time…

Wildly entertaining and deeply heartfelt, Where I End and You Begin is a brilliant, unapologetic exploration of what it means to be your best self.

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Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (4th)

41940455A moving exploration of how gay men construct their identities, fight to be themselves, and live authentically

It goes without saying that even today, it’s not easy to be gay in America. While young gay men often come out more readily, even those from the most progressive of backgrounds still struggle with the legacy of early-life stigma and a deficit of self-acceptance, which can fuel doubt, regret, and, at worst, self-loathing. And this is to say nothing of the ongoing trauma wrought by AIDS, which is all too often relegated to history. Drawing on his work as a clinical psychologist during and in the aftermath of the epidemic, Walt Odets reflects on what it means to survive and figure out a way to live in a new, uncompromising future, both for the men who endured the upheaval of those years and for the younger men who have come of age since then, at a time when an HIV epidemic is still ravaging the gay community, especially among the most marginalized.

Through moving stories—of friends and patients, and his own—Odets considers how experiences early in life launch men on trajectories aimed at futures that are not authentically theirs. He writes to help reconstruct how we think about gay life by considering everything from the misleading idea of “the homosexual,” to the diversity and richness of gay relationships, to the historical role of stigma and shame and the significance of youth and of aging. Crawling out from under the trauma of destructive early-life experience and the two epidemics, and into a century of shifting social values, provides an opportunity to explore possibilities rather than live with limitations imposed by others. Though it is drawn from decades of private practice, activism, and life in the gay community, Odets’s work achieves remarkable universality. At its core, Out of the Shadows is driven by his belief that it is time that we act based on who we are and not who others are or who they would want us to be. We—particularly the young—must construct our own paths through life. Out of the Shadows is a necessary, impassioned argument for how and why we must all take hold of our futures.

Buy it: IndieBound | B&N | Amazon

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante (11th)

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured stealing across the US border from El Salvador as “an illegal”, fleeing for her life, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

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Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (11th)

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.

There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | The Ripped Bodice

Rise by Ellen Goodlett (11th)

This is the sequel to Rule

41582282Sisters Akeylah, Ren, and Zofi are all a step closer to their dying father’s throne, a step closer to the crown that will allow one of them to rule over Kolonya. But the sisters’ pasts continue to haunt them. Each hides a secret marked with blood and betrayal, and now their blackmailer is holding nothing back. When King Andros discovers the sisters’ traitorous pasts, the consequences will shake the entire kingdom to its core.

As Kolonya’s greatest threat stalks closer and closer, weaving a web of fear and deceit around Ren, Zofi, and Akeylah, even the people they love are under suspicion. If the sisters are going to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust each other above all else and work together, not only to save themselves, but to protect everyone and everything they hold dear.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Goalie Interference by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn (17th)

This is the 2nd book in the Hat Trick series

Ryu Mori has had a stellar season as goalie for the Atlanta Venom. So when he’s called into management’s office, he’s expecting to hear he’s the new starting goalie for the team, not that some new guy—an incredibly hot, annoyingly bratty rookie—is here to compete for his spot.

Not everyone gets to play in the best league in the world. Emmitt Armstrong knows that, and he’s not about to waste the opportunity after grinding his way from the bottom to the top. If the Venom is looking for a meek, mild-mannered pushover, they’ve got the wrong guy.

Ryu doesn’t want to admit the other goalie’s smart mouth turns him on. Beating Armstrong at practice feels good, sure, but there are other, more fun ways to shut his rival up.

In this league, it’s winner takes all. But there’s more to life than winning, and if Emmitt and Ryu can get past their egos and competitive natures, they might just discover they work better as partners than they ever imagined possible.

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The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall (18th)

Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.

But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade.

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Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron (18th)

Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a “knock-off Narnia” that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants.

Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again.

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The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (25th)

As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?

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Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson (25th)

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

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Gemini by Jenn Fitzpatrick (27th)

In the busy city of Smokesburg, Heroes comes in all shapes and sizes. They’re processed through a training facility and given a classification based on their abilities and talents. The best of the best? Those are the faces that grace the newspaper and comic books. And Gemini? Well, Gemini rides the Metrorail because she can’t fly, can’t teleport, and doesn’t qualify for a Hero Mobile. It’s not a great living, but it’s a job, and one that Gemini is good at.

Well, good enough at.

Until she meets Felicity Webb. A Rescue, caught up in another stupid plot by another stupid Villain, and Gemini is stuck with her. She’s annoying and mouthy, and so beautiful Gemini isn’t quite sure how to even talk to her. It should be an easy case, an easy night, but nothing is ever as it seems in Smokesburg, and there’s more to Felicity than even she realizes. One night will change the course of their lives forever.

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