Tag Archives: MG

Better Know an Author: Robin Stevenson

Today on the site I’m psyched to have the incredibly prolific and wonderful Robin Stevenson! As it happens, I wasn’t the only one with the idea to shine a light on her this time of year; right after I asked Robin if I could interview her for August, a great interview with her went up on Gay YA, so make sure you check that out too! 

You’re such an impressively prolific author, with over 20 books to your name now. How long have you been writing, and can you give us a little rundown on your books with LGBTQ narrators?

I started writing on maternity leave, soon after my son was born— which was thirteen years ago. My first book came out a couple of years later, in 2007. It began as a short story that grew and grew, and ended up as a YA novel called Out of Order. The main character, Sophie, is a sixteen year old girl who dealing with a history of being bullied, struggling with an undiagnosed eating disorder, and caught up in the orbit of a charismatic but troubled new friend. She is bisexual but not yet using this word… she is just beginning to realize she is attracted to girls.

26586455My novel Big Guy came out the next year, and also has a queer narrator—-this time a teenage boy who is in an online relationship with another guy. It was my first hi-lo novel in the Orca Soundings series. (My most recent book in the series came out in 2016, and also has a queer narrator: It’s called Under Threat, and deals with anti-abortion violence. I wanted to write an unambiguously pro-choice novel that shows the cost of anti-abortion fanaticism. The main character, Franny, has a girlfriend called Leah and they are together throughout the novel—the book was an ALA Rainbow list selection.)

In 2009, my YA novel Inferno came out— this one was also an ALA Rainbow list selection, which I was delighted about. The narrator is a queer teenage girl who has recently broken up with a girl with whom she was in a very closeted relationship. When the book begins, she has just cut off all her hair and changed her name from Emily to Dante, and she is about to meet a new group of friends who are going to complicate her life in interesting and challenging ways. Dante seemed to provoke strong reactions; readers either adored her and really related to her, or disliked her intensely! Personally, I adore her.

My newest book also has a queer narrator: It is a mystery/thriller called Blood on the Beach. I co-wrote it with Sarah N. Harvey, who is a senior editor at Orca, and was in fact my editor for a number of my novels and my non-fiction book Pride. Blood on the Beach is told in the alternating voices of two first person narrators: Sarah wrote from Caleb’s point of view, and I wrote from the point of view of Alice, who is bisexual.

Your most recent book, Pride, has received all sorts of award nominations, including a 2017 Stonewall Honor. What was the research experience for that book like?

26586443Pride was my first non-fiction book, and the research and writing process was entirely new to me—so different from fiction. I read a lot, and watched documentaries, and sifted through archival photographs, but I also spoke with so many people about their experiences of Pride. And from activists in Russia and Uganda to 12 year old kids here on the west coast, everyone was so helpful and interested and enthusiastic. People shared their opinions and stories and personal photographs, and read drafts, and gave feedback. It felt like a very collaborative process and one that strengthened my own sense of connection to the LGBTQ community.

Do you have your own personal favorite Pride memory?

I’ve been going to Pride for 30 years so I have accumulated a lot of really great memories; I can’t pick just one! Here are a few that stand out: Going to my first-ever Dyke March with friends in Toronto, back in 1991. Seeing my parents walking in the Pride Parade with PFLAG a few years later. Taking my son to his first Pride when he was only a month old. Speaking about the history of Pride to teens at youth-organized events. Reading at Pride in the Word, which is my favorite literary Pride event ever. And this year, taking my spaniel puppy to Pride Victoria’s Big Gay Dog Walk!

You do the very cool work of writing Hi-Lo books for Orca, which, for those unfamiliar, are “high interest, low reading level” books. How did you specifically get into Hi-Lo, and how does the writing process differ for you from your other books?

2697919I got into it entirely by accident. I’d written a short story for adults, which got way too long—novella length, really, around 15,000 words. It was about a gay teenager who lied his way into a job working as a caregiver in a residence for adults with disabilities, and I had no idea what to do with it. I’d just published by first YA novel with Orca, and I knew they had this series called Soundings that were about that length…and so I thought I’d tweak it a bit and try submitting it for that series. That story became my first hi-lo novel, Big Guy. I have written five books in that series now—they are fun to write, and they are a great writing exercise for me: because the word count is so tight, they force me to consider every word to make sure it is absolutely necessary and to work hard to make each scene serve multiple purposes (eg. developing character, building tension, furthering the plot). My writing process is a bit different for hi-lo…I’m not usually much of an outliner, but– with the exception of that first accidental hi-lo novel, of course– I outline all my hi-lo novels in a fair bit of detail before I begin.

I think hi-lo books reach a lot of kids, for a lot of reasons, and some of my favorite reader emails have come from kids who have read these books. They meet a real need, helping kids to gain confidence and to see themselves as readers—plus they are just fun, quick reads. I also edited hi-lo books for Orca for three years: the Limelights series, which are books about teens in the performing arts. It was very enjoyable work and I learned about everything from stand-up comedy to aerial silks!

I saw on Twitter you’re working on a book now about reproductive justice. Is that your next publication, and what can you tell us about that?

Yes! I am so excited about this. It’s scheduled to be published in spring 2019, in Canada and the US, and it’s aimed at older kids and teens. To be honest, after Pride came out, I wasn’t planning to write another non-fiction book—but the ongoing attack on abortion rights and access in the US is so disturbing, and the current threats to reproductive choice under the current administration are so serious, and there is so much propaganda and misinformation being taught to young people about abortion. And even in Canada, where the landscape with respect to abortion looks quite different than in the US, most kids have no idea of the long battle that was fought to legalize abortion and make it accessible. It seemed like such an important topic for kids to be aware of, and yet there aren’t a lot of kids’ books on the subject. So I proposed this book idea to Orca, and—being awesome—they agreed!

You’re a Canadian author, and I think we in the U.S. often miss a lot of the great titles that come out of Canada, the UK, and Australia that aren’t published here. What are some titles that haven’t crossed the border that you think should be getting way more attention on this side?

One Canadian book that I recently read and was very impressed by was a debut novel by a young author, Arushi Raina. It is called When Morning Comes and it is published by Tradewind Books. The story is set in South Africa and follows the lives of four young people during the student uprisings of 1976; it is well-researched, beautifully written, and very powerful. It was published in Canada in 2016 and has just been published in the US this year—I highly recommend it.

In terms of LGBTQ books more specifically, some Canadian authors whose books I love include Carrie Mac, Ivan Coyote, Tom Ryan, Mariko Tamaki, and M.E. Girard. And author Heather Smith has a new YA novel coming out this spring which includes queer characters… I just read an ARC and absolutely fell in love with it. It is called The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, and I’m very much hoping it will get all the attention it deserves on both sides of the border.

In your interview with Gay YA, you talked about writing the complexities of queer theory to a younger (Middle Grade) audience, and reminding yourself “this isn’t a university text.” What are your favorite texts on it for older audiences, and could you ever see yourself writing one that is a university text?

I love reading about queer history, and have devoured just about everything that’s crossed my path. When it comes to writing, though, my first love is fiction—and I am really looking forward to getting back to working on my middle grade novel, to a YA novel I am co-writing with a friend, and possibly also working on some short fiction for grown-up readers. No university texts in my plans!

According to your bio, you are quite well-traveled! Does that play into any of your books now, and will we see it playing into any in the future?

My partner Cheryl and I have been together 20 years, and we’ve travelled a lot together. One of the most amazing trips we have taken was the year that we spent living aboard a small sailboat and travelling from Lake Ontario, through the barge canals to New York, then down the waterways and offshore to Florida and the Bahamas. Ten years after our journey, I read over all our logbooks and used my memories of the winter we spent sailing in the Bahamas as the basis for my YA novel, A Thousand Shades of Blue. The characters and their story (and all the angst) is fictional, but the route they travel and all of the places they stay are entirely real—as is much of the scene where their boat runs aground on the rocks near Joe Sound on Long Island. It’s probably my favorite of my YA novels because it is so closely connected to so many wonderful memories for me and Cheryl.

I am working on a teen novel now that is mostly set in Australia, a country where I lived for a year as a teen and another year as a young adult– I actually came out as queer while I was living in Australia, aged 21. But most of my novels are set in BC, as this is the place I know and love best.

Please drop your thanks to Robin for dropping by, and make sure you check out
her books!

SushiRiceStudios-1socialmedia-300x300Robin Stevenson is the author of twenty books for kids and teens. Her novels include The World Without Us and The Summer We Saved the Bees, as well as the Silver Birch Award-winner Record Breaker, and the Governor General’s Award finalist, A Thousand Shades of Blue. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. For more information, visit http://www.robinstevenson.com.

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Can A Story Be Too Diverse? a Guest Post by Felix Yz author Lisa Bunker

Today on the site, we welcome Lisa Bunker, author of the just-released-yesterday Felix Yz! This Middle Grade debut features a gay protagonist, several other characters under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and a whole lot more. Here’s the info:

28525367When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

IndieBound (find Felix through your local indie bookseller)
Penguin Random House (Hardcover, ebook, audiobook)
Barnes and Noble (Hard cover, Nook book, audiobook)
Amazon (Hard cover, Kindle edition, audiobook)
Felix on Goodreads

And here to talk more about the publication of the book is Lisa Bunker!

In the leadup to the publication of Felix, when I started getting reader reviews based on advance copies, one reviewer remarked that there were too many LGBTQ+ characters in the book. The queerness-density strained credulity, she said. (This comment about a story of a boy melded with a fourth-dimensional being.) There have been other similar remarks too, from other quarters.

Hm. Interesting.

Identity is not The Point of Felix. This is a coming-of-age novel about love, death, and family. It’s a story about a young human grappling with mortality.

That said, it is also true that among various other plot threads this young human has a crush, and as it happens both he and the crush were assigned male at birth. Likewise, Felix has a quirky supportive grandparent, and one of the quirks is that this grandparent switches off regularly between the names Vera and Vern (and uses veir own gender-neutral pronouns – vo ven veir). Also likewise, in the course of the novel, Felix’s mom navigates a love triangle, and as it happens the two love interests are one of each gender. Etc.

I approached the character design for Felix in a spirit of gleeful experimentation/play – just how many of these characters can I give at least one letter? You know, just to see how it reads? Turns out, most of them, and I love how it reads. But, each identity is no more than a facet, and not the most important facet, of the character in question. Not the preachy teachy Point; just lots of identities.

But, too many?

No. Dear reader-reviewer and other skeptics, upon reflection (and I have thought a lot about this), I feel the need to push back respectfully here. There are not too many queer characters in Felix. But I’m fascinated about why you might think so.

Consider: I recently read and was blown away by Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. Quite apart from the ripped-from-the-headlines story and the clean, powerful writing, what a fantastic submersion into the rich variety of contemporary African-American life in its many manifestations – family and friend-groups and church and more. And there are plenty of other books in which all or almost all of the characters are from the same race, nationality, or religion. Such books seem within the norm, and they’re valuable and important and great fun to read.

So why not also books full of queer folk? Why so many books with one or two tokeny LGBTQ+ characters, but no more than some implied limit seems to allow? Well, perhaps it is not yet generally understood that queer folk also form community and have culture.

There are plenty of families like Felix’s. Mine, for example: I’m a trans woman in a committed relationship with another woman, and one of my two children is genderfluid. (My poor son – the token cis-het member of the family.) And there are many other clusters in my circle of acquaintance – friend groups, group houses, families of choice, community meeting places and flashpoints, both in the real world and online. We rainbow umbrella people are a misunderstood and often maligned sector of humanity, and part of our response to that is to seek and find each other. We join together for solace and strength. We have community and culture too.

Can you imagine anyone saying a book had too many Hispanic characters? Too many Jewish characters? Too many refugee characters? Me neither, thankfully, at least other than at the farther fringes of public discourse. But, it still seems reasonable to some people to say “too many LGBTQ+ characters.”

I aim to do what I can to rectify that. What started out as something of a writerly lark in Felix has evolved into a sense of mission. Moving forward, I aim to work toward a world in which no number of queer characters is too many. And I hope my books and others like mine will both give LGBTQ+ readers a much-needed chance to see their worlds celebrated in fiction, and also invite the general reading public to visit those worlds and perhaps discover, once again, the common bedrock of humanity that unites us all.

The story I’m working on now is about a trans girl with a troubled past and advanced coder/hacker skills who solves cyber-crimes with the help of her genderqueer best friend and her cool Lesbian aunties, while attempting to survive adolescence and middle school. Onward!

Lisa BunkerBefore setting up shop as a full-time author and trans activist, Lisa Bunker had a 30-year career in non-commercial broadcasting, most recently as Program Director of the community radio station in Portland, Maine. Besides Maine she has made homes in New Mexico, southern California, Seattle, and the Florida panhandle. She currently lives in Exeter, New Hampshire with her partner and her cat. She has two grown children. When not writing she reads, plays piano, knits, takes long walks, does yoga, and studies languages. @LisaBunker on Twitter; author website at www.lisabunker.net.

New Releases: June 2017

Cottonmouths by Kelly J. Ford (6th)

9781510719156_p0_v1_s192x300This was Drear’s Bluff. Nothing bad happened here. People didn’t disappear.

College was supposed to be an escape for Emily Skinner. But after failing out of school, she’s left with no choice but to return to her small hometown in the Ozarks, a place run on gossip and good Christian values.

She’s not alone. Emily’s former best friend—and childhood crush—Jody Monroe is back with a baby. Emily can’t resist the opportunity to reconnect, despite the uncomfortable way things ended between them and her mom’s disapproval of their friendship. When Emily stumbles upon a meth lab on Jody’s property, she realizes just how far they’ve both fallen.

Emily intends to keep her distance from Jody, but when she’s kicked out of her house with no money and nowhere to go, a paying job as Jody’s live-in babysitter is hard to pass up. As they grow closer, Emily glimpses a future for the first time since coming home. She dismisses her worries; the meth is a means to an end. And besides, for Emily, Jody is the real drug.

But when Emily’s role in Jody’s business turns dangerous, her choices reveal grave consequences. As the lies pile up, Emily will learn just how far Jody is willing to go to save her own skin—and how much Emily herself has risked for the love of someone who may never truly love her back.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (6th)

When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Perfect Ten by L. Philips (6th)

28226486

It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. But when Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th.

Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon might want another chance.

But does a Perfect Ten even exist?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Tash Hearts Tolstoy, by Kathryn Ormsbee (6th)

29414576After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar bloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Grrrls on the Side by Carrie Pack (8th)

The year is 1994 and alternative is in. But not for alternative girl Tabitha Denton; she hates her life. She is uninterested in boys, lonely, and sidelined by former friends at her suburban high school. When she picks up a zine at a punk concert, she finds an escape—an advertisement for a Riot Grrrl meet-up.

At the meeting, Tabitha finds girls who are more like her and a place to belong. But just as Tabitha is settling in with her new friends and beginning to think she understands herself, eighteen-year-old Jackie Hardwick walks into a meeting and changes her world forever. The out-and-proud Jackie is unlike anyone Tabitha has ever known. As her feelings for Jackie grow, Tabitha begins to learn more about herself and the racial injustices of the punk scene, but to be with Jackie, she must also come to grips with her own privilege and stand up for what’s right.

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka (13th)

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Powell’s * IndieBound * iBooks

Oversight by Santino Hassell (26th)

This is book 2 in the Community series. Synopsis contains spoilers for book 1. 

Holden Payne has it all . . . or so he thinks. As heir to the founder of the Community—an organization that finds, protects, and manages psychics—he’s rich, powerful, and treated like royalty. But after a series of disappearances and murders rock the Community, he’s branded the fall guy for the scandal and saddled with a babysitter.

Sixtus Rossi is a broad-shouldered, tattooed lumbersexual with a man-bun and a steely gaze. He’s also an Invulnerable—supposedly impervious to both psychic abilities and Holden’s charms. It’s a claim Holden takes as a challenge. Especially if sleeping with Six may help him learn whether the Community had more to do with the disappearances than they claimed.

As Holden uncovers the truth, he also finds himself getting in deep with the man sent to watch him. His plan to seduce Six for information leads to a connection so intense that some of Six’s shields come crashing down. And with that comes a frightening realization: Holden has to either stand by the Community that has given him everything, or abandon his old life to protect the people he loves.

Add on Goodreads

Fave Five: MGs and YAs with Queer Moms

This Would Make a Good Story Someday by Dana Alison Levy (Contemporary MG)

The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding (Contemporary YA)

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Contemporary YA)

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Contemporary YA)

Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows (Contemporary YA)

Bonus, coming in October: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (Sci-Fi YA)

Bonus #2, coming in 2018: Dear You by Joanne Rocklin (Contemporary MG) and And She Was by Jessica Verdi (Contemporary YA)

Rainbow heart

New Releases: March 2017

Insight by Santino Hassell (13th)

30364791Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.

Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.

Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.

Buy it: Riptide | Amazon | B&N

Born Both by Hida Viloria (14th)

born-bothA candid, provocative, and eye-opening memoir of gender identity, self-acceptance, and love from one of the world’s foremost intersex activists.

My name is Hida Viloria. I was raised as a girl but discovered at a young age that my body looked different. Having endured an often turbulent home life as a kid, there were many times when I felt scared and alone, especially given my attraction to girls. But unlike most people in the first world who are born intersex–meaning they have genitals, reproductive organs, hormones, and/or chromosomal patterns that do not fit standard definitions of male or female–I grew up in the body I was born with because my parents did not have my sex characteristics surgically altered at birth.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-six and encountered the term intersex in a San Francisco newspaper that I finally had a name for my difference. That’s when I began to explore what it means to live in the space between genders–to be both and neither. I tried living as a feminine woman, an androgynous person, and even for a brief period of time as a man. Good friends would not recognize me, and gay men would hit on me. My gender fluidity was exciting, and in many ways freeing–but it could also be isolating.

I had to know if there were other intersex people like me, but when I finally found an intersex community to connect with I was shocked, and then deeply upset, to learn that most of the people I met had been scarred, both physically and psychologically, by infant surgeries and hormone treatments meant to “correct” their bodies. Realizing that the invisibility of intersex people in society facilitated these practices, I made it my mission to bring an end to it–and became one of the first people to voluntarily come out as intersex at a national and then international level.

Born Both is the story of my lifelong journey toward finding love and embracing my authentic identity in a world that insists on categorizing people into either/or, and of my decades-long fight for human rights and equality for intersex people everywhere.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Star Crossed by Barbara Dee (14th)

star-crossedMattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (14th)

queens-of-geekWhen BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Future Leaders of Nowhere by Emily O’Beirne (15th)

33849121“Finn’s solid. Not in body, but in being. She’s gravity and kindness and all those good things that anchor.”

“Willa’s confusing. Sometimes she’s this sweet, sensitive soul. Other times she’s like a flaming arrow you hope isn’t coming for you.”

Finn and Willa have been picked as team leaders in the future leader camp game. The usually confident Finn doesn’t know what’s throwing her more, the fact she’s leading a team of highly unenthusiastic overachievers or coming up against fierce, competitive Willa. And Willa doesn’t know which is harder, leaving her responsibilities behind to pursue her goals or opening up to someone.

Soon they both realise that the hardest thing of all is balancing their clashing ideals with their unexpected connection. And finding a way to win, of course.

Buy it: Ylva

Growing Pains by Cass Lennox (20th)

Gigi Rosenberg is living his best life: performances in the big city, side gigs at a dance company, a successful drag act, and the boy of his childhood dreams who now adores him. Even if the boyfriend part isn’t the sparkly ride of passion he expected it to be, life is sweet. So when his sister’s wedding calls him back to his hometown, he sees an opportunity to show the hicks from his past how wrong they were about him. Only, his boyfriend isn’t quite on board.

Brock Stubbs left their hometown and his parents behind for a reason, and the prospect of facing them again is terrifying. He swore he’d never go back, but Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him. There’s just one deal-breaker of a problem: Brock promised Gigi he was out to everyone, including his parents. He lied

It’s magical to run into the sunset together, but staying the course takes work. For Gigi and Brock, going home feels like the finale of a long, disappointing year. Sometimes love isn’t all you need.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Smashwords

Strays by Garrett Leigh (27th)

Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.

Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.

Fast-forward a month and a neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (28th)

In the companion to Openly Straight, Ben confronts pressure at school, repression at home, and his passion for two very different people in figuring out what it takes to be Honestly Ben.

Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s working steadily in his classes at the Natick School. He just got elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a full scholarship to college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg the past semester is in the past.

Except . . .

There’s Hannah, the gorgeous girl from the neighboring school, who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness Ben is noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else . . . and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

All Amazon links are affiliate; income goes back into the site.

New Release Spotlight: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Confession: I am breaking my cardinal rule here by spotlighting a book I haven’t even read yet, but this is bisexual Middle Grade I have heard only good things about, and by law I am absolutely required to feature it and pray it is the best thing ever for tweens. Because BISEXUAL MIDDLE GRADE.

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Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel.

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing–and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Buy it: Indiebound  ·  Amazon  ·  Barnes & Noble

Fave Five: Queer Theater MGs and YAs

Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle (MG)

Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton (MG)

Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry (YA)

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner (YA)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and Hold Me Closer, Tiny Cooper by David Levithan (YA)

Bonus: Coming in March and September, respectively: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee (MG) and Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta (YA)

Double Bonus: The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar (YA) have a cishet MC, but a bi LI

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Backlist Book of the Month: George by Alex Gino

The truth is, I kind of take for granted that everyone’s read this fabulous Stonewall Award-winning MG about a trans girl named Melissa, by the wonderful Alex Gino, but I have to make sure just in case you haven’t, right? And we all want to put our support toward LGBTQIAP+ MG to make sure we get more of it, right? So, if you haven’t fallen in love with this one yet, make this month the month you do! (And yes I realize this isn’t technically a backlist book for the author, but the feature just means a book is more than a year old, so!)

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BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

To quote from the author’s website on where to buy:

Laurel Bookstore is your most reliable source for signed  copies of GEORGE. GEORGE can also be bought at your favorite book retailer. Independent bookstores like Powell’s, Books Inc, Oblong Books & Music would be glad to help you out or use Indie Bound to find an independent bookstore near you. GEORGE is also available at iBooks, Google Play, or Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Amazon!

TBRainbow Alert #5

For those of you who feel like you’ve already read every LGBTQIAP+ book in existence, not to worry – there’s plenty still to come! Every TBRainbow Alert will have a mix of five LGBTQIAP+ titles to make sure are on your radar, along with three reasons why you should know them. If you missed the earlier alerts, you can check out those titles here. And now, because I can’t wait to get these books on your reading lists, check out some of what awaits in 2017!

Title: History is All You Left Me (January 17)
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre/Category: YA Contemporary
Rainbow details: gaaaaay (and a bi LI)
Why put it on your radar?
1. I mean, you read More Happy Than Not, right?
2. Not only is this a lovely, soul-crushing grief novel, but the exploration of mental illness as the MC wrestles with his OCD is excellent.
3. If you’ve ever wondered how quickly a book will shatter your heart, enjoy!

Title: Our Own Private Universe (January 31)
Author: Robin Talley
Genre/Category: Contemporary YA
Rainbow details: f/f with a bi MC
Why put it on your radar?
1. Robin Talley’s the most consistently publishing author of mainstream LGBTQ YA right now (this is book number 4, plus she’s got a queer short story in The Tyranny of Petticoats), so you’ll wanna stay on top of whatever she does!
2. If you’ve read books like Judy Blume’s Forever or Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend that walk through both the emotional and physical complexities of a first sexual relationship in great detail and have thought “Maaaan, queer girls could really use that,” WELL. You are in luck!
3. No, seriously, this is the first YA I’ve ever read that discusses dental dams.

Title: Born Both: An Intersex Life (March 14)
Author: Hida Viloria
Genre/Category: Adult memoir
Rainbow details: Intersex
Why put it on your radar?
1. I don’t know if you’ve read any #ownvoices Intersex lit but I sure as hell haven’t.
2. In addition to being intersex, Viloria is also genderfluid and Latinx.
3. Viloria also has videos and an active blog on he/r site, so there’s already plenty of bonus content!

Title: The Cursed Queen (January 3)
Author: 
Sarah Fine
Genre/Category: 
YA Fantasy
Rainbow details: B
i female MC, f/f
Why put it on your radar?
1.
Book one in this series, The Impostor Queen, was one of my fave fantasies of last year, so I’m dying for the next one!
2. This book positive screams “badass MC,” which is my crack.
3. Magic and torn loyalties and a romance with a chieftain’s daughter?? I MEAN.

Title: Star Crossed (March 14)
Author: Barbara Dee
Genre/Category: Contemporary MG
Rainbow details: Bi female MC
Why put it on your radar?
1. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW LITTLE LGBTQ MG THERE IS?
2. Look how freaking adorable that cover is. LOOK.
3. I…actually don’t think I’ve ever seen a bi MC this young. The blurb alone pretty much makes my heart explode.

New Releases: September 20, 2016

As you can proooobably tell, I know LGBTQIAP+ YA better than anything else, so I’m still catching up to the rest, but I do know today’s got some cool-sounding releases in other categories, so check out this variety of new releases out today!

Overexposed by Megan Erickson

28490317Levi Grainger needs a break. As a reality show star, he’s had enough of the spotlight and being edited into a walking stereotype. When he returns home after the last season of Trip League, he expects to spend time with his family, only to learn his sister is coming back from her deployment in a flag-draped casket. Devastated, Levi decides the best way to grieve will be to go off grid and hike the Appalachian Trail—a trip he’d planned to do with his sister.

His solitary existence on the trail is interrupted when he meets Thad, a quiet man with a hard body and intense eyes. Their connection is stronger than anything Levi has ever experienced. But when Levi discovers the truth about what Thad is hiking to escape, their future together looks uncertain, and uncertainty is the last thing Levi needs…

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

The Yelp: A Heartbreak in Reviews by Chase Compton

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When Chase Compton met the love of his life at a dirty dive bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he had no idea how far from comfort the relationship would take him. Their story played out at every chic restaurant, café, and bar in downtown New York City. Ravenous hunger, it seemed, was their mutual attraction to one another—until suddenly the appetite was spoiled, and Chase was left to pick up the pieces of a romance gone wrong.

Left high, dry, and starving for affection (and cheeseburgers), Chase turned to an unlikely audience in a moment of desperation: Yelp.com. Detailed in the Yelp reviews is the story of how to survive a broken heart. Every meal and cocktail shared is a reminder of times spent with the ever elusive “Him.” In recounting the bites devoured and the drunken fits of passion that propelled the relationship, the author chronicles his whirlwind relationship with the man of his dreams, revisiting the key places where the couple ate, drank, and fell in and out of love in the West Village and beyond.

The Yelp is a memoir of personal transformation and self-realization, or more simply—a memoir of food and love, played out on a map of modern Manhattan’s culinary scene. The book includes the original twenty-eight Yelp reviews, with interwoven narrative chapters that provide context, insight, and delight to Chase’s story.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey

28371999Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh. But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down. It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Indiebound

And, coming tomorrow:

Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver

26020617Celosia Brennan was supposed to be a hero. After a spectacular failure that cost her people their freedom, she is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance at redemption. Together with a gifted team of rebels, she not only sets her sights on freedom, but defeating her personal demons along the way.

Now branded a failure, Celosia desperately volunteers for the next mission: taking down the corrupt Council with a team of her fellow elementally gifted mages. Leading the Ember Operative gives Celosia her last hope at redemption. They seek to overthrow the Council once and for all, this time bringing the fight to Valeria, the largest city under the Council’s iron grip. But Celosia’s new teammates don’t trust her—except for Ianthe, a powerful Ice Elementalist who happens to believe in second chances.

With Council spies, uncontrolled magic, and the distraction of unexpected love, Celosia will have to win the trust of her teammates and push her abilities to the breaking point to complete the Ember Operative. Except if she falters this time, there won’t be any Elementalists left to stop the Council from taking over not just her country, but their entire world.

Buy it: Torquere * B&N