Tag Archives: Nicole Melleby

Most Anticipated LGBTQA Middle Grade: July-December 2021

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar (September 7th)

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water—to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo (September 7th)

Tennessee Lancaster has a hidden gift.

She can pry into folks’ memories with just a touch of their belongings. It’s something she’s always kept hidden — especially from her big, chaotic family. Their lives are already chock-full of worries about Daddy’s job and Mama’s blues without Tennie rocking the boat.

But when the Lancasters move to the mountains for a fresh start, Tennie’s gift does something new. Instead of just memories, her touch releases a ghost with a terrifying message: Trouble is coming. Tennie wants to ignore it. Except her new friend Fox — scratch that, her only friend, Fox — is desperate to go ghost hunting deep in the forest. And when Tennie frees even more of the spirits, trouble is exactly what she gets… and it hits close to home. The ghosts will be heard, and now Tennie must choose between keeping secrets or naming an ugly truth that could tear her family apart.

Magic and mayhem abound in this spooky story about family legacies, first friendships, and how facing the ghosts inside can sometimes mean stirring up a little bit of ruckus.

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Other Boys by Damian Alexander (September 7th)

In Other Boys, debut author Damian Alexander delivers a moving middle grade graphic memoir about his struggles with bullying, the death of his mother, and coming out.

Damian is the new kid at school, and he has a foolproof plan to avoid the bullying that’s plagued him his whole childhood: he’s going to stop talking. Starting on the first day seventh grade, he won’t utter a word. If he keeps his mouth shut, the bullies will have nothing to tease him about―right?

But Damian’s vow of silence doesn’t work―his classmates can tell there’s something different about him. His family doesn’t look like the kind on TV: his mother is dead, his father is gone, and he’s being raised by his grandparents in a low-income household. And Damian does things that boys aren’t supposed do, like play with Barbies instead of GI Joe. Kids have teased him about this his whole life, especially other boys. But if boys can be so cruel, why does Damian have a crush on one?

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The Insiders by Mark Oshiro (September 21st)

San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone.

Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure.

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City of Thieves by Alex London (September 21st)

54671391. sy475 In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart.

Once, dragons nearly drove themselves to extinction. But in the city of Drakopolis, humans domesticated them centuries ago. Now dragons haul the city’s cargo, taxi its bustling people between skyscrapers, and advertise its wares in bright, neon displays. Most famously of all, the dragons battle. Different breeds take to the skies in nighttime bouts between the infamous kins―criminal gangs who rule through violence and intimidation.

Abel has always loved dragons, but after a disastrous showing in his dragon rider’s exam, he’s destined never to fly one himself. All that changes the night his sister appears at his window, entrusting him with a secret…and a stolen dragon.

Turns out, his big sister is a dragon thief! Too bad his older brother is a rising star in Drakopolis law enforcement…

To protect his friends and his family, Abel must partner with the stolen beast, riding in kin battles and keeping more secrets than a dragon has scales.

When everyone wants him fighting on their side, can Abel figure out what’s worth fighting for?

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This is Our Rainbow ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby (October 19th)

The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.

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The Golden Hour by Niki Smith (October 26th)

The Golden HourStruggling with anxiety after witnessing a harrowing instance of gun violence, Manuel Soto copes through photography, using his cell-phone camera to find anchors that keep him grounded. His days are a lonely, latchkey monotony until he’s teamed with his classmates, Sebastian and Caysha, for a group project.

Sebastian lives on a grass-fed cattle farm outside of town, and Manuel finds solace in the open fields and in the antics of the newborn calf Sebastian is hand-raising. As Manuel aides his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love.

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A-Okay by Jarad Greene (November 2nd)

When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.

Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?

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Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee (November 9th)

Born in Paris, Kentucky, and raised on her gram’s favorite country music, Cline Alden is a girl with big dreams and a heart full of song. When she finds out about a young musicians’ workshop a few towns over, Cline sweet-talks, saves, and maybe fibs her way into her first step toward musical stardom.

But her big dreams never prepared her for the butterflies she feels surrounded by so many other talented kids—especially Sylvie, who gives Cline the type of butterflies she’s only ever heard about in love songs.

As she learns to make music of her own, Cline begins to realize how much of herself she’s been holding back. But now, there’s a new song taking shape in her heart—if only she can find her voice and sing it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Authors in Conversation: Nicole Melleby and Eliot Schrefer

Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome frequent LGBTQReads guest Nicole Melleby, author of one of yesterday’s fabulous new releases, How to Become a Planet, and site newcomer Eliot Schrefer, whose The Darkness Outside Us releases June 1st!

Yes, we’re bridging the MG/YA divide here. A rare occurrence on the site, but there is a connection between these authors! Want to know what it is? Read on…

Nicole: Hi Eliot! I’m excited to be doing this interview with you. A fun fact that most people might not know: you were my mentor in grad school, so you’ve actually gotten to see me grow from the baby writer I used to be. It makes it even more fun that we’ve both got books out this year that in some capacity–yours literally and mine as more of a metaphor–involve outer space! (And, of course, are both queer!)

The Darkness Outside Us is such a great addition to LGBTQ+ YA shelves. For those who weren’t as lucky as me to get their hands on it before its June 1st release, why don’t you tell us a little bit about it?

55200663Eliot: Nicole! How amazing is this?! If only we could go back to 2014 and tell baby Nicole and Eliot that they’d one day be having this conversation, and doing gay space book events together (you can check us out together virtually on June 8th hosted by Best of Books.) I’ll have lots more to say and ask about the years in-between later, but for now, yeah, let me tell you about The Darkness Outside Us. It’s set 400 years in the future, when Earth is locked into a cold war between two remaining countries. When the first settler of Titan trips her distress signal, the countries have to mount a joint mission to rescue her—with one astronaut from each country onboard. They start as enemies, but wind up developing feelings for each other, even as they discover that their mission isn’t what they thought it was. At all.

You gave me some awesome feedback on the manuscript, and changed its course! I love this new phase of our lives when we’re peers and friends. The world has some really devoted Melleby fans (“Mellefans”?) in it. It’s been awesome to see your accolades and masses of happy readers—I know how excited they are about reading How to Become a Planet. Would you tell us about Pluto’s story? 

Nicole: You gave me feedback on an early draft of PLANET, too, back when it had an entire arson subplot (when in doubt, add fire?) There are no fires in the finished draft, but How to Become a Planet is about a 12-year-old named Pluto who loves outer space, her single mom, her family’s pizzeria, and running around the boardwalk with her best friend Meredith. The novel starts right after Pluto is diagnosed with depression and anxiety, after a month of missing school, finding it too hard to get out of bed, ignoring Meredith’s phone calls, and arguing more and more with her mom. Because of this, Pluto can’t help but wonder how she can try and feel like herself again. Pluto-the-planet isn’t a planet anymore, and Pluto-the-person doesn’t know where she fits anymore, either.

So, Eliot, you are no stranger to kidlit (Mr. Fancy Pants two-time National Book Award Finalist) but, and correct me if I’m wrong, this is your first YA novel with explicitly queer characters. I’m living for gays in space, but why did you decide to write this story now, and has your experience writing gay characters been any different than your other work?

Eliot: I think I’m ten Earth years older than you (though just 0.04 Pluto years!), and it’s been a big ten years for children’s literature, and books in general, around LGBTQIA+ themes. Though there were important early queer works already when I started writing YA, for the most part books were either about queerness or they had no queer characters, with little in between. For the most part, my narrative instincts don’t lean toward romance, so I had characters in most of my books who were driven by other interests, not romantic ones.

With THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US, though, my first moment of inspiration was the book’s big (no spoilers here!) plot twist, which requires two people to be trapped on a ship together. That got me thinking of a romantic storyline, and the romance I came up with was true to my own (gay male) identity. I continue to be a plot-first sort of writer, but this plot really called for these two boys to be on a ship, falling in love. Cue the gaaaays in spaaaace!

In writing their romance I was inspired by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, where he writes about how seeing Earth from space “underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another.” Nicole, I’d love to know how our conception of space and (non?) planets works in HOW TO BECOME A PLANET, whether literally or metaphorically or anything in between!

Nicole: When I sat down to write PLANET, what I really wanted to do was show that mental illness can be a lifelong issue. I wanted to let Pluto explore what it meant for her, now that she has this diagnosis, moving forward. How does it change her? Does it change her? What does it all mean? Which, in turn, made me start thinking about Pluto-the-planet. When I was in middle school, Pluto was still a planet, and all of a sudden we were told, “no wait, we changed the definition of what makes a planet, so Pluto doesn’t qualify anymore.” What did that mean? Was Pluto-the-planet suddenly different? No, of course not. The definition changed, but Pluto was exactly the same as it was, and still is, as when I learned about it back in middle school. All of its properties are still exactly the same. Getting a depression diagnosis for Pluto-the-person is just like Pluto-the-planet getting a new definition. It doesn’t change who she is; if anything, it gives her a clearer understanding of who she is.

If you’ll allow me to be sentimental for a moment, having you for a mentor in grad school helped me have a clearer understanding of myself, too, and who I was as a writer and a person–particularly one who writes about queer characters and stories. We also had the privilege of launching Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Writing for Children concentration in their creative writing MFA program, you as a professor and me as one of the first batch of students under that concentration. I learned a lot from you (I’m done stroking your ego after this) and I thought I’d ask, if you could teach student writers like myself only one thing, what would that be?

Eliot:  Oh, please don’t be done stroking my ego! Nicole, one of the things I love so much about Pluto’s story is how you make her depression feel real and intimate and not like some huge crisis that ruins the lives of “other people.” It’s just part of life, and part of being a person in the world. That’s something I love so much about your novels—even though my life experiences might not always match your characters’, you’ve brought me so cleanly and simply into their minds that I still feel this very close kinship to them.

I should answer your question, though! Lately I’ve been thinking that one of the most important things student writers have to learn is the power of withheld information. I feel like every protagonist should have a secret, even if they’re not consciously hiding it. The instinct as a writer is to tell the reader everything about a character’s situation, as quickly and efficiently as possible. But instead I think it’s so much more powerful to hint at all the things the reader doesn’t know yet, and take your time as an author revealing the information, producing dramatic tension all the while. The first chapter of The Hunger Games is a total master class of this, and I think that’s a big part of the book’s huge success. On this craft topic, do you have any thoughts to share about handling backstory and frontstory in the early part of a book? How do you do it in Pluto’s case?

Nicole: In fairness, The Darkness Outside Us also is pretty damn good at doing exactly that–both of your characters have things they play close to the chest, and the plot twists (don’t even think you’ll get spoilers out of me, reader) in your book speak for themself in terms of knowing exactly when to reveal certain parts of the story.

For Pluto in particular, it was important to me to tell a story from the perspective of what happens after the diagnosis. Which meant that I had to decide how much of the first chapter to bog down with what came before the diagnosis. I wanted to explore the results and consequences instead of showing the entire journey that led to the doctors and medications. I introduce the idea that Pluto needs to be tutored over the summer, and that’s because she missed a lot of school. Her best friend Meredith is upset and mad at Pluto, and that’s because Pluto stopped calling and hanging out with her during the school year. These are the things that happened before the novel started that are part of the reason Pluto ended up with the diagnosis, but I didn’t need to spend the time at the start of the book detailing that.

This craft conversation actually reminds me of the essay I had to write for you during grad school, where I analyzed the moment in a handful of MG/YA books where the author “outs” the character to the reader. It’s again one of those important decisions as a writer: when and how do I reveal this piece of information to the reader. Do you remember what that moment is for Ambrose? (This is just a warm up question, don’t get too comfortable.) For Pluto, its revealed by her slowly developing a crush on Fallon, which was nice to write on my end, because Pluto doesn’t really have an “oh, I might be queer” moment. She just has an “oh, I think I like Fallon” moment.

Staying on the craft conversation: my real question for you is, since Darkness is a SFF novel that takes place in an alternative futuristic version of our universe, what was the worst part about having to develop and world build your idea of this future, and, also, what was the best part?

Eliot: I that essay so much! I learned so much from you, working with you on that. And I remember your presentation of it was also about your coming-out journey, and had half of the MFA cohort in tears.

As far as outing Ambrose: he comes from a really progressive country, 400 years in the future. I let myself imagine how far we might have come by then. They’re well past labels at all, so when Kodiak (who’s from a less progressive society) asks Ambrose if he’s gay or bi or what, Ambrose busts out laughing, because the question sounds like it’s out of a historical fiction. That’s one of the things I love most about sci-fi, that you can imagine better futures, not just worse ones. That was the best part, creating a character and giving him a kinder, more inclusive place to live in.

The hardest part was trying to make a believable future, tech-wise. I tried to imagine evolved technologies, but I’m sure someone actually from 400 years in the future would crack up at my version of future tech. Kind of like how everyone in the 1960s was convinced we’d have robot maids and be riding around in flying cars by now.

Nicole, my last question for you: You stopping by Pluto’s house for breakfast, ten years after the events of HOW TO BECOME A PLANET. How’s she doing? (More important: what does she serve you to eat?)

Nicole: Ten years after the events of PLANET, Pluto would be around 23 years old. She’s doing well–she kept up with her therapist and her doctors and took her medication. There were some bumps along the way, because as Pluto learns throughout the course of the book, mental illness isn’t an exact science and things change and she still has her ups and downs. But she knows who she is and she’s proud of it. I don’t think she studied astronomy or a related science when she got to college–I think while she’ll always love her connection to space and still read and learn as much as she can about it, I think she’ll grow to spread her wings a little bit. Astronomy is what connected her with her mom, and they still share that, but I think Pluto would find something to make completely her own. Still in the sciences–maybe health science? Maybe she’s going to be in a lab somewhere someday helping to advance the resources available for kids with anxiety and depression, just like her.

And, of course, she would serve me some sort of breakfast pizza!

Eliot, thank you so much for joining me in chatting about our upcoming releases. I’ve been a fan of yours since that first year at grad school, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to sit down and gab about our queer books. Thank you Dahlia at LGBTQ Reads for hosting us!

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Help support these authors and the site by shopping the LGBTQReads Bookshop!

Buy How to Become a Planet

Preorder The Darkness Outside Us

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ELIOT SCHREFER is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bread Jersey girl, is an award winning children’s author. Her middle grade books have been Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selections, recipient of the Skipping Stones Honor Award, and a 2020 Kirkus Reviews best book of the year. Her debut novel, Hurricane Season, was a Lambda Literary finalist. She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule.

April 2021 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

2021 Tin House Scholar Luke Dani Blue’s PRETEND IT’S MY BODY, a collection of stories exploring dysphorias of gender and reality, trans teen psychics and tornado survivors, con artists and runaways, mothers who are daughters and daughters who are sons, ultimately asking if there’s a real self, and if so, what does it look like, to Lauren Rosemary Hook at Feminist Press, by Adam Schear at DeFiore and Company (world English).

London Writers Award winner and activist Henry Fry’s FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING, about a shy 20-something who, discovering his boyfriend will never give him what he wants (monogamy), moves into an East London “commune” and, with the help of his madcap flatmates and inscrutable therapist, sets out in search of his most authentic self, exploring the exuberance of queer life with many missteps along the way, to Jesse Shuman at Ballantine, and Bhavna Chauhan at Doubleday Canada, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency (NA).

Iowa MFA candidate Jenny Fran Davis’s DYKETTE, following a young aspiring writer and her partner over the course of a dysfunctional 10-day getaway with two other queer couples; exploring the nuanced contradictions of intimacy, jealousy, and desire, to Ruby Rose Lee at Holt, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Miriam Altshuler at DeFiore and Company (world).

Author of SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT Meryl Wilsner‘s MISTAKES WERE MADE, pitched as a raunch-com in which a college senior has a one night stand with a stranger, who she later learns is her friend’s mom, to Vicki Lame at Griffin, for publication in fall 2022, by Patrice Caldwell at New Leaf Literary & Media (NA).

Hugo Award-winning blogger Foz Meadows‘s A STRANGE AND STUBBORN ENDURANCE, a m/m epic fantasy romance about a closeted young nobleman preparing for a political arranged marriage to a foreign princess — but when his sexuality is revealed, he’s offered marriage to her brother the prince instead, to Claire Eddy at Tor, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates (world English).

Cartoonist and Associate Editor of The Nib Matt Lubchansky‘s BOYS WEEKEND, part autobiographical fiction, part satire, and part SF horror, following Sammie, who a year after they come out as trans must navigate a bachelor party weekend on El Campo, a hedonistic floating wonderland in international waters, while a murderous cult tries to take over the island, to Anna Kaufman at Pantheon, by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (world).

Iowa MFA candidate Jenny Fran Davis‘s DYKETTE, following a young aspiring writer and her partner over the course of a dysfunctional 10-day getaway with two other queer couples; exploring the nuanced contradictions of intimacy, jealousy, and desire, to Ruby Rose Lee at Holt, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Miriam Altshuler at DeFiore and Company (world).

Courtney Kae‘s debut IN THE EVENT OF LOVE, a queer rom-com that finds an L.A. event planner back in her rustic mountain hometown over the holidays for a career-saving gig, where she discovers that the sexy lumberjane owner of the tree farm she’s there to revive is the same girl who broke her heart seven years ago, to Elizabeth Trout at Kensington, in a two-book deal, by Claire Friedman at Inkwell Management.

Author of A LITTLE LIFE Hanya Yanagihara’s TO PARADISE, spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss, and the elusive promise of utopia; opening in 1893 in an alternate version of America, where New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems) and the fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means; in a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father; and in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him—and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances, to Doubleday, for publication in January 2022, by Anna Stein at ICM (US).

Season Vining‘s PENNY FOR YOUR HEART, an LGBTQ+ #OwnVoices rom-com in which two childhood friends who were separated by fear and discrimination reunite and struggle to find the authentic love they’ve long been missing, to Nikki Babri at Tule, in a three-book deal, by Amy Brewer at Metamorphosis Literary Agency.

Children’s Fiction

Nicole Melleby and A.J. Sass’s CAMP QUILTBAG*, in which a 12-year-old and 13-year-old attend a queer summer camp for very different reasons and make a pact to help one another find their footing at camp, all while navigating crushes, their queer identities, and a competition pitting cabin against cabin, to Krestyna Lypen at Algonquin Young Readers, for publication in spring 2023, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret for Melleby, and Jordan Hamessley at New Leaf Literary & Media for Sass (world).

Young Adult Fiction

Author of the forthcoming MAY THE BEST MAN WIN Z.R. Ellor’s ACTING THE PART, in which a teenage actor questioning their gender identity starts a fake relationship with a costar to convince their showrunners to give their on-screen f/f couple a happy ending, to Stephanie Guerdan at Harper Teen, at auction, for publication in fall 2022, by Kaitlyn Johnson at Belcastro Agency (world English).

Molly Horton Booth and Stephanie Kate Strohm‘s TWELFTH GRADE NIGHT and KING CHEER, the first two books in the Arden High series, set at a modern-day high school where magic and fairies are real, the LGBTQ themes of the original plays are more than subtext, and the drama is quite literally Shakespearean, illustrated by Jamie Green, to Kieran Viola at Disney-Hyperion, with Rachel Stark editing, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2022, by Alexander Slater at Trident Media Group for Booth, Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency for Strohm, and Chad Beckerman at The CAT Agency for the illustrator (world).

Sarah Rees Brennan‘s FENCE: DISARMED, the second original novel based on the graphic novel series created by C.S. Pacat and Johanna The Mad, following the boys of Kings Row to a training camp in Europe where they face elite fencers, ex-boyfriends, expulsion, and an infamous character, to Mary-Kate Gaudet at Little, Brown Children’s, for publication in summer 2021, by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media (world).

Non-Fiction

Author of BLACK WAVE, MODERN TAROT, and AGAINST MEMOIR Michelle Tea‘s KNOCKING MYSELF UP, following the author’s journey to get pregnant as a 40-year-old, single, queer, uninsured woman, venturing into the very straight world of prospective motherhood and artificial reproductive technologies, and the often hidden and taboo truths of women’s bodies, bringing her wild, transgressive community along for the ride, to Peter Kispert at Dey Street Books, in a six-figure deal, at auction, by Alison Lewis at Zoe Pagnamenta Agency (world English).

Coauthor of AVA GARDNER: A LIFE IN MOVIES Anthony Uzarowski‘s FRIENDS OF DOROTHY: A CELEBRATION OF LGBTQ+ ICONS, about larger-than-life characters who over the decades inspired LGBTQ+ people, creating controversy, challenging conventions, and sometimes putting their own lives on the line in order for new generations to live in a more equal and accepting world, illustrated by Alejandro Mogollo, to Kevin Stevens at Imagine Publishing, in a nice deal, for publication in 2023, by Lee Sobel at Lee Sobel Literary Agency (world).

Journalist Jessie Stephens‘s HEARTSICK, using interwoven narratives of a diverse group of three people—a middle aged married woman who falls in love with someone who is not her husband, a 20-something queer woman who moves to London and starts dating the wrong person, and a young man who has never been in a relationship before and falls head over heels as you can only do in first love—whose lives are altered by major heartbreak, to explore the devastation of love, our need for connection, and how relationships transform us, to Serena Jones at Holt, at auction, for publication in spring 2022, by Daniel Lazar at Writers House, on behalf of Macmillan Australia (NA). (Previously published in Australia.)

*Deals originally published in Publishers Marketplace (c) 2021.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: This is Our Rainbow ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby

I am THE MOST excited to be sharing this cover reveal today, not just because I happen to adore the editors personally and not just because the cover is adorable, and not even just because the actually collection sounds incredible and so, so necessary, but because as you’ll read, I had a little hand in this one!

This is Our Rainbow is an all-LGBTQ+ Middle Grade anthology edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby, releasing from Knopf on October 19, 2021, and here to share the cover and the story behind it are the editors themselves!

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We are SO EXCITED to bring you the cover of This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Him, Her, Them and Us, our LGBTQ+ middle grade anthology!

This anthology has been such a joyful experience from start to finish…and it started with a tweet! Dahlia, who is no stranger to editing anthologies, tweeted that she really hoped there was a queer middle grade anthology in the works, and that she would help whoever decided to take this on however they needed. When Nicole expressed interest, Dahlia got her in touch with Katherine (who had just finished up on It’s a Whole Spiel so had the anthology editor experience).

We clicked immediately and got brainstorming. Meanwhile, our editor at Knopf, Marisa DiNovis, responded to Dahlia’s tweet, too, saying that a queer middle grade anthology was literally her dream. It’s only fitting that we’re doing the cover reveal here, on Dahlia’s blog, seeing as she helped make this whole thing possible!

So Twitter can be a force for good!

These stories are full of so much heart and joy and thoughtfulness, and we cannot wait to share each and every one of these with readers.

This is Our Rainbow

The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.

But today, we get to share the most glorious cover either of us have ever seen with YOU.

We are COMPLETELY obsessed with this cover with by Jes and Cin, designed by Sylvia Bi! Like, COMPLETELY OBSESSED.

Without further ado…here it is!

We LOVE this cover. Seeing such joy and pride and so many different representations on the cover of a middle grade book was a dream come true. We love that it’s so bright and happy; queer children getting to be themselves and happy and celebrating themselves was exactly what we wanted on the inside of this anthology, so we love that you can so clearly see that from this cover. And we can’t wait to share the back of the book too in a few months with more characters and more joy!

And we wanted to share more from the artists too! Here’s what Jes and Cin had to say about working on the cover:

What excited you about working on This Is Our Rainbow?

We were so excited that this was the first middle grade anthology about queer identities! We’re extremely passionate about queer representation in kids’ media, and seeing this diverse collection of stories and creatives was something we absolutely wanted (and are very honored) to be a part of.

How did you envision the cover?

The cover was a fun challenge. Fitting in all the protagonists and visualizing their flags into a book jacket is a lot! Sylvia Bi, the assistant designer, gave us some great prompts and directions to play with! We definitely wanted something bright and colorful, that showcased happy queer children celebrating themselves as individuals but also as a community. Reading the stories in this anthology really solidified how this cover would look.

What were your inspirations for the cover’s direction?

We were largely inspired by Naomi Franquiz’s cover for ToComix Press’ Shout Out Anthology! She put so much personality and individuality to the characters on that cover. We wanted the kids to interact with each other for This is Our Rainbow. Like a “warm gay hug” feeling! We also pulled from our experience going to Pride events. The many ways people joyfully expressed their identities through pins, flags, capes, and flower crowns was something we wanted to bring into the cover.

***

This is Our Rainbow releases on October 19th, 2021, and you can find more information and where to buy This is Our Rainbow here!

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Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia where they are ruled by their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They are the award-winning author of THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, THE SPY WITH THE RED BALLOON, editor-and-contributor to IT’S A WHOLE SPIEL, and other titles. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairytales in disguise. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @bibliogato, and on katherinelockebooks.com.

Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bred Jersey girl, is the author of HURRICANE SEASON, which was a Lambda Literary Finalist, IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS…, a Kirkus Reviews best book of the year, and the upcoming HOW TO BECOME A PLANET (May 2021). She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LadyNeeko

Most Anticipated LGBTQ Middle Grade Fiction: January-June 2021

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Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (January 5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

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Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (January 5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

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Middletown by Sarah Moon (April 6th)

Thirteen-year-old Eli likes baggy clothes, baseball caps, and one girl in particular. Her seventeen-year-old sister Anna is more traditionally feminine; she loves boys and staying out late. They are sisters, and they are also the only family each can count on. Their dad has long been out of the picture, and their mom lives at the mercy of her next drink. When their mom lands herself in enforced rehab, Anna and Eli are left to fend for themselves. With no legal guardian to keep them out of foster care, they take matters into their own hands: Anna masquerades as Aunt Lisa, and together she and Eli hoard whatever money they can find. But their plans begin to unravel as quickly as they were made, and they are always way too close to getting caught.

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Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (May 11th)

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .

But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

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Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake (May 25th)

Hazel Bly used to live in the perfect house with the perfect family in sunny California. But when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong, Mum is suddenly gone forever and Hazel is left with crippling anxiety and a jagged scar on her face. After Mum’s death, Hazel, her other mother, Mama, and her little sister, Peach, needed a fresh start. So for the last two years, the Bly girls have lived all over the country, never settling anywhere for more than a few months.

When the family arrives in Rose Harbor, Maine, there’s a wildness to the small town that feels like magic. But when Mama runs into an old childhood friend—Claire—suddenly Hazel’s tight-knit world is infiltrated. To make it worse, she has a daughter Hazel’s age, Lemon, who can’t stop rambling on and on about the Rose Maid, a local 150-year-old mermaid myth.

Soon, Hazel finds herself just as obsessed with the Rose Maid as Lemon is—because what if magic were real? What if grief really could change you so much, you weren’t even yourself anymore? And what if instead you emerged from the darkness stronger than before?

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How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby (May 25th)

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

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Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow (June 8th)

Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding–meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

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Both Can Be True by Jules Machias (June 8th)

Ash is no stranger to feeling like an outcast. For someone who cycles through genders, it’s a daily struggle to feel in control of how people perceive you. Some days Ash is undoubtedly girl, but other times, 100 percent guy. Daniel lacks control too—of his emotions. He’s been told he’s overly sensitive more times than he can count. He can’t help the way he is, and he sure wishes someone would accept him for it.

So when Daniel’s big heart leads him to rescue a dog that’s about to be euthanized, he’s relieved to find Ash willing to help. The two bond over their four-legged secret. When they start catching feelings for each other, however, things go from cute to complicated. Daniel thinks Ash is all girl . . . what happens when he finds out there’s more to Ash’s story?

With so much on the line—truth, identity, acceptance, and the life of an adorable pup named Chewbarka—will Ash and Daniel forever feel at war with themselves because they don’t fit into the world’s binaries? Or will their friendship help them embrace the beauty of living in between?

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Why I Wrote In the Role of Brie Hutchens…: a Guest Post by Author Nicole Melleby

I’m so thrilled to have Nicole Melleby back on the site today, especially after reading the wonderful In the Role of Brie Hutchens, their new heartwarming, adorable, romantic, and soap opera-centric Middle Grade contemporary set at a Catholic School, releasing today from Algonquin Books! Come check out a little more about the book, which made me cry and relive my love for As the World Turns:

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

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And here’s the post! Take it away, Nicole!

***

To understand why I wrote my second book, In the Role of Brie Hutchens… you need to know two things about me.

One: I went to Catholic school.

From kindergarten through 8th grade, I was a St. Mary’s Saint. For high school, I was a Mater Dei Seraph.

(We didn’t know what a Seraph was at first either.)

I wore a school uniform. My only two detentions were actually because of that uniform. One because my skirt was rolled too short (we all rolled our skirts; you only got caught if it was less than two inches from your fingertips.) Two because I had a gray shirt on under my blouse instead of a white one.

Yeah, I know.

This was also a school that banned Harry Potter because JK Rowling was a satanist.

The girls wore boxers under their skirts, to keep the guys from looking up them as we climbed the stairs. Senior year, we got to wear pants…as a privilege. Those privileges could be taken away.

They often were threatened to be taken away.

We went to church every week, which was only exciting because on those days, we came back from mass to shortened class periods. There was only so much the teachers could do in twenty minutes.

Sometimes we cut class and hung out in the chapel. You couldn’t get in trouble if you got caught. Not if you said you just needed a moment with Jesus.

I wonder if they thought I needed that many moments with Jesus. They probably wish I took those moments for real now.

Health class consisted of our gym teacher yelling ABSTAIN at us. In class, in the hallways, at school dances.

We didn’t abstain.

We didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of everything we were doing.

I didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of everything I was feeling.

How could I even begin to explore my sexuality behind walls where they didn’t tell me it was possible?

The second thing you need to know about me is that I. LOVE. Soap Operas.

As a writer, I know what storyline tropes to avoid.

As a soap fan, I know what storyline tropes I absolutely goddamn ADORE.

There’s just something magical about discovering that two characters are pregnant at the same time.

Why? Because there’s definitely a baby swap coming.

If there’s a wedding planned during sweeps month?

It’s definitely going to go up in flames. (And not always metaphorical ones.)

If a beloved character dies? Or a classic villain?

Well, don’t worry too much. They’ll probably be back. Resurrected from the dead, recast with a new actor. (Lots of plastic surgery.)

There’s something so enjoyable about the narration over an old character with a new face, “The role of so and so is now being played by…” as the storyline itself doesn’t miss a single beat.

There’s something awe inspiring (something breathtaking) about a character, in the middle of the afternoon, in broad daylight, on a show that you watch with your mom (that so many moms watch) saying, “Mom, I’m gay.”

My mom was my 8th grade teacher at that Catholic school.

We drove home together at the end of the day.

We turned on our soaps when we got home.

We watched them together.

We watched as Erica Kane’s daughter (Erica Fricken Kane!!) said the words, “I’m gay.”

What you should know is that I didn’t come out to my own mom until much (much) later.

I felt seen that afternoon, anyway.

In the first printing of In the Role of Brie Hutchens… there’s an error in my acknowledgements. A mistake happened as mistakes tend to do, and the last paragraph of those acknowledgements were left out.

In those acknowledgements I thanked Agnes Nixon. For writing those characters. For creating Bianca and writing that storyline where that brave young woman came out to her mom, Erica Kane.

What you should know is that Agnes Nixon made me feel less alone. Agnes Nixon made me feel seen.

I can only hope that, for some reader, somewhere, In the Role of Brie Hutchens… can do the same.

Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. Her debut novel, HURRICANE SEASON, was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. When she’s not writing, Nicole can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.

New Releases: June 2020

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Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (1st)

This is the UK release. It will be released in the US on July 19.

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

Buy it: The Book Depository | Bookshop

The Groom Will Keep His Name by Matt Ortile (2nd)

A riotous collection of “witty and captivating” (Bitch Magazine) essays by a gay Filipino immigrant in America learning that everything is about sex–and sex is about power

When Matt Ortile moved from Manila to Las Vegas, the locals couldn’t pronounce his name. Harassed as a kid for his brown skin, accent, and femininity, he believed he could belong in America by marrying a white man and shedding his Filipino identity. This was the first myth he told himself. The Groom Will Keep His Name explores the various tales Ortile spun about what it means to be a Vassar Girl, an American Boy, and a Filipino immigrant in New York looking to build a home.

As we meet and mate, we tell stories about ourselves, revealing not just who we are, but who we want to be. Ortile recounts the relationships and whateverships that pushed him to confront his notions of sex, power, and the model minority myth. Whether swiping on Grindr, analyzing DMs, or cruising steam rooms, Ortile brings us on his journey toward radical self-love with intelligence, wit, and his heart on his sleeve.

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Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (2nd)

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than “I like you a great deal.”

Enter Edith. A Hong Kong–born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

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If We Were Us by K.L. Waither (2nd)

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

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You Don’t Live Here by Robyn Schneider (2nd)

In Southern California, no one lives more than thirty miles from the nearest fault line. Sasha Bloom is standing right on top of one when her world literally crumbles around her. With her mother now dead and father out of the picture, Sasha moves in with her estranged grandparents.

Living in her mom’s old bedroom, Sasha has no idea who she is anymore. Luckily, her grandparents are certain they know who she should be: A lawyer in the making. Ten pounds skinnier. In a socially advantageous relationship with a boy from a good family—a boy like Cole Edwards.

And Cole has ideas for who Sasha should be, too. His plus one at lunch. His girlfriend. His.

Sasha tries to make everything work, but that means folding away her love of photography, her grief for her mother, and he growing interest in the magnificently clever Lily Chen. Sasha wants to follow Lily off the beaten path, to discover hidden beaches, secret menus, and the truth about dinosaur pee.

But being friends with Lily might lead somewhere new. Is Sasha willing to stop being the girl everyone expects and let the girl beneath the surface breath through?

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Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert (2nd)

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

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You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (2nd)

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

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Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha (2nd)

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

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Swan Song by Lisa Alther (9th)

Dr. Jessie Drake, in her mid-sixties, following the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her partner of twenty years, has fled the Vermont life she has known for decades.

In an effort to escape the oppressive constancy of grief, she accepts a job from an old flame from her residency in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital, and agrees to assist Ben as the ship’s doctor on a British liner. Jessie boards in Hong Kong, and, as the Amphitrite sails throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, cruise ship antics ensue. Jessie is lulled back into a long-ago romance with the ship’s co-doctor, and both she and her new/old beau become enmeshed with the ship’s lead (female) singer/entertainer. Among the passengers who fling socialized behavior aside on the high seas: a former Florida beauty queen (Miss Florida Power and Light) on a second honeymoon with her husband, as she causes high-velocity scandal, while juggling onboard affairs with a suicidal golf pro, and a defrocked priest hired as one of the liner’s gentleman hosts, until she vanishes–poof!–from the ship off the coast of Portugal . . . As the ship sails through the Gulf of Aden and into a possible hijacking by Somali pirates, Jessie retreats into her lover’s journals, written during her final months, journals filled with sketches of potential characters, observations on life and love–as well as drafts of a long new poem in progress, “Swan Song,” that seems to be about being in love with someone else, someone new. As Jessie’s grief turns to suspicion about the woman she thought she knew so well, her illumination of the poem’s meaning begins to lift the constraints of the past and make clear the way toward the future.

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The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (9th)

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight. She definitely doesn’t believe in happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name. She wouldn’t be in a care home with early onset dementia, a condition Saoirse may one day develop herself. So Saoirse isn’t looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point.

But Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole. They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall.

It would be the perfect plan . . . if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love for real.

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You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, ill. by Julie Maroh (9th)

Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?

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Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine (9th)

It could start anywhere…

At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon’s cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight.

In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

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Belladonna by Anbara Salam (9th)

Isabella is beautiful, inscrutable, and popular. Her best friend, Bridget, keeps quietly to the fringes of their Connecticut Catholic school, watching everything and everyone, but most especially Isabella.

In 1957, when the girls graduate, they land coveted spots at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Pentila in northern Italy, a prestigious art history school on the grounds of a silent convent. There, free of her claustrophobic home and the town that will always see her and her Egyptian mother as outsiders, Bridget discovers she can reinvent herself as anyone she desires… perhaps even someone Isabella could desire in return.

But as that glittering year goes on, Bridget begins to suspect Isabella is keeping a secret from her, one that will change the course of their lives forever.

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The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (16th)

Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes.

Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid.

To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Bookshop

Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (16th)


This is the sequel to Who is Vera Kelly?

When ex-CIA agent Vera Kelly loses her job and her girlfriend in a single day, she reluctantly goes into business as a private detective. Heartbroken and cash-strapped, she takes a case that dredges up dark memories and attracts dangerous characters from across the Cold War landscape. Before it’s over, she’ll chase a lost child through foster care and follow a trail of Dominican exiles to the Caribbean. Forever looking over her shoulder, she nearly misses what’s right in front of her: her own desire for home, connection, and a new romance at the local bar.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (16th)

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (16th)

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia (22nd)

When Lady Eleanor “Nell” St. George arrives in Wales after serving as a veterinarian in the Great War, she doesn’t come alone. With her is her former captain’s beloved warhorse, which she promised to return to him—and a series of recurring nightmares that torment both her heart and her soul. She wants only to complete her task, then find refuge with her family, but when Nell meets the captain’s eldest daughter, all that changes.

Beatrice Hughes is resigned to life as the dutiful daughter. Her mother grieves for the sons she lost to war; the care of the household and remaining siblings falls to Beatrice, and she manages it with a practical efficiency. But when a beautiful stranger shows up with her father’s horse, practicality is the last thing on her mind.

Despite the differences in their social standing, Beatrice and Nell give in to their unlikely attraction, finding love where they least expect it. But not everything in the captain’s house is as it seems. When Beatrice’s mother disappears under mysterious circumstances, Nell must overcome her preconceptions to help Beatrice, however she’s able. Together they must find out what really happened that stormy night in the village, before everything Beatrice loves is lost—including Nell.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee (23rd)

52768177Time changes things.

That painful fact of life couldn’t be truer for the Sullivan sisters. Once, they used to be close, sharing secrets inside homemade blanket castles. Now, life in the Sullivan house means closed doors and secrets left untold.

Fourteen-year-old Murphy, an aspiring magician, is shocked by the death of Siegfried, her pet turtle. Seventeen-year-old Claire is bound for better things than her Oregonian hometown—until she receives a crushing rejection from her dream college. And eighteen-year-old Eileen is nursing a growing addiction in the wake of life-altering news.

Then, days before Christmas, a letter arrives, informing the sisters of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about. The news forces them to band together in the face of a sinister family mystery…and, possibly, murder.

The Sullivan Sisters is an unforgettable novel about the ghosts of the past, the power of connection, and the bonds of sisterhood.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Lot Six by David Adjmi (23rd)

Brooklyn, 1970s. Born into the ruins of a Syrian Jewish family that once had it all, David is painfully displaced. Trapped in an insular religious community that excludes him and a family coming apart at the seams, he is plunged into suicidal depression by the age of eight. Through adolescence, David tries to suppress his homosexual feelings and fit in, but when pushed to the breaking point, he makes the bold decision to cut off his family, erase his past, and leave everything he knows behind. There’s only one problem: who should he be? Bouncing between identities he steals from the pages of fashion magazines, tomes of philosophy, sitcoms and foreign films, and practically everyone he meets–from Rastafarians to French preppies–David begins to piece together an entirely new adult self. But is this the foundation for a life, or just a kind of quicksand?

Moving from the glamour and dysfunction of 1970s Brooklyn, to the sybaritic materialism of Reagan’s 1980s to post-9/11 New York, Lot Six offers a quintessentially American tale of an outsider striving to reshape himself in the funhouse mirror of American culture. Adjmi’s memoir is a genre bending Künstlerroman in the spirit of Charles Dickens and Alison Bechdel, a portrait of the artist in the throes of a life and death crisis of identity. Raw and lyrical, and written in gleaming prose that veers effortlessly between hilarity and heartbreak, Lot Six charts Adjmi’s search for belonging, identity, and what it takes to be an artist in America.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (23rd)

Will Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Bookshop

Freedom by E. Davies (26th)

Agoraphobe Jaden shouldn’t have let his big brother put a ticket in a blind date raffle for him. He wasn’t expecting to win. And certainly not an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon with a gorgeous stranger—and his total opposite, a hunky wilderness guide.

Henry’s excited to meet a guy he clicks with, having finally finished bottom surgery. He’s been living stealth as the man he is for years, but he’s growing tired of hiding his past. Jaden not only accepts him, he captivates Henry, who resolves to be courageous and vulnerable in the rest of his life.

Back home in Denver, Henry starts to take pride in reconnecting with the trans community, while Jaden pushes himself out of his comfort zone. But freedom always comes at a price. Can they take the plunge into their wide open future together?

Buy it: Amazon

Just Like That by Cole McCade (30th)

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya.

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby (30th)

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound | Bookshop

Thin Girls by Diana Clarke (30th)

Rose and Lily Winters are twins, as close as the bond implies; they feel each other’s emotions, taste what the other is feeling. Like most young women, they’ve struggled with their bodies and food since childhood, and high school finds them turning to food—or not—to battle the waves of insecurity and the yearning for popularity. But their connection can be as destructive as it is supportive, a yin to yang. when Rose stops eating, Lily starts—consuming everything Rose won’t or can’t.

Within a few years, Rose is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility for anorexics. Lily, her sole visitor, is the only thing tethering her to a normal life.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | Indiebound | Kobo

Authors in Conversation: Kit Rosewater and Nicole Melleby

Welcome back to another Authors in Conversation post on LGBTQReads! If you’ve been following LGBTQA MG, you know it’s been blowing up in the most gorgeous way these past couple of years, and here are two of the authors responsible for that: Kit Rosewater (L), author of The Derby Daredevils, a brand-new illustrated series that kicks off with Kenzie Kickstarts a Team today(!), and Nicole Melleby (R), author of last year’s Hurricane Season, next month’s In the Role of Brie Hutchens…, and at least two more queer MGs after that! (Not to mention co-editor with Katherine Locke of the upcoming all-queer MG anthology This is Our Rainbow!)

Kit and Nicole are here to talk about their new books, what’s up next, and more, so pull up a seat and listen in!

Nicole: Hey Kit! I’m excited to get to do this interview with you! I’m a pretty easy sell when it comes to queer kid lit, but The Derby Daredevils is such a special addition to LGBTQ+ middle grade shelves. It made me want to go dust off my skates, which I haven’t used in, like, a decade. (It’s like riding a bike, though, right?) For those who weren’t lucky enough to get their hands on it before its March 24th release, why don’t you tell us a little bit about it?

Kit: Thank you so much Nicole! I literally dusted off my childhood skates as I researched and wrote The Derby Daredevils! (My feet didn’t grow much after fifth grade.) Book 1 of the illustrated series, Kenzie Kickstarts a Team, follows best friends Kenzie and Shelly as they set out to expand their Dynamic Duo into a whole team of roller derby skaters so they can play together on the Austin junior league. But for every potential new player they recruit, more and more tension gets wound into their own friendship… until Kenzie’s not sure she wants the Dynamic Duo to change at all. As the cast of characters slowly builds, the story shifts, and a big turning point comes when Shelly tries to get Kenzie’s secret crush to join the crew.

You should also tell us about your upcoming middle grade, In the Role of Brie Hutchens! I love how you’ve infused this in-depth history of soap operas and coming out scenes with Brie’s personal story. The way Brie sees the world is so darn relatable, and I have to admit that I slipped right back into my days of first girl crushes as I read along.

Nicole: In the Role of Brie Hutchens is what I keep referring to as Love, Simon meets Lady Bird. Brie is a soap opera obsessed Catholic school girl (much like myself) who has a complicated relationship with her mom, which is only further complicated by her mom’s strong faith and Brie’s first crush on another girl. Nothing seems to really go Brie’s way, especially when her mom walks in on Brie googling inappropriate photos of Brie’s favorite soap opera actress, and to divert her mom’s attention, Brie lies and says she’s been chosen to play the big role in her 8th grades religious May Crowning ceremony…which she obviously hasn’t been. So, to make that actually happen, Brie decides to ask the smartest girl in her class (who happens to be Brie’s crush) for help.

I’m excited we both have queer middle grade novels out this year, especially ones that deal with that awkwardness of a first crush (and those poor decisions you sometimes make because of them!) Kenzie Kickstarts a Team is your debut, and I know you’ll be following up with a sequel later in the year. Would you tell us a bit about your journey to publishing queer middle grade? Did you face any roadblocks or fears when you started?

Kit: I love that both our books explore first queer crushes too! Honestly, this was a subject that until a few years ago, I didn’t realize I was allowed to write about. I was a pretty escapist kid, always trying to disappear into worlds I made up in my head, and my earliest manuscripts were mostly fantasy. I experienced A LOT of typical roadblocks in my publishing journey, from moving between agents to having various projects not make it out of revisions. But the biggest roadblock for publishing queer middle grade was ultimately… me. For so long I had looked back on my first girl crushes in 5th and 6th grade with absolute shame–the same kind I get when I think about accidentally wrecking my mom’s car as a 16-yr-old. It took a long time to realize I could “escape” into positive queer middle grade stories. Now I never want to stop writing about kids who are queer and not cloaked with the type of shame I felt.

There is so much room for all kinds of queer stories in the middle grade canon, and I love every type of story out there–the coming out stories, the unrequited feelings stories, the found families stories, the happy ending stories–all of them! While reading Brie Hutchens, I was so impressed at the way you handled some hefty topics like reconciling being queer within a heavily religious setting. You said that like Brie, you were a Catholic school girl. Would you mind sharing your experience with writing some details from your own childhood into Brie’s story?

Nicole: It’s actually funny–I said earlier that In the Role of Brie Hutchens could be comped to the movie Lady Bird. I actually walked out of the theater after seeing Lady Bird and said, “I want to write about a coming of age queer middle grade story based on my experience in Catholic school.” Only, when I sat down to write that story, I realized that the experiences of middle grade readers now are much different than when I was that age. In big part thanks to the internet (I sound about a thousand years old right now), today’s middle grade readers have access to and an understanding of queer identities and vocabulary that I had no idea existed until I was in my twenties. I had to find a way to tell the story I wanted to tell, but for today’s audience. Brie is exactly like I was: dramatic, confused, a little self-centered, questioning the idea of faith and religion. But Brie knows that she has feelings for girls and doesn’t really struggle with understanding what that means–just what to do about it.

Speaking about main characters–Kenzie (or should I say Kenzilla?) was likeable and relatable right from the start. She’s determined to start her own team, and even with her mistakes along the way, I was rooting for her to succeed while maintaining her changing friendship with Shelly. Can you tell us more about Kenzie, and who she is as a character? Are there any similarities between Kenzie and your younger self?

Kit: Thank you so much! As much as I try not to get personally attached to reader’s opinions… it’s such a relief to know that Kenzie is relatable, because this girl is basically me. I tend to enfold myself into almost every character I write, and because The Derby Daredevils series has rotating protagonists, I wanted a huge chunk of my personality in each team member. But Kenzie feels especially close to home. At her best, Kenzie’s a leader, and she cares deeply about dynamics and how everyone works together. Whenever I’m thriving in a group setting, whether it’s a writers meeting or a school project, it’s because I’m taking on that same role. At her worst, well… Kenzie can be a bit exclusionary. And so was I. I’m embarrassed about how often I bristled when a new person came into my friend group. Maybe I was worried they would replace me in some way. Or maybe, like Kenzie, I was just scared of change. As an adult I try to be really conscientious of including others, but I can still be a bit of a butt about it from time to time. I was one of those kids who always pined for one best friend, and that kind of pining relies on exclusion to some extent.

Brie’s friendship with Parker really tugged on my heartstrings in the best way over the course of their relationship in the book. I love the moments of disconnect they have because they’re such different girls, but the ultimate reassurance that their friendship is one built on mutual support and care. Did you have a close friend like Parker growing up? Were there allies in your life as you explored various parts of your identity?

Nicole: I was actually the kid who was friends with everyone, so I had different groups of friends and different best friends throughout the years. What I wanted to do with Parker was a couple of things. Like I said above, I wanted to tell a coming of age Catholic school queer story for contemporary readers, and Parker played a big role in that. She’s understanding and supportive, because kids are full of empathy and understanding in ways that I didn’t always have growing up. She doesn’t question Brie’s sexuality; they have the knowledge and vocabulary to have a conversation about it. When I was Brie’s age, I remember turning to a friend of mine and saying, “Do you ever just…really like the way another girl’s face looks??” I had no idea I was talking about attraction! I also wanted Parker to be completely boy crazy–because some eighth grade girls are, and there’s nothing wrong with that!–so that I could have Brie encounter those awkward moments and feelings and conversations I was used to. Those ones where a friend says, “Which guy are you crushing on?” and you have to decide, “Am I going to lie?”

As an adult, when I knew I needed to fully come out of the closet, I did have important allies, though, which is why I put a lot of people in Brie’s corner. Teachers, friends, even some family members…it was important for me to build Brie’s support system, because my support system was the only thing that got me through my whole coming out process. I had friends who bought me ice cream and beer the night I came out to my parents, and I had a mentor who listened and helped me get to a point where I was ready to come out at all. Without all that, I don’t know what I would have done. So while not everything goes well for Brie, I wanted some things to go well, too.

What I really liked about Kenzie’s story is that she wasn’t new to the idea of queer identities either–Kenzie even has a transgender parent. It’s another one of those contemporary queer stories–our audience has queer friends and families and are discovering their queer identities themselves openly and in a way queer middle grade books are starting to reflect. Could you tell us more about your decision to write Kenzie’s dad’s identity, along with her own budding sexuality?

Kit: Absolutely! I wrote the queer themes in Kenzie Kickstarts a Team both as a queer/bisexual author and also as an ally to the transgender community. Someone very close in my life came out to friends and family as transgender in 2017. They were in the midst of seeking help for anxiety and depression, and the process of coming out was long and fraught with a lot of emotional speed bumps and roadblocks. As their primary support and contact, I spent so many days crying on the phone with this person, sending notes, contacting other people in our network to buffer negative reactions or intercept inappropriate questions… I couldn’t get any writing done during that time. I finally reached out to my agent and said I just wasn’t interested in continuing to work on the darker middle grade project we’d had in revisions for months. I needed to write a different story, one where being transgender was normalized and celebrated, and where being queer in general was normalized and celebrated. I had gotten into the Austin roller derby scene a few months earlier, and it was like all the pieces fell into place. Once I started writing through Kenzie’s lens, I knew I wanted her to explore her sexuality in a positive and open environment. The only queer stories I’d been exposed to as a kid were tragic ones! I wanted young readers–especially young queer readers–to know there is nothing inherently negative about the queer identity. If people react negatively, that’s 100% ON THEM.

Brie ends up dealing with a variety of reactions–both immediate and eventual reactions–as she explores her own sexuality. I absolutely loved the complexity in her dynamics within each of those relationships. There wasn’t a cliché bigot villain or hero ally, which allows Brie the agency and freedom to navigate the coming out process in her own beautiful, messy way. What would you say is the number one takeaway you hope young readers get from reading Brie’s story?

Nicole: My goal in having Brie come out again, and again, and again… throughout the novel, to a variety of responses, was to show that “coming out” isn’t one moment. It’s a lifetime of moments. And it sucks, it does. It’s frustrating for Brie as much as it is freeing. But I wanted to balance the bad reactions with the good ones. I wanted to show that, despite the struggle and the pain, there is good, there is hope. The soap opera scene that Brie consistently goes back to, the one where the character Bianca comes out to her mom, Erica Kane, is this sweet, heartbreaking scene where Bianca begs her mom to see her. “Can’t you see who I am? I want you to see who I am.” That’s exactly what Brie wants throughout her whole process, too. She wants to be seen, she wants her mom to see her. My number one takeaway I’ve always wanted my young readers to get from this story (and every story I write) is that *I* see them, regardless of the rest.

I think that’s so important in queer middle grade especially–for us to give our readers hope. I think you do that especially beautifully with Kenzie’s story, with the queerness being so celebrated and normalized. I know you have a sequel coming out, too. Could you give us a sneak preview of what we can expect from this continuing story? Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Kit: Book 2 of the Daredevils series is called Shelly Struggles to Shine, and follows Kenzie’s best friend Shelly as the Daredevils team gears up for their first roller derby tournament! Shelly’s story is an artist’s story as she tries to figure out how being creative fits into a sport setting… which it absolutely does in derby! But finding that “in” is tricky. Shelly doesn’t identify as queer, but I wanted to keep the loving and open queer community ongoing in this book. Kenzie’s crush continues to flourish. Shelly’s friend and mentor in art class is non-binary. And many characters from Book 1 make some surprising guest appearances!

Apart from the Daredevils series, I have an upper middle grade WIP with characters closer to Brie’s age. There is a fair bit of queerness in there… with some of my favorite cheesy tropes! One pivotal scene chases my two lead characters, who are camp enemies with secret hots for each other (f/f) up a tree and leaves them stranded. I love the camp setting and the bickering, and am having so much fun with the whole project. My biggest hope is that eventually it will make its way onto shelves and be comped to In the Role of Brie Hutchens!

Nicole, thank you so much for joining me in chatting about our upcoming releases. I’ve been a huge fan of yours since Hurricane Season, and couldn’t be more thrilled to sit down and gab about queer middle grade and the long and drawn out process of coming out! Thank you Dahlia at LGBTQ Reads for hosting us!

***

Kit Rosewater writes books for children. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed. Before she was an author, Kit taught middle school theatre and high school English, then worked as a children’s bookseller. She has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and a knack for finding her characters in clouds, ceiling plaster, and Cheetos. Books 1 & 2 of her debut series THE DERBY DAREDEVILS rolls out in 2020 through Abrams.

*

Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.

February Book Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Assistant Books Editor at O, the Oprah Magazine Michelle Hart‘s WE DO WHAT WE DO IN THE DARK, about a young woman who has an affair with an older, married female professor during college, and how that relationship reshapes the rest of her life; a story of desire, loneliness, and the secrets we keep, even from ourselves, to Laura Perciasepe at Riverhead, in a pre-empt, by Sarah Burnes at The Gernert Company (NA).

New Yorker contributor and University Fellow at the Syracuse MFA program Anthony Veasna So‘s AFTERPARTIES, in which young Cambodian Americans grapple with race, sexuality, and their inherited traumas from the Khmer Rouge genocide, even as they carve out lives in the California Central Valley and Bay Area, and STRAIGHT THRU CAMBOTOWN, about three Cambodian-American cousins who inherit their late aunt’s illegitimate loan sharking business and then become embroiled in a Hollywood conspiracy, to Helen Atsma at Ecco, in a significant deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2021, by Rob McQuilkin at Massie & McQuilkin (NA).

Sidney Bell‘s THIS IS NOT THE END, a polyamorous romance in which a deeply reserved songwriter is invited to join his best friend and his wife in bed for a night, and what starts as a fling may just turn into forever, to Stephanie Doig at Carina Press (world).

Author of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS and THE EDITOR Steven Rowley‘s THE GUNCLE, about a reclusive television star who takes his young niece and nephew into his Palm Springs home after a family tragedy, and how his outsized lifestyle and unusual life wisdom bring about a season of healing that redefines their understanding of family and finally leads him back to himself, again to Sally Kim at Putnam, by Rob Weisbach at Rob Weisbach Creative Management (NA).

Children’s

NYT-bestselling author of THREE LITTLE WORDS and THREE MORE WORDS Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s SAM IS OUR SISTER, a picture book based on the experiences of the author’s family that follows three siblings, one of whom is transgender, as they play astronauts, learn about what it means to become your true self, and realize they will always be together, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley, to Wendy McClure at Albert Whitman, for publication in spring 2021, by Jacqueline Flynn at Joelle Delbourgo Associates for the author, and by Samantha Groff at Advocate-Art for the illustrator (world).

Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby’s THIS IS OUR RAINBOW: 16 STORIES OF HER, HIM, THEM, AND US, a middle grade anthology that collects short stories, poetry, and comics about LGBTQIA+ characters and experiences by contributors Locke, Melleby, Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Mariama Lockington, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and A.J. Sass, to Marisa DiNovis at Knopf Children’s, for publication in fall 2021, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Stephanie Stein at HarperCollins has bought, at auction, in a two-book deal, middle grade novel THE INSIDERS by Schneider Family Award winner Mark Oshiro (ANGER IS A GIFT). The book features a queer boy who, fleeing from bullies, discovers a magical closet that not only provides him sanctuary, but also unites him with two other kids facing persecution at their own schools across the country, helping them find friendship and strength in one another. Publication is slated for fall 2021; DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency negotiated the deal for North American rights.*

Natashya Wilson at Inkyard Press has acquired THE WITCH KING plus a sequel from debut author H.E. Edgmon. The YA fantasy duology tells the story of witch and angry trans boy Wyatt Croft, who wants nothing to do with his mediocre magic or his betrothal to fae prince Emyr North, but his plans to change his fate are shattered when the kingdom is threatened by a coup and Emyr comes to claim him. Publication of book one is planned for summer 2021; Rena Rossner at the Deborah Harris Agency brokered the deal for North American rights.*

Krista Marino at Delacorte has bought, at auction, Victoria Lee’s (THE FEVER KING and THE ELECTRIC HEIR) A LESSON IN VENGEANCE. Pitched as The Secret History meets Genuine Fraud and The Craft, the YA novel follows Felicity Morrow, a senior returning to school after her girlfriend’s tragic death, only to meet a new student and teenage literary prodigy who transferred to research the school’s bloody history, and recruits Felicity into a murderous experiment of their own. Publication is set for 2021; Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary negotiated the deal for North American rights.*

Maya Marlette at Scholastic has bought Leah Johnson’s (YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN) new YA romance, RISE TO THE SUN. Set over the course of four days at a music festival, the novel features strangers Toni and Olivia, who meet and realize that the music is more than just a way out; it’s a way through… if they are brave enough to face it together. Publication is scheduled for summer 2021; Sarah Landis at Sterling Lord Literistic brokered the deal for world rights.*

Sarah Rees Brennan‘s FENCE: STRIKING DISTANCE, based on the comic series created by C.S. Pacat and Johanna The Mad, following the rise of a sixteen-year-old outsider in the world of competitive fencing as he joins the team at an elite boys school and experiences intense rivalries, lifelong friendships, and romance between teammates, to Mary-Kate Gaudet at Little, Brown Children’s, for publication in fall 2020, by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media (world).

A.M. Strickland‘s IN THE RAVENOUS DARK, a LGBTQIA+ dark fantasy featuring a teen blood-magic user bound to an undead guardian, to John Morgan at Imprint, for publication in summer 2021, by Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates (world).

Graphic Novels

Jonah Newman’s OUT OF LEFT FIELD, a semi-autobiographical young adult graphic novel in which a gay teen boy, determined to excel at baseball but decidedly much more at home in a history book, discovers himself, to Andrea Colvin at Little, Brown Children’s, at auction, for publication in summer 2023, by Chad Luibl at Janklow & Nesbit (world).

Non-Fiction

Oxford University research fellow and LitHub contributor Jack Parlett’s WRITTEN IN THE SAND, a blend of memoir and literary history, exploring the queer identity, idyllic beaches, and famous locales of an iconic destination—Fire Island; pitched as in the vein of Hugh Ryan’s WHEN BROOKLYN WAS QUEER and Olivia Laing’s THE LONELY CITY, examining a number of key literary figures like W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, and Jeremy O. Harris, who together tell the story of what it means to create a queer space, to John Glynn at Hanover Square Press, at auction, by David Forrer at Inkwell Management, on behalf of Jane Finigan at Lutyens & Rubinstein (NA).

Kelly Delaney at Knopf has acquired, in a preempt, ALL THE THINGS I’VE KEPT FROM MYSELF by Karina Manta. This YA memoir tells of the champion figure skater’s experiences as a professional athlete, coming out as bisexual in a hyper-feminine sport, and her continually evolving body image. Publication is scheduled for fall 2021; Jess Regel at Foundry Literary + Media brokered the deal for North American rights.*

Foreign/Subrights

Arkady Martine’s A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE and A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE, to J’ai Lu (France), in a two-book deal, by Danny Baror at Baror International; also to Mondadori (Italy), in a two-book deal, by Danny Baror at Baror International; on behalf of DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

Morgan Rogers’s HONEY GIRL, to DTV (Germany), by Heather Baror-Shapiro at Baror International, on behalf of Holly Root at Root Literary.

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO, to Locus (Bulgaria), by Katalina Sabeva at Anthea Agency, on behalf of Taryn Fagerness Agency and Carly Watters at P.S. Literary.

***

*Copyright (c) Publishers Weekly PWxyz LLC. Used by permission.

LGBTQA MG 2020 Preview (January-June)

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The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith (January 7)

This is an excellent year for queer MG graphic novels, and this lovely debut is a delight to kick off with, featuring siblings who must disguise themselves as girls in order to escape a murderous relative. Only when it turns out that “girl” isn’t a disguise for one of them, the fact that they have to stay safe and get the throne to its rightful owner is further complicated by the fact that she doesn’t truly want things to go back how they were. (Amz|B&N|IB)

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender (February 4)

It’s a seriously wild time for Callender, who just released an adult fantasy and also has a YA coming up in May, but right in the middle the Stonewall-winning author is returning to their MG roots with this heartrendingly hopeful tale of a boy named King growing up in the Louisiana bayou, grieving his brother’s sudden death. Khalid had been his idol, and the only thing King knows for sure that he wanted is for King to stay away from Sandy, the gay kid in his class. It’s kind of a problem, since not only did they used to be close friends, but Sandy was the one person who understood King’s feelings. When Sandy disappears and King is the last person to have seen him, he knows it’s time to set King’s rule aside and find his old friend. It’s that journey back to friendship that sets the steps for King to find his way into his future. (Amz|B&N|IB)

Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk by Greg Howard (February 11)

Howard follows up The Whispers with this drag-centric story of an ambitious twelve-year-old entrepreneur who’s still looking for the perfect idea to make him rich and famous. Then an eighth grader drag queen walks into his “office” in search of an agent, and ta da! Suddenly Mikey’s running a talent agency, and he’s also spending a lot more time with out-and-proud Julian, which gives him the confidence to embrace himself and maybe even pursue his crush. (Amz|B&N|IB)

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner (February 25)

Possibly Middle Grade’s sportiest queer novel thus far, this one centers around sixth grader Silas, who works his way out of the closet through researching baseball player Glenn Burke, the first out player in pro baseball. While he can come to terms with his identity on his own and even to his best friend, sharing it with his baseball team is a struggle. But keeping it from them may turn out even worse. (Amz|B&N|IB)

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater, ill. by Sophie Escabasse (March 31)

Rosewater’s fun, sporty, and eminently relatable debut kicks off the wonderfully illustrated Derby Daredevils series with a bang, or should I say a Bomb Shell? That’s the derby name for Shelly, who together with Kenzie (that’s Kenzilla to you) dreams of becoming a roller derby superstar. But the only way the girls can guarantee getting to run together is if they try out as a team, and two girls does not a team make; getting another three on board is going to be key if they’re ever gonna have a shot. But Kenzie doesn’t love Shelly’s recruitment process and how quickly she seems to be making new besties, and it only gets more awkward when she tries to recruit Kenzie’s secret crush for the team. (Rep note: in addition to being queer herself, Kenzie’s also got a trans dad!) (Amz|B&N|IB)

In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby (April 21)

Melleby is still in the early stages of what promises to be a healthy queer MG career, beginning with the heartfelt mental health-centric Hurricane Season and moving on now to this Sophomore, about an eighth grader at Catholic school who’s struggling to come out to her mother, and lands herself in one wild situation after another to push off doing it. Want a sneak peek? Click on the title link for an excerpt of the whole first chapter! (Amz|BN|IB)

Rick by Alex Gino (April 21)

I am so excited to have Gino back in queer MG. The author who brought us the groundbreaking George returns with Rick, the story of a boy who’s struggling to emerge from under the shadow of a jerky best friend. He’s used to brushing stuff off, the way he does when his dad teases him about crushes and he just…doesn’t have them. Then Rick enters middle school and discovers the Rainbow Spectrum club (which counts as one of its members a certain Melissa you may recall?), and suddenly, there finally opens a path to understanding who he really is, without the weight of others’ words and expectations. This is only the second MG I know of with an ace-spec MC, and the first with a male MC, so definitely one to keep on your radar! (Amz|B&N|IB)

The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean (May 26)

Rowan’s life is full of secrets, from the abuse he faces at home to the identities he knows aren’t safe to share. The only way he can let it out is to write letters, tie them to balloons, and let them go into the great beyond in the hopes they’ll reach someone who understands him. But then he makes a new friend at school who understands and appreciates him just as he is. (Amz|B&N|IB)