Emma Copley Eisenberg‘s debut BERNIE AND LEAH, told from the perspectives of two queer artists who leave Philadelphia for a life-changing ten day road trip, exploring artistic purpose, intimacy, and identity in a time of profound societal change, and FAT SWIM, a collection of stories new and previously published, to Alexis Washam at Hogarth, in a two-book deal, by Jin Auh at The Wylie Agency (NA).
Laura Blackett and Brooklyn College MFA graduate Eve Gleichman’s THE VERY NICE BOX, following a hardworking, heartbroken product engineer who works for a fashionable furniture company where corporate change lands her under the purview of a young, charismatic boss who seems determined to get close to her at all costs, pitched as for fans of ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE and SEVERANCE, to Pilar Garcia-Brown at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, at auction, for publication in spring 2021, by Faye Bender at The Book Group (NA).
Neil Cochrane’s I WILL GO TO THE BANK BY THE WOOD, centering queer and trans characters; pitched as a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, to Laura Stanfill at Forest Avenue Press, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2022 (world).
*Ruoxi Chen has acquired Nghi Vo’s THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL, a magical reimagining of THE GREAT GATSBY told through the eyes of a queer, Asian-American Jordan Baker as the American immigrant narrative that GATSBY always should have been. The two-book deal, for North American rights, was brokered by Diana Fox at Fox Literary.
Winner of Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction Joe Okonkwo’s KISS THE SCARS ON THE BACK OF MY NECK, a debut short story collection populated by complicated characters, male and female, who find themselves at the intersection of Black and gay identities, illustrating the challenges they face, and the price they pay, to live authentic lives, to Michael Nava at Amble, in an exclusive submission, for publication in spring 2021, by Malaga Baldi at Malaga Baldi (world English).
Next Generation Indie Book Award-winning journalist and editor Artem Mozgovoy’s SPRING IN SIBERIA, pitched as similar to AMERICANAH, WHAT BELONGS TO YOU, and ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS, in which a gay Russian journalist struggles to escape Putin’s post-communist order to persecute gay people—only to end up facing the great American wall, to Kate Gale at Red Hen Press, by Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media Group (world).
Northwestern MFA graduate Allison Epstein‘s A TIP FOR THE HANGMAN, about the life and death of Christopher Marlowe, in which the young poet is approached by the Queen’s spymaster with an offer that will catapult him to both glory and doom, pitched as Shakespeare in Love meets Sarah Waters, to Carolyn Williams at Doubleday, in a very nice deal, for publication in spring 2021, by Bridget Smith at JABberwocky Literary Agency (NA).
Nina Varela’s JUNIPER HARVEY AND THE VANISHING KINGDOM, a contemporary fantasy about a 12-year-girl whose magical artistic abilities set off a chase through parallel worlds, all while juggling new friendships and her first queer crush, to Alexandra Hightower at Little, Brown Children’s, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Patrice Caldwell at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (NA).
Katie Fricas’s CHECKED OUT, in which a queer cartoonist and library worker launches forth into a search for love on Craigslist, artistic validation in New York City, and the perfect book, to Tracy Hurren at Drawn & Quarterly, by Mackenzie Brady Watson at Stuart Krichevsky Agency (world English).
Claire Winn’s CITY OF SHATTERED LIGHT, a high-stakes adventure pitched as a queer, female-led Guardians of the Galaxy meets Escape from New York, in which an heiress flees her controlling father to prevent her sister’s mind from being wiped, but must ally with a gunslinging smuggler to outwit a monstrous AI and save the heiress’s sister and their city, to Mari Kesselring and Kelsy Thompson at Flux, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Cortney Radocaj at Belcastro Agency (world).
Debut novelist Jennifer Nissley‘s THE MYTHIC KODA ROSE, pitched for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson, featuring a queer teen exploring the enigmatic legacy left behind by her rock star father and suddenly navigating an emotionally charged bond with his mercurial ex-girlfriend, to Liesa Abrams at Simon & Schuster Children’s, for publication in summer 2021, by Danielle Burby at Nelson Literary Agency (NA).
Author of HOT DOG GIRL and VERONA COMICS Jennifer Dugan‘s SOME GIRLS DO, about an openly gay track star who falls for a closeted, bisexual local beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars, to Stephanie Pitts at Putnam Children’s, in an exclusive submission, for publication in summer 2021, by Brooks Sherman at Janklow & Nesbit (world English).
Brian Zepka’s THE TEMPERATURE OF ME AND YOU, a humorous love story with a sci-fi bent, about a 16-year-old hopeless romantic and the undeniably cute boy who walks into the Dairy Queen where the hero works and changes everything, showing how first love is truly out of this world, to Brittany Rubiano at Disney, with Augusta Harris editing, for publication in 2021, by Liz Parker at Verve Talent & Literary (world).
Phil Stamper’s THE VALEDICTORIANS, the first entry in a rom-com duology following four queer teens during an unforgettable summer; as senior year approaches—with the real world looming just beyond—these lifelong friends try to stay close when their futures seem to be forcing them apart, to Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2022, by Brent Taylor at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world English).
The City of a Thousand Feelings doesn’t let certain people inside its walls. It’s a place where emotions can become visible, but it flees the approach of a makeshift army who want to enter. Two of the trans women in this army forge a deep, complicated, and at times contentious friendship spanning thirty years. They must come to terms with not only the City’s literal and figurative gatekeeping, but also other, even more sinister forces that use necromancy against them. As the narrator and her friend’s lives are sundered apart, they must come to terms with what it means to not have a home, and what it means to be queer and aching for such a home. A sword and sorcery tale with emotional resonance, City of a Thousand Feelings brims with both the visceral and the allegorical, allowing the two trans women at the center of the story to claim their own space.
For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.
Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!
Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.
Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.
As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family.
It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy-that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?”
But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.
Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.
Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.
Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.
But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies.
“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online—after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.
They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.
The sequel to the New York Times bestselling epic Dread Nation is an unforgettable journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.
After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.
But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a
devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.
What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.
But she won’t be in it alone.
Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.
Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.
Ever since the witch cursed Babs, she turns invisible sometimes. She has her mum and her dog, but teachers and classmates barely notice her. Then, one day, Iris can see her. And Iris likes what they see. Babs is made of fire.
Iris grew from a seed in the ground. They have friends, but not human ones. Not until they meet Babs. The two of them have a lot in common: they speak to dryads and faeries, and they’re connected to the magic that’s all around them.
There’s a new boy at school, a boy who’s like them and who hasn’t found his real name. Soon the three of them are hanging out and trying spellwork together. Magic can be dangerous, though. Witches and fae can be cruel. Something is happening in the other realm, and despite being warned to stay away, the three friends have to figure out how to deal with it on their own terms.
Winter was the only season every Lake-Lander feared…
In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there’s nothing to stop them from crossing the ice.
Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he’s forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he’s always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over.
But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they’ve ever known.
In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…
Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.
Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil.
As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.
Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.
Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences. With the power out in the dead of winter and an uncontrollable sequence of winter storms on the horizon, Aeland faces disaster. Grace has the vision to guide her parents to safety, but a hostile queen and a ring of rogue mages stand in the way of her plans. There’s revolution in the air, and any spark could light the powder. What’s worse, upstart photojournalist Avia Jessup draws ever closer to secrets that could topple the nation, and closer to Grace’s heart.
Can Aeland be saved without bloodshed? Or will Kingston die in flames, and Grace along with it?
Throughout this striking debut collection we meet characters who have lied, who have sometimes created elaborate falsehoods, and who now must cope with the way that those deceptions eat at the very fabric of their lives and relationships. In the title story, the narrator, desperate to save a love affair on the rocks, hires an actor to play a friend he invented in order to seem less lonely, after his boyfriend catches on to his compulsion for lying and demands to know this friend is real; in “Aim for the Heart”, a man’s lies about a hunting habit leave him with an unexpected deer carcass and the need to parse unsettling high school memories; in “Rorschach”, a theater producer runs a show in which death row inmates are crucified in an on-stage rendering of the New Testament, while being haunted daily by an unrequited love and nightly by ghosts of his own creation.
In I Know You Know Who I Am, Kispert deftly explores deception and performance, the uneasiness of reconciling a queer identity with the wider world, and creates a sympathetic, often darkly humorous, portrait of characters searching for paths to intimacy, desperate for connection.
Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.
Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.
To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
Sometimes you just have to yell. New York Times bestselling author of Texts from Jane Eyre Daniel Mallory Ortberg has mastered the art of “poetic yelling,” a genre surely familiar to fans of his cult-favorite website The Toast.
In this irreverent essay collection, Ortberg expands on this concept with in-depth and hilarious studies of all things pop culture, from the high to low brow. From a thoughtful analysis on the beauty of William Shatner to a sinister reimagining of HGTV’s House Hunters, Something That May Shock and Discredit You is a laugh-out-loud funny and whip-smart collection for those who don’t take anything—including themselves—much too seriously.
Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
R. Eric Thomas didn’t know he was different until the world told him so. Everywhere he went—whether it was his rich, mostly white, suburban high school, his conservative black church, or his Ivy League college in a big city—he found himself on the outside looking in.
In essays by turns hysterical and heartfelt, Eric redefines what it means to be an “other” through the lens of his own life experience. He explores the two worlds of his childhood: the barren urban landscape where his parents’ house was an anomalous bright spot, and the verdant school they sent him to in white suburbia. He writes about struggling to reconcile his Christian identity with his sexuality, about the exhaustion of code-switching in college, accidentally getting famous on the internet (for the wrong reason), and the surreal experience of covering the 2016 election as well as the seismic change that came thereafter. Ultimately, Eric seeks the answer to the ever more relevant question: Is the future worth it? Why do we bother when everything seems to be getting worse? As the world continues to shift in unpredictable ways, Eric finds the answers to these questions by re-envisioning what “normal” means, and in the powerful alchemy that occurs when you at last place yourself at the center of your own story.
For fans of Samantha Irby, Michael Arceneaux, and David Sedaris, Here for It will resonate deeply and joyfully with everyone who has ever felt pushed to the margins, struggled with self-acceptance, or wished to shine more brightly in a dark world. Stay here for it—the future may surprise you.
In his fourth collection, 13th Balloon, Mark Bibbins turns his candid eye to the American AIDS crisis. With quiet consideration and dark wit, Bibbins addresses the majority of his poems to Mark Crast, his friend and lover who died from AIDS at the early age of 25. Every broken line and startling linguistic turn grapples with the genre of elegy: what does it mean to experience personal loss, Bibbins seems to ask, amidst a greater societal tragedy? The answer is blurred― amongst unforeseen disease, intolerance, and the intimate consequences of mismanaged power. Perhaps the most unanswerable question arrives when Bibbins writes, “For me elegy/ is like a Ouija planchette/ something I can barely touch/ as I try to make it/ say what I want it to say.” And while we are still searching for the words that might begin an answer, Bibbins helps us understand that there is endless value in continuing―through both joy and grief―to wonder.
A Queer anthology featuring stories inspired by magic and the cosmos, a vast and beautiful place where planets, stars, comets, entire galaxies even, live without borders, specifications or binaries. Stories will span science fiction, science fantasy, contemporary, fabulism and magical realism.
When she arrives for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy doesn’t expect much from Cherrywood Grove. Then she runs into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings… and also the daughter of Trisha’s favorite childhood TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?
But as it turns out, Gabi’s easy charm is a facade. Since the sudden death of her father, Gabi has been pulling away from her family and what she really wants, weighed down by secrets she can’t express. Trisha might be the perfect person to help her, but is getting so involved in Gabi’s life really the right choice?
A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend–and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends–some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.
Adda Karpe and Iridian Nassir are on the run—both from the authorities who want to imprison them and the artificial intelligence that want to control their minds. Trapped on a desolate black-market space station on the edge of Jupiter, they’re nearly out of allies—and out of luck.
Now, they have one last shot to find a safe haven where they can live together in peace—across the interstellar bridge to another galaxy. Getting onto that mission will take everything they’ve got and more. But on the other side of that bridge lies the life they’ve always dreamed of…if they can survive long enough to reach it.
Eis has lived on a solar powered outpost in a tundra covered land all zir life.
After zir parents passing, Eis is left to maintain the outpost alone, struggling to do so between chronic pain flare ups, waiting for the day a traveler might come in need of a warm bed and a meal. A day Eis thinks might never come, until a mysterious craft crashes into one of the solar panels.
Eis never expected a traveler to come out of the craft, or for him to be so captivating and beautiful. Everything Eis knows could change with the coming of this traveler, and yet the greatest travesty would be never knowing what else is out there, beyond the tundra, beyond the skies.
A comic style children’s book that tells the story of Stephie, a 7-year-old transgender girl, whose Dad is still struggling to recognize and accept her gender. It portrays a powerful message for children aged 6-9, that no one else other than ourselves gets to decide who we are.
‘My Dad thinks I’m a boy named Stephen who likes wrestling and fishing. But that’s what my Dad likes.’
Stephie is 7 years old. She likes bugs, books and spaghetti. Also, she’s a girl… which should be pretty easy to understand, right? Well, not for her Dad! He’s been mistaking her for a boy since she was born and struggles to see her for who she is.
This powerful and uplifting comic book for primary age children and their families humorously portrays a situation that is often too common, where a trans child is forced to negotiate between their true self and their parents’ love.
With amusing illustrations, and a useful guide for adults, it’s the perfect book to help show children that no one else than ourselves gets to decide who we are.
In this nail-biting sequel to Tehlor Kay Mejia’s critically acclaimed fantasy novel We Set the Dark on Fire, La Voz operative Carmen is forced to choose between the girl she loves and the success of the rebellion she’s devoted her life to. Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Anna-Marie McLemore.
Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.
Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.
There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?
When an elderly customer at a big box furniture store slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but our two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.
Can friendship blossom from the ashes of a relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.
When sixth grader Silas Wade does a school presentation on former Major Leaguer Glenn Burke, it’s more than just a report about the irrepressible inventor of the high five. Burke was a gay baseball player in the 1970s–and for Silas, the presentation is his own first baby step toward revealing a truth about himself he’s tired of hiding. Soon he tells his best friend, Zoey, but the longer he keeps his secret from his baseball teammates, the more he suspects they know something’s up–especially when he stages one big cover-up with terrible consequences..
There’s a New Queer Year upon us, and so much goodness within it can hardly be contained in a single post! Below are 72 (!) new US and UK YA titles releasing in the next six months, filled with representation across genres and genders, races and orientations.
If you’re looking for trends and landmarks, as I always do, you might notice the continued rise of queer (and especially Sapphic) YA fantasy, or the record-setting number of trans guy protags, or the first traditionally published bigender and demiboy MCs in YA. You might notice that a significant number of these books are set outside the US (yes, even the ones publishing there), and that you know some of these authors names quite well but have never seen them write queer YA before. You might notice that these covers are particularly phenomenal, so a huge shoutout to everyone responsible for them. (You can find info on a bunch of them here.)
(You also might notice that this post was a ton of work, so please do avail yourself of those affiliate links for Amazon and especially IndieBound and preorder yourself some goodness while also helping financially support the site!)
Moving on from her m/m fantasy series with a bang, Sim tackles a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristowith a literal vengeance, alternating between the points of view of Amaya, who’s been in servitude on a debtors’ ship for way too long, and Cayo, who’s in a similarly precarious though far more privileged situation, especially when someone he cares about is harmed. When she finds an opportunity for revenge and he falls into her crosshairs, sparks fly in all the ways, which is perhaps inconveniently timed for all the betrayal going on around them. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Relationship breakups may be heavily covered in YA, but friendship breakup stories are still few and far between. Enter the story of James and Kat, two girls who were once beyond close and now watch their friendship unravel as college nears. Things are complicated for both girls: James’s mother has left her and her father for another guy, and she doesn’t know how to talk about it, not even to Kat or her still-too-present ex, Logan. Kat’s discovering that her feelings for her new friend Quinn aren’t strictly “friendly,” and in fact, she’s realizing she’s bisexual and falling head over heels for a girl. It’s a bittersweet story to be sure, and while it definitely has its fun scenes, close moments, painful familial interactions, and tingly romance (what Spalding book doesn’t??), you’ll spend much of the book wishing you could push the characters together and say “Justtalkalready”…but isn’t that exactly how life goes? (Amz|B&N|IB)
If you’re a fan of queer YA, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re familiar with this particular pioneer of it, which will make this short story collection all the sweeter. Want to revisit “A” of the Every Day series? How about the characters of Two Boys Kissing? Or would you rather meet some new romantics entirely? Perhaps some non-fiction? Maybe even verse? This book inspired by Levithan’s tradition of his writing his friends a story each Valentine’s Day has got a little something for everybody, whether or not you’ll find a paper heart on your desk come February 14. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The author who brought you lesbians surviving a bloody apocalypse is back with a main character named Amelia who’s questioning a whole lot more than her sexuality (though there is that too); when she wakes up in the hospital in recovery from a fall, she doesn’t remember a thing…except that she was pushed, no matter how hard everyone else tries to deny it. The only person she can trust to help her find the truth is her new boyfriend, Liam, but maybe she doesn’t want the truth…or maybe trying to find it will be the last thing she ever does. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This newest McLemore title will make their fourth queer book in four years, and I think I can safely speak on behalf of the entire queer community when I say we are emphatically lucky for it. (And that there’s no sign of them letting up, either, with at least two more queer books slated for the next couple of years.) While McLemore generally writes with a sort of timelessness, this romantic and magical dual-timeline narrative is half set in 1518 Strasbourg, inspired by the dancing plague, where it stars a Romani cis girl in love with a trans boy, and half set in modern day, where centuries later, dancing fever threatens to return to Rosella Oliva, who happens to have the affectionate of attention of Emil, descendant of that same Romani family and the only one who might know how to help her. (Amz|B&N|IB)
That’s right, your contemporary (and so lightly speculative it’s basically contemporary) fave is diving headfirst into magical fantasy with his fifth book, and while it’s definitely a departure, there’s plenty you’ll recognize, including characters from the Bronx, diverse racial representation, and, of course, queer main characters. And yes, that’s an intentional plural! There are four points of view in this series opener: brothers Emil (who’s gay) and Brighton, who are obsessed with the powerful Spell Walkers and anxiously awaiting the discovery of whether or not they’ll be among them when their eighteenth birthday hits; Maribelle, who’s already a super well-known Spell Walker, and Ness, who’s…complicated. (And bisexual, as is Maribelle.) The Spell Walkers aren’t the only magical game in town, though, and having to watch their backs from the magic-siphoning Specters is getting both tiring and violent. When one of the twins’ (and only one’s) powers manifest during a fight, it rocks their world, especially when it turns out his powers are greater than anyone could’ve imagined, and it’s about to land them both in an all-out war. (Amz|B&N|IB)
If you dig SFF with a heavy dose of shenanigans, England is your author. Here they’re jumping from sci-fi over to fantasy but maintaining the zany, troublesome cast, led by Diz, who, together with her three best friends, make their cash the less-than-legal way by siphoning highly illegal maz, aka magic, which used to be free to all but has now gone the way of the drug trade. When they uncover an explosive new strain, it’s up to Diz and her gang to dig into the conspiracy behind it and save the world as they know it. Is there also a little time for kissing with one of those friends, nonbinary spellweaver Remi? There might be. Theeeeeere might be. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Finally, ’tis the year for trans guy main characters, and Canada’s kicking us off with this intense contemporary thriller about a grieving trans boy named Jason who’s out to prove his sister’s death was no accident. When a clue leads him to a boxing gym, Jason finds not just a mystery but a pastime he actually enjoys, especially given he’s got plenty of experience fighting. But balancing his (actually pretty wonderfully affirming) new friendships with his deadly quest might be more than he can handle. This is a hi-lo title, meaning it’s specifically designed for “high-interest, low-reading level” book lovers, and it definitely delivers when it comes to pacing, action, mystery, and representation. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This f/f YA horror set in 17th century Hungary recounts the story of a scullery maid working for Countess Elizabeth Báthory, which is just about the most awesome damn thing I’ve ever heard. (I am here for allll the horrifying and bloody Sapphic villains, to be clear.) But Anna doesn’t stay a scullery maid for long, because when Elizabeth takes a shine to her, she promotes her to chambermaid and keeps her, uh, pretty close. Close enough that Anna is drifting completely away from her old life to be absorbed into the countess’s, until she realizes she’s nothing more than a prisoner. And there’s nothing to keep a prisoner safe from becoming a serial killer’s next victim. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Fresh off one of my favorite YA fantasy duologies of all time, queer or otherwise (though it is most definitely queer), Miller is back with another magic-filled fantasy with a dual-POV, one of which belongs to a biromantic ace girl named Annette who comes from humble beginnings but gets a chance to shed them and pursue her love of the Midnight Arts when our other heroine, the aristocratic Emilie, begs her to do an identity swap so she can run off to become one of the few female students of medicine. (And might there be an attractive, charming, and intelligent trans guy at that school? There might.) As the land around them tilts toward revolution, both Emilie and Annette will have to figure out their places and how to work together to bring peace and justice. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This is a lovely and bighearted debut chock full of space nerdery, big dreams, new beginnings, and social media scandal. Cal’s life is completely uprooted when his dad shocks them all by being chosen for a space mission, something his family had never taken seriously as a lifelong dream. Worst of all, he’s forbidden from documenting life in the new compound, forcing him to leave his massive social media following behind. On the bright side, there’s Leon, son of another astronaut on the program and immediate thief of Cal’s heart. But when things go awry in the program and secrets are revealed, Cal will have to decide exactly what he’s willing to do to get the truth out there, and who he’s willing to lose. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The post-apocalyptic zombie-filled UK YA debut stars Peter, a resident of a community called Wranglestone that’s survived thus far by living in a national park surrounded by water that serves as a barrier to the Dead. But when winter comes and the water ices over, the water can no longer save them…and Peter puts them all in grave danger by bringing in a stranger. Now he’s been exiled, and all he can do is help Cooper, the rancher he’s been crushing on forever, herd the dead before the lake completely ices over. But as the two work together and fall for each other, they uncover a dark secret that’ll change everything. (The Book Depository)
Celia and Anna are “inklings,” Profeta devotees who use magic to tattoo flowers that represent the will of the Divine and steer the inked to action. Once upon a time they believed like everyone else that it was a noble calling, but now they know the truth: that their marks strip away free will and the temple is actually a prison. When they finally get a chance to escape, it seems like a bright future is ahead…until the very deity they sought to escape comes a-calling. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Janelle “Ellie” Baker is a Black demisexual girl living in a center in NYC controlled by the Ilori, aliens who invaded Earth two years earlier and who keep all humans in fear of death by punishing emotional transgressions by death. All manners of art are illegal, but Ellie flouts the rules with a secret library…a library from which a book disappears, putting her life on the line. In fact, lab-born M0Rr1S is sent to bring her to her death, but he has his own “moral failing”: he’s obsessed with human music. Together, they bond over their love of the forbidden arts and embark on a dangerous road trip, armed with books and music, toward a destination thousands of miles away that may be their only hope for salvation. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The Inn at Havenfall has protected refugees for generations, with one major rule: if you disrupt the peace, you are never to come back. Maddie loves it at the inn, where her uncle serves at innkeeper, as she will too someday; it’s an escape from her traumatic family, the place where she fell in love with soldier boy Brekken, and her future. But then the peace is completely shattered by a murder, and now her uncle is injured, Brekken is missing, and Maddie is in charge, which means she’s the one who has to learn the truth of what’s happened…together with Taya, a new staff member at the inn who’s both way too compelling and knows too much. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The Winner’s Curse happens to be my favorite YA fantasy series, so I am especially thrilled to see Rutkoski return with a new one that’s f/f! It stars Nirrim, who lives in a shady society with strict rules for all but those of high status; someone like Nirrim isn’t allowed to enjoy so much as a cupcake. Then she meets Sid, a charming traveler who encourages her to seek out the same magic the High Caste enjoys. It’ll mean giving up her old life, and on the suggestion of someone who probably can’t be trusted. But both the head and heart want what they want… (Amz|B&N|IB)
Greasegoes gay YA in this rom-com about two boys whose dreamy summer fling comes crashing into a harsh reality when our lead, Oliver, transfers to Will’s school thanks to a family crisis-driven move, only to find out Will isn’t Out and isn’t about to be. As Ollie finds his own ways to settle in, he can’t seem to shake Will’s presence. But whether there’s a future for them remains to be seen. This sophomore novel is warmly delightful and delightfully warm, with some tears on the side for the aforementioned family crisis, and some hard-earned queer solidarity is the icing on the cake. (Amz|B&N|IB)
2019 and 2020 are truly the years of the Sapphic YA witches, and we are here for every single one. Latimer’s debut utilizes ancient Celtic mythology in its story of Dayna, a girl with somatic OCD who’s just been outed as bi in her conservative Irish town and seen her long-lost mom return. But the only things she really wants to focus on is that she about to finally become a full witch, at least until another coven comes to town and gets in her way. Worst of all is the granddaughter of the coven’s leader, Meiner King, who’s charming, maddening, and Dayna’s only hope at helping her find a serial killer who’s returned to targeting witches. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Ekata lives in perpetual danger, but when her brother is named heir to the dukedom of Kylma Above, she’ll finally be able to leave her deadly family for good, even if it means leaving behind everything else she loves. Then her entire family falls under a mysterious sleeping sickness, and Ekata alone is left to be duke and to find a cure. At least it comes with one perk: she also gets her brother’s warrior bride, which will have to make up for the fact that the rest of her life is now filled with diplomacy, war, power, war, and magic she’s never wanted and will now have to learn to use to her advantage if she’s going to survive. (Amz|B&N|IB)
What do you do when you’re conquering the hell out of adult SFF? If you’re Gailey, who barely seems to need to breathe before authoring another critically acclaimed novel of awesomeness, you come to the place the real magic happens: YA! Their debut young adult novel brings together a group of magical girls who accidentally kill a boy on prom night and have to work together to fix it. Unfortunately, it’s not going so well, and it makes things a little more complicated each time they fail, which sucks since things were already a little complicated what with Alexis being in love with her best friend and all. Yikes all around? Yikes all around. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This bi YA may not be new to the UK, but it’s newly jumping over the pond to the US this year, and I am very grateful for that! It stars sixteen-year-old Vetty, who’s kept things pretty close to the vest since her mom died and her family relocated. But now, four years later, they’re moving back to their old neighborhood, and that means Vetty just might start to get her life back. Item one on the agenda? Reconnecting with Pez, her childhood best friend. But Pez has changed a lot in the last four years, and it isn’t easy to find who he was beneath who he’s become. It is, unfortunately, easy to fall for March, who happens to be Pez’s girlfriend. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Speaking of UK YA by authors who’ve crossed into the US (though not with this title yet, so hint hint, American publishers!), Steven’s first queer YA is a bi rom-com about a physics genius named Caro who’s crushing it at school but not so much at romance. Then she figures out how to use her academic skills to help her love life, and finds herself in a new sort of mess: juggling her new relationship with her longtime crush (and whether or not the feelings are real) with the fact that she’s suddenly into her female best friend. How much is the experiment and how much is her heart? Can’t wait to find out! (The Book Depository)
Claire is a superhero fangirl, a card-carrying member of Warrior Nation. And when she finds an unexpected way (with some unexpected help) into winning an internship with the Chicago WarNat branch, it should be everything she’s ever dreamed of. But that unexpected help is proving very difficult to work with; it’s in the form of Girl Power (aka Joy), the newest hero and a pain in Claire’s butt. A very, very cute pain in Claire’s butt. But distraction or no distraction, Claire’s determined to prove herself, especially when she and Bridgette, a WarNat, who’s tired of being “the girlfriend” to an even more famous hero, decides to mentor her and they end up having to be exactly the heroes Chicago needs. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The cover of Sproul’s historical (Yep, 1999 counts as that now) debut may be dreamy, but having a crush on your best friend? Is kind of a nightmare. Such is the situation for Taylor, who’s queen of her high school both literally and figuratively, but isn’t interested in settling for a cozy life of 2.5 kids and a dental hygienist job with a homecoming king. The time has come for Taylor to move the hell on from her school, her town, her boyfriend, and Susan…but how? (Amz| B&N|IB)
Lulu may be a bit of a social media celebrity, but That Video wasn’t meant for public consumption, and it certainly wasn’t meant for her boyfriend to see. But anyway, it’s all happened and then suddenly there’s Cass, a girl who doesn’t care about Lulu’s online fame, or about online fame at all. She only cares about getting to know Lulu at The Hotel, and Old Hollywood-style spot that’s become Lulu’s dream getaway from it all. But can she really get out of the spotlight, or is she doomed to become a social media cautionary tale? What will it take for Lulu to get her own life back? (Amz|B&N|IB)
One of my favorite things about how much queer YA we get these years is that we’re finally allowed to have the messy stuff, the representation that isn’t the neatest and most pristine and clear cut and dare I say the whitest? In no 2020 YA that I’ve read is this more evident than in Kanakia’s sophomore, about a boy named Nandan who surprises everyone, including himself, by hooking up with new boy Dave. But what starts with him being pretty chill about this development starts to increase his anxiety about what it means that he’s now with a guy. Is he bisexual? Is he in it to be more interesting? Is he always going to be “different” now, even more than before? So many questions and no great answers, but exploring the complexity of it all is the beauty of this book. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Talley is one of queer YA’s most prolific genre jumpers, but she seems to be making herself beautifully at home in historical with this follow-up to 2018’s Pulp, again set amid a context of vital queer American history. This time around, it’s 1977, and Tammy Larson would love more than anything to come out of the closet as a lesbian, but that’s a major no-go where she lives. Her only outlet is to write “letters” to the activist Harvey Milk, at least until she’s matched with a pen pal to whom she can write letters for real. Sharon makes for a much better companion than Tammy’s diary, and she can sympathize, given her brother is gay and feeling all the same misery in the wake of Anita Bryant’s leading to a successful repeal of their protections. Together they’ll find their own brand of activism and learn to fight back against a world of hate. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Oseman’s crossed the pond before with Radio Silence, so this American’s fingers are crossed she’ll do it again with her newest, about a girl named Georgia who’s struggling with the fact that she’s eighteen and has never had so much as a crush. She’s sick of people thinking she’s broken or weird, and it isn’t like she isn’t into romance; she’s just not into it for herself. When she gets to university, she thinks maybe she can “fix” things with her roommate’s help. But what if it turns out there’s nothing to fix, and Georgia’s great and perfectly capable of happiness just as she is? (The Book Depository)
This f/f standalone fantasy stars Lia, a teenage queen, and Xania, the spymaster she brings in who, unbeknownst to her, actually agrees to the job as part of a plot to avenge her father and figure out who killed him. It’s a tricky situation full of secrets, treason, betrayal, and, oh yes, romance. At present it’s publishing strictly in Ireland, but thankfully, we have ways of getting our hands on it anyway because seriously, who could pass up an f/f queen/spymaster romance?? Not I, said the person who preordered this book while writing this blurb! Not I. (The Book Depository)
You know we’ve gotta sound the airhorn whenever a First for traditionally published queer lit is involved, so step up and take note of its first on-page bigender main character! That character is Aleks/Alexis, who gets a fresh start by moving in with their uncle, who happens to be a priest. But their new home provides something they definitely didn’t anticipate: an earful of confessionals, which inspires them to want to help these “sinners.” But all the enjoyment of finding a goodwill mission crumbles when they overhear a confession that rocks them to their bones and brings back the very trauma they’re escaping, trauma they’ll have no choice but to face now. (Want a sneak peek? Click here for the entire first chapter!) (Amz|B&N|IB|Lerner)
Breaking up is hard to do, but breaking up with your best friend is even harder, and when your school’s got slim pickins in terms of out queer kids? Well. Let’s just say Quinn is not taking it all that great, especially when she suspects Jamie might be recovering much faster than she is. But when sexy, heretofore-thought-unattainable Ruby Ocampo suddenly comes back on the market and turns out to be bi, it looks like Quinn might just get her second chance at happiness. But what if that second chance is happening with the wrong person? This YA debut is sweet, funny, and heartbreaking in all the right places. (Amz|B&N|IB)
When this was originally published in the UK in early 2019, it sounded so good I begged to know when it was coming over. Turns out I got both my answer and my confirmation that yes, this is an A+ queer thriller. It stars a girl named Sydney who’s not just grieving the death of her dad, but investigating it; it seems impossible he just went off the road like that, and the creepy texts she’s been getting since his funeral seem to confirm that. Another mystery? Why June, the most popular girl in school, with the most perfect relationship, seems to be one of her dad’s top mourners. That’s a mystery more easily solved when she reveals she was one of Sydney’s dads psychological patients, but why she’s still hanging around Sydney? That’s another story. (B&N|IB)
Think The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco meets The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis plus a little John Steinbeck (yeah, I said what I said) and you’ll have something like this fantasy about an experimental town in mid-20th-century Oklahoma led by a witch and created at the whim of the goddesses. Our (seemingly unwitting?) Sapphic, Sal, has been the town outcast ever since she predicted a rain that never came, but she’s making up for it now that she’s been chosen at the successor to Mother Morevna, the witch who runs the entirety of Elysium and makes all its rules. Of course, the job isn’t all what she imagined, and the arrival of Asa, a demon disguised as a human who has his own wild powers, just makes things even more confusing. When Sal and Asa screw up and find themselves exiled into the Desert, they’ll have to join up with a girl gang led by a fellow exile and do whatever they can to halt the inevitable apocalypse. (Amz|B&N|IB)
To traditional publishing, Quindlen is a debut, but those of us who’ve been following queer-girl YA for a while know she’s behind one of its biggest indie titles, the Catholic Louisiana-set best friends-to-lovers romanceHer Name in the Sky. Whether you knew her before or not, though, you’re definitely gonna wanna get on board for this deeply felt and highly relatable one about a girl trying to find her way forward out of late-bloomerdom and into happiness. Codi’s never been kissed, which doesn’t put hertoofar behind her best friends Maritza and JaKory, but far enough that despite all of them being late bloomers, she’s the one they both seem to agree is hopeless. So when she stumbles into a new social circle, one in which she’s valued and no one knows her as a dork, she decides to keep it all for herself, even if it means not telling her best friends she’s falling in love. But Codi doesn’twantto abandon them, so what’s she supposed to now that she’s been lying for weeks? Is there a way to have everything she wants with just the right amount of who she used to be? (Amz|B&N|IB)
Dugan debuted with one of my absolute favorite queer YA rom-coms (seriously, if you haven’t yet read Hot Dog Girl, do yourself a favor), so I’m thrilled to see her returning with another one, this one an m/f pairing where both halves of the couple are bi (or, more accurately, one is bi and one is still figuring it out). Juliette is an elite cellist with a major audition coming up and a side job working at her stepmom’s indie comic shop. Ridley works at his parents’ comic shop too, only theirs is a big chain, and no friend to the little guy. Which makes it a little difficult when the two meet at a comic-con prom and immediately hit it off, despite their family feud. I’ll take Romeo & Juliet with a much happier ending and heaps of bisexuality any day, wouldn’t you? (Amz|B&N |IB)
The one non-fiction entry on this list is a memoir-manifesto by noted queer Black activist and journalist George M. Johnson, about his life from childhood through college in New Jersey and Virginia, including bullying, sexual relationships, and other ups and downs. Intended to serve as “a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color,” clearly this is a book that is not to be missed. (Amz|B&N|IB)
One of the things I’m often asked to recommend is books that feature mlm and wlw solidarity, and I especially love giving answers that show it not just in characters but in authorship. Here, two Canadian rock stars of queer YA come together with a story about cousins named Mark and Talia who are reunited from their respective Canadian coasts after a death in the family and decide to take a road trip together to Toronto so Talia can see her non-binary partner and Mark can get to Pride. The two don’t have much in common, and they’ll have to let Mark’s little sister tag along, but they both know some kind of magic awaits them in TO, and they can’t wait to get there. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Whether you’re a fan of queer pirate novels, queer witch novels, or just dreamy, adventurous romance, this just might be the book of your dreams. Flora knows the only way to get by on the pirate ship she calls home is to be the merciless Florian to everybody else, but when she’s charged with guarding a beautiful passenger on a voyage that will see all its ticket holders turned into hostages, she hits her limit. There’s no way she can destroy Evelyn’s life like this, which means the two have no choice but to escape and find a notorious witch who might be able to help them. But the witch has plots of her own, and no one is safe in this tremendous journey of the unexpected. This is one of the most breathlessly romantic and adventurous queer fantasies I’ve ever read, and also one of the best explorations of gender fluidity I’ve read in YA. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Klune’s doing double duty this year (or maybe even more? Damn, it’s hard to keep up), following up an adult contemporary fantasy with his first entry into YA, about a boy named Nick who happens to be the Extraordinaries fandom’s most popular fanfic writer, and who aims to be even more extraordinary when he meets the hero he’s been crushing on. (But maybe he’s in love with his best friend, Seth? It’s complicated. It’s always complicated.) (Amz|B&N|IB)
I swear Kat Dunn must’ve been reading my dream journal to come up with an f/f fantasy set during the French Revolution. It stars Camille, the daughter of a revolutionary who’s a rebel in her own right, leading a group of misfits under the banner of the Battalion des Morte. But when they save a girl who isn’t the aristocrat-in-hiding she seemed to be, they all have questions: what is up with her dangerous powers and why are people on both sides of the revolution hunting her? (The Book Depository)
Allen’s been a personal favorite of mine since her subversive feminist debut, 17 First Kisses, and I’m thrilled to see her releasing her first queer YA, which basically looks like a gay Traveling Pants except not all the girls actually wanna be spending the summer together at the lake house where their moms became besties. Most of them can’t even stand their moms right now. All of them have secrets. And two of them…well, two of them are in love with each other, so one way or another it’s gonna be a hell of a summer. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Callender is having a monster of a publication year, having released both an adult fantasy (Queen of the Conquered) and a queer Middle Grade contemporary (King and the Dragonflies) in the last six months. Now they’re capping it off with this extraordinary trans YA about a boy (usually, which is another part of the story, and one that I will happily spoil results in trad-pubbed YA having it’s first on-page demiboy) named Felix who’s hell-bent on getting revenge against a transphobe at school, only to find the person he assumed was the culprit might actually be the exact person he needed in his life. (Amz|B&N|IB)
You may have already heard me talking about this sophomore novel by the author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass as maybe my new favorite f/f YA fantasy, and if not, lemme tell you right now, if you haven’t heard me say it before, you’re gonna wanna hear it now: do not miss this Persian mythology-inspired book. It stars a girl named Soraya who’s been cursed from birth to poison anyone she touches, and who finally emerges into the public on the day of her brother’s wedding, setting off a chain of events that have her finding love, acceptance, and power in the most unexpected of places. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Eliopulos has brought you some of your queer faves as an editor, but thrillingly, this is his first time bringing the rainbow goodness on the author side of the desk. Sam and his best friends, James and Delia, live in a small Georgia town where magic is frowned upon, but their school provides a respite in the form of a magic club. Then Sam realizes he might be in love with James, Delia’s getting tired of the club, and James has accidentally screwed them all over by getting involved with some shady magickers over the summer. So much for a great senior year… (Amz|B&N|IB)
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1929 at the Cloak & Dagger in the French Quarter, and Millie’s serving as the speakeasy’s MC while her best friend, Marion, aka “The Boy in the Red Dress,” stars in the show. Then a fancy stranger sashays in with a mouth full of questions a photo of a boy who happens to look just like Marion. When she’s found dead in the back alley, Marion becomes the prime suspect, which Millie will not let stand. While she pursues proof that her best friend is innocent, she’s also got two other attractive distractions: waitress Olive and bootlegger Bennie, the latter of whom promises to help her on her quest. Can she find who’s framing Marion before time runs out for them both? (Amz|B&N|IB)
Sideways is a misfit lesbian witch, which sounds awesome to you and me but less so to the West High social food chain. At least until three of its most popular girls pay her cash to cast a spell at their Halloween party, luring her into their clique and forming a coven. She never expected to become best friends with these girls, but they’ll all have to learn to count on each other if they’re going to save themselves from fundamentalist witch hunters! (And yes, this is the first in a trilogy!) (Amz|B&N|IB)
Okay, so get this: Enemies-to-lovers. With rival henna businesses. Set in Ireland. And both protags are WoC. (I KNOW.) Our heroine, Nishat, is a Bengali lesbian who’s maybe not quite as artistically talented as our love interest, the gifted and new-to-school Afro-Brazilian Flávia, with whom Nishat reunites at a Desi wedding after going to school together as kids. The girls have instant chemistry, but they also have a pretty instant problem, as Flávia not only creates a competing henna business for their class project, but sees no problem with having appropriated a cultural custom of Nishat’s to do it. (Not to mention that her partner is the school’s most notorious racist.) So now Nishat’s gotta contend with Feelings she really doesn’t wanna have, competition with a business that shouldn’t even exist, the fact that her coming out to her family didn’t go so well…but wait, there’s more! Is there possibly a happily ever after to be found amid all the drama? (Amz|B&N|IB)
If this book looks like the cutest, fluffiest, most make-you-melt kind of romance, it’s because it is…at least in the little romantic bubble that ensued when when Kai took advantage of a dare that requires Bryson Keller to agree to date the first person to ask him out every Monday morning for that week. But outside the bubble, the world is still wondering who Bryson Keller’s mystery girlfriend is, the one person not to shout from the rooftops that she’s got the guy. And Kai isn’t gonna be the one to tell them it isn’t a girl at all; his spontaneous request made Bryson the first and only person he’s ever come out to. But when both the answer and Kai himself are forcibly outed, he and the boy he’s come to fall for, the boy who’s only just realized he himself is gay, will have to band together and put their relationship through the ultimate test. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This post-apocalyptic debut set in the aftermath of a modern-day plague has trans, intersex, bisexual seventeen-year-old Pip taking fellow survivor twelve-year-old Iris under her wing. Together, the two are forced to flee Spokane to avoid slave traders, gangs, and all manners of violence, but they do find a third member of their new found family in a brave older girl named Fly. Now they must all work together to survive in their terrifying new reality. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Fresh out of UK YA’s 2019 lineup, this coming-of-age novel-in verse tells the story of a mixed-race (half Jamaican, half Greek Cypriot) gay kid named Michael who’s struggling to balance his identities and being different from other kids while growing up in London. It isn’t until he heads off to university that he finally finds his identity and style as a drag artist named The Black Flamingo. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Rosen already has one of my favorite queer YAs of all time with Jack of Hearts, but he managed to deliver another one packed with heart and important conversations in this wonderful love letter to queer spaces. When Randy returns to Camp Outland as Del in the hopes of finally landing The Guy (who happens to be an athlete, and who would never be caught dead with nail polish on his fingers), he’s convinced that if he can just land Hudson, the object of his long-time affection will fall in love with not just who he’s pretending to be that summer, but who he really is. It…goes about as well as you’d expect! But it also sets up an important exploration of masc4masc culture and what it means to change yourself for someone else. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The subtitle of this follow up to theAll Outanthology is “Queer We Go Again,” and if that’s not the best thing you’ve ever heard than we are very different people. This time around, the collection is going contemporary, with voices like Julian Winters (How to Be Remy Cameron), Katherine Locke (The Spy With the Red Balloon), CB Lee (Not Your Sidekick), Candice Montgomery (By Any Means Necessary), Caleb Roehrig (Death Prefers Blondes), Mark Oshiro (Anger is a Gift), and more taking a variety of genres set in the here and now and with one major thing in common: every main character is queer and/or trans. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This coming-of-age debut stars a trans boy named Pony who’s keeping his transness under wraps in his new school, exhausted with how much attention it garnered at his old one. Still, it’s hard not to stay on his guard, especially when he meets Georgia, a gorgeous cheerleader who’s ready to put her “keep a low profile” plans on hold when sparks fly with the new boy. The chemistry between them is utterly adorable, and Pony knows he can’t enter a physical relationship without telling her. He’ll have to decide whether she’s worth the risk, and whether his heart can take it if she isn’t. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Mashing romance with the unexpected is kinda Dietrich’s thing, for those who haven’t read The Love Interest, and here it’s romance and thriller that are going head to head. What happens when the son of a mobster and the son of a police commissioner realize they’ve got a thing for each other? Probably nothing neat and easy, but that’s the problem facing Matt and Jason, even if they don’t know it yet. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Sign me the hell up for literally every enemies-to-lovers f/f rom-com, but especially this one, where the girls who hate each other at Alabama’s Conservatory for the Arts have no idea they’re falling for each other online as they collaborate on a graphic novel for a fanfic site under their online identities. That’s…everything I love in book? Yep, pretty much! (Amz|B&N|IB)
Ami’s been living in seclusion her whole life at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s survival compound. And it’s been fine, and even lucky, or so she thought. But then her grandfather arranges a marriage for her, and Ami realizes she’s not ready to live out her “destiny” to procreate, even if she’s one of the last few at the compound who can. And so she escapes on a search for her long-lost mother, and meets people her age for the very first time, including a girl she hadn’t even known she was capable of wanting. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Dylan and Ellis’s relationship is a secret, or at least it was until it was exposed online. Now Dylan’s been forced out, but is pleased to find the reception to his news is surprisingly positive. Wasn’t it? Because something has to explain why Ellis’s personality has suddenly changed, and why he lost control of the car. Something has to explain why Dylan lost Ellis to the lake that night. And as he mourns the loss of the boy he loved, Dylan is determined to figure out what it was, no matter how much it hurts. (The Book Depository)
Sapphic witches meets enemies-to-lovers in this bi f/f YA fairy tale about a girl named Lina who gives herself up to the queen in order to save the boy she loves from Caldella’s annual custom of sacrificing a boy to the full moon to save the city from the deadly tide. Queen Eva gladly accepts Lina’s sacrifice; as long as someone dies and the city is saved, that’s all that matters. Until they spend time together waiting for the full moon to come. Until Lina and Eva start to fall for each other. Until the streets begin to fill with water. Until a choice must be made whether to save themselves or their city. (Amz|IB)
Sage and Charlie are that non-couple, the one everyone things are destined for love, if only they’d figure it out. But Charlie isn’t the Carmichael twin Sage is into (that’d be his brother, Nick), and Charlie’s more interested in new boy Luke, something he isn’t comfortable with anybody knowing. As Charlie worries his secret relationship will get out and Sage stresses about things with Nick moving too fast, the two will have to find solace in each other and their friendship to make things work with their respective boyfriends. (Amz|B&N|IB)
When an earthquake quite literally rocks Sasha’s world, it leaves her effectively orphaned and living with her estranged grandparents, who have a vision of exactly how to turn Sasha into the perfect girl. But Sasha isn’t interested in their plans, including a relationship with the boy of their choosing; all she can do is try to make it work and find solace in the time she spends with Lily, a new friend who gives Sasha a serious case of Feelings. Being with Lily is definitely not The Right Path, but can Sasha put herself first even if it means upsetting the last family she has left? (Amz|B&N|IB)
Attending Pennington College and becoming a doctor has always been Liz’s plan for getting out of her small town, but when her financial aid falls through, the one thing she wanted most now looks impossible. Of course, there’s one shot at winning a scholarship, but that would mean winning becoming prom queen, and there’s no way she can deal with all the crap that involves, is there? With her eyes on the prize, Liz shoves her fear of the spotlight, trolls, and all the rest to the side, determined to one thing crown, and soon, there’s only one thing in the way: the fact that she’s falling for her competition. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Queer YA that discusses HIV are few and far between, but the slow climb has been one of the best trends of the past couple of years. Adding to that conversation in a big way is this Brazilian import set in Rio, and revolving around three boys: Ian, who was recently diagnosed positive; Victor, who was recently diagnosed negative, and Henrique, who’s been living with HIV for three years. Victor and Henrique are boyfriends, but Victor is seriously pissed to have learned of Henrique’s positive status only after they had sex. But when he meets Ian while they’re both getting tested and Ian’s test comes back positive, he knows Henrique’s guidance is too invaluable not to connect him with Ian, even if it means staying in his life. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Kisner is three for three in putting gloriously queer YA on shelves, and I am in love with the idea of this newest, which takes the famous “Twelve Angry Men” and situates it in Mock Trial with an ace lead. Raina’s killing it at life, until suddenly she isn’t. Millie’s in a similar spot, having just been ousted from the all-male Mock Trial team. When the two pair up to start a rival girls’ team, it isn’t just their opponents they’re gunning for—it’s the whole motherfluffin’ patriarchy. (Amz|B&N|IB)
‘Tis the year for political YAs, for obvious reasons, and this contemporary romance also does double duty of being a touching demisexual coming out story that happens to take place across the aisle. (The political aisle, that is.) When Dean, the son the of the Republican candidate, and Dre, son of the Democratic candidate, find themselves locked in close quarters, they’re surprised to find that they quite enjoy the company of someone else who knows what it’s like to be in the junior spotlight. Soon, romance sparks, which is a bit of problem considering the whole “opponents” thing, not to mention Dean still trying to figure out how to deal with and discuss the fact that he’s demisexual. But someone out there seems determined to make their problem much, much bigger, and they’ll have to figure out who wants their relationship outed, how they can make it work, and how they can reconcile a future. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Alex Sanchez is the author of the first gay YA I ever read, so it’s very cool to see him and Blue is the Warmest Color illustrator Julie Maroh picking up the pens for DC’s Aqualad. Set in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, our hero Jake is decidedly not a swimmer, but he still loves the ocean and dreams of going to college on the coast. And so he secretly applies to Miami University, against the wishes of both his mother and his best friend. Hell, he’s already living dangerously just by having a crush on the rebellious swim team captain, Kenny. And there’s also the small matter of the blue marks on his skin that light up when they touch water…what’s the deal with those, anyway? (Amz|B&N|IB)
Love books that make you laugh, swoon, and cry? Then you are going to fall head over heels for Smyth’s debut, an Ireland-set romantic contemporary about a girl named Saiorse who’s losing her mother to early-onset dementia and is determined never to get involved with anyone as a result…until she meets Ruby, and all bets are off. The girls agree to a no-strings-attached summer of just the good parts of romance, the movie montage where the couple does all sorts of fun things as they fall in love. But when the end of the summer comes, will they be able to let go? (Amz|B&N|IB)
Yadriel’s family isn’t buying that he’s a boy, leaving him just one choice: prove that he’s a real brujo by finding and freeing the ghost of his murdered cousin. The only problem is that whoops, he’s accidentally summoned Julian Diaz, school bad boy, instead, and Julian isn’t having it, not without solving the mystery behind his death first, even if it means dragging Yadriel along as an unwilling participant. But the more time the boys spend together, the less, uh, “unwilling” their hanging out gets to be in this paranormal trans Latinx debut that promises to have your heart flip-flopping all over the damn place. (Also, let the record show that Thomas has another book releasing next year, and though it isn’t queer, that’s still pretty badass.) (Amz|B&N|IB)
Duet Books, the all-queer publisher responsible for Summer Love, among many other wonderful queer titles, is back with another short collection, this one populated by Julia Ember (The Seafarer’s Kiss), Jude Sierra (Idlewild), Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick (Snowsisters), and Kate Fierro (Love Starved). For more info on the book and the stories within it, click here. (Amz|IB|Book Depository)
In this queer retelling of Snow White and Rose Red, Ivory and Rosie have been on the road for years with their mother’s circus, and finally, they’re returning to Port End. But it’s a different Port End from what they remember, filled with preachers and fundamentalists and portents of doom. Still, they prepare a dazzling homecoming show, but when Rosie’s tightrope act goes wrong, Ivory and the magician she loves will have to find an evil priest and save their family. (Amz|B&N|IB)
This YA sci-fi Dystopian stars Nate, a genetically engineered medical surrogate (GEM) who was created to be a cure for the elite of Gathos City to help with the rapidly traveling fatal lung rot and was smuggled out of the lab as a child and kept prisoner in the lawless region of the Withers. There, he becomes a Tinker, fixing broken technology for room and board, and he meets and falls for the sweet Reed, who comes with a gang of misfits that feels like the first group Nate could ever call family. But as a GEM, Nate is reliant on a medication controlled by the city in order to stop from aging, and violence in the Withers cuts off his supply and harms Reed. Now Nate has to make a choice, whether he’s going to join a terrorist group to get the meds he needs to stay alive, or remain in the Withers with Reed and watch their lives ebb into nothing. (Amz|B&N|IB)
2020 is seriously Lee’s year, debuting with an MG series (yes, series—you can already preorder three of them) and with this bi K-pop that’s got one of my favorite covers ever and also happens to have a sequel in the works. Skye Shin knows no one thinks she or any other fat girl has any business on stage, but she doesn’t care what they say; she cares about becoming a K-Pop star. When a successful audition allows her to do just that, it’s a dream come true, even as trolls and fatphobes do their best to turn it into a nightmare. And then there’s Henry, who’s supposed to be Skye’s competitor, so why does she want nothing more than to, uh, make beautiful music with him? (Amz|B&N|IB)
Queer thrillers are having a fabulous day in the sun, and if you’re as big a fan of the genre as I am, then check out this one starring a bi girl named Flora who’s haunted by having found a classmate’s body years earlier and has all that pain brought to the forefront when a text from her old flame, Ava, has her showing up just in time to see her die. Now Flora’s on a determined mission to find not only who shot Ava, but who’s responsible for the deaths of all the girls whose killers have never been found and brought to justice. But she doesn’t expect the massive conspiracy she uncovers, and threats from the killer aren’t helping. If she gives up the hunt, she’ll never get justice. But if she doesn’t, she might not live to see another day. (Amz|B&N|IB)
But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned for a separate post on upcoming queer sequels! And until then, tell me: what YA are you dying to read in 2020?
Today is World Mental Health Day, and I’m thrilled to be celebrating it by having two wonderful gay kidlit authors discuss the representation in their book!
Maulik Pancholy (r.) is the author of the newly released The Best At It, a Middle Grade contemporary starring a gay Indian boy with OCD who’s starting seventh grade and getting used to lots of new changes, and Phil Stamper (l.) is the author of the upcoming The Gravity of Us, a contemporary YA love story between two boys who happen to be the sons of astronauts who are on the same mission to Mars. They’re here to talk about the roles mental health plays in their books, especially as it relates to queerness, pressure, and competition. Please welcome them!
Maulik: Hi Phil! I’m excited to get to do this with you. I loved The Gravity Of Us. I wanted Cal’s FlashFlame show to be real so I could actually tune in, and I was rooting for him and Leon from the first moment they met. I also lived in Houston for a year, so I related to all the characters having to deal with all that humidity! For folks who haven’t read it yet, want to give us a quick recap?
Phil: Thank you so much! A bit about my book: The Gravity of Us is a queer teen love story set against the backdrop of a present-day NASA mission to Mars. The story follows teen social media journalist Cal, whose carefully planned life is uprooted when his father is picked as an astronaut for the Orpheus missions to Mars. Amidst the chaos, and the move from Brooklyn to Houston, Cal meets the son of another astronaut on the program and finds himself falling for him—fast. But when Cal uncovers secrets about the program, he must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
Do you want to give a brief rundown of The Best at It as well? It’s such a fantastic story. I love Rahul (and Chelsea! And Bhai! And the whole gang, really) and I remember having a similar need to be “the best” at something when I was his age… even if I could never quite figure out what that “something” was.
Maulik: Thanks! I’m glad it resonated with you. The Best at It is about Rahul Kapoor, a 12-year-old, Indian American boy who is just beginning to realize that he might be gay. He’s dealing with anxiety around that, and he’s also being bullied for multiple layers of his identity at school. One night, his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, tells him a story that makes Rahul believe that if he’s just the best at something, all of his other problems will disappear. So with his best friend Chelsea by his side, he sets off on a mission to prove his self-worth. He’s only got two problems: What is he going to be the best at? And what if he falls short?
Phil, one of the things that I was struck by, is that in both of our books we have characters dealing with different forms or manifestations of anxiety. In your book, Becca, Cal’s mother, struggles with anxiety in a way that really hit home for me. I was drawn in by the way you described her facial expressions, and how it affected Cal to see that. Want to talk about that a bit?
Phil: Ah, that’s so great to hear. Becca’s anxiety was based off of my own experience, but it was really interesting writing Gravity from the perspective of someone who does not share those experiences. At that time, I think I was trying to be more cognizant of what happens to me and how that might affect or appear to people, and that really helped when describing the smaller physical manifestations of her anxiety.
Cal’s mom was such an interesting character, because I wanted to play against the “perfect astronaut wife” trope of the 60s. While she still knows there’s an expectation of her to be polished, steady, and camera-ready when it comes to the media circus of the launch, she gets to break down some of those expectations with Cal and her family, because she’s so open and clear about her experience with anxiety.
While we’re on the topic of mental health, one thing about The Best at It that stuck with me was how naturally Rahul’s experience with probable OCD was “revealed” on the page. Oftentimes with mental health in media, especially with OCD rep, we get something that’s a little less nuanced, but the way it was shown in your story made his experience seem so authentic and relatable. How did you choose to show this throughout the story?
Maulik: Rahul’s behaviors in the book are similar to some of the “checking” behaviors that I dealt with as a kid, and honestly still do as an adult. In my experience, those behaviors presented in different ways. Sometimes it was just checking something, like a lock, in a seemingly absent-minded manner, not really aware of the impulse why. Sometimes it was having an overwhelming feeling that something bad would happen if I didn’t check something, repeatedly. That dread of, “Is the stove really off? Am I SURE?” And, for me, these patterns were certainly triggered–and intensified–by stress, including emotional stress.
I’m hearing from middle school teachers that they see more and more kids dealing with anxiety. So, I didn’t want to shy away from this in the book. I also wrote the scene between Rahul and his father to model the kinds of conversations that I think adults and kids can be having around this.
For Rahul, his checking escalates as the level of competition in the book grows.In your book, Leon is dealing with depression related to the competitive world of Olympic athletics. Would you say that Leon is affected by competition in a similar way to Rahul?
Phil: That’s an interesting comparison, because I do think Leon and Rahul have a similar experience in that competition is a trigger for them. Gymnastics is a really intense sport that is full of pressure, and Leon’s response to that pressure was to pull back, to withdraw from the world and sort of shame himself for feeling this way, even if he couldn’t control it. That said, Leon’s a few years older than Rahul, and he is more-or-less removed from his Olympic trajectory by the time we get to meet him, even if the media conveniently forgets that on occasion.
Not a big spoiler here, but in the end, Leon finds a way to rekindle his passion for gymnastics, without subjecting himself to the pressure of competition. Similarly, and hopefully not a spoiler, but Rahul realizes that finding something you love and doing it until you get better is a better fit for him than competing. Does it mean that Leon and Rahul no longer experience depression or probable OCD, respectively? No, of course not.
But I do think it’s really important that both of these characters are learning more about themselves so they can hopefully better communicate that to their loved ones. Pivoting back to Cal for a moment—while I think Leon actually has a grasp on how to best avoid triggers like pressure and the spotlight, Cal’s kind of torn. He’s used to being in the spotlight, and he wants to be the one to break any and every news story, but he really gets himself into a mess in Houston, and you can really see the pressure and people’s expectations getting to him.
The more I think about it, Cal’s and Rahul’s stories both deal heavily with competition and perfection. With Rahul though, he’s experiencing this need for perfection all while trying to understand more about his queer identity. How do you think this affects his competitive nature?
Maulik: Rahul’s perfectionism and his need to win are 100% about proving his self-worth in a world where being different makes him feel less than. And his queer identity is one layer of that for sure. I just want to say, though, that it was important to me not to pathologize being gay. His mental health struggles are not because he’s gay. It’s the feeling less than, the wanting to fit in, that is stressful for him. And I think there’s something universal about that. What kid–or even adult–hasn’t felt like an outsider at some point?
Speaking of which, I think empathy for other people’s experiences really comes through in both our books, even if the characters themselves aren’t always perfect at expressing it. Rahul’s Dad doesn’t have all the language to talk about OCD, and in your book, you write about Leon’s parents choosing not to push the conversation around depression. In fact, it’s Leon’s sister, Kat, who’s a real ally to her brother. And Cal, of course, has Deb much in the same way Rahul has Chelsea. Was there a reason you wrote such great allies in the form of siblings and friends?
Phil: I guess I’ve written some really great allies and supporting characters, because the amount of comments I get about wanting to see more of Kat or Deb are astounding! Deb is loosely based around one of my best friends from high school, and she was so much fun to write. In the book, she’s the steadfast ally any queer kid would want, but I wanted to make sure she had her own story, her own arc, and didn’t exist solely for the benefit of Cal. So, I got to play with the boundaries of allyship and best friendship a bit. I also got to reflect on my own selfish tendencies, especially while I was in high school, and show how an ally can both offer unfaltering support about you and your identity while also being there to tell you to shut up when you’re out of line!
From our personal experiences with mental health, identity, and even the friendships we’ve had, it looks like we’ve both put a lot of ourselves into our debut novels. Would you like to talk briefly about why you chose to do this?
Maulik: Sure. The characters in my book go on a journey: they change, and they learn things about themselves. And maybe that allows readers to see themselves more clearly as well. What I really wanted was to tell a great story–grounded in reality, with both humor and pathos–and to hold up a mirror for kids who deserve to see themselves in the books they read. I guess that’s why I was willing to be so personal: I wanted to write a book that I could have used as a kid. But I have to say, it’s been gratifying to hear how many people–with experiences far different than mine–have made their own connections to Rahul’s story.
Phil: That’s fantastic. I set out to showcase a queer love story in a unique setting, so the feedback from the romance between Cal and Leon has been amazing. Less intentionally, though, I leaned on my own experiences with mental health while creating characters like Leon and Cal’s mother, and it’s been great to see readers connecting to that too.
I’m so glad we got to chat about this, Maulik! It’s been great getting to know a little bit more about your experience developing and writing The Best at It, and I can’t wait for readers everywhere to get their hands on a copy. And super special thanks to Dahlia and LGBTQ Reads for hosting us!