Tag Archives: YA

Authors in Conversation: Tessa Gratton and Rebecca Coffindaffer

Today on the site, we’re celebrating two more authors of brand-new queer YAs: Tessa Gratton, whom you might know from Strange Grace, Lady Hotspur, or any other number of queer books, and whose most recent queer YA is a standalone fantasy called Night Shinestarring a panromantic questioning protagonist and genderfluid, lesbian, and gay love interestswhich released on September 8th, and debut Rebecca Coffindaffer, whose space opera, Crownchasers, stars a panromantic and pansexual protag and demisexual love interest in an m/f pairing and releases on September 29th! Make sure you check out September’s New Releases post for info and links to both books! And now, here are the authors!

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TESSA: Hi! I’m Tessa Gratton, author of both YA and adult SFF novels. My new release is Night Shine, which I’m pitching as a dark, queer Howl’s Moving Castle. It comes out September 8th from McElderry Books, and as luck would have it, one of my longest-term writer friends, Rebecca Coffindaffer, has her debut novel coming out the same month. It’s called Crownchasers, and is the opening of a wild, intense space opera series. Think gender-bent Indiana Jones in space, with lots of twisty politics, a deadly scavenger hunt, and a both sweet and hot slow burn friends-to-lovers romance.

Becca—Tell me what inspired you to write Crownchasers!


BECCA: I’d say the main character, Alyssa Farshot. Her voice and this concept of sort of a gender-bent Han Solo or Indiana Jones kind of character—someone who flies fast, talks fast, takes tons of risk—all that definitely came first. And once I had her, it just became a matter of exploring everything I’ve always loved about science fiction. I grew up on Star Trek and Star Wars, I had a deep and abiding love affair with the rebooted Battlestar Galactica…I mean, if there is a book or movie or TV show set in space, I will eat it up, and I wanted to write a space opera story that embraced and combined all of my favorite tropes of the genre in some new, fun ways.

Okay, Tessa, talk to me about the initial spark behind the story that became Night Shine and how it evolved from original concept to the book that hits shelves in September.

TESSA: Here is something wild: I don’t remember the initial spark for Night Shine! The first five pages have been sitting in my “ideas” folder since about 2011, and I’ve been trying to remember what triggered them. I can’t, and it’s extremely frustrating, LOL. What I do know is why I picked now to actually write the book. It was September 2018 and Strange Grace had launched, so I wanted to try and sell a new YA. I pulled out all my in-progress notebooks and went through my ideas folder to pick something that might speak to me, that felt ready in that amorphous creative way. I landed on Night Shine because it was the only idea that felt light and fun. That’s what I needed, because I was going to be working on it during long days at the hospital while my mom was dying. Night Shine had the space for me to throw in everything I love, tropes and archetypes that delight me—with nothing to make me sad. I made the four MCs my favorite love interest/villain tropes: dark maybe-evil sorcerer; sexy wicked prince; demon in disguise; loyal beleaguered bodyguard. And I made everybody queer. I gave them unicorns and dragons, demon familiars and a spirit-infested rainforest. Volcanoes and heart-stealing and really complicated relationships. I gave them magic that is definitively non-binary.

tl;dr: the inspiration behind Night Shine was to write a joyful story for myself, for my genderqueer, shapeshifting self, in order to stay grounded and creative during a very tough time.

You mention some of your favorite SFF shows, but is there a current show you’re addicted to right now?

BECCA: I feel like you’re asking me this question because you highly suspect what my answer will be, given that you and Natalie had a hand in creating my latest scifi show obsession! 😀 The truth is, we’re living in an amazing Star Trek resurgence right now—a Star Trek renaissance. A Trek-aissance, if you will. I recently consumed the first two seasons of Discovery and the first season of Picard, all in pretty quick succession after I hit my latest deadline, and it’s absolutely my favorite thing ever to see the evolution of this universe. It’s so much more diverse, the plots are twisty and complex, they really dig into the depth of the characters, but the central driving idea behind Star Trek—that there’s hope and goodness and potential in our wildly flawed selves and in our wildly flawed society that is worth holding on to—that is still a fixed point in the stories they’re telling. They really ground all the pew-pew starship action in these characters you just love and you root for and you want to watch them connect and grow and hurt and heal as a crew together. It’s the same reason I come back to another scifi show, The Expanse—the characters bring you back and make it real, even when you’re transporting onto planets that are wildly different than Earth.

Every time you talk about Night Shine, I’m only more desperate for September to get here so I can get my hands on it. What was your process of building your magic system outside the binary and what challenges, if any, you encountered in creating it?

TESSA: YES Discovery is the BEST. I wish everybody was watching it, if only so I can talk more about how Michael Burnham is the greatest hero in modern television. (BECCA: *interjecting loudly* YES SHE IS!) Also to any fans of Amos from The Expanse in particular: you’re gonna love Hell Monkey in Crownchasers.

When it comes to the Night Shine magic system, it’s more accurate to say I built it inside the binary. I wanted the magic itself to be explicitly non-binary, to exist in between dualities like night and day, life and death, “man” and “woman,” and I started by making a culture that emphasizes and appreciates contrast in all things. From cuisine to architecture, fashion and religion. Their fashion, for example, insists upon stark contrast—colors that clash impressively, and if you have light skin you might dye your hair black or maroon, if you have dark skin you might use pale makeup, and manipulating contrasts to draw attention to your beauty. The dualities they adhere to aren’t valued against each other, so this isn’t a place where women or men are devalued, or day and night preferred, it’s the binary that matters. Anything non-binary is marked as Other, whether that’s the priests in their pastel robes or witches in shades of gray, both of whom work with forces dangerously outside life and death. This is why the Empress has two consorts, a man and a woman, and when there’s an Emperor, he also has two consorts, a man and a woman, so as not to put value on one gender over the other. This brings me to the magic! I wanted magic to be the way to challenge dualities—to prove binary thinking is flawed. So I made magic an energy that connects everything—like shadows, like dawn and dusk, like tendons. In order to use it, a person must step outside of contrast and duality in some way, to exist near liminal space, either becoming a priest (who deals with ghosts and gods) or a witch (who deals with spirits and demons). But the greatest magic uses are the rare sorcerers, who must break entirely free of duality and binary thinking in order to exist entirely AS liminality. They move beyond life and death (usually with the aid of a great spirit or great demon familiar), beyond physical form, becoming literal shapeshifters themselves.

The biggest challenge was language! Moving beyond binary thinking is a struggle when the language you’re using is inherently gendered. Modern English has it baked into the core—did you know that Old English had gendered nouns? Masc, fem, AND neutral. Anyway, while I’ve written books with a variety of gender indicators and pronouns both English and fantastical, in this book the various nonbinary and genderfluid people and creatures stick with he, she, and they pronouns (with the occasional demonic it) because I wanted Night Shine to have the same problems as English. That’s the work: challenging binary thinking (in myself and) in this world.

Ok, Becca, next time lob me an easy one! But first tell me your favorite and least favorite things about working with a whole galaxy of world building.

BECCA: Hey, I didn’t come to play here. I signed on for VERY SERIOUS discussions about OUR BOOKS.

I feel like my favorite and least favorite things are kind of tied up together because I loved brainstorming different planets for my main character Alyssa to visit and different peoples she can encounter—what do they look like? how do they interact with their planet or with the empire? what customs do they have and how do they fit in the wider universe? I could really burn weeks just fleshing out all of these questions, and that’s definitely fun for me. I like playing with those sorts of questions. At the same time—and I guess this is where we get to the least favorite thing and almost a self-critique of sorts—it’s very easy to default to shortcuts when imagining other species and other planets and it’s a challenge to push your brain beyond those limitations. It’s kind of the Star Trek effect, right? Where you go to all these “strange new worlds,” but it turns out most of them are peopled by bipedal humanoid creatures that breathe and have blood and generally share mammalian characteristics. We do this because it’s pulling from what we know, what’s familiar, and also because it makes adapting it for film a lot easier! But one thing I want to keep working on in my writing is breaking down those familiar shortcuts in my brain and challenging myself to conceptualize stuff what outside the realms of our own human society.

All right, here’s one that’s (maybe) a little less intense than my last: Which character in Night Shine was your favorite to write? And which do you most relate to? Or maybe are they the same character?

TESSA: They are not the same! My favorite character to write was Esrithalan the unicorn. As I mentioned above, I really gave myself permission in Night Shine to throw in everything I wanted. To only write fun stuff. So at a certain point I needed a story beat, I wasn’t sure what, to connect two important scenes. It had to be a delight, or I couldn’t do it. That was the rule. I was playing around with various types of riddle-demons or the weirdest air spirit I could think of, when I remembered a throw-away line from one of the characters’ origin stories: it involved a unicorn. OBVIOUSLY that was the answer. A unicorn. Only, I was going to make it a little gremlin of a unicorn. Small, hairy, wise, disinterested in the problems of teenaged maybe-girls, with flashes of beauty. It’s an avatar of the Queens of Heaven so of course it has to be strange. It was only one scene, but I relished every second of it.

I relate the most to Kirin Dark-Smile. He’s ambitious, but driven by love—all his greatest moments and biggest mistakes stem from that. He’s also genderfluid, and comfortable being so—at least when he’s alone—while at the same time he’s spent most of his life hiding his gender for both politics and his ambition. I relate most strongly to the fact that he knows exactly who he is, but that doesn’t make it easier to share himself with the world, or with his loved ones.

Where did you put the most of yourself into Crownchasers?

BECCA: I’m so down for all of this, but especially please let this usher in more unicorns in YA. All the unicorns. Many and sundry unicorns.

I think where I put the most of myself is in Alyssa Farshot’s voice and her internal narrative. To be honest, there is not a lot that she and I have in common on the surface—she’s pansexual and I’m very much gray asexual, she’s a major risk taker and I am professionally risk averse, she’s an explorer and I’m a homebody, she’s extremely brave and confrontational and I wouldn’t credit myself with either of those qualities. But writing her came so easily—she’s got a wry, often self-deprecating sense of humor that is very much like mine and she often reaches for a joke to deflect from herself. And while I didn’t necessarily grow up in a floating imperial spaceship or anything, I did grow up fairly sheltered and so did she. There’s a naiveté underneath all her snark and fast-talking, and a lot of her arc—this unspooling awareness of the bigger picture around her, her awareness of it, her realization of her own power and responsibility within it—definitely mimics my own experience in early adulthood. It helped me a lot to ground her character and give her depth beyond the initial concept of “fast-talking hotshot ace pilot.”

LIGHTNING ROUND!

TESSA: Dragons or space ships???

BECCA: Spaceships by a millimeter. Which would you rather have in your house: the Enterprise computer or Calcifer?

TESSA: I have so many questions about how Calcifer got into my house. Favorite childhood book:

BECCA: The Redwall books. Favorite current TV show:

TESSA: Star Trek: Discovery, LOL! Flight or Telepathy?

BECCA: HA! I can’t even handle climbing ladders, so telepathy. Han Solo or Poe Dameron?

TESSA:

Before we descend fully into gifs maybe we should pull this thing together! Thank you so much for chatting with me! I can’t wait for my copy of Crownchasers. Coming to all of us September 29th!

BECCA: This was a lot of fun—thanks, Tessa! And everyone, don’t miss out on claiming a copy of Night Shine for your very own, out Sept. 8th!

New Release Spotlight: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

I know, I know, everyone is tired of hearing how good this book is, but it’s just so much fun, so inventive, has such great representation, is one of the very few gay trans books out there, and you just know it’s written by an Author to Watch. If you’re approximately the only person who hasn’t already, check out Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas!

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

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

New Releases: August 2020

The Immortal City by May Peterson (3rd)

This is the second book in the Sacred Dark series

50704984._SY475_I don’t remember you…

Reborn as an immortal with miraculous healing powers, Ari remembers nothing of his past life. His entire world now consists of the cold mountainside city of Serenity. Ruled with an iron fist. Violent.

Lonely.

I may never remember you…

Regaining the memories of who he once was seems an impossible dream, until Ari encounters Hei, a mortal come to Serenity for his own mysterious purposes. From the moment Hei literally falls into his arms, Ari is drawn to him in ways he cannot understand. Every word, every look, every touch pulls them closer together.

But I’m with you now…

As their bond deepens, so does the need to learn the truth of their past. Together they journey to find an ancient immortal who can give them what they both want: a history more entwined than Ari could have ever imagined, but which Hei has always known.

It’s the reason they will risk the world as they know it to reclaim who they used to be—and what they could be once again.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Apple Books

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska (4th)

Every year on Walpurgis Night, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a young boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.

Convinced her handsome brother is going to be taken, sixteen-year-old Lina Kirk enlists the help of the mysterious Tomas Lin, her secret crush, and the only boy to ever escape from the palace. Working together they protect her brother, but draw the Queen’s attention. When the Queen spirits Tomas away instead, Lina blames herself and determines to go after him.

Caught breaking into the palace, the Queen offers Lina a deal: she will let Tomas go, if, of course, Lina agrees to take his place. Lina accepts, with a month before the full moon, surely she can find some way to escape. But the Queen is nothing like she envisioned, and Lina is not at all what the Queen expected. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.

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

The Secret of You and Me by Melissa Lenhardt (4th)

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

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

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (4th)

This is the sequel to Gideon the Ninth

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

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

Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo (4th)

In the town of Howler’s Hollow, conjuring magic is strictly off-limits. Only nothing makes Delpha McGill’s skin crawl more than rules. So when she finds her family’s secret book of hexes, she’s itching to use it to banish her mama’s money troubles. She just has to keep it quieter than a church mouse — not exactly Delpha’s specialty.

Trouble is, Katybird Hearn is hankering to get her hands on the spell book, too. The daughter of a rival witching family, Katy has reasons of her own for wanting to learn forbidden magic, and she’s not going to let an age-old feud or Delpha’s contrary ways stop her. But their quarrel accidentally unleashes a hex so heinous it resurrects a graveyard full of angry Hearn and McGill ancestors bent on total destruction. If Delpha and Katy want to reverse the spell in time to save everyone in the Hollow from rampaging zombies, they’ll need to mend fences and work together.

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

Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May (4th)

When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.

Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.

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

Prelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar (4th)

In the town of St. Hilaire, most make their living by talking to the dead. In the summer, the town gates open to tourists seeking answers while all activity is controlled by The Guild, a sinister ruling body that sees everything.

Dec Hampton has lived there his entire life, but ever since his parents died, he’s been done with it. He knows he has to leave before anyone has a chance to stop him.

His best friend Russ won’t be surprised when Dec leaves—but he will be heartbroken. Russ is a good medium, maybe even a great one. He’s made sacrifices for his gift and will do whatever he can to gain entry to The Guild, even embracing dark forces and contacting the most elusive ghost in town.

But when the train of Annie Krylova, the piano prodigy whose music has been Dec’s main source of solace, breaks down outside of town, it sets off an unexpected chain of events. And in St. Hilaire, there are no such things as coincidences.

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

Goldie Vance: Larceny in La La Land created Hope Larson, written by Jackie Ball, and ill. by Mollie Rose (4th)

This is the 5th volume in the Goldie Vance series

Goldie, Diane, and Cheryl find themselves jetsetting to sunny Los Angeles for a break but are drawn into a deeply personal investigation in this all new original graphic novel.

CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME!

Thanks to a serendipitous conflagration of events, Goldie, Diane, and Cheryl find themselves jetsetting to sunny Los Angeles! While Cheryl pursues space dreams at JPL and Diane continues her work as a remote scout for a music label, Goldie finds her days lost in the haze of old Hollywood, becoming friendly with a silent film start long past her prime. But when she’s framed for stealing, Goldie must dive back into her secret history in Tinsel Town to get to the bottom of it!

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

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis (4th)

First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.

Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and now a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.

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

It Came From the Sky by Chelsea Sedoti (4th)

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

Told in a report format and comprised of interviews, blog posts, text conversations, found documents, and so much more, It Came from the Sky is a hysterical and resonant novel about what it means to be human in the face of the unknown.

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

Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne (4th)

52765957In the eerie town of ‘Allows, some people get to be magical sorceresses, while other people have their spirits trapped in the mall for all ghastly eternity.

Then there’s twelve-year-old goblin-witch Beetle, who’s caught in between. She’d rather skip being homeschooled completely and spend time with her best friend, Blob Glost. But the mall is getting boring, and B.G. is cursed to haunt it, tethered there by some unseen force. And now Beetle’s old best friend, Kat, is back in town for a sorcery apprenticeship with her Aunt Hollowbone. Kat is everything Beetle wants to be: beautiful, cool, great at magic, and kind of famous online. Beetle’s quickly being left in the dust.

But Kat’s mentor has set her own vile scheme in motion. If Blob Ghost doesn’t escape the mall soon, their afterlife might be coming to a very sticky end. Now, Beetle has less than a week to rescue her best ghost, encourage Kat to stand up for herself, and confront the magic she’s been avoiding for far too long. And hopefully ride a broom without crashing.

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

I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi, ill. by Dana Simpson (4th)

Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl.

His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl.

But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

Based on a true transgender identity journey, I’m Not a Girl is an empowering story about a boy who is determined to be himself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud (4th)

This is the sequel to Mirage

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

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

Heartbreak Boys by Simon James Green (6th)

At the start of summer, Jack and Nate find themselves dumped as their respective exes, Dylan and Tariq, start up a new relationship together. Not only that, their exes start posting pics on social media, showing the whole world how fabulous their new life together is!

Jack and Nate are reeling. Not to be outdone, they decide to create their own ‘highlights reel’ and show their exes that they’re having an even better time.

But between the depressing motorway service station motels, damp campsites, and an ultimate showdown with the exes, something epic really is happening: Jack and Nate are learning to get over their heartache and open themselves up to new possibilities for love.

Buy it: The Book Depository

Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence (6th)

Becks is into girls but didn’t come out because she was never in. She lives with her mum, stepdad and eighteen-year-old Silva, her stepdad’s daughter. Becks and Silva are opposites, but bond over their mutual obsession with K-pop.

When Becks’ mum and stepdad go on honeymoon to Japan, Becks and Silva are left alone. Except, Silva disappears. Becks ventures into the forbidden territory of Silva’s room and finds the first of eight clues that help her discover her sister’s secret life.

Meanwhile, Silva is on a journey. A journey to make someone love her. He says he doesn’t, but he’s just joking. All she has to do is persuade him otherwise …

Buy it: The Book Depository

Boy Queen by George Lester (6th)

Robin Cooper’s life is falling apart.

While his friends prepare to head off to university, Robin is looking at a pile of rejection letters from drama schools up and down the country, and facing a future without the people he loves the most. Everything seems like it’s ending, and Robin is scrabbling to find his feet.

Unsure about what to do next and whether he has the talent to follow his dreams, he and his best friends go and drown their sorrows at a local drag show, where Robin realises there might be a different, more sequinned path for him . . .

With a mother who won’t stop talking, a boyfriend who won’t acknowledge him and a best friend who is dying to cover him in glitter make up, there’s only one thing for Robin to do: bring it to the runway.

Buy it: The Book Depository

We Go Together by Abigail de Niverville (10th)

The beaches of Grand-Barachois had been Kat’s summer home for years. There, she created her own world with her “summer friends,” full of possibilities and free from expectation. But one summer, everything changed, and she ran from the life she’d created.

Now seventeen and on the brink of attending college, Kat is full of regret. She’s broken a friendship beyond repair, and she’s dated possibly the worst person in the world. Six months after their break-up, he still haunts her nightmares. Confused and scared, she returns to Grand-Barachois to sort out her feelings.

When she arrives, everything is different yet familiar. Some of her friends are right where she left them, while some are nowhere to be found. There are so many things they never got to do, so many words left unsaid.

And then there’s Tristan.

He wasn’t supposed to be there. He was just a guy from Kat’s youth orchestra days. When the two meet again, they become fast friends. Tristan has a few ideas to make this summer the best one yet. Together, they build a master list of all the things Kat and her friends wanted to do but never could. It’s finally time to live their wildest childhood dreams.

But the past won’t let Kat go. And while this may be a summer to remember, there’s so much she wants to forget.

Buy it: NineStar Press

Be Gay, Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from The Nib ed. by Mat Bors (11th)

The dream of a queer separatist town. The life of a gay and Jewish Nazi-fighter. A gender reveal party that tears apart reality. These are the just some of the comics you’ll find in this massive queer comics anthology from The Nib.

Be Gay, Do Comics is filled with dozens of comics about LGBTQIA experiences, ranging from personal stories to queer history to cutting satire about pronoun panic and brands desperate to co-opt pride. Brimming with resilience, inspiration, and humor, an incredible lineup of top indie cartoonists takes you from the American Revolution through Stonewall to today’s fights for equality and representation.

Featuring more than 30 cartoonists including Hazel Newlevant, Joey Alison Sayers, Maia Kobabe, Matt Lubchansky, Breena Nuñez, Sasha Velour, Shing Yin Khor, Levi Hastings, Mady G, Bianca Xunise, Kazimir Lee, and many, many more!

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

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (11th)

This is the third book in the Masquerade series

The hunt is over. After fifteen years of lies and sacrifice, Baru Cormorant has the power to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest that she pretends to serve. The secret society called the Cancrioth is real, and Baru is among them.

But the Cancrioth’s weapon cannot distinguish the guilty from the innocent. If it escapes quarantine, the ancient hemorrhagic plague called the Kettling will kill hundreds of millions…not just in Falcrest, but all across the world. History will end in a black bloodstain.

Is that justice? Is this really what Tain Hu hoped for when she sacrificed herself?

Baru’s enemies close in from all sides. Baru’s own mind teeters on the edge of madness or shattering revelation. Now she must choose between genocidal revenge and a far more difficult path — a conspiracy of judges, kings, spies and immortals, puppeteering the world’s riches and two great wars in a gambit for the ultimate prize.

If Baru had absolute power over the Imperial Republic, she could force Falcrest to abandon its colonies and make right its crimes.

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

False Notes and Broken Frets by Elle Bennett (11th)

Both Joan and Jordan are bisexual.

Joan Washington just got the gig of a lifetime – lead guitarist for Jordan King. She packed her bags, moved to the big city, and has decided to be single for the first time in a long time. No romantic distractions – just the music.

Jordan King was once known as boy band royalty. Now he’s moving on, releasing a solo album. His new band is nothing like his old one, and he definitely won’t be making the same mistake this time around by dating someone in it.

Of course, his label has different plans.

After a single picture shows up in the tabloids of Jordan and his ex-boyfriend, his manager throws Joan and Jordan into a PR relationship.

It’s fake, though. Totally fake.

They definitely won’t fall in love with each other.

Of course not.

Buy it: Amazon

The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell (18th)

The Vanished QueenLong ago, Queen Mirantha vanished. King Karolje claimed it was an assassination by a neighboring king, but everyone knew it was a lie. He had Disappeared her himself.

But after finding the missing queen’s diary, Anza—impassioned by her father’s unjust execution and inspired by Mirantha’s words—joins the resistance group to overthrow the king. When an encounter with Prince Esvar thrusts her into a dangerous game of court politics, one misstep could lead to a fate worse than death.

Esvar is the second son to an evil king. Trapped under his thumb and desperate for a way out, a chance meeting with Anza gives him the opportunity to join the resistance. Together, they might have the leverage to move against the king—but if they fail, their deaths could mean a total loss of freedom for generations to follow.

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Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner (18th)

Raina Petree is crushing her senior year, until her boyfriend dumps her, the drama club (basically) dumps her, the college of her dreams slips away, and her arch-nemesis triumphs.

Things aren’t much better for Millie Goodwin. Her father treats her like a servant, and the all-boy Mock Trial team votes her out, even after she spent the last three years helping to build its success.

But then, an advice columnist unexpectedly helps Raina find new purpose in a pair of knitting needles and a politically active local yarn store. This leads to an unlikely meeting in the girls’ bathroom, where Raina inspires Millie to start a rival team. The two join together and recruit four other angry girls to not only take on Mock Trial, but to smash the patriarchy in the process.

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Drowned Country by Emily Tesh (18th)

This is the sequel to Silver in the Wood

Even the Wild Man of Greenhollow can’t ignore a summons from his mother, when that mother is the indomitable Adela Silver, practical folklorist. Henry Silver does not relish what he’ll find in the grimy seaside town of Rothport, where once the ancient wood extended before it was drowned beneath the sea—a missing girl, a monster on the loose, or, worst of all, Tobias Finch, who loves him.

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

Hugs & Quiches by Candace Harper (22nd)

Starting over was meant to be a new beginning.

Though for Zoe Cooper and Amelia Hughes, it’s the very first step toward their happy ending.

It’s been a year since Zoe Cooper packed up her daughter and fled her abusive husband with only the clothes on her back. But life as a waitress, food blogger, and “roommate” to her supportive mother has turned into a holding pattern, and her dream of launching her own catering company and cooking school feels like just another fairy tale ending–when she’s no Cinderella.

Until the newest cooking competition comes to town, and suddenly magic just might be at Zoe’s fingertips with the chance to audition for Heating Up the Kitchen.

If only she can beat Amelia.

Fresh out of a disastrous relationship and determined to prove her ex wrong, Amelia’s got a chip on her shoulder and is ready for a grudge match in the kitchen. When she locks horns with Amelia, there’s more steaming than their buns as the two competitive young chefs vie for the top spot on the show…

…and the top spot in each others’ hearts.

There’s more cooking in this kitchen than the food, and romance is on the menu. When hatred turns to heat and threatens to boil over, their rivalry might just end in disaster.

Or Zoe and Amelia might just find the future they need in each other–in between stolen hugs and quiches.

Buy it: Amazon

Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer (24th)

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

Buy it: Amazon

Afterlove by Tanya Byrne (25th)

Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death.

Car headlights.The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars.

But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?

This New Year’s Eve, Ash is gets an RSVP from the afterlife she can’t decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city’s dead to await their fate.

But Ash can’t forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again … even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive …

Buy it: The Book Depository

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram (25th)

Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran this past spring, a lot has changed. He’s getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, his varsity soccer practices, and his internship at his favorite tea shop, Darius is feeling pretty okay. Like he finally knows what it means to be Darius Kellner.

Then, of course, everything changes. Darius’s grandmothers are in town for a long visit while his dad is gone on business, and Darius isn’t sure whether they even like him. The internship isn’t what Darius thought it would be, and now he doesn’t know about turning tea into his career. He was sure he liked Landon, but when he starts hanging out with Chip–soccer teammate and best friend of Trent Bolger, epic bully–well, he’s just not so sure about Landon anymore, either.

Darius thought he knew exactly who he was and what he wanted, but maybe he was wrong. Maybe he deserves better.

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

Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons (25th)

This is the third book in A Chorus of Dragons

52378515Now that the city of Atrine has been destroyed and Relos Var’s plan to free the dark god Vol Karoth has been revealed—the end of the world is closer than ever.

To buy time for humanity, Kihrin, Janel, and Thurvishar must convince the king of the Manol vané to perform an ancient ritual that will strip the vané of their immortality—a ritual that certain vané will do anything to prevent. Including assassinating the ones bringing the news.

Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with the horrifying possibility that his connection to Vol Karoth is steadily growing in strength. How can Kihrin hope to save anyone when he might turn out to be the greatest threat of them all?

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

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (25th)

The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying–from diseases, from turf wars, from vendettas they couldn’t outrun.But on this earth, Cara’s survived. And she’s reaping the benefits, thanks to the well-heeled Wiley City scientists who ID’d her as an outlier and plucked her from the dirt.
Now she’s got a new job collecting offworld data, a path to citizenship, and a near-perfect Wiley City accent. Now she can pretend she’s always lived in the city she grew up staring at from the outside, even if she feels like a fraud on either side of its walls.But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined–and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

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

Better Than People by Roan Parrish (25th)

It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.Being with Jack–talking, walking, making out–is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

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

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (25th)

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.

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Ironspark by C.M. McGuire (25th)

9781250245267For the past nine years, ever since a bunch of those evil Tinkerbells abducted her mother, cursed her father, and forced her family into hiding, Bryn has devoted herself to learning everything she can about killing the Fae. Now it’s time to put those lessons to use.

Then the Court Fae finally show up, and Bryn realizes she can’t handle this on her own. Thankfully, three friends offer to help: Gwen, a kindhearted water witch; Dom, a new foster kid pulled into her world; and Jasika, a schoolmate with her own grudge against the Fae.

But trust is hard-won, and what little Bryn has gained is put to the test when she uncovers a book of Fae magic that belonged to her mother. With the Fae threat mounting every day, Bryn must choose between faith in her friends and power from a magic that could threaten her very humanity.

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

The Sugared Game by KJ Charles (26th)

This is the second book in the Will Darling Adventures

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.

Buy it: Amazon

Under the Gaydar: F/F YA Fantasy

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This edition is dedication to F/F YA Fantasy, which has blown alllll the way up in 2020 and is the perfect way to enjoy the queer lit you need in an environment that might not be safe for it. (Or just to find more stuff you never knew was rocking the rainbow – whatever your situation!)

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust – What luck that maybe my favorite YA standalone fantasy also happens to be a bisexual f/f YA? Based on Persian mythology and exploring monstrousness in the most glorious way, I cannot advocate harder for adding this one to your shelf. (Bookshop)

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski – In more 2020 glory, my fave YA fantasy author also has a new f/f out this year, and yep, it is freaking excellent. Get to know and love the rakish Sid and morally complex Nirrim in this series opener, and then take a seat six feet away from me and let’s mourn the wait for book 2 together. (Bookshop)

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco – You probably already know this book as Frozen meets Mad Max: Fury Road, but you may not know that one of the two goddesses mentioned in the blurb is super gay and in an f/f romance! Want my specific feelings on this book? Good news: I blurbed it! “Complex, brutal, romantic, and terrifying. With a phenomenal cast of characters who stick to your bones and vivid worldbuilding that shows up in your dreams, this is a book that demands to be experienced.” (Bookshop)

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – Yep, more Melissa Bashardoust glory! The romance in this one takes a backseat to the incredibly done stepmother-stepdaughter relationship in this Snow White-inspired fantasy, but it’s still sweet and great and undeniably queer. (Bookshop)

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia – As a caveat, this is the first book in a duology, and the second book does have clear queerness in the blurb. But if you’re good to venture in under those conditions, this is a timely enemies-to-lovers story about immigration and revolution in a highly stratified society, (Bookshop)

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Chase: The Boy Who Hid by Z. Jeffries

Lower YA is still a wildly underrepresented subcategory in queer YA, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for a new one entitled Chase: the Boy Who Hid by Z. Jeffries, which is a sci-fi releasing digitally on October 15 and starring a bisexual hero and nonbinary love interest. Here’s a little more on the book:

Don’t hide from your feelings. Hide from the giant robot trying to kill you.

I always knew I’d inherited my grandad’s mind for science and technology, but when he goes missing, I get his spot in a top-secret government game of hide and seek. The military camouflage challenge, DARPA’s game where shapeshifters, mechs, and telepaths hide from a robot seeker, is where Grandad vanished.

To find out what happened to him, I’ll play along- gain the team’s trust, master the tech, and avoid catching feelings for the team navigator. If I can do all that, then maybe I can survive the dangerous game. But if it comes down to winning or finding Grandad, I’ll ditch the game and betray my team in a millisecond. Even if it means I go missing, too.

Book One in the Hide & Seek Series, the action-packed coming of age stories of STEM-minded queer kids getting their hands on the tech of the future.

And here’s the cover, compliments of Mikki Noble of Paracoze Designs!

Preorder here!

***

Z Jeffries (left) can’t wait for you to read his debut YA novel. A son of an English teacher, one of his earliest memories was after a day at kindergarten, sitting in the back of his mom’s classroom and listening to her describe Dr. Jekyll reeling from the violence of Mr. Hyde. Under various names, he’s written, produced, and directed theatre in Chicago and along the east coast, as well as published several adult short stories. His interests include space travel, cheese, and whether cheese will be allowed during space travel. He lives in American suburbia with his wife, daughter, dog, and garden. Visit ZJeffries.com just for the heck of it.

New Releases: July 2020

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (7th)

CinderellaisDead_cov_revealIt’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

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

The Bright Lands by John Fram (7th)

52703177The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

Buy it: BookshopAmazon | B&N | IndieBound

You’re Next by Kylie Schachte (7th)

Flora Calhoun has a reputation for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. After stumbling upon a classmate’s body years ago, the trauma of that discovery and the police’s failure to find the killer has haunted her ever since. One night, she gets a midnight text from Ava McQueen, the beautiful girl who had ignited Flora’s heart last summer, then never spoke to her again.

Just in time to witness Ava’s death from a gunshot wound, Flora is set on a path of rage and vengeance for all the dead girls whose killer is never found. Her tunnel-visioned sleuthing leads to valuable clues about a shocking conspiracy involving her school and beyond, but also earns her sinister threats from the murderer. She has a choice—to give up the hunt for answers, or keep digging and risk her loved ones’ lives. Either way, Flora will regret the consequences. Who’s next on the killer’s list?

Buy it: BookshopAmazon | B&N | IndieBound

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (7th)

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.

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

Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka (7th)

This is the fourth book in the Roxane Weary series

Junior-high school nurse Rebecca Newsome was an experienced hiker, until she plummeted to her death to the bottom of a ravine in a Columbus metro park. Her daughter, Maggie, doesn’t believe it was an accident, and Rebecca’s ex-husband is her prime suspect. But he’s a well-connected ex-cop and Maggie is certain that’s the reason no one will listen to her. Roxane quickly uncovers that the dead woman’s ex is definitely a jerk, but is he a murderer?

As she pieces together the days before Rebecca died, Roxane finds a series of trips to Detroit and across the border into Windsor, Canada, major withdrawals from her checking account, and more contacts with a casino manager than a middle-aged school nurse from Toledo should reasonably have. When the investigation leads to Leila Hassan, the cunning con artist who got away in What You Want to See, Roxane is determined not to make the same mistake twice by falling for Leila’s lies–except she might actually be telling the truth this time. Roxane needs to figure out the connection between Leila, a secretive church group, a women’s health organization, and Rebecca’s fall in the woods…before a dangerous secret gets someone else killed.

This is the fourth book in the Roxane Weary series

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

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (7th)

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

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

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (7th)

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

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

Faith by Julie Murphy (7th)

Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen. When she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, she’s volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove. So far, she’s spent her senior year trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to her Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering she can fly….

When the fictional world of The Grove crashes into Faith’s reality as the show relocates to her town, she can’t believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her. But her fandom-fueled daydreams aren’t enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school. But when her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gifts—risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.

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

Fire on the Island by Timothy Jay Smith (7th)

Fire on the Island is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a crumbling church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save the dog of Lydia, a local cafe owner. Immediately enveloped by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young man who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, the young Albanian in love with Lydia’s daughter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and Takis’s sister, who owns a local bar, has a vendetta against the whole village. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

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

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard (7th)

This is a standalone novella in the Dominions of the Fallen world

53349060._SY475_Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.

But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.

It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….

Buy it: Amazon | B&N 

The Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott (7th)

Princess Sun has finally come of age.

Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead.

To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

Take the brilliance and cunning courage of Princess Leia—add in a dazzling futuristic setting where pop culture and propaganda are one and the same—and hold on tight:

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

Loveless by Alice Oseman (8th)

42115981. sy475 Georgia feels loveless – in the romantic sense, anyway. She’s eighteen, never been in a relationship, or even had a crush on a single person in her whole life. She thinks she’s an anomaly, people call her weird, and she feels a little broken. But she still adores romance – weddings, fan fiction, and happily ever afters. She knows she’ll find her person one day … right?

After a disastrous summer, Georgia is now at university, hundreds of miles from home. She is more determined than ever to find love – and her annoying roommate, Rooney, is a bit of a love expert, so perhaps she can help.

But maybe Georgia just doesn’t feel that way about guys. Or girls. Or anyone at all. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe she can find happiness without falling in love. And maybe Rooney is a little more loveless than she first appears.

Buy it: The Book Depository

André by Jayce Ellis (13th)

After a week filled with nonstop work, André Ellison heads to the club to blow off some steam. One night off is the perfect distraction from the project that’s about to make his career—or tank it completely. A few drinks in and he leaves with a smoking-hot stranger for some scorching, burn-the-sheets-up sex.

Marcus Thompson is going places, so he can’t think of a bigger waste of time than being put on loan to a two-bit firm to prepare some small-time report. The last thing he wants—or needs—is his impeccably dressed, hot-as-hell one-night stand as his boss.

As they work side by side, their attraction grows to a fever pitch, but there will be no kissing, no touching and absolutely no sex until the project is over—if they can wait that long.

Buy it: Amazon

The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig (14th)

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town.

Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it.

An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.

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

The Extraordinaries by T. J. Klune (14th)

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

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

Kiss Me Every Day by Dena Blake (14th)

51286814._sy475_Wynn Jamison is turning thirty. Her career has made her rich, but her love life’s sorely lacking. She’s okay with that until she spends her birthday dinner with the woman who could’ve changed it all. There’s only one problem. She’s married to Wynn’s sister.

Carly Evans is tired of her wife ignoring her needs to put her career first. Family has always been important to her, and Jordan just doesn’t seem to care.

A freak thunderstorm rages during the night, and Wynn finds herself catapulted back in time to the day she made the worst decision of her life―stepping aside to let her sister romance Carly. Reliving the day over and over again, Wynn must decide what is most important: success, loyalty, or love. Given a second chance at happiness, will she take the opportunity and change her destiny?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters (14th)

When her daddy died in a car crash, sixteen-year-old Shady Grove Crawford thought he took his ghostraising fiddle with him. Now, with the pine woods outside her trailer filling with eerie bluegrass music and restless spirits, Shady is certain Daddy’s fiddle is calling to her from beyond the grave.

Then her brother is arrested for murder, and Shady knows she must find the fiddle to prove his innocence and discover the real killer. With the help of her bandmate and secret crush Sarah, as well as a rodeo boy who’s trying to swagger his way into her heart, Shady sets out to raise the dead.

But instead of finding the truth, she conjures up the shadow man, the vengeful spirit that destroyed Daddy’s life and has now laid claim to hers.

To free herself from its deadly grip, Shady must unearth the fiddle’s dark origins and uproot the shameful past Daddy tried so hard to hide. If she doesn’t, her brother will go to prison and Shady will follow her daddy to an early grave.

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

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt (14th)

The youngest ever winner of the Griffin Prize mines his personal history in a brilliant new essay collection seeking to reconcile the world he was born into with the world that could be.

For readers of Ocean Vuong and Maggie Nelson and fans of Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, A History of My Brief Body is a brave, raw, and fiercely intelligent collection of essays and vignettes on grief, colonial violence, joy, love, and queerness.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

Tack & Jibe by Lilah Suzanne (21st)

Raised on a small island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Willa has a picture-perfect nautical life: hanging out at the beach with her friends, living in a cozy seaside cottage, working at a sailing store, and running a hugely popular sailing Instagram. It’s so convincing that her overzealous online followers register her to compete in the High Seas, a televised national sailing championship.

Too bad Willa doesn’t actually know how to sail.

Desperate to protect her carefully curated life, Willa tracks down four-time High Seas champion Lane Cordova, and begs her for a crash course in sailing before the race begins. But Lane’s mastery of the water is matched only by Willa’s ineptitude—and her growing crush on Lane isn’t helping matters. When the competition threatens to go awry and take her idealized life with it, Willa has to figure out if she can save her reputation from sinking while taking a chance on love.

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

Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond is Amazing, ill. by Dylan Glynn (21st)

In Be Amazing, drag kid Desmond is Amazing walks you through the history of the LGBTQ community, all while encouraging you to embrace your own uniqueness and ignore the haters.

Desmond is amazing―and you are, too.

Throughout history, courageous people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and RuPaul have paved the way for a safer, more inclusive society for LGBTQ individuals, and it’s thanks to them that people just like Desmond can be free to be who they really are.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Melt My Heart by Bethany Rutter (23rd)

Lily Rose is used to people paying attention to her gorgeous twin sister, Daisy. But even though Lily loves her own fat body, she can’t shake the idea that no one would ever choose her over Daisy – not when they could have the thin twin.

That is, until she meets Cal, the gorgeous, sweet guy from New Zealand who can’t seem to stay away. The gorgeous, sweet guy who also happens to be Daisy’s summer crush. Lily can’t seem to figure out why she isn’t as into him as she should be. She should be head-over-heels in love, not missing time at the ice-cream shack with her life-long best friend, Cassie. Not wondering what Cassie is getting up to with Cal’s friend Jack, or what she’s thinking about when they’re alone . . .

With University threatening to tear Cassie and Lily apart at the end of summer, trying to keep Cal a secret from Daisy and a growing right-wing threat disturbing the usual quiet of their pleasant seaside town, Lily’s summer is set to be far from relaxing.

Buy it: The Book Depository

Set the Stage by Daniel De Lorne (27th)

50976540While the redevelopment brief for Rivervue Community Theatre moulders on his desk, a phone call from a unrequited past love sends architect, Gabriel Mora, running back to his artsy hometown. Afraid of worsening his mother’s health, Gabriel is forced to hide his involvement in the redevelopment. It’s just one more secret to keep, along with his feelings for a certain red-headed stage manager.

Bruce Clifton can build anything. But the jobs mean nothing if he’s not getting paid. On the cusp of losing his home, Bruce needs to find a way to call in those debts without showing his community how much trouble he’s got himself into. With Gabriel’s return to town stirring up past hurts, soon it’s not just his home Bruce has to worry about losing, but his heart.

Can Bruce and Gabriel work together for the good of Rivervue, or will their hope for a second chance exit stage right?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich (28th)

High schooler Matt’s father is rich, powerful, and seemingly untouchable– a mobster with high hopes that his son will follow in his footsteps. Matt’s older brother Lukas seems poised to do just that, with a bevy of hot girls in tow. But Matt has other ambitions–and attractions.

And attraction sometimes doesn’t allow for good judgement. Matt wouldn’t have guessed that Jason, the son of the city’s police commisioner, is also carrying a secret. The boys’ connection turns romantic, a first for both. Now Matt must decide if he can ever do the impossible and come clean about who he really is, and who he is meant to love.

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

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite (28th)

46041449When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk.  Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

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

The Worst of All Possible Worlds by Alex White (28th)

This is the third book in the Salvagers series

The crew of the legendary Capricious may have gone legitimate, but they’re still on the run.

With devastatingly powerful enemies in pursuit and family and friends under attack planetside, Nilah and Boots struggle to piece together rumors of an ancient technology that could lead to victory.

Ensnared by the legend of Origin, humanity’s birthplace, and a long-dead form of magic, the Capricious takes off on a journey to find the first colony ship…and magic that could bring down gods.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch, ill. by Victoria Ying (28th)


Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.

Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.

They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?

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

Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters (28th)

Megan Harris had hopes of seeing the world, but at twenty-five she’s never even left Florida. Now a wedding invitation lures her to Quebec…in February. When her ex-friend Scarlett offers to be her plus-one (yeah, that’s a whole story) and suggests they turn the journey into an epic road trip, Megan reluctantly agrees to the biggest adventure of her life.

A week together in a car is a surefire way to kill a crush, and Scarlett Andrews has had a big one on Megan for years. The important thing is fixing their friendship.

As the miles roll away, what starts as harmless road-trip games and rest-stop dares escalates into something like intimacy. And when a surprise snowstorm forces Megan and Scarlett to hunker down without the open road as distraction, they’ve got a bigger challenge than making it to the church on time: facing the true nature of their feelings for each other.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

The Scottish Boy by Alex de Campi (28th)

1333. Edward III is at war with Scotland. Nineteen-year-old Sir Harry de Lyon yearns to prove himself in the war, and jumps at the chance when a powerful English baron, William Montagu, invites him on a secret mission with a dozen elite knights. They ride north, to a crumbling Scottish keep, capturing the feral, half-starved boy within and putting the other inhabitants to the sword.

But nobody knows why the flower of English knighthood snuck over the border to capture a savage, dirty teenage boy. Montagu gives the boy to Harry as his squire, with only two rules: don’t let him escape, and convert him to the English cause.

At first, it’s hopeless. The Scottish boy is surly and violent, and eats anything that isn’t nailed down. Then Harry begins to notice things: that, as well as Gaelic, the boy speaks flawless French, with an accent much different from Harry’s Norman one. That he can read the language – Latin, too. And when Harry finally convinces the boy – Iain mac Maíl Coluim – to cut his filthy curtain of hair, the face revealed is the most beautiful thing Harry has ever seen.

With Iain as his squire, Harry wins tournament after tournament and becomes a favourite of the King. But underneath the pageantry smoulders twin secrets: Harry and Iain’s growing passion for each other, and Iain’s mysterious heritage. As England hurtles towards war once again, these secrets will destroy everything Harry holds dear.

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

New Release Spotlight: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Is anyone on earth still unaware of how much I loved this Persian mythology-inspired bisexual f/f YA fantasy? Probably not, but if you thought I was going to miss a huge chance to recommend it every day of the month, you were sorely mistaken! If you are at all into YA fantasy, Sapphic books, mythology, or Things That Are Very Good, I think I’ve said all I need to say. Go do yourself a favor.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Book Depository | Kobo

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

You know when you’re already so excited for a book, and then you see the cover and you just gasp with joy at both its beauty and the fact that the premise has externally been done justice? If you love that feeling as much as I do, you’re definitely going to want to keep reading to learn more about A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha, a debut f/f YA Fantasy Romance coming December 1, 2020 from Entangled Teen. Here’s the pitch:

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

And here’s the spectacular cover, designed by Entangled’s Art Director, Bree Archer!

But wait, there’s also a heartbreakingly romantic excerpt!

Hearing her name in Fatyan’s lips heated her cheeks further, and her closeness breathed wonder into her lungs. No stranger had come so near her, and she almost stepped away—but then her eyes found Fatyan’s and the tender curiosity reflected upon them, and the enchantment of it all rooted her in place.

“I need your help,” Yzabel said.

“I know. I need yours, too.” A slight tilt of her head. “What would you ask of me?”

Yzabel tensed, her fingers matching the white of her dress as she clutched it. “You have to promise not to tell anyone. Even after we leave this place.”

“Is it the sahar?”

“Sahar?”

“Magic.” She motioned toward Yzabel’s left hand still glowing as though someone had spread embers under the skin. “It’s what woke me up, even though you were far away.”

The curse had been reacting to Fatyan’s. Yzabel’s lips fell open. “Can you tell me why it turns all the food I touch into flowers?”

Intrigue drew Fatyan’s lips into a pout and her fingers to her chin. “You’ve been cursed?”

“Yes. That’s why I came to find you.” Yzabel looked at Fatyan from under her brown eyelashes, and her tongue darted to wet her mouth. “I need it gone.”

Pensive eyes studied her. “I need to feel your sahar better.” Fatyan caught her hand before it touched Yzabel’s skin, left it to hover above her jaw. “May I?”

An answering nod came without Yzabel’s command, and she stepped forward so Fatyan’s fingers brushed her cheek. The moura closed her eyes as she fully cupped the side of Yzabel’s face, and she wasn’t certain what spell had her enthralled so completely, if it was the stone’s or the moura’s, but her heart was racing, and an odd feeling forming in her stomach, so much like hunger and yet not.

The magic inside her surged, and heat spread from where their skin touched. Yzabel’s heart tried to climb up her throat. When she swallowed it back down, the throb rose to her ears, deafening her to anything that wasn’t Fatyan.

A crease appeared between the moura’s brows as she opened her eyes, and her hand moved across Yzabel’s jaw, down the slope of her neck, mesmerized as they trailed her own gesture. Yzabel looked down when the moura stopped at her shoulder and gasped at the sight before her.

Under Fatyan’s touch, Yzabel’s skin came alight, as though she had candles underneath her flesh and Fatyan’s fingers were the flame that lit their wick.

“This is no curse,” Fatyan said under her breath. She trailed her hand down the inside of Yzabel’s arm, and it was like watching a storm cross her skin.

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

(c) Catarina Dagmar Leal

Born in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana grew up in Estremoz, and now lives in Lisbon with two extremely fluffy cats and one amazing bearded dragon. A Computer Engineer graduate from Instituto Superior Técnico, she has worked in award-winning educational video games, but writing is where her heart always belonged. When she’s not working on her books, she can be found painting, immersed in books or video games, or walking around with her dragon.

Authors in Conversation: L.C. Rosen and Cale Dietrich

I’m so excited to have two of my favorite gay YA sophomores on the site today, chatting about their newest books! Lev Rosen is the author of Jack of Hearts (and other parts) and Camp, the latter of which released this past Tuesday (along with Jack‘s redesigned paperback), and Cale Dietrich is the author of The Love Interest and the upcoming The Friend Scheme, which releases on July 28! Make sure to check out all four of those titles, and to read on below for their conversation about the books, toxic masculinity, internalized homophobia, and more:

Lev: Hi Cale!  I’m so excited to talk to you about your forthcoming novel, The Friend Scheme, and my new novel, Camp, which came out on Tuesday.  I really loved your last book The Love Interest, so getting to read The Friend Scheme was very exciting! And I love the setup – closeted son of a mafia family falls for a guy who he knows is the son of the rival mafia family who may be seducing him to destroy his family.  Love, lust, trust, betrayal, family loyalty.  Who could say no to all that?  But let’s get this out of the way: There’s a minor character named Lev in The Friend Scheme, and he’s a shmuck.  Should I be deeply insulted or merely offended?

Cale: Hi Lev! First up: DEEPLY OFFENDED. Obviously. Just kidding, that schmuck Lev has nothing to do with you, because I adore you. Jack and Camp are two of my all time favourite-YA books, they’re so smart and really explore the modern queer identity while being fun and romantic. I love them. I’m so happy I get to talk to you about Camp! One of the things I loved most about it was its exploration of masculinity, and the complicated relationship it has with being queer. Was this something you’d always wanted to explore in a novel, or did something inspire you?

Lev: WELL! I shall be deeply offended then.  Let me get out my burn book…

And yeah, Camp is so much about navigating patriarchal gender nonsense as a queer man, and how somehow, even when we’re out and proud, that straight mindset can creep in and cause a lot of pain.  But the original inspiration was actually old Doris Day/Rock Hudson 60s screwball sex comedies.  And, if I’m being honest, the post-modern redo of those movies, Down With Love.  That was the big inspiration – I wanted a contemporary queer YA version of those movies, because I love those movies. I love Down With Love.  But of course, those movies center around the idea of “the battle of the sexes” – very 60s.  And making that queer wasn’t going to work quite right, until I realized it could be battle of the masc/femme.  And once that occurred to me, everything fell into place – masc4masc stuff, the summer camp setting.  I always love exploring post-coming out stuff, though, so I imagine something would have snuck in there eventually.  I just knew it needed to be in a queer space to work.  If you’re out in the world with this, straight people are going to seriously interfere and try to tell you that masc gays are better, or femme gays are more fabulous, really try to put you in a category.  In an entirely queer space, the characters can play with these ideas of gender performance and it can be seen as just exploring identity.  Straight people seldom let queer kids do that.  And queer community was so interesting to me in your book, The Friend Scheme, as well, because it’s Matt’s lack of queer community that really kind of puts him in this impossible situation – he’s closeted and has no queer friends, so the first one that comes along becomes his everything, his entire community, and he has to rely on that one person so much that it becomes dangerous.  I was wondering if that was intentional?  Like, did you go into this wanting to show the dangers of being an isolated queer person?

Cale: AHHH. I wonder who else is in that burn book!

INTERESTING. You mention that the straights in relation to saying masc gays are better, or femme gays are more fabulous etc, but what do you think about the pressures of being masculine coming from within the gay community itself? To me it feels like there is a lot of pressure on social media and the like within the gay world to live up to a certain standard of masculinity, (which is really rubbish). I understood why Randy decided to act more masc to attract Hudson – scroll Instagram and you’ll see a specific type of gay sexuality continually heralded as the most attractive – the buff, masc gym gay. I’m just wondering where you think the pressure on gay guys to be masculine is coming from — is it from straight people, or is it from other gay men?

As for TFS and Matt being isolated, absolutely! I think we were both trying to explore queer masculinity in two different ways, which I think is so great and I’m so bummed we no longer share a release date so we could be a double feature! To me, Matt’s whole story is about him not living up to the kind of man his father wants him to be, and a lot of that has to be with his masculinity. As much as he tries to push himself into the guy that his family set out for him, he only really finds happiness once he starts accepting he isn’t the kind of guy his dad wants him to be. I was trying to explore that feeling through a genre story. And to answer your question: it was intentional! I did want to show how that lack of support and community can be incredibly painful, especially when you’re cut off from them by being closeted. I ratcheted things up to fit the genre, but mostly I was trying to explore how that feels. I don’t want to spoil anything but hopefully the epilogue shows how things can improve once you’ve found a queer community!

Lev: The Burn Book is large and long. Top of the list right now is whoever is responsible for the pre-9AM jackhammering directly outside my window during all this social distancing.  They are a terrible human being.

And yeah, Camp deals with that internalized homophobia, too, the way the community can essentially take part in that! But I think that problem isn’t exactly exclusive to the gay community.  It’s a problem of patriarchy and toxic masculinity – being queer doesn’t save you from that.  It can even make it worse; when Hudson starts to explore why he values masculinity so much, it comes out that it’s a form of protection.  A lot of “masc4masc” guys think it makes them better because it makes them pass as straight, it makes them acceptable to straight people – which is something I don’t think queer people need to be worrying about.  Because while being queer doesn’t save you from the patriarchy, it gives you an opportunity to sidestep it.  Being gay is a gift.  When you come out, you have a chance to step aside from all that nonsense and look at patriarchy and say “okay, so I’m not into ladies like they want me to be, which makes me less of a man, supposedly, but… what if all those ideas were nonsense?  What if everything is meaningless and behaviors we attribute to genders are made up?  What if I get to be whatever I want, and fuck gender conforming?”  Being given that opportunity – and I genuinely think its a lot harder for straight people to be given it – is a gift.  Sadly, its not one a lot of gay people unwrap because coming out is so traumatic for them that they cling to the patriarchy even harder than straight people do, hoping it will make them not actually straight again (well, probably some of them), but make them essentially “count as” straight in the eyes of society.  And that sucks so hard for them.  There’s nothing wrong with being “masc-acting” and queer (in Camp, Brad fills that role, that’s just who he is, there’s no performance).  But to be trapped feeling like you have to be masc acting, like it effects your value as a human being?  That’s awful.  So I actually feel sorry for those guys on instagram.  I mean, I have no problem with a guy who’s built and bearded or whatever (I, myself am bearded, and I DO have a build).  But a guy who says he’s “manly” or “masc” – that’s where it gets sad for me.  And those guys being more praised for their masculinity by the community makes me sad, too.  Like… we were all given this gift guys.  Unwrap it.

And yes! Friend Scheme is all about a very old school, very blunt form of masculinity.  I keep thinking “murder is masculine,” so you should see if that can be the tagline of your novel.  I think, in fact, Matt’s whole story is about having that gay gift I talk about – his queerness is what allows him to see himself outside this mold they try to put him in, this future they want for him.  And I love how you somehow manage to combine that exciting mafioso action with what is essentially a really sweet romance.  You did it in The Love Interest, too.  And they’re both about how these guys know they’re not who they’re supposed to be and fall for a guy who they know they can’t trust.  It makes me think about dating in the closet, how you want to be with this person but also by being with them you’re kind of giving them the power to destroy your life.  Is that why that theme comes up for you?  Do you think dating as a queer person is more fraught with issues of distrust?

Cale: This is such a good answer!!! I agree with everything you say. It’s such a complicated issue, and I’m so happy that you explore it in Camp, as I think it’s a question that’s extremely relevant to modern queer people. I’m such a fan of yours!! Ah!

Omgosh,  “murder is masculine,” is the perfect tagline for TFS! I love it! And I totally agree about Matt having the gay gift that you talk about – it is 100% what I was going for! I wanted to explore exactly what you talk about in your answer — I feel like being queer does force you to have these sorts of conversations with yourself, and makes you see yourself outside of the mold people try to put you in. That leads to a lot of questioning and growth. As for the danger of dating in the closet – that has appealed to me as it just made sense for the characters and the stories I was trying to tell – it definitely adds a layer of distrust and danger and that’s what my books are sort of built on! But my book three hero is out and proud, so I think I’ve explored closeted characters as much as I would like to (for a while, anyway).

I’m really curious, what would be your response to someone who says that they have a preference for masc guys?

Lev: I mean, I think I’d say that’s fine.  Randy clearly is into Hudson is who is masc… but I think it’s also worth interrogating your own desires.  Some people are like “that’s my type, tee-hee, don’t need to think about it,” but if your type is hyper-specific, it worth taking a moment to wonder why.  Are you attracted to guys like that because society has always told you to be?  Because they represent something you want to be?  Because you think being seen with them in public, or by your parents, is what will make people accept you?  Is your lust determined by societal approval?  Lust isn’t just lizard-brain.  Or it can be, but then it gets tempered.  I think a lot of about guys who are into plus size women, but never ever admit it.  It’s a different issue and I’m not the one to talk about it, but it’s something that happens a lot and at least part of the reason why has to do with societal pressure to punish women for being fat.  Likewise, there’s a lot of societal pressure to punish gay men for not being a certain way.  And sometimes that effects desire.  So if you’re into muscles cause you’re into muscles, cool.  But if you’re into “straight-acting” guys, or even just full on straight guys (and many of us have been at some point), ask yourself why.  Why do you want someone you know will never want you?  Why do you want someone who represents something you’ll never be but which culture is constantly telling you to be? And this can be applied to more than just “masc.”

That being said, I did want to show a character whose masc-ness wasn’t about performance and trying to be the “special gay” who isn’t like those other gays, all in your face, etc.  That’s why Brad is there.  He’s just as butch as Hudson, but it’s not an entire identity for him.  He lets the guy he likes put nail polish on him because it makes that guy happy, he doesn’t care about what his partner is like, socially – even if he clearly likes a man with body hair.  And I think that’s the distinction.  Are you into a type of guy because of something physical only, or are you into a guy because of something social – some conception of things?  A lot of stuff can end up being either, so it’s really about YOU.  (and in case anyone is wondering, saying you’re not into a guy because they’re a certain race is always a racist social thing).  So yeah, I’d say to a guy “why?” and see what he says.  Especially since ‘masc’ is one of those terms that can mean different things to different people.  There, that was a long meandering way of getting to the answer.  But hey, long meandering way of getting to the answer is just another word for novel.

But I think on that note our word count here is probably becoming perhaps too long and meandering, so I just wanted to say thank you again for talking with me! It was a lot of fun and I’m so excited for people to get their hands on The Friend Scheme.  It’s a really fun, sexy novel.

Cale: No, thank you for talking to me! Camp is such a wonderful, important and fun book. I’m so happy teens (and everyone else) will be able to get it starting today!

Buy Camp: Bookshop | B&N | IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository (UK Edition)

Preorder The Friend Scheme: Bookshop | B&N | IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Power Inversion by Sara Codair

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have Sara Codair to reveal the cover of their upcoming young adult urban fantasy, Power Inversion, releasing June 1st from NineStar Press! Here’s what it’s about:

Do you have to be a monster to fight one?

Erin Evanstar is a demon hunter, a protector of humanity from nightmarish predators that feed on people’s fears and flesh. They are settling into their dual life of being a teen and hunting demons.

When a tentacled horror abducts Erin’s partner, José, Erin and their family go on the hunt to get him back. But Erin gets an ultimatum: help the Fallen Angels bring on the apocalypse or watch José die. Erin will do anything to save José, but fighting monsters comes with a grim price–becoming one themselves.

And here’s the electrifying cover, designed by Natasha Snow!

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Sara Codair is an author of short stories and novels, which are packed with action, adventure, magic, and the bizarre. They partially owe their success to their faithful feline writing partner, Goose the Meowditor-In-Chief, who likes to “edit” their work by deleting entire pages. Find Sara online at saracodair.com or @shatteredsmooth.