Tag Archives: YA

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: A Beautiful Doom by Laura Pohl

Today on the site I am so excited to reveal the cover of The Last 8 author Laura Pohl’s first book in her brand new series, The Grimrose Girls! A Beautiful Doom releases from Sourcebooks on August 3rd and features two f/f couples, a demi-bisexual lead, and an aroace lead, and if dark academia and fairytales are your jam, this is your next can’t-miss read. Check out the blurb:

The Descendants meets Pretty Little Liars in this story of four troubled friends, one murdered girl, and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed. Reimagined fairytale heroines must uncover connections to their ancient curses and forge their own paths… before it’s too late.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled Ariane’s death as a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events that no one could have predicted. As the girls retrace their friend’s final days, they discover a dark secret about Grimrose—Ariane wasn’t the first dead girl.

They soon learn that all the past murders are connected to ancient fairytale curses…and that their own fates are tied to the stories, dooming the girls to brutal and gruesome endings unless they can break the cycle for good.

And here’s the iconic cover, designed by Maggie Edkins and Nicole Hower!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! We also have the first two chapters:
read on!

Chapter One

ELLA

The first day of school started with a funeral.

This was not, of course, the usual for the Grimrose Académie for Elite Students, whose student body mostly lived to their eighties, and went on to command corporate conglomerates or win Academy Awards, Nobel Prizes and other such trifles. Therefore, everyone was shocked, and whispers were heard in every corner of the castle, from the library tower to the girl’s bathroom on the fifth floor.

The whispers, especially, followed Eleanor Ashworth.

Ella gazed upward self-consciously, tightening her hand on the strap of her bag. “How long do you think this is going to last?”

Eleanor, known to her friends only as Ella, was a small girl of seventeen, with light blond hair cut to her chin and equally light brown eyes, reddened cheeks, freckles all over her face and arms, and clothes that had seen better days. The whispers had followed her before, but never with such commitment.

“A month, if we’re lucky.” Yuki, Ella’s best friend answered, a crease appearing in her ivory forehead.

“We won’t be,” Rory muttered, glaring at a group of younger girls who dared to dart eyes in their direction. “What the hell are you looking at?”

“You do realize that attracts even more attention, right?” Yuki said, raising an eyebrow.

“At least I’ll get a reason to fight,” Rory replied with a satisfied shrug.

The Grimrose Académie was exclusive not only in name, but also in reputation. Its location in Switzerland and the exorbitant prices ensured that only the richest and most powerful were able to attend. It sat on one of Alps’ most beautiful lakes and boasted a giant fairytale-like castle with four towers and white marble, gardens extending beyond the mountains that surrounded them, and a crystalline lake to complete the view.

Studying at Grimrose was a guarantee of your future. When you studied at Grimrose, nothing could ever go wrong.

Except that on the eve of the first day of school, one of the Académie’s most exceptional students had drowned in the lake.

For most students, it meant an uproar. For the Académie, it meant an open line for calling parents reassuring the safety of their children, and keeping the death out of the papers. Drowned in the lake besides the school, alone.

But for Ella, Yuki, and Rory, it wasn’t just another tragedy. Ariane Van Amstel had been their best friend.

Ella avoided the stares and the whispers, knowing all the students wanted to ask her the same questions. Had she been suicidal? Did she know how to swim? Did Ella know she was sad? And why hadn’t Ella helped her?

The last question was the worst, the reminder a sting.. How could she not know if one of her best friends had done the unthinkable? Ariane had been happy, daughter of a rich businessman from Holland and with a bright future ahead of her. Just like everyone in the Académie.

Well, everyone except Eleanor Ashworth.

The worst part about the stares was how they made her feel ashamed, because she ought to have done something. She should have acted. She should have saved her friend, because that’s what friends did.

Ella stepped forward in the cafeteria line, looking at their lonely table in the corner. Everyone else in the cafeteria was lively, friends gathering for the first time in three months, groups coming together with only happiness in their minds. But for them, the table was missing something. Stacie caught her looking wistfully at the popular table, and she gave the smallest nod to her stepsister.

Stacie and Silla, her twin stepsisters, belonged to Grimrose in a way that Ella couldn’t. They paid full tuition. Ella was the scholarship student.

In truth, Stacie and Silla owed their place to Ella. The Académie had personally invited her, but her stepmother ruled that she would go only as long as there had been openings for her two daughters. That had been five years ago. Sharon said if Ella wanted to go to an expensive school, she had to deserve it.

Rory slammed her tray on their table as they settled down. The table felt too big for them now. There was a space where Ariane was supposed to be, at the table she had chosen herself. It felt like a part of her was missing, and Ella could not find anything big enough to hide that absence.

The three girls sat in silence. Ella finished her lunch and opened her bag to pick a pair of knitting needles.

“Knitting already?” Rory asked, chewing with her mouth open.

“This is just…” Ella started. “I promised Ari. Couldn’t finish it because Sharon kept nagging me last week. So now I have to finish it before… before…”

She didn’t finish her sentence, letting out a frustrated breath. Ella knew she was ranting. That she was stuck in a loop. She had to finish her goodbye present. If she didn’t, then…

The good thing was that Ella’s brain could not imagine a consequence worse than the situation they were already in.

“The memorial is this afternoon,” Ella said. “I promised it. I’m doing it. Ella Ashworth doesn’t let her friends down.”

Not even if they were dead, she thought to herself.

Chapter Two

YUKI

Yuki Miyashiro waited for her friends in the garden.

She stood perfectly still as other students passed her, glancing at the tall lonely figure with ivory white skin and dark hair like a raven’s feathers that fell over her shoulders, turning their heads when they met the merciless black eyes.

The memorial was being held in the garden, the only place that could hold all the students, despite being inconveniently close to the lake where Ariane had drowned.

When Rory and Ella showed up, they went in silence together. The gardens were lush and covered in flowers and bright tones of green, the last touches of summer.

“You all right?” Ella asked, and for a moment, Yuki’s stomach twisted in guilt. She should be the one asking the question.

Ella had been her best friend since their first day of school, when Ella had declared Yuki’s shoes were the most beautiful she’d ever seen, and therefore both of them had to be friends. Only later Ella confessed that she didn’t like the shoes that much, but that she found complimenting people was always the best way to make friends.

Yuki wouldn’t know. She didn’t have a lot of friends.

“I’m all right,” Yuki answered, even though it was a lie.

Ella pulled her knitting from her bag. Ella always needed something to do with her hands. She took a deep breath, and Rory glanced at them both.

“You’ve been taking the pills?” Rory asked.

“Yeah,” Ella replied. “Wait, you think I haven’t?”

“That’s not what she said,” Yuki interrupted.

“I’ve been taking them.”

Rory looked at Yuki for reassurance, but Yuki could offer nothing. Ella had been diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety over a year ago, and it was still an adjustment..

It was a short walk. Every student was wearing their uniform, liberty blue skirts and pants, white shirts and silver ties and periwinkle blue blazers, a crowd of blue descending the path. The rain had stopped but the clouds had stayed, and the sky was gray like the mountaintops. Students started filling the front, but Yuki preferred the back.

Ariane’s parents were standing in the front row. There was no coffin—they would take the body home, sealed up so no one would ever see the bright red flaming head of hair, but there was a picture of her. Yuki avoided Ari’s eyes, and stared at the ground.

Ella had sat down almost immediately on the chair, and Yuki closed her eyes, but there were the whispers, talking of the bloated body, talking of Ariane drowning, her body sinking into the lake, and how they had found her, face up, barely recognizable. Accident. Suicide. Same thing. It didn’t matter. She was dead.

When Reyna Castilla stepped to the pulpit, Yuki was almost glad to hear her stepmother’s voice.

“It’s with great sorrow we are gathered here today,” she started. “One of our most promising students has been taken from us so abruptly. Ariane was a great student, and beloved by all. It’s difficult to describe how terrible her loss…”

Yuki tuned all of it out. Reyna didn’t know Ariane enough to truly understand what it meant to lose her. Her loss was pure, untainted by knowing and loving Ariane.

Yuki’s loss was not pure.

When she looked up, she saw another face in the crowd. Edric, Ariane’s ex-boyfriend. Only one week after he and Ari had broken up, he’d been with someone else. All over each other in the halls.

Yuki wished she could watch him choke.

To calm herself down, she recited the facts of the case to herself.

Ariane did not know how to swim. Ariane would not go near the lake at night. Ariane would not leave without saying goodbye. But there had been no foul play discovered.

Reyna’s eulogy ended, and Ari’s father took over the microphone, giving another thankful speech. All the students in the school were courteous enough to pretend they cared, even though Ariane did not belong with them.

She belonged to us.

Yuki’s heart beat faster in her chest.

The memorial dissolved little after that. Ella got up before any of them could stop her and walked decidedly over to Ariane’s parents. Yuki could almost hear what Ella was saying. She could imagine her words would be firm and kind. A flash of a smile from Ariane’s mother, a hug, Ella handing them the sweater she’d finished.

Someone else approached Yuki, and she turned to see her stepmother.

Reyna rarely looked tired, but today, Yuki could glimpse something raw in her, as if she’d lowered a barrier that wouldn’t be lowered again in the next hundred years.

Reyna didn’t look like she was old enough to be Yuki’s stepmother. Her medium brown skin was flawless, and her rich chocolate brown hair fell in generous waves over her shoulders. She dressed the part of the Headmistress at least, today a dark red dress that was both formal and elegant.

“Walk back with me?” Reyna asked, gesturing to the castle.

Yuki obeyed, as she always did. Perfect posture, walking calmly side by side. Their shoulders never touched. The silence stretched as they climbed.

“How are you doing?” Reyna asked at last, not unkindly.

Yuki did not answer for a moment. She knew what was expected of her. She’d seen the answer in Ella’s hands, in Ella’s gestures, in Ella’s words. She was supposed to be holding up, to accept her loss gracefully, to think of the others.

“Fine,” she answered curtly. “Just fine.”

Reyna paused as they climbed and Yuki was forced to stop her march.

“Yuki, one of your friends just died,” Reyna said. “I’m asking because I know you can’t be all right.”

“Well, I am.”

She spoke the words with such conviction that she almost felt like she could hear them ringing across the gardens, across the leaves and carried by the bird’s wings. I am. I am. I am.

She wouldn’t lose her composure. She was the headmistress’ stepdaughter, after all. Her behavior would always be examined first.

“I’ll ask the police to keep the questions to a minimum,” Reyna said, and Yuki took a deep breath, because she did not lose her composure, because she was always, always, the image of perfect, no matter what happened, and she was not going to lose her cool today. “It’s all routine.”

“It’s fine.”

“I’m just preparing you for what’s to come,” she said. “I don’t want to make this worse for you. I know how hard it must be.”

Except Reyna didn’t know.

She had no idea.

She could never have any idea at all, because Ariane was dead, and it was Yuki’s fault.

***

 

Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature. She is the author of THE LAST 8 duology, which won the International Latino Book Awards. Her next novel is A BEAUTIFUL DOOM, which opens the Grimrose Girls duology. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com),  and make sure to follow her on twitterinstagram, and pinterest.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo

Today on the site we’re revealing the cover of The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo (author of Exception to the Rule), which kicks off the Split series, about a divided United States in a Dystopian future. It releases from Bella Books on June 22, 2021, and here’s the story:

A deeply polarized and ungovernable United States of America has separated into two nations―the God Fearing States (GFS) and the United Progressive Regions (UPR).

Judith Braverman, a teenager living in an Orthodox Jewish community in the GFS, is not only a talented artist accomplished in the ancient craft of papercutting, she also has the gift of seeing into peoples’ souls―and can tell instantly if someone is good or evil.

Jeffrey Schwartz has no love for religion or conformity and yearns to escape to the freedom of the UPR. When he’s accepted into an experimental pen pal program and paired with Dani Fine, an openly queer girl in the UPR, he hopes that he can finally find a way out.

As danger mounts and their alarm grows, Judith embeds a secret code in her papercuts so that she and Jeffrey can tell Dani what’s happening to Jews in the GFS without raising suspicions from the government. When the three arrange a quick, clandestine meeting, Jeffrey is finally faced with the choice to flee or to stay and resist. And Judith is reeling from a pull toward Dani that is unlike anything she has ever felt before.

And here’s the cover, designed by Kayla Mancuso!

Preorder on Amazon

Cindy Rizzo is the author of three novels, Getting Back (2015, Ylva Publishing), Love Is Enough (self-published, 2014), and Exception to the Rule (self-published, 2013), which won the 2014 Goldie for Best Debut Author. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Unwrap These Presents (Ylva), Conference Call (Bella Books), Language of Love (Ylva), and Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars (Flashpoint Publ.). Cindy has a long career in social justice philanthropy and has served on the boards of many LGBTQ organizations, including currently, Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE). She is a member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue. She lives in NYC with her wife and their three cats.  They have two adult sons and three wonderful granddaughters.

Backlist Book of the Month: Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

These are tough times, and if you, like me, particularly appreciate books that balance fun escapism with not entirely pretending there is an idyllic and just world around you, then Erin Gough has good news for you, in the form of Amelia Westlake (or, as it was published in the US, Amelia Westlake Was Never Here). It’s a delightful opposites-attract dual-POV contemporary f/f YA romance with one of my absolute favorite kinds of MC: high bookish IQ meets low emotional/social IQ, set at a school for the privileged that’s got some major issues. Or, as the official blurb goes:

Harriet Price has the perfect life: she’s a prefect at Rosemead Grammar, she lives in a mansion, and her gorgeous girlfriend is a future prime minister. So when she risks it all by creating a hoax to expose the school’s many problems – with help from notorious bad-girl Will Everheart, no less – Harriet tells herself it’s because she’s seeking justice. And definitely not because she finds Will oddly fascinating.

But as Will and Harriet’s campaign heats up, it gets harder for them to remain sworn enemies – and to avoid being caught. As tensions burn throughout the school, how far will they go to keep their mission – and their feelings for each other – a secret?

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

For Australian retailers, check out the Hardie Grant page

Excerpt Reveal: Laurel Everywhere by Erin Moynihan

Today we have an excerpt from Erin Moynihan’s upcoming Laurel Everywhere, a lesbian romance releasing November 10th from Ooligan Press! Here’s the story:

Laurel was named after the laurel bush, a nondescript plant that is found everywhere outside of Seattle, where she lives. Her siblings were also named for flora: Tansy after a pretty yellow flower that Laurel refuses to believe is a weed, and Rowan after a tree native to the Scottish Highlands. As the middle child, Laurel always felt boring compared to her outgoing siblings, like an outsider in her own family because of her idiosyncrasies.

But Laurel’s mom and siblings were killed in a car accident a month ago, and Laurel has begun to feel guilty about her sibling envy, her anger, and all she said and did when they were alive. As she and her dad work to figure out life without the rest of their family, Laurel is thankful for her two best friends, Hanna and Lyssa, whom she needs now more than ever. But since Hanna kissed Laurel, things have been weird between them.

Written from Laurel’s perspective, the story is sympathetic to first loves and heartbreaking loss.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Powells

And here’s the excerpt!

Hanna is the one who finds me.

Hanna, with her soft brown eyes and perfect olive skin and voice that sounds both frantic and calming at the same time. I’m lucky Hanna is a worrier and Lyssa is usually lost or getting kidnapped (it happened once). I’m also lucky Hanna made the two of us turn on Find My Friends a few years back. I told her Dad was taking me on a hike and she asked where and I didn’t respond. Then hours passed and her worry got the best of her.

She finds me in a laurel bush, with leaves framing my face and the smell of early-summer raindrops surrounding me. We’re somewhere east of Seattle—I remember Dad getting on the highway. I remember the city disappearing behind us and the mountains and trees appearing as the highway seemed to expand, lane after lane.

I’m somewhere near Snoqualmie Pass, I guess. I’m not sure if Hanna can see the irony of it all (she looks too frantic to even recognize that it’s a laurel bush)—not many people other than my mom regularly identify plants, but if anyone could, it would be Hanna. Hanna is a walking encyclopedia.

“Your face,” she says. I wipe my hand across my cheek and feel blood, as if the branches dared me to a duel, and I just sat there taking the punches. She grabs my hand and holds on so tightly her blood pumps against mine—pumping the life back into me. I’m being reborn from the bushes: a family-less Laurel Summers with raindrops on her forehead and dirt on her cheeks.

Two weeks ago I would have laughed if anyone told me the predicament I’d end up in. But in two weeks, I’ve gone from being part of a family of five to being part of a family of only two; I planned a funeral, and now I’ve gotten left behind in my namesake bush.

My first thought should be Dad. He’s not here. I’m not sure where he’s gone. Hanna looks worried and her mom is here too, standing a few feet away with the same expression on her face. A mirror image of Hanna herself, except with lighter skin and blonde hair. But my first thought isn’t Dad because maybe I’m not a very good daughter and in general not a very good person. Dad is all I have left and I should be looking for him, but instead my heart is melting and breaking into a million pieces because Hanna is holding my hand so tightly. I don’t want to let go because if I do, all the life she’s pumped back into me might spill out and I’ll end up a deflated balloon in the dirt.

“Where’s your dad?” Hanna asks me.

I open my mouth but the words don’t come out, which makes me wonder how long I’ve been underneath this bush, because my throat is dry and my lips feel like they’re glued together. It’s still light outside, so at least there’s that—the sun peeking through the rain clouds from earlier today. Instead of answering her, I point up the trail in the direction where I remember him stumbling away from me.

“You take her back to the car,” says Mrs. Jackson to Hanna. “I’ll look farther up. Hanna, call your father and tell him to get some people up here to search.” Hanna’s dad is a policeman. Hanna hates that he’s a policeman because she thinks the justice system is messed up, but Mr. Jackson says he became a policeman because he wanted to be a good one and show boys with dark skin like him they can become policemen too.

Hanna puts her arm around me and doesn’t even flinch when my damp clothes touch her dry ones. She composes a short message to Lyssa: “Found her. She’s fine.” The fact that they’re talking about me sprouts a warmth inside my chest. It’s nice to feel worried for sometimes, and it’s especially nice to think Hanna was paying attention to me and tracking my location. Even though it’s mostly because my family just died and I’m a loose cannon, lost in the woods near the pass on a trail to some unknown destination that nobody but Dad seems to know.

A loose cannon. That’s how I’d describe myself at the funeral. Dad cried the whole time: a steady, controlled flow of tears. I didn’t cry until the very end when they started a slide- show and I saw this one picture of Rowan, Tansy, and me. I realized I was the only one left alive in that picture and the realization made tears explode from my eyes. Hanna and Lyssa practically had to hold me down so I wouldn’t run away. Dad didn’t look at me; I don’t think he could bear it. If he’d seen me, he would’ve burst into tears too. Together, we would have drowned the whole funeral home—maybe the whole neighborhood—with so many tears even our rainy city of Seattle would be swallowed whole.

That was the last time I saw Hanna and Lyssa, as they were wrestling me down at the funeral. It was like the time in seventh grade when Daphne Peters threatened to report Lyssa for bringing alcohol to school and I nearly punched her in the face to stop her. Lyssa and Hanna held me back and lectured me about how if I’d punched her, we would’ve gotten into even more trouble, and how she was just talking herself up and didn’t really want to tell anyways. The funeral was like that, but much, much sadder.

Daphne Peters never did tell on Lyssa. I’d like to take credit for that because I scared her with my menacing twelve-year-old fist-swinging. (I’m not violent, I swear. Only when people are mean to my friends.)

Except at the funeral when they were wrestling me, I didn’t have anyone in front of me to punch. I wanted to punch the guy who was driving the truck but why would he dare be at the funeral? He probably can’t sleep at night. I can’t sleep at night. I wonder what the man who drove that truck looks like. I wonder if he feels bad about it all or if he couldn’t care less. I imagine him as a villain, large and intimidating, laughing in my face and at my mom’s little car, broken and smashed to pieces while his giant truck remained intact.

We slide into the backseat of Mrs. Jackson’s car. Hanna dusts off my pants and grabs my hands to stop them from shaking. The sun shines in through the windows and warms me up. Normally I’d be excited at the first sign of the season truly transitioning to summer, but instead I can’t stop shivering. My hands won’t stop shaking. They’ve been shaking almost nonstop for the past week, so I think it might just be one of those things that comes intertwined with death that nobody warns you about.

Hanna’s hands are warm against mine. Before the funeral, we hadn’t really spoken for a few weeks. She says it’s because she was busy, but I know it’s because we kissed and things got messy between us. But then my family died and I guess that made us forget about everything else, at least for a bit.

“I’m gonna call my dad,” she says.
“OK.”

Her voice sounds like it’s underwater. Like I can hear it but I can’t totally understand what she’s trying to say. She hands me a half-empty water bottle while she talks to her dad on the phone. I chug the water and it burns against my throat, which tells me I was lying underneath the laurel bush for longer than I thought. Long enough to become parched and for the sun to move across the sky.

“My dad is on his way,” she says. Hanna often talks to fill awkward silence, but lately she’s been running out of things to say to me. I stare out the window at the trees and shrubs sur- rounding the trailhead. Laurel bushes are scattered all over the ground. They’re everywhere. They make my chest tighten and a lump rise up in my throat.

“OK.”

She hesitates before asking, “Where—where do you think your dad went?”

I don’t know the answer. There’s a voice in my head that tells me he probably flung himself from the mountaintop, and another voice wonders if he was mauled by a bear. Yet another wonders why in the world Dad would leave me lying there in my namesake bush all alone.

He’d suggested we go hiking. The two of us hadn’t left the house in a few days and he’d said, “Why don’t we go on an adventure?” I should have known then. He sounded far too chipper to be serious, but I hopped into the car and went along with it anyways.

I mean, he did take us hiking. We pulled over at an un-marked trail and before I even zipped up my jacket, he was powering up the hill. “Laurel bushes,” he kept saying, pointing to the ground every time we passed a bush. “Look Laurel, you’re everywhere.”

I said something like “They’re everywhere,” and we both knew I wasn’t talking about bushes. Mom was always the one who loved to point out our namesake flowers. Mom was a gardener, and she named us after flowers because of course she did. Rowan, Laurel, and Tansy.

Now: just Laurel.

After I said and thought all of that, my legs turned wobbly and I needed to rest. I lay down in a laurel bush and listened to Dad’s footsteps slowly disappear into the distance. I thought he would come back for me.

He didn’t.

Dad and I were always close. Mom and I were close too. I didn’t have a favorite. I lapped up Mom’s stories about astrology and herbal supplements and listened to Dad drone on about the difficulty of teaching English courses to freshmen who aren’t majoring in English.

But now that Dad left me alone in a laurel bush, Mom should probably be my favorite.

I didn’t have a favorite sibling either. Tansy and I would play games in the backyard, and I went to Rowan’s soccer games and cheered for him with all my heart. I’ve always been neutral in matters of family. Mom said it was because I am a Pisces. “You’re agreeable. You feel for others.” Mom blamed most of our actions on our star charts, like the time Rowan got caught hooking up with a girl in a school janitor closet and Mom blamed it on him being a wild Gemini rather than the fact that he was an idiot.

Maybe it’s too soon to call my dead brother an idiot, but he was. I didn’t—don’t—have a favorite sibling but objectively I can say Rowan is the least agreeable of the three of us. Was—is—I don’t know.

“We’ll take you back to your house,” Hanna says, filling the silence again. “I can see if Lyssa wants to come over. Or do you want to come to my house? We can do that too. That might be better. And then my mom can feed all three of us and we can watch old TV shows on Netflix.”

I don’t say anything and she decides that we’re going to her house. I would’ve picked that anyways, even if her voice didn’t sound underwater and I had the ability to speak again. Despite chugging the remains of the water bottle, my throat is still on fire.

“I’ll ask Lyssa to come over. Do you want Lyssa to come over?”

I nod. Lyssa helps—she gets it. Her mom is dead and she doesn’t know her dad because she’s been in the foster system since she was ten. She just tells people both her parents are dead because it’s easier than telling them that her dad was just really messed up. Right after the accident, Lyssa and Hanna came over. Hanna tried to help by cleaning the house, cooking food in the kitchen, and offering to help my dad with planning the funeral. Lyssa just sat on my bed and talked to me about things that weren’t my dead family, like music and the most recent season of The Bachelorette. Both were helpful in their own ways, but Lyssa feels calmer and less frantic. It’s less like she’s trying so hard to help and more like she just helps by being there.

Mr. Jackson pulls up in his police car, jumps right out, and meets Mrs. Jackson at the trailhead. They talk for a few minutes and then he disappears into the woods alongside a few more men and women in uniform. Mrs. Jackson makes her way back to the car, without my dad.

Did he leave me? Would he leave me? My parents left me one time in a Walmart. Mom said it was because I was the quiet one. Tansy was a baby and so she was attached to my mom in a backpack and Rowan was always talking and making noise. I got lost among the aisles of games and art supplies, and I didn’t even notice they’d left until Mom came frantically running around the corner and wrapped her arms around me. I sometimes wish she hadn’t told me they left and hadn’t made a big deal about it, because I often think about how they left me. I think about it a lot. If she’d just grabbed my hand and said, “Laurel, it’s time to go,” I would’ve had no idea they’d ever left.

Being left behind seems to be the plight of the middle child. Even without my brother and sister standing beside me, living and breathing and taking up space, I’ve still managed to be forgotten somewhere.

“John is looking for your dad,” Mrs. Jackson says. Her voice is calm but underneath I can tell she’s a storm. She sounds just like Hanna when Hanna tries to hide that she’s afraid.

“Thanks for picking me up.”
“You don’t have to thank me, honey.”

The trees pass by my window like we’re in a race and they’re trying to beat me home. The sun continues to dip, turning the sky above us dark. I should be back there in the woods, looking for Dad, but my legs are tired and my face is covered in cuts and scrapes. I feel as though I’m running low on gas, and if I stay and look for Dad, my engine might give out. Maybe it’s already given out.

What if they don’t find him? Or worse, what if they do and he’s…I can’t think about that. So, I watch the trees and I imagine how it would feel to get squished by a car and how I’m going to ask Tansy how it felt to die when I see her in heaven—if there is a heaven. I wouldn’t ask Mom or Rowan because both of them would lie. They’d try to tell me it felt like falling asleep. But Tansy, she’d be honest with me.

The trees pass by the farther we get from wherever Dad disappeared to. My phone lights up with a message from Lyssa linking to a Tumblr post full of Stranger Things theories. Hanna’s foot taps nervously against the floor of the car so loudly I can hear it over Mrs. Jackson’s music. I breathe in the air and wonder if ghosts are following me around now. If I breathe hard enough maybe I’ll consume them and I’ll be able to hear Mom and Tansy and Rowan inside of me.

Mom always told us ghosts were real.

***

Erin Moynihan is a debut novelist from Seattle, Washington, where she spends many rainy days typing away in coffee shops. Her editorial work has appeared on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, The Mighty, and various other outlets. She has a background in social work, which informs the subject matter of her writing. She is passionate about elevating young female voices and breaking the stigma around mental health. When she’s not working, she’s likely spending time cuddling with her dog or adventuring around the Pacific Northwest. You can see what she’s up to at www.erinmoynihan.com

Fave Five: Gay YA Graphic Novels

Flamer by Mike Curato

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Fence series by C.S. Pacat, ill. by Johanna the Mad, col. by Joana LaFuente, let. by Jim Campbell

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, ill. by Savanna Ganucheau

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

Bonus: For hybrid novels, check out Draw the Line by Laurent Linn and The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson, ill. by Christine Larsen

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth

Whether or not you’ve already read and loved The Falling in Love Montage as much as I did, I know you need Ciara Smyth’s sophomore novel, Not My Problem, about an “angry teenage lesbian Olivia Pope” who falls in unexpected love while running a fixer business. Sounds to me like The Fixer meets Amelia Westlake and truly, what could be more epic?? It releases from HarperTeen on May 25, 2021, and we’ve got the cover! But first, the story:

Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE.

But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs.

Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.

And here’s the perfectly attitude-laced cover, with art by Spiros Halaris and designed by Catherine Lee and Jenna Stempel-Lobell!

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

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!

***

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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)