YA Review: Going Off Script by Jen Wilde

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TitleGoing Off Script by Jen Wilde

Rating: 4.5/5

Two-sentence summary: When seventeen-year-old Bex accepts an internship to work on beloved TV series Silver Falls, she is ecstatic. But when the writers changes her lesbian character straight, she fights for healthy queer representation.

Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: The LGBT rep in this book is kind of meta, in a way. How so? Bex’s script featuring a lesbian (like herself) is stolen by a senior writer, who changes the character to straight and tries to market it as their own idea. Going Off Script features tons of discussion about why on-screen LGBT representation matters and the challenges that come with being an openly queer artist in a heteronormative workplace. Especially if you’re a queer, femme-presenting person.

What I liked: This is the exact kind of book I would have loved to read in high school. The set-up is like an ode to LGBT fandom and the fight to move from “queerbaiting” to real gay representation. It made me equally nostalgic and fired up for Bex as she stands up for herself and her community. If you remember Ship It (a queer YA released last year that featured fandom community goodness), this is an excellent companion book.

I especially enjoyed the budding friendship (and maybe something more) between Bex and Shrupty Padwal, a fellow lesbian who works on-set. Shrupty is the first queer person that Bex meets in the same industry as her. That can be a powerful thing for young LGBT people to see – that they can be open and proud of who they are and use it as a strength in their careers. If I were to pinpoint an overall theme in Going Off Screen, I think it would be that everyone’s voice is worth hearing without being stifled by those who don’t understand them.

“Sometimes you need to fight to be heard, especially when you’re the only woman in a room full of men.”

Recommended: I enjoyed Going Off Script and feel like it has a lot to offer in discussions about queer characters in the media. If you’re in for geektastic references and queer protagonists who are so easy to cheer for, check this one out!

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

YA Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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TitleWilder Girls by Rory Power

Rating: 3.5/5

Two-sentence summary: Hetty’s boarding school is put under quarantine after an infection called the Tox strikes. It kills the teachers one by one, it turns the woods into a dark and dangerous place, and it transforms the girls into something monstrous.

Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: A lot of promos I saw for this book pitched it as a sapphic take on Lord of the Flies. I would say that’s a fair description. The setting is a girl’s boarding school and features several LGBT characters. Though if you’re looking for a happy queer rom-com, this definitely isn’t it.

What I liked: I’ll be up-front with you about this one: horror fiction is not my thing. I can count on my fingers how many horror movies I’ve enjoyed, and that list would literally just be Pan’s Labyrinth and, like, What We Do in the Shadows because I generally don’t like horror.

However, I recognize that this is a genre preference and try not to let my reviews for queer horror reflect that. That being said, this is a well-written novel. If you love horror stories with feminist themes a la The Yellow Wallpaper, this is definitely one to check out. It has a dark, atmospheric aesthetic and involves just as much psychological horror as it does jump scares.

And this book is truly scary. The girls don’t know what’s causing the toxin – whether it’s a disease, poison, or radiation – but it’s almost better for those infected to die rather than stay alive. Their bodies and minds change in ways that are both unsettling and somewhat allegorical. I thought this would be a zombie apocalypse book when I first picked it up, but it’s much more devastating and complex than that.

“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”

Recommended: For readers who are looking for queer horror, this is definitely one to check out. It’s got lush descriptions. It’s got high stakes that make your heart pound. And it’s got a compelling romance.

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

YA Review: The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw

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TitleThe Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw

Rating: 3.5/5

Two-sentence summary: When seventeen-year-old Jack comes out to his mom, she’s supportive but he feels guilty for the grief she feels at losing what she thought she knew about her son. When Jack meets a new student who changes his life, he decides to organize a Pride parade in his small and conservative town.

Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: Jack is a cis gay teenager who’s navigating coming out for the first time in a community where queer issues aren’t openly discussed. Although this isn’t an #OwnVoices YA since the author herself isn’t LGBT, she’s a parent and ally of her LGBT children.

What I liked: Overall, I liked this one. It dealt with some heavy themes (including suicidal ideation and homophobia) but manages to stay hopeful in a way that isn’t easy to do. The love story between Jack and Benjamin is also cute, especially how it helps Jack come into his own with his gay identity. Although it’s more of a side story rather than the main plot, Jack’s friendship with Ryan (another student who has cerebral palsy) also gave the book more meaning and depth than just a simple coming-out story.

The one criticism I have is that Jack seemed like the only fleshed out character. That’s good for a protagonist, but it was hard for me to picture or understand the other people in his life. I would have liked the other characters to have a little more depth to give more meaning to Jack’s story and relationship with them.

“Nothing ever changes unless people are willing to try.”

Recommended: This is a companion to Caterpillars Can’t Swim, but the author has written both as able to stand on their own. I would recommend this one to fans of that book if you want to hear the story told from a different perspective.

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

The Most Anticipated LGBT YA Books of 2019

Happy holidays and wishing you all a winter break with books to read that both entertain you and provide you with invaluable new insights. This next year is shaping up to be full of new YA novels with plenty of much-needed diversity inclusion in everything from YA contemporary to dystopian sci-fi retellings. Use this list of highly anticipated LGBTQ YA releases in 2019 to find the perfect books to ring in the new year.

I’m going to try my best to update this list throughout the year as new YA books are announced. If I’m missing anything, let me know and I’ll add your YA book recommendations for 2019 to the list!

Last updated: June 2019

January

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  • The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg: This gay YA romance follows Max and Jordan over the course of their summer as they decide whether unconditional love is worth the vulnerability.
  • The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan: When Rukhsana’s conservative Muslim parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, she must fight against a forced arranged marriage after her parents send her to Bangladesh.
  • Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehring: Described as a queer-positive Ocean’s 11, this YA thriller features a bisexual heiress, a dangerous drag queen burglary ring, and a mystery much larger-scale than anyone anticipated.
  • Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon: After Sophie donates her kidney to her best friend and crush Peter, she must exchange unrequited love for unconditional once he comes out to her as bisexual and in love with a mutual male friend.
  • Cinders by Mette Batch: This lesbian YA book is a queer retelling of Cinderella featuring aspiring musicians, online dating, and overcoming bullying with compassion.
  • The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh: Seventeen-year-old Lacey takes it in her own hands to reform her school’s outdated abstience-only sex-ed curriculum, but she quickly learns that she may have taken on more than she can handle.
  • The Cerulean by Amy Ewing: When Sara is called to sacrifice herself for a community she’s never fully belonged to, she’s forced use her hidden magic to prevent the deaths of her and those around her.

February

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  • Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Tereciero and Bre Indigo: This retelling of Little Women brings four sisters together as they struggle with health issues, romantic crises, and the challenges that come with being strong in a difficult world.
  • The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson: Death has never frightened Dino, whose parents run a funeral home, until his best friend July dies and comes back somewhere in between this life and the next.
  • Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau: The summer after his high school graduation, Ari bonds with Hector over baking bread and their blossoming romance.
  • The Moon Within by Aida Salazar: Celi Rivera faces a year of change as she falls in love for the first time, tries to understand her best friend’s genderfluid identity, and participates in a cultural ceremony to celebrate her first period.
  • To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holy Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer: After Bett and Avery’s single dads fall in love and send them to sleepaway camp as a get-to-know-you activity, the two girls bond over the wildest summer adventure of their lives.
  • Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto: This LGBT fantasy book tells the story of war orphan Veronyka, who disguises herself as male to become a legendary Phoenix Rider.
  • Immoral Code by Lillian Clark: This YA heist book features aro/ace representation and a digital hacking scheme of the century that four teens commit to combat the pressure of paying for skyrocketing college tuition prices.
  • Some Girls Bind by Rory James: High school student Jamie realizes that their chest dysphoria isn’t just insecurity and struggles to come out as genderqueer to their friends and family.
  • What Makes You Beautiful by Bridget Liang: Closeted Logan Osbourne falls for her classmate Kyle while coming to terms with her identity as a transgender woman.
  • Prom Kings by Tony Correia: When Charlie joins his local queer prom committee, he comes up with a plan to woo and “prompose” to the cute new guy.
  • The Afterward by E.K. Johnson: This ambitious queer epic fantasy follows the apprentice knight Kalanthe Ironheart as she runs away with the rogue Olsa Rhetsdaughter and forge their newfound indepndence in the uncertain stone of their realm’s future.
  • We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia: On the night of her graduation from a dystopian school for girls, Dani escapes an arranged marriage to risk a plunge into starcrossed and forbidden love.
  • Augur of Shadows (Destined Series #1) by Jacob Rundle: After suddenly losing his father, seventeen-year-old Henri’s grief is interrupted by strange dreams that lead him to a battle against otherworldly forces threatening to destroy the world.

March

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  • Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith: This YA contemporary romance follows a transgender boy named Chris who falls in love with his next-door neighbor Maia after a near-fatal car accident.
  • Squad by Mariah McCarthy: After Jenna has a falling out with her best friend Raejean, she single-handedly navigates her cheerleading squad performance, discovery of LARPing, and budding romance with trans boy James.
  • The Last 8 by Laura Pohl: This sci-fi YA follows a bisexual aromantic teen named Clover who, along with seven others, fights back against an alien apocalypse that decimated civilization six months earlier.
  • Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale: The summer after her senior year, Babe Vogel juggles hiding from her ex-girlfriend and falling in love with the artistic Levi Keller as a barista at the Busy Bean coffee shop.
  • Love & Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford: Sam Weyward has purposefully never fallen in love due to a family curse, but will he make it through one last summer crush without falling dangerously head-over-heels?
  • Kiss Number 8 by Colleen A.F. Venable: Catholic school student Amanda’s never understood the big deal about kissing until her number eight, which sends her into an emotional spiral as she falls in love with her best friend.
  • The Fever King by Victoria Lee: After an uncontrollable magical force kills his family and gives him technopathic powers, Noam joins an elite group studying the science behind this phenomenon while falling in love with the son of the minister of the dystopian Carolinia.
  • Once & Future by Amy Capetta: This anticipated indie YA retells the Arthurian legends with LGBT representation and a dystopian sci-fi setting.
  • You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman: After failing a Calculus quiz, Ariel does not expect to crush on his math tutor Amir, who he loves much more than struggling to secure his status as valedictorian.
  • Proud, edited by Juno Dawson: This YA anthology features stories, poetry, and art centering around the theme of LGBT pride.
  • Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo: After discovering a message from her late military sister, high school sophomore Angie travels across Ohio on an RV road trip to find peace and herself along the way.
  • All the Invisible Things by Orlagh Collins: When Vetty’s family moves back to London, she struggles to confront her bisexuality while reconnecting with her childhood friend.
  • The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum: This slow-burn YA sapphic romance follows Ryann Bird, whose dreams of becoming an astronaut leads her to Alexandria and her mother lost in space.
  • Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve: This LGBT fantasy novel follows genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z, who befriends an unregistered werewolf in an attempt to reverse their zombie infection.
  • The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars by K. Parr: Fifteen-year-old maidservant Rasha teams up with Princess Adriana to rescue her brother from an evil sorcerer, stirring up powerful emotions that neither girl could have anticipated.

April

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  • The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown: After her girlfriend Vivi passes away suddenly in the middle of their senior year, Jess learns through a new friend to channel her pain into creativity and healing.
  • The Hand, the Eye and the Heart by Zoë Marriott: Zhilan, who was assigned female at birth, saves their disabled father from a brutal battlefield death by taking his place as a male soldier.
  • Belly Up by Eva Darrows: After sixteen-year-old Serendipity hooks up at a party, she starts her junior year five-months-pregnant and head-over-heels for her new classmate Leaf.
  • Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan: This anticipated debut and LGBT romance follows a princess, a pirate, a girl in a hot dog costume, and a carousel operator as they find love at their summer amusement park job.
  • How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom by S.J. Goslee: Sixteen-year-old Nolan Grant has never had a boyfriend but, when he and bad-boy Bern decide to fake a relationship, he gets much more than he bargined for from a boyfriend.
  • I Knew Him by Abigail de Niverville: A school production of Hamlet leads to a small-town queer romance that would have made the Bard himself proud.

May

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  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver: This #ownvoices queer romance follows Ben as they come out as non-binary and fall in love with their charismatic-yet-sweet classmate Nathan.
  • Birthday by Meredith Russo: This story follows Morgan and Eric from their shared first birthday to their journey to find authenticity, belonging, and their lifelong connection.
  • Going Off-Script by Jen Wilde: Seventeen-year-old Bex must do everything in her power as a TV intern to keep higher-ups from destroying a beloved show’s lesbian representation.
  • Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist: Lexi’s gift to sense how and when someone will die is equal parts gift and curse, especially after the ghost of a woman whose death she fortells chooses her to enact a plot of revenge.
  • Castle of Lies by Kiersi Burkhart: After an army of elves invades her kingdom, Thalia’s plot to inherit the throne is interrupted when she must prevent an ancient magic from destroying her realm.
  • Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones: Seventeen-year-old Erin Jones is obsessed with creating the perfect viral video but when her mother’s released from prison, she’s forced to confront her childhood demons.
  • Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley: After being stabbed by his best friend, a young man must testify what really happened on that fateful night while coming to terms with his queer identity.
  • Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva: This standalone companion to One Man Guy tell the story of two teenage boys as they learn to love through forgiveness, betrayal, and heartbreak.
  • We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra: When Jonathan and Adam are assigned as each other’s pen pals for a high school English assignment, they fall in love despite the pressures of bullying, homophobia, and familial conflict.
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju: Pitched as Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race, this queer debut romance follows Nima Kumara-Clark as the discovery of drag culture helps them come to terms with their shifting gender identity.
  • Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro: This YA release follows a young woman trying to find somewhere she belongs in the aftermath of family tragedy.
  • Switchback by Danika Stone: Ashton Hamid finds his RPG experience surprisingly useful when he and his best friend are trapped in the Candian Rockies after an October snowstorm.
  • Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi: Overachieving Sana Khan finds herself falling for her rival Rachel Recht while working together on a senior film project.
  • Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron: Teenage misfit Brody Fair must choose between his family and Everland, the one place where he’s felt like he belonged.
  • Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins: This YA romance and companion novel to Royals stars Millie Quint as she falls in love with Flora, her boarding school roommate and a princess of Scotland.
  • In the Silences by Rachel Gold: Best friends Aisha and Kaz navigate gender identity, police brutality, and the harsh realities of racism while trying to understand their budding romance.
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero O’Connell: This tale of first love follows Freddy Riley’s recent breakup with Laura Dean as she learns how interconnected “passionate” and “toxic” can be in relationships.
  • Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson:Critically-acclaimed queer YA author Shaun David Hutchinson opens up about his experiences with mental illness as a teenager that shaped him into who he is today.

June

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  • Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian: Set against the backdrop of the queer community 1980s New York, Iranian-American confronts the AIDS crisis with his best friends Judy and Art.
  • Brave Like Lily by Richard Denney: After his older sister was killed by a police officer, Mateo navigates his return to school while grieving her loss and finding a way he can fight against injustice.
  • The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante: In a despearate attempt to gain asylum, seventeen-year-old Marisol volunteers as a patient in an experimental study to take on the grief of another person.
  • The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner: Laurel’s grandma falls into a coma before they can discover the source of a mysterious call at their birding expedition, which makes Laurel believe that if she can just find this magical bird, it will save her family.
  • Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson: This YA follows Haley and Martin’s meet-cute romance from first text to the chaotic, yet sweet disaster that is their relationship.

July

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  • Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller: Close friends Solomon and Ash, united by a shared traumatic event when they were twelve, are the only people who can save each other from their growing pain and darkness in this dark YA fantasy.
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power: This feminist take on Lord of the Flies centers on three best friends quarentined at their island boarding school who uncover a terrible truth about their surroundings.
  • Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells: Maren’s idyllic life with her girlfriend Kaia are shattered when Kaia is kidnapped by a cruel emperor and she must become a dragon rider’s apprentice to save her girlfriend’s life.
  • The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World by Amy Reed: Billy and Linda are best friends who cling to each other in an more-than-ever chaotic world.
  • Please Send Help by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin: The sequel to I Hate Everyone But You follows up with Ava and Gen as they question whether friendships can survive as people grow up.
  • Me Myself & Him by Christopher Tebbetts: After Chris breaks his nose and is shipped away to live with his dad, he’s confronted with a multitude of parallel universes that unlocks jealousy, existentialism, and what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself.

August

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  • Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks: Best friends Deja and Josie make the most of their last season working at their town’s pumpkin patch in this YA graphic novel.
  • Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman: On the run from the FBI, a dangerous cult, and the media, seventeen-year-old Aidan stands off against a cyber-terrorist group that will stop at nothing to kill him.
  • Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst: This epic fantasy tells the tale of lovers Denna and Mare as they travel to Zumorda in a bid to undergo forbidden magical apprenticeship.
  • The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert: After her estranged aunt Carlene moves into her family’s apartment, the way Birdie understands her family and the world around her is irreversibly changed.
  • Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman: This LGBT thriller follows a gay boy named Aiden who is on the run from his friends, the FBI, and a menacing cult after he is falsely accused of cyber terrorism.
  • Stage Dreams by Melanie Gilman: This queer western follows a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway as they overthrow a secret Confederate mission.
  • The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta: This coming-of-age story follows a boy who comes to terms with his gay, mixed-race identity after discovering drag culture.
  • The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart by R. Zamora Linemark: With the queer literary hero Oscar Wilde as his guide, seventeen-year-old Ken navigates a year of firsts: first kiss, first love, and first heartbreak.

September

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  • We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar: A coming-of-age set during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, this YA release follows Michael as he falls in love with Gabriel, the first boy who actually see him.
  • Ziggy, Stardust, and Me by James Brandon: During 1973, the year in which homosexuality was de-classified as a mental illness, two boys fall in love.
  • Red Skies Falling by Alex London: This sequel to Black Wings Beating follows twins Kylee and Brysen when they meet after years of separation on opposing sides of the battlefield.
  • The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos: Puerto Rican teen Verdad doesn’t expect to find love when grieving the loss of her best friend but when she meets a new trans guy named Danny at her school, she falls in love with him as she learns to heal.
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: This novel follows the story of a black trans girl named Jam who lives in the town of Lucille, where townspeople believe that monsters don’t exist–despite evidence to the contrary.
  • His Hideous Heart, edited by Dahlia Adler: This anthology features queer interpretations of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories.
  • Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: This YA paranormal romance will be the sequel to Carry On and continue the adventure (and love story) of wizards Simon and Baz.
  • The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Juanada Petrus: Two black girls from opposite sides of the world fall in love but when one receives tragic health results, they must hold on to each other to keep going.
  • How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters: When an openly queer teen is assigned a personal essay about who he is, he embarks on a journey to better understand the labels people have given him.Puerto Rican teen Verdad doesn’t expect to find love when grieving the loss of her best friend but when she meets a new trans guy named Danny at her school, she falls in love with him as she learns to heal.
  • We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar: A coming-of-age set during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, this YA release follows Michael as he falls in love with Gabriel, the first boy who actually see him.
  • Ziggy, Stardust, and Me by James Brandon: During 1973, the year in which homosexuality was de-classified as a mental illness, two boys fall in love.
  • Red Skies Falling by Alex London: This sequel to Black Wings Beating follows twins Kylee and Brysen when they meet after years of separation on opposing sides of the battlefield.
  • High School by Tegan and Sara Quin: This memoir by the pop icons Tegan and Sara follows their experiences growing up queer in Calgary, Albeta.
  • Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett: Simone Garcia-Hampton has never let her born HIV-positive diagnosis define her, but she must navigate hope, excitement, and fear when she falls in love for the first time.
  • The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen: This book adaptation of the award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions follows three teenagers with supernatural abilities who see the mysterous psychologist Dr. Bright to manage their powers.
  • His Hideous Heart, edited by Dahlia Adler: This anthology features queer interpretations of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories.
  • Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: This YA paranormal romance will be the sequel to Carry On and continue the adventure (and love story) of wizards Simon and Baz.
  • The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Juanada Petrus: Two black girls from opposite sides of the world fall in love but when one receives tragic health results, they must hold on to each other to keep going.
  • How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters: When an openly queer teen is assigned a personal essay about who he is, he embarks on a journey to better understand the labels people have given him.

October

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  • Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry: A retelling of the tragic Greek myth with LGBT characters follows a gay Texas teen fighting to find her girlfriend again after both are sent to conversion therapy centers.
  • Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett: Simone Garcia-Hampton has never let her born HIV-positive diagnosis define her, but she must navigate hope, excitement, and fear when she falls in love for the first time.
  • Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia: This queer YA is Stranger Things Meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer when things turn paranormal after ace girl Zora is framed for a crime she didn’t do.
  • By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery: Over Torrey’s freshman year, she is forced to confront his cultural identity and sexual orientation after the unexpected death of his uncle Miles.
  • Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu: This LGBT graphic novel follows a queer witch named Nova as she falls in love with her childhood best friend, who has recently become a werewolf.
  • Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor: A queer mechanic teams up with her lifelong enemies to save not only her ailing village but the world in this YA debut.
  • The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake: This LGBT YA debut follows Violet as she becomes dangerously obsessed with finding an ancient shipwreck near the coastal town of Lyric, Maine.
  • All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell: Ava is a rape survivor who falls in love with a cop’s daughter in this YA murder-mystery.
  • Crier’s War by Nina Varela: This epic fantasy chronicles a forbidden romance between two girls whose love could cause a revolution in their ravaged kingdom.
  • Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby: As a closeted trans girl, Finch struggles to feel like she belongs anywhere until she meets her neighbor Maddy.
  • I’m a Gay Wizard by V.S. Santoni: Honestly, the title kid of speaks for itself.
  • The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco: In a world ruled the goddesses of day and night, twins separated at birth fulfill their destiny to reunite their divided land.

November

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  • Practically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira: Grace has the perfect life, the perfect girlfriend Leia, and the perfect post-high school plans… unfortunately, what follows isn’t perfectly as planned.
  • Dear Twin by Addie Tsai: When Poppy’s sister Lola goes missing, she writes a series of eighteen letters to Lola in the hopes that she’ll come home.
  • Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater: This first book in a new fantasy series tells the story of the Dreamers, who can pull elements of their dreams into reality.

What are your most anticipated YA novels of 2019? Any upcoming LGBT books make the list?

YA Review: Kiss Number 8 by Colleen A.F. Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

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TitleKiss Number 8 by Colleen A.F. Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

Rating: 4/5

Two-sentence summary: Mads never understood why people loved kissing so much. Until her eight kiss, which calls into question all she understood in her conservative upbringing.

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Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: In case you couldn’t guess from that blurb, Mads is a cisgender lesbian who discovers and grapples with her identity as a teenager. Between hormones and internalized shame from her family and Catholic high school, Mads faces a lot of pressure to bury her sexuality. Mads is intuitive and skilled at self-introspective, and what she uncovers about herself and her family leads to powerful conversations about identity.

Homophobia in general, both internalized and external, is a major theme in Kiss Number 8. Although the title sounds more like a romantic comedy, this is an introspective story that doesn’t always offer easy choices for our protagonist Mads.

What I liked: This book reminded me a bit of a queer, contemporary take on The Scarlet Letter. Although I didn’t go to Catholic school like Mads, I did attend high school in a conservative community who mostly belonged to the same religious background. Not many students came out as openly LGBT, and those who did often faced social consequences.

Kiss Number 8 accurately portrays what it’s like to be outed as gay when you’re young and still figuring yourself out in a place where it’s not safe to do so. As soon as word gets out that she kissed another girl, gossip spreads through her high school and kicks her out of a social group she’d belonged to for her whole life. It can be devastating as a religious queer person to feel alienated from a community that defines how you understand the world and yourself, and that fear and uncertainty is portrayed excellently here.

Recommended: I’ve sung my praises towards queer graphic novels many times on this blog, and this book is an excellent example of the genre. If you’re interested in a story with family secrets, religious crises, and high school drama, Kiss Number 8 is worth checking out.

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

YA Review: Birthday by Meredith Russo

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TitleBirthday by Meredith Russo

Rating: 4/5

Two-sentence summary: Morgan and Eric are two teenagers who were born on the same day. That makes them bonded for life, even if their journeys take them in very different (yet connected) directions.

Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: Morgan is a transgender girl whose identity develops over the course of the novel. We’re able to see these characters once a year (on their birthdays) and so we watch her as she discovers that her inherent femininity won’t just go away. But because she realizes these truths in her conservative community, it takes her some time to find a place in the world where she belongs.

What I liked: I already had a lot of faith in this book before I started reading it because Meredith Russo is one of the best writers I’ve read in queer YA. Not only does she write unique characters whose stories are important to hear, but her prose itself is so beautiful. Although we only get to experience Morgan and Eric’s worlds for six birthday, she crafts lives and emotions for these characters that feel real. It’s vulnerable and authentic, and it’s not just a story about queer identity – it’s a story about what it means to accept yourself and others in a world that sometimes teaches the opposite.

As far as the novel’s format goes, I usually have extreme reactions to experimental novels like this: I’m either crazy for them or I hate it. In this case, I loved that we follow Morgan and Eric throughout their birthdays over the course of the novel. What I think Birthday makes clear overall is that so much can change in a year. It’s powerful to see Morgan and Eric change and become more authentic versions of themselves over time, as well as how they influence each other to face who they are inside.

“Maybe that’s what life is about: surviving what you can’t control and clinging to the good things the winds whip up.”

Recommended: Meredith Russo is one of my favorite queer YA writers. Her book If I Was Your Girl is my go-to recommendation for transgender fiction because she portrays the emotional complexity of being trans so well. I’d recommend Birthday for similar reasons. Both Morgan and Eric face real and meaningful challenges as they come to terms with who they are, and I think that the author does an excellent job at writing a story with equal parts humanity and heart.

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

YA Review: Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

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TitleDeposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Rating: 4.5/5

Two-sentence summary: After Nate’s best friend Cam attacks him, he’s called to court to deliver a statement that would convict Cam. But their relationship had never been easy or simple, and Nate’s emotional conflict sends him spiraling to his limits.

Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: Nate is a cisgender queer guy whose relationship with Cam is messy. But so many things in life are, including those that matter most. As the two boys fall apart, their friendship unravels as they get to the heart of what happened between them. There are no easy answers as to why Nate ended up in the hospital and Cam in court, but Nate tries to analyze his questions anyways and find some sense of closure.

Deposing Nathan deals heavily with themes of domestic abuse between Nate and his aunt. If that subject matter could potentially be triggering to you, I’d recommend researching the book a little further before reading it. It can be intense at times.

What I liked: Deposing Nathan is one of those books that takes you in a very different direction than you expect. One of the heaviest themes in this book is what makes a decision right or wrong. Nate knows that if he testifies against Cam, his best friend will serve a long jail sentence. The two boys are the only people who know the truth about what happened, and this burden weighs on Nate because he desperately wants to do good. But people don’t often fit into well-defined categories of “good” and “bad,” which heightens Nate’s problems all the more.

I also loved how well the author portrays Nate’s faith crisis. People whose religious beliefs and queer identity are equally important to them often have a hard time getting the two halves of who they are to coexist. Throughout Deposing Nathan, Nate grapples with his beliefs – his spiritual beliefs, his beliefs about his moral conscience, and his beliefs concerning his family. Challenging these beliefs is one of the hardest things for Nate to do but only through self-discovery is he able to reach peace.

“If you think you need to earn enough points on someone’s rubric for them to accept you, then either you’re wrong to assume they won’t love you for who you are, or they never loved you in the first place.”

Recommended: If you’re looking for a book that will just emotionally destroy you, here it is. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.