YA Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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Title: We Are Okay

Author: Nina LaCour

Rating: 3.5/5

Two-sentence summary: Grief-stricken and alone, Marin plans to spend her winter break at her college in New York instead of her hometown in California. But when loved ones from her past come to visit, she is forced to face what happened between her and her best friend Mabel last summer.

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What I loved: There are so many unhappy LGBTQ YA books out there that you’d think there’d be nothing special about another sad, queer story. We Are Okay, however, manages to paint a fresh and distinct portrait of discovering yourself in the wake of grief. I especially loved how normalized the queer subplot was in this book. Although it was a key part of Marin’s identity and her past, she wasn’t reduced to her queerness nor was it portrayed as a “shock value” reveal. It’s much more about Marin confronting the loss of someone important in her life than it is coping with her sexuality. And I think that’s really beautiful that we’re getting to a point where a character can be queer without the story revolving around that.

Quote: “It’s a dark place, not knowing. It’s difficult to surrender to.  But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it’s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, make a home inside uncertainty.”

Recommended: This is a quick read so I’d recommend it for a weekend where you want to just spend a few hours in Marin’s head as she makes peace with her past. I like how this book features LGBTQ characters without making the plot revolve around their identities, so if you want a book with characters, We Are Okay is a good choice.

Next: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

YA Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Title: History is All You Left Me

Author: Adam Silvera

Rating: 4.5/5

Two-sentence summary: When Griffin’s best friend and ex-boyfriend Theo dies in a drowning accident, the only person who understands is Theo’s current boyfriend, Jackson. But between his grief and obsessive compulsive episodes, Griffin is stuck processing Theo’s loss in a history of painful memories and broken “what-ifs.”

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What I loved: Notice how that quote by Nicola Yoon on the cover says, “Will make you cry, think, and then cry some more?” That about describes the emotional waves that this book put me through. History is All You Left Me creates a great balance of thought and raw emotion. Not only does it depict Griffin’s grief following an unexpected tragedy but also how memories and relationships shape us into who we are—in good and bad ways. The pain is striking in a familiar way for those who have fallen in love with someone they eventually had to let go of.

When a relationship ends for any reason, part of yourself dies with that just as another part starts growing, and this novel tracks Griffin’s full growth as a human being from his first kiss to his resolution to love Theo, but let him go. The novel also features a complex depiction of OCD that goes beyond the “cleaning” and “organizing” compulsions in a way that more matched my own experiences with it. Not only did this make Griffin a more complex character, but it gave depth to a mental illness that is often cliched in pop culture.

Quote: “People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.”

Recommended: This is a little heavy of a read, so I would recommend this novel if you’re in a good mental “headspace.” It’s a beautiful and meaningful book, but one that could take time to process without letting it weigh you down. But as with every Adam Silvera novel I’ve read so far, perfect if you want a complex, thought-provoking queer YA book!

Next: One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock

LGBTQ YA Review: As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

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Title: As the Crow Flies

Author: Melanie Gillman

Rating: 4/5

Two sentence summary: Queer, black, and questioning her faith, Charlie can’t help but feel isolated at her predominantly-white Christian summer camp. When she befriends Sydney, another camper whose differences set her apart, the two are determined to change their camp leaders’ mindsets even if they have to cause a commotion.


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What I loved: This book is a careful critique on white feminism and how much of the female experience it excludes. Although Charlie’s leaders talk about the camp’s history as an “matriarchal” outpost for nineteenth-century women, they use racially-exclusive language and gloss uncomfortably over how those women were primarily served by former slaves. Several closeted queer campers and campers of color keep silent in fear of becoming outcasts, particularly a camper who knows that if the leaders found out that she was trans, they wouldn’t have let her come. The disconnect between the leaders’ brand of feminism and the campers’ marked discomfort builds with every campfire sermon. It complicates Charlie’s search for God, who she can’t seem to find in the way that her leaders hope.

The art style in itself is breathtaking, with beautiful landscapes rendered in colored pencils in a way that, to me, captured the divine better than any of the camp leader’s sermons on God. I think that’s a little of what As the Crow Flies expresses—that the way to find God is to search for Him (or Them) yourself. Charlie associates bird’s feathers with God because she found one while in prayer and, during her spiritual search, she  finds bird’s feathers as she continues to look for and define God for herself. The connection between nature, which is accessible to every person, and God is gracefully expressed through the artistic medium.

My one complaint is that the ending felt unfinished but, after doing a little research, I found out that this is just volume one in a series about Charlie’s experience at summer camp. That could have been made a little more apparent but hey, maybe it was. It’s finals week here, and the unique fatigue that finals week brings does things to your mind. But either way, I am both surprised and delighted to hear that Charlie’s story will continue in subsequent volumes!

Recommended: This was a thoughtful read on who, exactly, feminism stands for and how “white, cis feminism” marginalizes more women than it uplifts. As a queer Christian, I also found Charlie’s struggle to connect with a God she doesn’t fully comprehend powerful. I’d probably recommend this one for younger teens just based on Charlie and the campers’ ages influencing their concerns, but older teens and adults may find the questions raised on inter-sectional feminism and mainstream Christianity poignant.

Next: Ship It by Britta Lundlin

LGBTQ YA Review: Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle

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(Note: Hello friends! You may have noticed I’ve been a little MIA here for the past week. It’s a little more than coincidental that this break conceded with finals week, but I also have some news. As of today, I will be exclusively posting LGBTQ YA reviews on this website, along with writing advice and updates on my personal/professional writing adventures! So if you’ve been reading my posts and thinking “hmm, this is pretty gay but I wish it were even gayer,” your lucky day has come.)

Title: Kissing Kate

Author: Lauren Myracle

Rating: 3.5/5

Two sentence summary: After an accidental, drunken kiss, best friends Kate and Lissa refuse to acknowledge each other’s existence. But Kate can’t keep her conflicted feelings bottled up, and she must rely on new friends to retrace what happened at that party and come to terms with her own identity.

Quote: “You can remove a tattoo; it’s just difficult. And supposedly it’s pretty painful. Some things, on the other hand, can’t be undone.”


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 Photos via Unsplash

What I loved: As someone who grew up loving Lauren Myracle’s ttyl series, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she’d written a queer YA novel early in her career. Like ttyl, Kissing Kate explores friendship and how who we connect with shapes who we are. Unlike some novels with a lesbian protagonist, Kate’s story isn’t dependent on a significant other or romantic subplot. Although she mourns what she had with Lissa and can’t quite let go of her unresolved feelings, she is a minor character and exists more in Kate’s conflicted memories. In the wake of her newly-broken relationship with Lissa, she explores who she is and what that means, eventually confronting her sexuality with tentative acceptance.

Acceptance meant very different things in the early 2000s when this book was written. Both Kate and Lissa have a strained relationship with their sexualities, with the latter rejecting it outright and the former still unable to shake the idea that being lesbian is “inferior” to heterosexuality. But I think that just highlights Kate’s bravery as she faces her identity for what it is and admits to herself that what she felt for Kate was more than friendship. Even though we’ve made so much progress in LGBTQ activism in the fifteen years since Kissing Kate was written, I think having stories where the protagonist works to accept their feelings as valid can be healing.

Recommended: This book was published back in 2003 and is one of the earliest healthy portrayals of LGBTQ relationships I’ve found in YA literature. The target demographic of contemporary YA fiction wasn’t likely alive when this book was published, but I think despite its more conservative portrayal of queer identities, Kissing Kate is still relevant. Whether you can relate to Kate’s unrequited, uncertain love or you want to see how much LGBTQ YA has changed in fifteen years, it’s a powerful story.

Next: As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

LGBTQ YA Review: The Weekend Bucket List (+ Q&A with Mia Kerick!)

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Title: The Weekend Bucket List

Author: Mia Kerick

Release date: April 19th, 2018 (Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review)

Rating: 3.5/5

Two sentence summary: Close friends Cady LaBrie and Cooper Murphy have forty-eight hours to complete a end-of-high-school bucket list before graduation. With conflicting feelings and enigmatic Eli thrown into the mix, both Cady and Cooper must straddle the fine line between friendship and romance.

Quote: “If I had to label the look in Cady’s eyes, I’d call it ‘morning has broken’—like something truly amazing was dawning on her.”


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 Photos via Unsplash

What I loved: We don’t get a lot of YA books that are focused on friendship, especially LGBTQ YA. The Weekend Bucket List reclaims platonic love as meaningful in itself, not a consolation prize for when romance doesn’t quite work out. Sometimes friendship is just as intimate and sacred as romantic love, and I think what Cady and Cooper have is something to be cherished. Regardless of how the two reconcile feelings of attraction, their caring relationship for each other is in itself a beautiful end game.

You know another thing we don’t get a ton of? Bisexual characters who have a healthy relationship with their sexuality. It’s 2018 and people still act like you can either be gay or straight! Bi representation is a great way to combat this erasure, and The Weekend Bucket List’s Cooper is excellent progress. Although he’s previously defined himself as attracted to men, he doesn’t limit himself to a specific label. When he develops feelings for Cady, he lets himself feel them just as much as he does for the handsome newcomer Eli. I’ve heard that if people were more open with themselves, most would identify not as gay or straight but someplace in-between. Cooper exemplifies this fluidity and, because of it, feels complex and real.

Even though this book takes place over the weekend, it felt like a slow and sweet transition from shy and uncertain teenage years to the fearlessness of adulthood. I loved making the journey with Cooper and Cady and sorting through their valid, yet complicated feelings. As we’re nearing towards the end of spring, this is a perfect novel for kicking off graduation season and the summer that’s just on the horizon.

Recommended: For anyone who’s tired of YA writers ignoring the importance of platonic love, this will be a refreshing read. Plus, an openly bi character who isn’t forced to repress either side of his sexuality!

Next: Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride


Q&A with the Author, Mia Kerick


Mia Kerick is an LGBTQ YA and New Adult romance writer whose books have won the Best YA Lesbian Rainbow Award, the Jack Eadon Award, an Indie Fab Award, and the Royal Dragonfly Award for Cultural Diversity (among other accolades). When she’s not writing, she enjoys editing Natural Honor Society essays, reviewing dance bios and English papers, and volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign. You can find book trailers, playlists, news, and upcoming events on her website.

1) You have written award-winning LGBTQ YA and New Adult books in your career. What inspired you to write queer fiction?

This is an excellent question, especially since I don’t identify as LGBTQ. There are a few reasons why I ended up writing queer fiction, but marital equality is one of the big ones. Full disclosure: I primarily write LGBTQ YA and New Adult romance. (The Weekend Bucket List is a step into general fiction, but still a love story of sorts.) I have always been someone who leans on my romantic partner, and after I got married to the person of my choice, it started to really bother me that some people could not do the same.

Keep in mind that I was married over 20 years ago—before there was marital equality in the United States. It just seemed so unfair and wrong that two committed people in a love relationship, who depended on each other for emotional and physical comfort, financial  support, and who even shared families and homes, could not be legally wed. And so I was drawn to write stories that showed how the love of LGBTQ people is as powerful and real and worthy of respect as the love of heterosexual people. I have expanded my fiction to include stories of transgender teens, questioning teens, and the concept of complex friendship. Watch for My Crunchy Life (June 2018), All Boy (October 2018), and The Princess of Baker Street (winter 2019), which all deal with experiences of transgender teens.

2) The Weekend Bucket List is about two high school seniors who go on one last adventure before graduation while coming to terms with romantic tension. What inspired you to write this story of friends-turned- possibly-something- more?

The line between friendship and romantic love is truly quite fine. Cady and Cooper, best friends forever, have realized they are attracted to each other. The two teens understand that if they pursue romance and it doesn’t work out, they risk the comfort and normalcy of their friendship. Questions regarding Cooper’s sexuality further complicate this situation. I was originally inspired to create a love story out of complex friendship, but as I wrote, it became clear to me that friendship is also a kind of love. Friendship is valuable and worthwhile and can be very passionate. It’s worthy of tears when you lose it and jubilation when you’re lucky enough to hold onto it. It can be the ultimate prize.

3) The past few years have been phenomenal in terms of LGBTQ YA novels. Do you have any favorite queer YA novels or authors?

This question is easy. I LOVE Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It combined platonic and romantic passion in such a beautiful way. I couldn’t put it down.

4) What advice would you give to young LGBTQ writers who want to write YA fiction?

I struggle with following the rules when I’m being creative. And there are plenty of rules for authors. My advice to young writers—break the rules. I do best when I let myself go as I write. When I wrote The Red Sheet, which won some literary awards, I told myself—“NO RULES, MIA! Write what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, what makes you mad, what makes you feel better. Hold nothing back!” It turned out very well. I did the same thing with the humor in The Weekend Bucket List.

So back to my advice: Tone it up, instead of down. Put your unique way of seeing things and saying things into your story. Set your teen characters free and see what they do! And don’t forget to have fun. (Then edit your backside off.)

The Weekend Bucket List is all about love, friendship, and a certain something in-between. If you want a LGBTQ YA novel that’s entirely unique, you can order it here!

LGBTQ YA Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

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Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

Rating: 4/5

Two sentence summary: Fourteen-year-old David Piper is hiding a secret: even though she was born male, she would give anything to be a normal girl like her sister. When her school’s new student Leo Denton stands up for her in a fight, she finds that “normal” is much more messy and complicated than she thought.


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 Photos via Unsplash

What I loved: I thought that this novel did a great job handling heavy themes with grace and respect. Often, trans YA books deal only with gender identity and the consequences of coming out. That is a strong element of The Art of Being Normal, but Leo and David’s stories also deal with poverty, childhood neglect, absent parents, and bullying. I liked how the novel didn’t gravitate around gender because it made David’s trans identity seem less isolated. She’s not just this stock character who has nothing going for her besides her gender identity. She’s connected to Leo, her friends and family, and others in her life in a way that adds dimension to her personality. Her gender identity is important, but it’s not her defining feature. I think it’s important to broaden trans YA from “trans coming out stories” to “trans characters having rich, complex experiences” and this book does so very well.

The Art of Being Normal is written in a dual POV, with chapters switching off between David and Leo. I’m not always in love with this format because it can be difficult to make the two voices separate. In this book, though, it’s effective. Both Leo and David have distinct, well-developed voices and their POVs add important elements to the novel. If the story were told from just one POV, it wouldn’t feel as compelling.

Quote: “Besides, who wants to be normal anyway? Fancy that on your gravestone. ‘Here lies so-and-so. They were entirely normal.’”

Recommended: This is a book I’d recommend for people who want more insight into the trans experience if they’re not as familiar with the LGBTQ community. It’s a great “beginner” book for delving into trans YA. It’s insightful and offers a strong window into David’s story without bogging the text down with too many definitions. I love that it normalizes the trans experience while still voicing unique experiences that teens may face while coming out. Balanced, a little bittersweet, but ultimately a beautiful read.

Next: The Weekend Bucket List by Mia Kerick

Over Raging Tides Review and Q&A with Jennifer Ellision

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Title: Over Raging Tides

Author: Jennifer Ellision

Release date: March 20, 2018 (Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review)

Rating: 4/5

Two sentence summary: Grace Porter, quartermaster to the all-female pirate crew aboard the Lady Luck, enlists the help of a young nobleman named Leo to destroy the Mogdris, malicious sea monsters who stole her mother. As Grace and Leo use the omniscient Map of Omna to find and kill the Mogdris, she must choose where her loyalty lies—with her kin or her crew.


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What I loved: As soon as I saw the description for Over Raging Tides, I was pumped to read it. An all-female crew of pirates? Is there anything more deserving of the word “BAMF” than that? There absolutely is not. It’s one of those things that you didn’t know that you needed in your life but you absolutely do. Grace Porter and the crew of the Lady Luck feel as though they stepped out of a sea shanty. They’re dynamic and larger-than-life in a way that every good pirate character is. Yet they also feel believable enough to empathize with, particularly the conflicted Grace as she struggles to resolve her tragic past at the potential cost of betrayal.

I also enjoyed the dialogue in this book. Good dialogue is pretty tough to pull off, especially for pirates, without sounding gimmicky. With pirates, you’ve got to balance the sharp wit and colorful slang with authentic-sounding phrasing. Over Raging Tides has got wit in droves. Sometimes the wit is humorous and sometimes it’s biting, but it’s always well-crafted. The dialogue drives the plot swiftly and feels as though it was pulled from an eighteenth-century ship log. It helps ground the reader in Grace and the Lady Luck‘s world without feeling too forced.

Without giving anything away, I will say that I appreciated the ending. It stops at a satisfying point while setting up a compelling story for when the series picks up again. As with many firsts in a series, it was a tad abrupt but I have faith that any unanswered questions will be pursued in the next book, Through Fathoms Dark and Deep.

Quote: “From the ship’s articles of the Lady Luckshe who attempts a mutiny will have her throat slit and be tossed overboard for the sea to feed upon. Unless, of course, she succeeds.”

Recommended: Oh, boy. This book is packed with so many good things—pirates, magic, sea monsters, sharp wit, and maybe even a little romance. If you, too, grew up in love with the Pirates of the Caribbean series but wished its female characters were more complex, you’ll love Over Raging Tides!

Next week: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson


Q&A with the Author, Jennifer Ellision


Jennifer Ellision is the author of the YA fantasy series Threats of Sea and Sky and the New Adult contemporary novel Now and Again. Over Raging Tides is the first book in her YA fantasy series, Lady Pirates. Check out her website to read her blog, discover upcoming release dates, and sign up for her newsletter!

1) Over Raging Tides is the story of an all-female pirate crew who sail the Lady Luck. How did you get interested in pirate history, and what inspired you to write about an all-female ship?

I confess, a large part of my interest in pirate history came about because I was inspired to write this book. While I’d already had a scene jump into my head that sparked the idea for the book, the idea didn’t come to create an all-female crew until I was rewatching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl one day. It struck me that Keira Knightley was the only central female character in that movie. I resolved to make a pirate story where there were plenty of women around.

2) Were you inspired by any (in)famous female pirates in history while writing Over Raging Tides? If so, which ones?

I was! In fact, my main character, Grace, is named after Grace O’Malley, the Irish “Pirate Queen.” If you keep an eye out in the novel, you may notice some minor characters named for a couple of other well-known lady pirates.

In my research, I also came across other, less well-known pirate women, some of whom have got me toying with the idea of extending the series past Grace’s duology… but that’s a story for another time.

3) What was the researching process like for this book? How did you include historical accuracy and the logistics of seafaring while retaining the novel’s adventitious, action-packed style?

The beauty of writing fantasy is that I had a little bit of flexibility because Over Raging Tides is set in a fictional world. However, I knew that I wanted it to feel like it could be real.

I spent a lot of time examining the layouts of different types of sailing vessels and familiarizing myself with different deck and mast names. I also read up a lot on the different roles of sailors and pirates on board ships during the “Golden Age of Piracy.” Likewise, I read about the democratic systems of pirate ships. (Did you know they functioned as early democracies? Because I didn’t.)

Research I did that didn’t wind up panning out (in this book at least) was making a point during my trip to London to visit The Royal Observatory; better known as the location of the Prime Meridian, where there is a museum documenting the history of maritime navigation (early drafts of Over Raging Tides included this element, but it didn’t ultimately make sense for the story). I also read a book documenting real pirate trials.

For lady pirates, in particular, I have a nice little stack of books devoted to the non-fiction subject of female pirates.

As for keeping the novel moving while including these elements, I think of much of the logistics as a backdrop. It’s important that they’re there to lend atmosphere to the story and make it engrossing, but I prefer to keep the story pace tight with setting details woven in.

4) This book is full of strong, powerful female characters. Who were your favorite fictional heroines growing up?

Oh, I love this question! So, first of all, I have to say Sailor Moon. I cut my writing teeth on Sailor Moon fanfiction. I’m a huge Sailor Moon fangirl to this day and think that a big reason incorporating female friendships into all of my novels comes from growing up with the Sailor Senshi as an example. Secondly, Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and Daine were heroines whose stories I reread again and again. I loved the fantasy world she created, with girls who got to save the day.

Thank you for having me!

Thanks so much, Jennifer Ellision, for your time and your thoughtful answers—it was a pleasure and an honor! Over Raging Tides made my heart happy from start to finish. If you want a story that speaks to your adventurous side, you can order it online or read it for free through Kindle Unlimited!

YA Review: Risen by Cole Gibsen

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Title: Risen

Author: Cole Gibsen

Release date: March 27, 2018 (Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review)

Rating: 3/5

Two sentence summary: When vampires kidnaps Charlie’s aunt, she must rely on the immortal Sebastian to get answers involving her aunt’s disappearance in exchange for helping him uncover his past as a human. But with mounting tensions in this underworld, she must find her aunt quickly before she is pulled into a war between covens.


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What I loved: Here’s a little fun fact that, if asked about in public, I will probably deny—as someone who was a preteen during the whole “late 2000s Twilight craze,” I have a slight guilty pleasure for paranormal romance. I don’t write it and generally don’t read it anymore, but it makes me nostalgic. Risen was a pleasant surprise because it didn’t feel like a guilty pleasure. Which, y’know, as a twentysomething guy with what some would call “fragile masculinity,” was a relief.

Risen starts off in a way that makes you think it’ll turn out like every other YA paranormal novel on the market—girl discovers that vampires exist, falls in forbidden love with a broody (read: attractive) vampire, and finds herself in peril that somehow works out so she can get it going with said broody vampire by the epilogue. While Charlie and Sebastian’s relationship is a heavy element of the story, it doesn’t follow the typical formula. Charlie is a strong character who doesn’t fall hopelessly in love with Sebastian because he’s handsome. Their relationship’s development is complicated and flawed in a way that ends unfinished, yet satisfying.

The only complaint I had about this book is that sometimes, the romantic subplot was just a little too heavy for me. I enjoy a good love story but sometimes felt like Charlie and Sebastian’s relationship overwhelmed all other elements of the plot. It’s not a criticism so much as a personal preference. If romance novels are your thing, then this will be a strength.

Quote: “You humans are all so afraid to die. You spend your entire lives dreading it. Fighting to embrace death for the gift it is, you would have nothing to fear.”

Recommended: If you’re a paranormal romance fan, you’ll enjoy the ways that Risen takes traditional conventions of paranormal romance and twists them in a way that makes it unique. It’s a quick, compelling read, and perfect for an evening in when you want to lose yourself in a story.

Next week: Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellison

YA Review: Release by Patrick Ness

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Title: Release

Author: Patrick Ness

Rating: 4.5/5

Two sentence summary: Adam Thorn, seventeen-year-old son to a family of preachers, is reeling in the wake of a fractured relationship with his ex-lover and fears that his conservative parents will find out about his sexuality. Release follows Adam over the the course of a day as he faces his past and jumps into a confrontation that may either shatter his heart or finally mend it.


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Photos via Unsplash

What I loved: I always love me some Patrick Ness, and this was no exception. Release is an accurate title for this book. Adam knows that the strong emotions he carries about his situation weigh him down—growing up with his parents’ conditional love, escaping sexual assault from his supervisor, and working through heartbreak have left him with deep wounds. It’s difficult for him to love others, even himself, because affection shown to him has often been warped and always temporary. But this day we follow Adam on sparks something from within—as he lets go of those who have hurt him, he opens himself to feeling all of the pain he’d been blocking at once. And yet, despite this, he is free. His is a bittersweet story, with hope that this day will lead to better ones for Adam.

The stream-of-consciousness narrative of this book was also enjoyable and, I think, a really good way to tell it. Ness was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to write this story, and it has a similarly psychological, internalized feel. Because this book follows Adam from morning until nighttime, we as readers glimpse his thoughts in a way that’s a little more unstructured than most third-person narratives. It heightens the rawness of emotions in a way that fosters deep empathy for Adam and his flawed, conflicted heart.

Quote: “They’re your parents. They’re meant to love you because. Never in spite.”

Recommended: Some books are just beautiful, and Release is one of those. If you want to savor the words, characters, and emotions, this is a hard-hitting yet satisfying read. It is hurtful and healing in a way that only Patrick Ness’s books could be.

Next week: Risen by Cole Gibsen

YA Review: If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

 

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Title: If I Tell You

Author: Alicia Tuckerman

Release Date: March 1, 2018 (Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review)

Rating: 3.5/5

Two-sentence summary: Closeted teenager Alex Summers doesn’t expect to find love in her rural Australian town but can’t help falling for Phoenix. As they navigate their budding romance in their close-minded community, they make choices that will irreversibly change them.

What I loved: As the recent release of Love, Simon suggests, it seems like the trend in LGBTQ YA media is moving from externalized homophobia to internalized conflict the protagonist faces while coming out. But If I Tell You handles homophobia in a way that’s still relevant in 2018. As a young lesbian, Alex fears that her loved ones won’t treat her kindly she comes out. This fear is confirmed when her friends and family treat the more openly queer Phoenix with disgust. Alex debates between coming out and remaining safe, but closeted for much of the novel, knowing that this is something she can’t take back.

Regardless of their family situation, I think a lot of queer readers can relate to the worry that those they care about won’t see them the same way after coming out. Coming out is a serious decision, especially if you’re not sure how your loved ones will react. Most of the time, relationships do change—for better or for worse. Alex’s story is one many LGBTQ teens experience when others reacts not as they hoped but as they expected. If a reader out there lives in a similarly homophobic community, this could help them feel heard and understood.

Quote: “I feel the anger deep inside of me as I begin to understand the notion—the idea of being proud of who you are in a world that tells you to be ashamed; brave enough to be seen when people wish you were invisible.”

Recommended: Yeah, this was a good, heavy novel. I will say that it includes a lot of LGBTQ YA stereotypes, including a specific stereotype I’m not always fond of (spoiler alert: “bury your gays”). It isn’t necessarily groundbreaking but still very heartfelt. If you’re triggered by homophobic slurs or verbal abuse, though, tread carefully with this one.

Next: Release by Patrick Ness