Yes, I know this is a bit late, but I’ve been busy. (Have you subscribed to my knew podcast yet?? We recorded one on queer book recommendations that will be out soon-ish!) I didn’t read as much as I wanted to (see: my ambitious TBR) during Pride, but I read some pretty fantastic books! These aren’t going to be full reviews, because they each deserve something more in depth I just don’t have time to give them right now…but you should pick these up.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
This is an #ownvoices story about a non-binary teen whose parents kick them out and they start a new stage of life living with their sister, laying low at a new school, going to therapy, and meeting a rather cute boy. I loved the mental health representation and the discussions about gender and sexuality are some of the most nuanced and current I’ve seen in YA—you can tell it was written by someone in the community. Also, the dialogue is fantastic! As tough as it could be at times, there were still many funny, hopeful, and sweet moments.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
This was the perfect read for preparing for Season 2 of Pose. (If you aren’t watching Pose…get on that. Season 1 is on Netflix.) Set during 1989-1990 in New York City and following three alternating POVs , the story tackles sexuality, class, and race and has a lot to say about queer history and queer culture. There’s Reza, an Iranian newly upper-class boy (his mother remarried) who knows he’s gay but has no model of Iranian gays and is afraid of AIDS; Art, an upper-class rebel who is fiercely, openly gay and involved in ACT UP; and Judy, aspiring fashion designer, middle-class with social climbing parents, straight, who Art’s best friend, with a dear uncle who has AIDS. It’s beautiful.
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake
This is totally a cheesy pun but…am I Sunny’s transplant donor? Because this book STOLE MY HEART. That aside…you know I love Ashley Herring Blake: I loved Ivy Aberdeen‘s Letter to the World (her first middle grade) last year and her YA Girl Made of Stars in May. Sunny has such an honest and perfect 12-year-old voice, determined to pursue what she wants but also afraid of admitting, because of a bad experience, she thinks about kissing girls as well as boys. She’s also got a difficult relationship with her guardian and her recovering alcoholic mother who is now sober enough to come back into her life. And a new girl she meets changes everything. I’ll admit one of the reasons this book stood out to me compared to some other queer girl middle grades (including IVY) is a spoiler and the journey there sent me on an emotional roller coaster you deserve to experience for yourself. But suffice to say this book is so, so important.
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston
I think this book gets called “fluffy” and “cute” a lot, and I don’t read enough New Adult or Romance to tell you how it fits into those categories. But saying that does this book a disservice, because a lot of the plot does revolve around political intrigue and also contains some really tough outing situations. I thought this was all handled well, but be aware when you read. Anyway, yes, this was a great romance between the first son of the U.S. and the Prince of Wales with great secondary characters, character development, and LOTS of funny dialogue and realistic texting. I also really appreciated how Alex, the biracial and bisexual first son, points out how he’s a product of Texas and proud of it, and if we just take the elitist coastal view of giving up on these areas, we put many marginalized people at a disadvantage. It’s one of the reasons I want to stay and teach in Indiana.
Bonus: Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
So I admit I actually finished this book in July, but I was attempting to read this book in the background of the reads above. (Spoiler: It didn’t work.) I don’t think I’ve properly talked about Discworld here or much at all, but let’s just say it’s a loosely connected series (really made up of smaller series following different characters) set in the same world (that is, indeed, a disc on the back of a turtle on top of elephants I think?) that Terry Pratchett used as a vehicle for satire and social commentary about the present, famous fictional worlds, and more. Feet of Clay is the fourth book I’ve read in the series and the third in the City Watch series, following the reformation and integration among various species in the police of the city of Ankh-Morpork. The reason this was on my pride list is because one of my friends who adores Discworld was rereading it and really connected to the trans dwarf in it, so of course I had to pick it up. Yes, there is a trans dwarf, and while it’s certainly fantasy, it balances the satire well with pointing out how assigned gender is different from sex (all dwarves are gendered male, but of course they still reproduce). It’s always difficult to describe the twisty plot of a Discworld book, even if it’s fundamentally a mystery, but: (dwarf) bread was a murder weapon, the Patrician of the city was almost assassinated, and meanwhile there’s a golem rules by words who gets a taste of freedom.