For a lot of our younger readers, summer involves free time. At least we hope. So when better to catch up on recreational reading. Luckily, there are a wealth of queer young-adult titles waiting on the shelves at Philly’s local independent bookstores, just waiting to be discovered.
We reached out to Philly’s histroic LGBTQ bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, 345 S. 12th St., for recommendations on interesting queer YA reads. For more information, visit queerbooks.com.
Anger Is a Gift
By Mark Oshiro
This highly buzzed-about and award-winning debut from Mark Oshiro follows a boy from Oakland as he falls in love amidst the chaos of modern America.
Moss Jeffries is a devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend — an enthusiastic nerd. But sometimes he wishes he could be someone else — someone without panic attacks, whose father is still alive, who hasn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night. And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck. He and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, where the students are treated more like criminals.
When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can be a gift.
By Lisa Bunker
Critically acclaimed author, Lisa Bunker, crafts a bold, heartfelt story about a trans girl solving a cyber mystery and coming into her own.
Zenobia July is starting a new life in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, sharpening her hacking skills. Now she’s coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy, but in her new town, she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.
When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school’s website, Zenobia knows she can solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school and family and coming to grips with living as her true gender for the first time.
You Asked for Perfect
By Laura Silverman
This dramatic title is a timely novel about a teen’s struggle when academic success and happiness pull him in opposite directions.
Senior Ariel Stone has spent his life cultivating the perfect college resume: first chair violinist, dedicated volunteer, active synagogue congregant and expected valedictorian. He’s barely had time to think about a social life, until a failed calculus quiz puts his future on the line, forcing Ariel to enlist his classmate, Amir, as a tutor.
As the two spend more time together, Ariel discovers he may not like calculus, but he does like Amir. When he’s with Amir, the crushing academic pressure fades away, and a fuller and brighter world comes into focus. But college deadlines are still looming, and adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may push Ariel past his limit.
I Wish You All the Best
By Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events, looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
Red, White & Royal Blue
By Casey McQuiston
St. Martin’s Griffin
This bestseller explores what happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales.
If only that would happen in real life…
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal with an image that is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S. and British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state and other handlers devise a plan to stage a truce between the two rivals and what, at first, begins as fake grows deeper and more dangerous. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with Henry, which could derail the campaign and upend two nations, begging the question: Can love save the world after all?
In Mt. Airy, Lesbian owned and operated Blue Marble Books, 551 Carpenter Lane, has its own recommendations for interesting summer reads. Say hello to owner Sheila Allen Avelin and see Blue Marble Books at the Tran Wellness Conference if you go. For more information visit, bigbluemarblebooks.com.
By Kristin Cashore
Kathy Dawson Books
Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure.
Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. An old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt saying: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”
What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life, but every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love. She might lose her life. She might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.
Leah on the Offbeat
By Becky Abertalli
HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Girl-band drummer, Leah Burke, Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.
Leah Burke is usually on beat, but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. She’s an anomaly in her friend group — the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it, and even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends — not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note when the people she loves are fighting, especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than intended.
We Set the Dark on Fire
By Tehlor Kay Mejia
Katherine Tegen Books
This dystopian science-fiction tale is set in the Medio School for Girls, where distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in a polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children and both promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.
Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret, that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.
On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought for or give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio and a chance at forbidden love?
Dreadnought: Nemesis – Book One
By April Daniels
Danny Tozer just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Please Send Help
By Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
Bestselling authors, best friends and YouTube sensations, Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, bring their comedic talents from the screen to the page once again with their funny and poignant novel “Please Send Help,” a sequel to their popular “I Hate Everyone But You.”
The story finds best friends, Ava (who is straight) and Gen (who is bisexual) 1,000 miles apart but in the same time zone after studying at colleges on opposite sides of the country.
Ava knows what she wants and has plans to achieve her goals. Gen, not so much. While Ava has always been there for Gen and vice versa, the two have been apart for some time living their lives in the real world.
Still supporting one another with regard to relationships, questionable roommates, internships and whether or not it’s a good idea to take in a feral cat, the two of them are changing.
Will their friendship survive the distance?
“Please Send Help…” frankly discusses the issue of sexually transmitted infections through one character’s experience; an issue not typically tackled in young-adult books.
Dunn and Raskin said they hope this book will help to erase the stigma and shame associated with STIs and act as a vehicle for understanding and acceptance.
“I think the stigma affects everyone at every level,” Dunn said. “People don’t like to think that young people are thinking about sex, let alone, having sex, let alone having sex where they could get STIs.”
She said she sees a lack of proper sex education in the U.S., which can lead to high STI transmission rates and high rates of teen pregnancy. Changing the culture, she said, “starts with education and with eradicating shame,” and she and Raskin “wanted to eliminate shame for one of our young characters in the hopes that it opens the door for readers to crave that and feel seen and then publishers publish more books with this topic.”
“I don’t know if the stigma is solely with the LGBTQ audience,” Raskin said.
“I think across the board, there is very little representation of people living their lives with STIs even though that is the reality for so many people. It honestly might just be something authors don’t think to include.”
Raskin said when she and Dunn presented the idea to their editor, they were “met with instant approval.” Good, said the coauthor because that topic needs more representation and honest depiction.
“It’s a part of being alive and sexually active in the 21st century,” said Raskin, “not something to hide or feel shame over.”
For more information, visit gabyandallison.com.