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1. Guest Post: Amy Rose Capetta on Something Good Happened in 2016: Where Does LGBTQ YA Go From Here?

By Amy Rose Capetta
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Amy Rose Capetta writing
While the goal of this blog series is to celebrate LGBTQ YA, there’s so much more room for growth.

It might seem like LGBTQ YA books are hitting new heights, when in reality they’re only beginning to find their audience.

In the words of Alex London, author of Proxy (Speak, 2015):

"The challenge remains getting books with overtly queer themes and characters in front of all sorts of readers. I've been lucky to have had my first YA included on many state reading lists, which brings it into schools and I've been lucky with some of my middle grade books to have the support of Scholastic Book Fairs--another route into the schools.
"But for kids without active librarians who seek out and promote LGBTQ books, those books might never find their way into the reading life of young people, straight or queer.
"You can't read a book you've never seen or heard of, so exposure and access remain the greatest challenges...as for all books, really.
"We've a long way yet to go, but it's a positive development that queer books are finally competing in the same marketplace as books without queer elements."

I asked Dahlia Adler, the founder of LGBTQ Reads, about the gap that seems to exist between LGBTQ books and readers.

"I think it's really, really important that people who have access to those readers - parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians - make it their business to have even just a bare bones rec list of LGBTQ YA handy.
"I've seen some people make amazing resources for that, like bookmarks with recommendations printed right on them that can easily be distributed, and that's a huge help. Things like that, that help get the word out, are gonna be hugely important.

"It's also tricky because you have this real divide in LGBTQ YA marketing - some of it is glaringly queer, and sometimes the queerness is completely hidden.
"And the fact is, we need both. If I could give every LGBTQ YA two different covers and blurbs, I totally would. Because it's important for there to be books that are easily identifiable both so kids can find them or, if they can't take any books home, to at least see themselves in the covers and blurbs.
"But there are also kids who really want to read these books but can't safely buy or borrow them if they're obviously queer. And that's a very, very tricky thing."

When I asked Vee Signorelli of The Gay YA the same question, they said:

"There are so many teens desperately seeking representation, and yet somehow, the connection never gets made that those books are out there…

"I think maybe one reason there's so much disconnect is that, even though there are all these amazing #ownvoices books being penned, the ones that still reach peak heights of attention are almost all written by straight, cis authors…
"So I guess I'd love to see those big name authors of LGBTQIA+ YA have a thorough knowledge of other books and use their platforms to promote them.

"One of the major angles missing right now is TUMBLR. Tumblr is where the teens are that are desperately seeking representation, and taking it in any form they can find.
"I once ran across a post in which someone talked about how they were crossing out the pronouns of one of the characters in a book and replacing them with she/her so that it would make it about an F/F couple. And my heart just broke a little.

"I think there’s also a lot that needs to be done in libraries and schools. The library I work at has kept our LGBTQIA+ display up, and those books are flying in and out like nobody’s business."


I asked authors if they had any messages that they wish could reach readers, publishers, librarians, booksellers and/or educators who want to support LGBTQ YA. Audrey Coulthurst, who wrote Of Fire and Stars (Balzer + Bray, 2016), said:

"It’s heartening to see the growing enthusiasm for LGBTQ YA and the efforts bloggers, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and educators are making to help increase visibility…
"The thing I would love most is for event organizers to try to focus less on putting together 'diversity' panels, and more on creating inclusive panels.
"Why not include SFF LGBTQ books on a broader fantasy panel about worldbuilding? Or LGBTQ romances on sex in YA panels?
"Being inclusive of LGBTQ books allows us to have deeper conversations and showcase broader perspectives, directly furthering the movement for better representation by reaching readers who might not already be aware of the push for that.
"I’d love to see a shift from acknowledging (but compartmentalizing) marginalized groups toward complete inclusivity.

"Also, the YA community is so fantastic and full of passion, which is one of the things I love best about it. One evergreen reminder is that the best way to make sure your favorite authors continue writing is to support them with your dollar. That doesn’t always mean it has to come right out of your pocket either!
"Ways you can support authors:
Audrey Coulthurst
  • Buy their books (for yourself or as a gift). 
  • Request their books at your local library.
  • Discourage people from pirating books or selling ARCs. This makes authors sad (and penniless). 
  • Leave reviews on retail sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
  • Spread the word on social media.
  • Tell your friends about books you love."

The word absolutely needs to spread about the books that are out there.

Not all marketing budgets are created equal, and word of mouth is still one of the biggest factors in how all books, especially LGBTQ ones, reach their audiences.

That means we all have power in the publishing industry--to spread the word, to share books we love as widely as possible. In some ways, it’s a simple equation. The more LGBTQ books we buy, the more there will be.

There are also libraries to consider. Cori McCarthy and I looked for recipients for our Rainbow Boxes (a charitable initiative, connecting LGBTQIA fiction with readers across the U.S.), we chose many small community libraries because we knew that in many cases limited budgets meant they could only afford a handful of titles, the most visible and bestselling YA--which often leaves out #ownvoices LGBTQ books.

In other cases, organizations that raised money for library spending budgets wouldn’t allow the money to be spent on LGBTQ books.

If you don’t see LGBTQ books at your local library, talk to your librarian. Consider requesting titles or even donating books to the collection.

Talking to Becky Albertalli, author of Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Balzer + Bray, 2015), she pointed out some other factors at work:

"The most exciting part about writing and publishing LGBTQ YA has been, hands down, hearing from readers. I get the most beautiful emails from teens (and adults!) at different stages of the coming out process, and I feel so privileged to be a part of that moment.
"Interestingly, I haven't encountered as many challenges as I anticipated. The one recurring frustration has been with a small subset of middle school librarians who feel that Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is inappropriate for their students.
"I 100% understand this judgment call, if they're concerned about cursing and adult language, but these libraries often feature comparable heterosexual titles. It's deeply upsetting that Simon's (very innocent!) love story is seen as less appropriate for middle school than hetero love stories with equal or more sexual content.

"I think the most important message I'd like to share is for librarians. I've been seeing really wonderful LGBTQ YA collections in so many library systems, but I'm not sure there's enough discussion around the importance of including electronic copies in public library collections.
"Having physical copies of LGBTQ YA on library and bookstore shelves is incredibly important as well, and it sends a powerful message to teens encountering these collections - but digital copies are often safer and more practical for LGBTQ teens, particularly in certain regions of the country."

Malinda Lo, author of Ash (Little, Brown, 2009) and Huntress (Little Brown, 2011), points out that when it comes to YA books that do include sexual content, there are even more barriers:

Guest Post: E.M. Kokie on Radical
"I'm excited that the publishing industry is now more willing to publish these stories, but I also know that the struggle is not over. There are still limitations to the experiences that publishers are supportive of portraying in YA books.
"For example, straightforward representations of sexuality remain taboo for many, which is why I'm also very excited by E.M. Kokie's fall novel, Radical (Candlewick, 2016), which delivers one of the most realistic sex scenes involving two girls I've ever read in YA.
"Teens and sexuality push a lot of buttons in adult gatekeepers, and that's one barrier that is still pretty high for representations of queer teens.
"However, now that so many more people in the industry are talking about representation, and with so many more authors writing these stories, I hope that it's only a matter of time before barriers like this are also overturned."

While some areas of representation are flourishing, others are still barely included in YA. There are a very small number of books about intersex characters and characters on the asexuality spectrum.

There are also strikingly few characters with nonbinary gender identities.

When I asked Bill Konigsberg, author of The Porcupine of Truth (Arthur A. Levine, 2015), what he’s excited about in LGBTQ YA, and what he wants to see more of, he said:

"I went on a road trip last fall to talk to LGBTQ youth across the south and Midwest about suicide and depression. It was an amazing, exhausting trip, and in the end I think I learned more than I taught.
"One thing that was especially valuable to me as a writer and as a human being was to learn about how pervasive gender fluidity is for this youngest generation. I don't think I really understood when I set out on my journey the entire spectrum of the transgender experience, and I got educated!
"I think it's extremely clear that what we are beginning to see on the shelves are books with gender-fluid characters, and that this needs to continue to grow as an area.
"I have a feeling that this young generation is going to change the world with its exploration of gender."

When I asked Marieke Nijkamp, author of This is Where it Ends (Sourcebooks, 2016), the same question, she said:

"I want to see more queer characters of color, disabled queer characters, reliqueer characters.
"I want more ace/aro rep. I want questioning characters. I want explicit rep of all orientations.
"I want to see the entire gender spectrum reflected in YA and I want to see those intersections too. (And all across genres, too!)

"I love seeing how our stories branch out. I love seeing increasingly more support and excitement for queer YA. I think we're making massive steps right now. But I'm a very hungry caterpillar. I want more." 

More seems to be one of the most important words to take from this conversation. We need more books, more representation, more people supporting inclusive fiction in more ways, both old and new.

Before the series ends, I want to share Vee Signorelli ’s story of how they started The Gay YA.

It shows how far LGBTQ YA has come in five years--and how amazingly important these stories really are.

"In May of 2011, Jessica Verday put up a post explaining why she’d pulled out of the Wicked Pretty Things anthology: one of the editors said they would not include her piece unless she changed her m/m pairing to an m/f one.
"Book Twitter exploded with criticism of the straight-washing, and support for LGBTQIA+ characters. A #YesGayYA hashtag was formed, and other authors began sharing similar experiences of straight-washing.
"It became very apparent that there was a huge problem going on behind the scenes in publishing.
"It wasn’t necessarily straight up homophobia fueling it-- it was more the (faulty) belief that it wouldn’t sell.
"My older sister and I both saw the same thing: tons of people calling out for representation, with no way to reach the ears of publishing, and no plans to build any sort of coalition to keep the energy going.
"We were only sixteen and twelve at the time, but it wasn’t even really a question in our minds: we knew how to do websites, and we knew social media.

"We both identified as straight at the time (ha ha), and we really knew nothing about the LGBTQ community. But, we had the time and the passion and the knowledge of websites to be able to do it. Then, due to life and health issues, we had to drop off for awhile. My sister started college, and it sort of looked like it would never get started back up again.

"And then I turned fifteen and entered into what I affectionately refer to as “the year of hell.” (TW for suicidal ideation) I was suicidal, and full of self hatred, and I didn't know why. And then I realized I was queer and trans.
"I went through a lot of therapy, and that was really what stopped me from killing myself.
"But the thing that actually made me start wanting to live, the thing that made me think I might have a possible future ahead of me, was queer and trans fiction. Primarily, Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Disney-Hyperion, 2014), Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff (Carolrhoda, 2011), and The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan (Knopf, 2004).
"Those books meant so much to me. But, I knew from spending half of my life on tumblr that year, that most teens desperately seeking representation did not know about these kinds of books were out there.
"In a way, these books saved my life. I knew they could save other lives as well."

Vee chose to restart The Gay YA, and it’s become one of the most important sources online for LGBTQ fiction and community. Please take a look at the work being done there, as well as at LGBTQ Reads, Diversity in YA and Lee Wind's blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Amy Rose signs Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017) contract
As a queer person, I know that the years ahead are going to be difficult. I have sat with this reality every day, and one of the few things that offer me hope right now are stories.

We will need YA books more than ever, as a source of catharsis and beauty, of comfort and resistance. This moment is more than just a trend in publishing--it’s a rare and necessary chance for LGBTQ people to share their truth with each other, and the rest of the world.

If you believe that these books are important, that LGBTQ young people are important, please do what you can to support these stories. And if you already do--thank you, thank you, thank you.

And keep watching for the next step from Rainbow Boxes! We’ll announce a new way that you can help spread the love for LGBTQ fiction in early 2017.

Cynsational Notes

Amy Rose Capetta is the author of three YA novels: Entangled and Unmade, a space duet (out now from HMH), and Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017), a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway.

She is on the writing team for the second season of Remade, a YA sci-fi thriller from SerialBox, and works with writers on their novels through Yellow Bird Editors (with a special interest in genre fiction and LGBTQ fiction of all kinds!)

She is the co-founder of Rainbow Boxes (@rainbowboxesya), and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Amy Rose lives and writes in Michigan with her girlfriend Cori McCarthy, who is also a YA author, and their five-year-old, who wants to be a wizard.

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2. Free Samples of the 2016 Newbery Medal & Newbery Honor Winners

Market Street (GalleyCat)The American Library Association has announced that Last Stop on Market Street author Matt de la Peña is the winner of the prestigious John Newbery Medal. Throughout his career, de la Peña has written 6 young adult novels, 2 middle grade novels, and 2 picture books.

Last Stop on Market Street features illustrations created by Christian Robinson. Robinson earned a Caldecott Honor for this picture book.

We’ve linked to free samples of the Newbery Medal-winning title and the Newbery Honor books below. In addition to the newest winner of the Newbery Medal, the organization has also revealed that Finding Winnie illustrator Sophie Blackall has won the Randolph Caldecott Medal, Bone Gap author Laura Ruby has won the Michael L. Printz Award, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda author Becky Albertalli has won the William C. Morris Award, and Boy Meets Boy author David Levithan has won the Margaret A. Edwards Award. Follow this link to access free samples from last year’s pool of Youth Media Award winners.

Free Samples of the ALA Youth Media Award Recognized Books

Newbery Medal Winner

Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Newbery Honor Winners

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Roller Girl written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

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3. AUSTIN CALLING: TLA 2015

We’re soon to touch down in one of our absolute favorite literary states for the Texas Library Association Conference in Austin! If there’s anything better than talking books, hanging out with authors and librarians, and enjoying sunshine and Shiners, then we don’t want to know about it.

If you’ll be in the Lone Star State, too, please swing by our booth, #1341, for galleys, giveaways, and face time with the HarperCollins Children’s Books School & Library team. We can’t wait to chat and put books in your hands.

But if you’re reading this thinking, “sure, you guys are nice, but we’re here to meet the AUTHORS, silly!” check out our top-notch signing schedule, here:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15TH:
11:00am–12:00pm, Joy Preble, Aisle 7, Finding Paris
11:00am–12:00pm, Melissa Marr, Aisle 8, Made For You
12:00–1:00pm, Kiera Cass, Aisle 8, The Selection Series
1:00–2:00pm, Thanhha Lai, Aisle 8, Listen, Slowly
2:00–3:00pm, Dan Gutman, Aisle 8, Genius Files #5: License to Thrill
4:00–5:00pm, Lauren Oliver, Aisle 8, Vanishing Girls

THURSDAY, APRIL 16TH:
10:00–11:00am, Sherry Thomas, Aisle 3, The Elemental Trilogy
11:30am–12:30pm, Neal & Brendan Shusterman, Aisle 1, Challenger Deep
2:00–3:00pm, Gordon Korman, Aisle 1, Masterminds
2:00–3:00pm, Julie Murphy, Aisle 2, Dumplin’ galleys
3:00–4:00pm, Becky Albertalli, Aisle 1, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

You don’t want to miss our coupon in the aisle by aisle guide, either! It points you to our booth for a free copy of BONE GAP, by Laura Ruby (*while supplies last), and a chance to enter to win a piece of framed original art by Jef Czekaj, from his upcoming picture book, AUSTIN, LOST IN AMERICA.

We can’t wait to see y’all!

 

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4. Longlist Revealed for 2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

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5. 9 Excellent Jewish Kids Books for Hanukkah Gifts and Beyond

This list of “9 Excellent Jewish Kids Books for Hanukkah Gifts and Beyond” was curated by Bianca Schulze.

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6. Review: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Balzer + Bray an imprint of HarperCollins 2015. Review copy from publisher. YALSA Morris Award Finalist.



The Plot: Simon, sixteen, is being blackmailed by Martin. See, Simon didn't totally log out of his email account on a school computer so when Martin sat down he saw them. And read them. And made copies.

So, Martin is threatening to tell everyone that Simon is gay. Simon hasn't even told his closest friends. The only person who knows is the person on the other end of Martin's email conversations, someone named Blue. Who Simon knows better than anyone else -- the only thing Simon doesn't know about Blue is what his real name is.

The Good: This is one of those books where I started off not liking Simon that much. No, really. About page thirty I put this down and eye-rolled because I found him just too self absorbed and immature and annoying.

And then I picked it up again, because I'd committed myself to YALSA's Morris challenge to read all the finalists before Midwinter, and something clicked. And instead of having no patience with Simon I instead began laughing with him, and seeing his insecurities, and loving his loyalty, and shaking my head in sympathy at his self-absorption.

Simon is about Simon, of course -- he's the one telling the story, and it's his emails with Blue that are shared. It's not just being blackmailed by Martin - oh, by the way, Martin's purpose of the blackmail? Martin likes Abby, and Simon is friends with Abby, so Martin wants Simon to help things along with Abby. Except that Simon doesn't like being blackmailed by Martin, and Abby is a good friend, and he thinks Abby likes Nick. Nick has been Simon's friend since forever, along with Leah, and Leah and Abby do not get along.

And then there is Blue, and all Simon knows is that Blue goes to his school, but other than that no details to know who Blue is. Blue, like Simon, is gay; and Blue, like Simon, hasn't told anyone. Not yet. As Simon says early on, "maybe it would be different if we lived in New York, but I don't know how to be gay in Georgia. We're right outside Atlanta, so I know it could be worse. But Shady Creek isn't exactly a progressive paradise."

Later, Simon thinks about coming out and how it's this big thing and how he doesn't want to say anything, at least not yet, not because he is afraid or worried about how his family and friends will react, but because it's a thing. "Don't you think everyone should come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever."

Of course, Simon is trying to figure out who Blue really is. And thinking about the cute boys at his school. And dealing with his friends' drama (Nick and Leah and Abby). And then there are his parents, which at first I worried about because of the gay jokes his Dad makes, but what is wonderful about Simon is it shows that all his dad is doing is making dumb Dad jokes and while it bothers Simon it small-b bothers him, not big-B bothers him. His family is supportive and close, and at times too close and overbearing, but at all times loving. It's a great book family.

I'm glad I didn't let my initial irritation with Simon turn this into a do-not-finish; I'm glad that I gave the whole book, and the whole Simon, a chance. Because both Simon and Simon are terrific, and thanks to the Morris committee for selecting this title and the YALSA Hub challenge for making me read it.

Oh, and my favorite scene is the one where Simon gets drunk. That's all I'm saying, but it's so cute and delightful and funny.






Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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7. 2015 Books I Am Highly Looking Forwards To

Hey. I have no excuses any more. I just haven’t updated the blog in a month because of the books I’ve been finishing, I haven’t felt  excited enough about a book to post about it. This should be changing soon though, if you don’t mind my attempts to review non fiction!
Despite this, I was lucky enough for Megan (The Book Addicted Girl) to name me in a list on the Guardian Teen Books site of some of the best book bloggers! Many other brilliant people were named, so go check it out and add to your blogroll!

Anyway, as a result of my year-and-a-bit half-blogging period, I’ve been quite out of the loop with upcoming releases. So I went on Goodreads to find 2015 releases and...there’s many many awesome ones! I was going to release this on New Years Day, but I was excited about finishing a decent post and so you get it right now. Here are some of the favourites for 2015 that I found in the last half hour.




The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (January) 
What: Two boys. Two secrets.David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.  On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.  When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…
Why: You know I try and keep up with all the lgbtq fiction being published (and mostly fail, but hey). But lots of people whose taste in books I like have said it’s really good, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it too.

  Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton (February)
What: Megan doesn't speak. She hasn't spoken in months.
Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan's head - things that are screaming to be heard - that she cannot, must not, let out.
Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can't quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter.
Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?
What: Does this not look adorable? And also maybe emotional?  I want to know Megan’s secrets!

Prudence by Gail Carriger (March)
What: When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Crumpet and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?
Why: I absolutely love the Parasol Protectorate series, and Prudence, as a child, was pure comedy gold and wonderful to read about. I’m  sure her grownup adventures will be similar!

Under My Skin by James Dawson (March)
What: Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.
But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’
Why: James Dawson is a generally brilliant author, and this looks like it’ll be another great read. Because tattoos and pinup girls and possibly horror and most likely humour in places. Also, the cover and pink page spray is gorgeous.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (April)
What: A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self
Why: The title was what caught my attention. Then finding out that it’s a contemporary about an intersex teen made me want to read it.

The Honours by Tim Clare (April)
What:TRUE HONOUR IS ENDLESS. JOIN US.  1935. Norfolk. War is looming in Great Britain and the sprawling country estate of Alderberen Hall is shadowed by suspicion and paranoia. Thirteen-year-old Delphine Venner is determined to uncover the secrets of the Hall's elite society, which has taken in her gullible mother and unstable father. As she explores the house and discovers the secret network of hidden passages that thread through the estate, Delphine uncovers a world more dark and threatening than she ever imagined. With the help of head gamekeeper Mr Garforth, Delphine must learn the bloody lessons of war and find the soldier within herself in time to battle the deadly forces amassing in the woods . . .
The Honours is a dark, glittering and dangerously unputdownable novel which invites you to enter a thrilling and fantastical world unlike any other.
Why: After seeing his Be Kind to Yourself and Grave Invaders in Edinburgh, I have decided that Tim Clare is a wonderful poet and I’d be very interested in seeing whatever prose he put out. The fact that it’s historical and fantasy and mystery is a bonus.

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (April)
What: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Why: Another lgbtq piece, which looks like it’ll be cute and funny and those who have already read it seem to love it.

What: Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson,Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.
Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.
Why: I haven’t read many books dealing mostly with mental health an it’s a topic I’d like to be more informed about.

The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke (May)
What: A taut psychological thriller...about a girl whose young sister was abducted and returns to the family as a teenager.
Why: Cat Clarke is one another one of those authors I will read anything by. Taut psychological thriller? Heck yes.

Scarlett Undercover by JenniferLatham (May)
 What: Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks -- and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father's murder.
Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.
Why: Genies and curses and diversity.  Need I say more?
Remix by Non Pratt (June)
What: I don’t know.
Why: Trouble was brilliant and I just want to read more of what Non writes.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan (October)
What: Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he's tracked down by an uncle he's never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. His uncle tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .
Why: Percy Jackson is, I think, the second major series I ever got in to- I was in middle school when I read Lightning Thief and discovered it was pure perfection. Despite having gotten majorly behind with the many series,  the fact there’s a new one still makes me excited. Plus, non classical gods! 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (October)
What: Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.
Why: Fangirl was adorable (review to come) and I loved the insight into fandom and dedication that I see from so many people on the internet and the complete Harry Potter parody that translated so well but had a  spin so Rainbow made it  her own. And the excerpts throughout Fangirl were very goo, so to see the whole the fic Cathy that was writing thoughout Fangirl will be very exciting.

Masquerade by Laura Lam (maybe)
What: Book 3 of the Micah Gray series.
Why: I love that series so much. It may or may not be released next year, but if it is, it makes this list (if not, it makes the list of books I want released one day).


These discoveries have made me want to try and keep up with books in the coming year.  And I’m sure I missed many things...   What are you excited about? Tell me in the comments! And I hope everyone has a brilliant 2015! 

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8. WINTER 2015 NEW VOICES SNEAK PEEK

Happy 2015 to you! To start the year off right, we’d like to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2015. These debut novels entertained us, enriched us, intrigued us, and made us so excited to witness the beginnings of these authors’ sure-to-be-stellar writing careers.

Click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and make sure to keep an eye on these fantastic authors. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Blackbird Fly

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, follows twelve-year-old Apple Yengko as she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams. Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to America from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” But it becomes unbearable in eighth grade, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Read the first chapter here!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly

THE KEEPERS: THE BOX AND THE DRAGONFLY, by Ted Sanders, is the first in a four-book middle-grade fantasy series about Horace F. Andrews, a quiet boy who discovers he possesses a power that can change worlds. When a sign leads Horace underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects, he unfortunately finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it? From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his new-found abilities to his encounters with Chloe—a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own—Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Read the first chapter here!

No Parking at the End Times

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, by Bryan Bliss, is a thoughtful and moving story about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love. Abigail’s parents never should have made that first donation to that end-of-times preacher. Or the next, or the next. They shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there for the “end of the world.” Because now they’re living in their van. And Aaron is full of anger, disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But is that too big a task for one teenage girl? Read the first chapter here!

Red Queen

RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard, is a sweeping fantasy about seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose latent magical powers draw her into the dangerous world of the elite ruling class. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with Red blood serve the Silver elite, whose silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the King, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the King forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to use her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal. Read the first chapter here!

Little Peach

LITTLE PEACH, by Peggy Kern, is the gritty and riveting story of a runaway who comes to New York City and is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp. When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: She is alone and out of options. Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution. It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive. Read the first chapter here.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli, is an incredibly funny and poignant twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming-out story—wrapped in a geek romance. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. Read the first chapter here!

Check back here for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

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9. Book Review- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Title:  Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author:   Becky Albertalli
Series:   N/A
Published:   7 April 2015 by Penguin
Length:  320 pages
Source: netgalley
Summary :  Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Review: ​Simon has been emailing Blue for some time. And he may be falling in love with him. When the emails are discovered by Martin, he is blackmailed into trying to set Martin up with Abby or risk being outed. 

I've had this on my radar a while because cute funny stories with queer characters are definitely right up my street.  

I love Simon to pieces. I totally understand where he comes from, with his love of grammar and his ensembling in plays, and his sweet personality.  The rest of the characters are just as good. ​ Abby, Leah, and Nick were great friends, Cal was  adorable too, and everyone spoke like they should and everyone was real.

I liked the constant mystery of who Blue was, and when we find out, it wasn't who I expected but the scenes afterwards are perfect.

The tone of writing is perfect. There’s many relatable experiences to do with many aspects of teenage life, and it’s done with a mix of thought provoking things and also humour and also seriousness when needed.

It's hugely quotable.  I could probably make a tumblr with all the brilliant quotes from this novel.  I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to quote without breaking copyright law, so I’m just going to say “read it” and give special mentions to  the conversation with Blue from which the title comes from and the bit   and "White shouldn't be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn't even be a default."

Only thing that I did not understand: the homecoming scene a quarter of the way through which left me really confused. Luckily, Becky told me what it is (where school alumni come back to play a football game) and my confusion led to amazement that Americans really do take school sports seriously enough to have a parade for these things (I thought homecoming was an excuse for a dance and everything else about it was a myth). This isn’t a major thing in the novel, but it got me for a long time.

This review doesn’t the book justice, because I can’t put into words how brilliant it is.  It’s not even one specific thing-just  the general atmosphere and the way everything develops just infuses you with happiness. It’s definitely something to reread on a bad day.


Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a heart-warming coming of age and coming out story that is best described as a warm, giant hug in book form. 


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10. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Review + Guest Post

When you take the chance on doing a cover reveal for a book you haven’t read yet, it’s a leap of faith: not only that the artwork is going to be eye-catching, but that the book is going to be awesome. When we hosted the cover reveal for Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year, I had a good feeling about the synopsis, but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy the book! It’s a funny, sweet story about a boy who falls in love with the stranger who’s writing him letters–a stranger who seems to know Simon’s heart better than he does himself. I liked that in this coming out/coming of age story, Simon is sure of his own sexuality, even though he’s painfully vulnerable because he’s not sure how everyone around him will react to his being gay. The book features... Read more »

The post Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Review + Guest Post appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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