Works in Progress
Get the backstory and playlists for each project.
Every month the TBR pile grows and grows! November releases included five intriguing new YA books that shouldn’t be missed.
This is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow
Music, fractured friendships and trying to figure out the next step after high school? Sounds like perfect YA.
Summary from HarperTeen: It used to be the three of them, Dia, Jules, and Hanna, messing around and making music and planning for the future. But that was then, and this is now. And now means a baby, a failed relationship, a stint in rehab, all kinds of off beats that have interrupted the rhythm of their friendship.
But like the lyrics of a song you used to play on repeat, there’s no forgetting a best friend. And for Dia, Jules, and Hanna, this impossible challenge—to ignore the past, in order to jump start the future—will only become possible if they finally make peace with the girls they once were, and the girls they are finally letting themselves be.
Check out Rebecca Barrow’s website.
Pulp by Robin Talley
Two queer teens, sixty years apart, connected by the power of storytelling. Yes! For extra fun, author Robin Talley has hidden lesbian pulp fiction Easter eggs throughout the book. Grab your basket and let’s go!
Summary from Harlequin Teen (HarperCollins): In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.
Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.
Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi
Anyone who can write and publish a book while still in college is astounding. I’m doubly impressed that this debut novel is a new take on Greek mythology featuring Artemis and her huntresses. Well done!
Summary from North Star Editions: The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.
As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’s second rule. She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.
Learn more about debut author Elizabeth Tammi at her website.
The Resolutions by Mia Garcia
This book sounds so fun. And potentially shattering! Four Latinx teens make New Year’s resolutions for one another. Cannot wait!
Summary from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins): Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable. But now with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.
Reinstating their tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them to one another—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, find your calling outside your mom’s Puerto Rican restaurant, finally learn Spanish, and say yes to everything.
But as the year unfolds, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heartbreaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.
Visit Mia’s website.
Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack
Are we ready for a satirical novel that takes on the electoral process and the popular vote in high school? Um, yep!
Summary from HarperTeen:
Stacey Wynn was the clear front-runner for Lincoln High student council president. Until French-Canadian transfer student Julia Romero entered the race…and put the moves on Stacey’s best friend/campaign adviser, Brian.
Stacey also didn’t count on Tony Guo, resident stoner, whose sole focus is on removing the school’s ban of his favorite chocolate milk, becoming the voice of the little guy, thanks to a freshman political “mastermind” with a blue Mohawk.
Three candidates, three platforms, and a whirlwind of social media, gaffes, high school drama, and protests make for a ridiculously hilarious political circus that just may hold some poignant truth somewhere in the mix.
Visit Gordon Jack’s website.
Two More November Titles of Note
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao
This sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm.
Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to attend David Levithan's book signing at the Tattered Cover. David's latest book, Someday, is the sequel to Every Day, a wonderful story about A, a soul who changes bodies every day.
David is one of my favorite writers and also an aspirational figure in the world of children’s publishing. Not only is he the prolific author of many of my favorite books, he’s also an editor at Scholastic Press and the head of his own imprint. I mean, wow!
During the event, David read a scene from the book that highlighted A's depth of character. A is not your ordinary YA book hero. They're something spectacular. I cannot wait to dive into Someday!
In addition to the reading, David had a wide-ranging conversation with Kristen Gilligan, owner of TC. There were a lot of great takeaways. My favorite: David spends about 2/3 of the total time it takes to write a book on the first few chapters, as he gets to know the characters and the story.
This is reminiscent of what Laini Taylor said about her writing process at a workshop I attended last year. She might rewrite the opening act up to 60+ times in order to figure out the right way into her story.
I love hearing about authors' processes. This gives me encouragement because sometimes it feels like my YA novel in progress is trying to kill me.
One more cool thing about David, he’s a true ambassador for children’s literature. Throughout the hour long discussion, he continuously championed and recommended other books and authors.
A few of those books: Odd One Out by Nic Stone, one of my October book picks; I Felt a Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton, a book David edited and that I lost my mind over back in August (also mentioned on this blog); and a graphic novel, Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.
Overall the event made me so grateful to be on this incredible writer’s journey. And for authors like David whose books changed my life. Write on!
October is so rich in YA book releases it’s almost otherworldly. The month kicks off with Swing, described by author Kwame Alexander as his most important book yet. David Levithan is back with a sequel to one of my all-time favorites, Every Day. And we finally get to step into the Silvertalli universe with What If It’s Us. Many late nights are in my future!
Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
If you’ve spent any time with me, you know Kwame is one of my favorite writers. His powerful storytelling, on the page and at events, is remarkable and inspiring. Not to mention, he’s prolific, with new books hitting the shelves on the regular. Swing, like Solo, also co-written with Mary Rand Hess, will no doubt showcase both writers’ incredible talent with free verse. I cannot wait.
Summary from Blink (Harper Collins): Things usually do not go as planned for 17-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since fifth grade, Sam, will never take it past the best friend zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has got big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool. October 2
Someday by David Levithan
Another prolific and beloved author drops his second YA book this year. As in, two books in 2018! David Levithan is a magician. Someday is the sequel to Every Day, which features my favorite main character of all time—A. A is a soul who wakes up in a different body each and every day. And because David is amazing, the bodies he drops A into are the full range of the human experience, with varying skin color, gender and sexual orientation. David gives me, and every other YA writer, something to aspire toward.
Summary from Knopf: For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person’s body every day, forced to live as that person until the day ended. A always thought there wasn’t anyone else who had a life like this.
But A was wrong. There are others.
A has already been wrestling with powerful feelings of love and loneliness. Now comes an understanding of the extremes that love and loneliness can lead to — and what it’s like to discover that you are not alone in the world.
In Someday, David Levithan takes readers further into the lives of A, Rhiannon, Nathan, and the person they may think they know as Reverend Poole, exploring more deeply the questions at the core of Every Day and Another Day: What is a soul? And what makes us human? October 2
Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
Neal Shusterman is a living legend. Dry, written with son Jarrod Shusterman, promises to be another masterfully crafted page turner. Even if the premise sounds more like reality than any of us would like.
Summary from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: The California drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.
Until the taps run dry.
Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive. October 2
History vs Women: The Defiant Lives That They Don’ Want You to Know by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams, Illustrated by T.S. Abe
In the coming years, we will continue to see underrepresented historical figures brought to life, including women. I’m excited! Let’s rewrite our history, starting with the truth. In History vs Women, the non-fiction text is accompanied by full-color illustrations of each remarkable woman who helped shape our lives today. The truth will set us free.
Summary from Feiwal & Friends (Macmillan): Rebels, rulers, scientists, artists, warriors and villains. Women are, and have always been, all these things and more.
Looking through the ages and across the globe, Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, along with Ebony Adams PHD, have reclaimed the stories of twenty-five remarkable women who dared to defy history and change the world around them. From Mongolian wrestlers to Chinese pirates, Native American ballerinas to Egyptian scientists, Japanese novelists to British Prime Ministers, History vs Women will reframe the history that you thought you knew. October 2
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Becky and Adam are two of YA’s most exciting authors. They both deliver stories with heart, but in very different ways. Becky’s books are warm and fuzzy, with lovely endings. Adam, on the contrary, writes the never-ending gut punch. The Silvertalli universe should be an interesting mix of the two. My feels probably can’t handle it.
Summary from Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins): Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?
But what if it is?
What if it’s us? October 9
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Last year’s Dear Martin was a fantastic addition to the canon of children’s literature. Now author Nic Stone is back with what promises to be an outstanding sophomore book. Told in three voices, this coming of age novel explores friendships, crushes and figuring it all out, which is always so easy to do.
Summary from Crown Books for Young Readers:
Courtney "Coop" Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn't mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.
Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed "new girl" would be synonymous with "pariah," but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I'm right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .
Home and Away by Candice Montgomery
This book had me at hello. Confident female football player, bi boy best friend, major identity questions. Yes, yes, and yes. This debut from Candice Montgomery feels like the flying start of an exciting author career.
Summary from Page Street Publishing: Tasia Quirk is young, black, and fabulous. She's a senior, she's got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school's team.
But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them―but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin. October 16
This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender
This title though! Plus, it’s from one of the best publishing imprints around. Balzer+Bray debuted Angie Thomas, Becky Albertalli and Ibi Zoboi, and now Kheryn Callender. They are another author to watch!
Summary from Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins): Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.
Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel, but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.
After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after? October 30
More YA Books Coming in October
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee—October 2
The highly anticipated sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Felicity Montague must use her wits and wiles to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor—even if she has to scheme her way across Europe to do it.
The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke—October 2
In a nuclear arms race, you’d use anything for an edge. Even magic.
Words We Don’t Say by KJ Reilly—October 2
Joel grapples with the aftermath of a tragic loss. He tries to make sense of the problems he sees around him with the help of banned books, Winnie-the-Pooh, a field of asparagus, and many pairs of socks.
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore—October 9
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria—October 9
By the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city—or themselves.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi—October 16
First love and breakdancing told from the perspective of Shirin, a 16-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta—October 30
Teodora di Sangro is used to hiding her magical ability to transform enemies into music boxes and mirrors. Nobody knows she’s a strega—and she aims to keep it that way. The she meets Cielo—and everything changes.
Jack of Hearts and Other Parts by LC Rosen—October 30
Pretty Little Liars meets Dan Savage in this YA debut about an unapologetically queer teen working to uncover a blackmailer threatening him back into the closet.
September is a huge month for YA book lovers. Marie Lu, Tim Federle, Andrew Smith and Ibi Zoboi all have new titles. I'm adding at least 16 books to my TBR list. Here are seven of my top picks.
It’s no secret I’m a passionate fan of the Nate series. Cue the swooning and the texts to everyone I’ve ever met when I heard there would be a third Nate book. For those of you wondering what the heck a Nate book is, get thee to a bookstore immediately to purchase Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Honest, funny, theater kid geekdom.
(Okay, technically the Nate books are middle grade, but Nate's a freshman in Nate Expectations, and there was no way I was writing a post about September books without including Nate.)
Simon & Schuster’s summary: When the news hits that E.T.: The Musical wasn’t nominated for a single Tony Award—not one!—the show closes, leaving Nate both out of luck and out of a job. And while Nate’s cast mates are eager to move on (the boy he understudies already landed a role on a TV show!), Nate knows it’s back to square one, also known as Jankburg, Pennsylvania. Where horror (read: high school) awaits.
Desperate to turn his life from flop to fabulous, Nate takes on a huge freshman English project with his BFF, Libby: he’s going to make a musical out of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. (What could possibly go…right?) But when Nate’s New York crush ghosts him, and his grades start to slip, he finds the only thing harder than being on Broadway is being a freshman — especially when you’ve got a secret you’re desperate to sing out about.
In addition to the Lambda Literary Award-winning Nate series, Tim Federle penned the fantastic YA book The Great American Whatever. Federle’s also the author of a series of books for alcoholics, I mean alcohol recipe books with a literary twist, including bestsellers Tequila Mockingbird and Gone with the Gin.
If you need a daily laugh, or ten, follow Tim Federle on Twitter.
Here’s a Pride and Prejudice retelling I can totally get behind! Ibi Zoboi, a National Book Award finalist, updates the Jane Austen classic with a mash-up of first love, cultural identity, class and gentrification, all set in Brooklyn with characters of color.
I love writers who aren’t afraid to go there—to the truth, to the things that make us uncomfortable. Ibi Zoboi is one of those authors! Telling the truth and being uncomfortable will help us find our way into a new world.
Zoboi spoke eloquently at the SCBWI L.A. Conference in August as part of the Culture, Identity and Writing: Where do They Intersect? panel. “I’m on the outside looking in,” she said.
Outsider status seems to be a defining trait for writers.
She also shared the joy that came when she included spirituality in her work. This is a topic I’d love to ask her more about. Other wisdom: “Storytellers have a knack for telling other people’s stories.”
Most shocking to me was that it took her 15 years to be published. Which just puts an exclamation point on the necessity of persistence.
Here’s the summary of Pride from publisher Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins):
Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
Last year Marie Lu gave us Warcross, an AI thriller shelved as science fiction, but only if you’re not keeping up with technology. Virtual reality is already part of the fabric of our lives, and with it comes both beautiful possibilities and dark web sorcery. Every day, we are one step closer to the near future that Lu imagined.
Summary from G.P. Putnam Son’s Books for Young Reader (Penguin Random House): Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.
Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
Check out Marie Lu’s Tumblr.
I haven’t read Patrick Flores-Scott before, but American Road Trip seems like a good place to start. Described as a raw, honest YA about two Mexican-American teens on a road trip odyssey to heal their brother’s PTSD following his tour in Iraq, this book sounds intense and real. Qualities I value.
Summary from Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt/Macmillan): With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip.
Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.
Check out Patrick Flores-Scott’s website.
Adam Silvera says this about Black Wings Beating: “Epic thrills, heart-punching romance, and a marvel of a hero.” I’m a little concerned for my safety since Adam is the king of the gut punch with They Both Die at The End and History is All That You Left Me. I mean, I will never recover from History. So there must be something completely wrong with me that I cannot wait to read Black Wings Beating.
Summary from the publisher Farrar Straus and Giroux (Macmillan): The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.
Brysen strives to be a great falconer—while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.
Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he's long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother's future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.
In this first young-adult fantasy novel in a trilogy, Alex London launches a soaring saga about the memories that haunt us, the histories that hunt us, and the bonds of blood between us.
Learn more about the author at his website.
September seems to be all about new books from some of my favorite male authors because here comes Andrew Smith with Rabbit & Robot, which sounds just as bizarre as his last release, Grasshopper Jungle. Which happens to be one of my all-time favorite novels.
Let’s get right to the summary from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly wild and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.
Follow Andrew Smith’s happening on Facebook.
It’s always fun when an author gives a favorite secondary character their own series. Heilig’s done that with Jetta, a fantastic development for pansexual rep! In this new trilogy, Jetta’s surrounded by a queer cast. I couldn’t be more excited!
From publisher Greenwillow (Harper Collins): Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.
But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s, too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.
But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
Follow Heilig on Instagram.
If only there was a stop-time machine so we’d have all the time in the world for new noves! A few more amazing books debuting this month:
And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, Illustrated by Rovina Cai--September 4
Patrick Ness + fantastic illustrations + upside down tale of Moby Dick= intriguing!
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma--September 4
A ghost story set in a home for troubled girls deep in the heart of New York City.
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman--September 11
A mixed race teen struggles to find her way back to her love of music in the wake of her sister’s tragic death.
Dream Country by Shannon Gibney--September 11
Five generations of young people from a single African and American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom.
Rule by Ellen Goodlett--September 11
Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.
Kens by Raziel Reid--September 18
Heterosexuality is so last season: Kens is the gay Heathers meets Mean Girls, a shocking parody for a whole new generation.
Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton--September 18
Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?
Unstoppable Moses: A Novel by Tyler James Smith--September 25
A seventeen-year-old boy has one week in the aftermath of a disastrous prank to prove to the authorities, and to himself, that he’s not a worthless jerk who belongs in jail.
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney--September 25
A fresh take on Alice in Wonderland as urban fantasy with a black teen heroine. Yes, please!
Holy shitake mushrooms you guys, I binged this book so hard I had to force myself to read the ending on a second night. Mostly because I wanted to prolong the awesome.
Astonishing doesn’t even begin to describe I Felt A Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton. This mashup of prose and poetry is a fearless rendering of addiction and loss through the heart and mind of Avery, a queer boy who turns to dead poets, and his own writing, to explore everything he’s feeling. Brilliant.
A few of my favorite lines:
I’m living inside today’s bright edges.
I want to believe in something bigger.
But it’s been a good cat summer.
I mean…dang. This makes me want to be a better writer.
But mostly, this is just a beautiful book. That you must read. Right now.
For a recent marketing project, I researched the state book awards for children’s literature (picture books-YA). Every state has its own requirements and procedures, but the result is the same—kids choosing their favorite books.
This was a wonderful education. As I worked through the country, one state book award at a time, I became more and more excited about our future. I also found some hope I’d misplaced in recent months. Here’s why:
Librarians are the guardians of our future. We are in great hands.
I wrote this short essay one year ago (2015). It sounds so optimistic now, but I’m not deterred.
It’s statistically proven that readers are more empathetic than non-readers. Diverse books have never been more important than right now, which is why I’m not only committed to writing books with strong female and queer protagonists, but also helping other writers get their stories to a larger audience.
I spent a good chunk of my time on this planet running an award-winning PR company. I look forward to lending my knowledge to my fellow writers in the coming months and years. We have big work to do on this planet.
A Few Thoughts From 2015
I love our humanness. The sloppy truth of our wanting and how the universe rushes to meet us when we take one tentative step towards authenticity. I write about the beautiful things that occur as we play in the vast fields of the extraordinary: falling in love, making bad decisions, reaching out for connection, feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I do this through the lens of gender and sexuality because I’m curious and fascinated by the idea that the roles we hold so dear are mostly cultural constructs. We’re human first. Everything else? Details.
I betaed the beginning of the manuscript that I’m submitting with kids from GSAs around the country and received positive feedback. But the hunger for these stories doesn’t stop with queer kids. Last weekend I took the book description and opening pages to my local writer’s critique group, which included a career military guy and an 80-year-old recently widowed woman ready to explore her independence (I’ll have what she’s having). Not only did they laugh in the right places, they wanted more.
I don't share this to demonstrate my mad skills, but rather the “if you build it, they will come” phenomena. Tell a beautiful story with beautiful characters and it resonates, expands. I’ve spent years as a marketing person. I know, with every fiber in my passionate being, that as publishers and booksellers release diverse titles with the marketing exposure the books deserve, the category of queer YA, and all diverse children’s books, will expand beyond its core audience. We are building it. They will come.
This has been a week of saying NO! And while no is very necessary right now, yes feels better. Here are a few things I say yes to:
In the coming weeks, months and years, each of us will need to take guided action to ensure that love, hope and inclusion have a place in this world. I’m daunted, but not deterred.
After five days of intense emotions, I turned to my work to give me the strength for this new era.
I have a couple of new YA manuscripts in various stages of drafting. These projects feature strong female and LGBTQ protagonists, which we need now more than ever. Here are a few people and images currently inspiring me as I craft these stories of empowerment.
Many, many times it feels like the world is on its last days. Bombings, Trump, police crisis. I won’t go on. But just when I’m about over it all, I’m reminded that there are some pretty amazing things happening concurrently with the despicable. Witness: