The jellyfish commonly known as a Portuguese man o’ war is neither Portuguese, nor a jellyfish, nor a man, nor even a singular organism. If you can cope with those facts, you can begin to understand River McIntyre, an elite high school swimmer who’s bad at counting laps. River McIntyre has lived all their life in the shadow of Sea Planet, a now infamous ocean theme park slowly going out of business in the middle of Ohio. As Sea Planet drifts toward its final end, so does River’s high school career and, worse, their time as a competitive swimmer. Or maybe not. When River makes an impulsive dive into Ocean Planet’s shark tank, they unintentionally set off on a wrenching journey of self-discovery, from internalized homophobia and self-loathing through layers of coming out, gender confirmation surgery, and true love. And at the end of this race? Who knows. After all, counting laps has never been River’s strong suit.
I legitimately cried over the deal announcement for this book. I was a competitive swimmer for ten years, I’m trans, I’ve dealt with certain kinds of dysphoria, it was a process to grow into my identity, I’ve gotten top surgery. I’ve desperately wanted to read this book since I found out about it, since it seemed like it touch basically hit my right in the chest. Trigger warnings: internalized homophobia, transphobia, self-harm, deadnaming
When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not. August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
After reading Darling, I was ready to devour all of this author’s other books. I had The Wicker King on my shelf, so that was the one I gravitated towards. Plus, a boy experiencing hallucinations of an elaborate fantasy kingdom and his best friend trying to unravel what is real and what is not. I knew this book would cause me a lot of pain and was ready to see what this book would have in store for me.
Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways. Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger.
With a cover like that, for a book about a summer camp that turns out to be a lot more horrifying than it seems, with a secret society that requires the unthinkable, and it’s sapphic, I was very, very eager to read it. It sounded like it was good to be weird and disturbing, and I love those kinds of books. Trigger warnings: blood, insects, gore, mentions of sexual assault/harassment
School’s out, senior year is over, and Isaac Martin is ready to kick off summer. His last before heading off to college in the fall where he won’t have his best friend, Diego. Where—despite his social anxiety—he’ll be left to make friends on his own. Knowing his time with Diego is limited, Isaac enacts a foolproof plan: snatch up a pair of badges for the epic comic convention, Legends Con, and attend his first ever Teen Pride. Just him and Diego. The way it should be. But when an unexpected run-in with Davi—Isaac’s old crush—distracts him the day tickets go on sale, suddenly he’s two badges short of a perfect summer. Even worse, now he’s left making it up to Diego by hanging with him and his gamer buddies. Decidedly NOT part of the original plan. It’s not all bad, though. Some of Diego’s friends turn out to be pretty cool, and when things with Davi start heating up, Isaac is almost able to forget about his Legends Con blunder. Almost. Because then Diego finds out what really happened that day with Davi, and their friendship lands on thin ice. Isaac assumes he’s upset about missing the convention, but could Diego have other reasons for avoiding Isaac?
I have heard such amazing things about Julian Winters books, and I’ve been so eager to read them. I will admit that I was drawn in by the cover of this one. I mean, look at it. It’s just so happy and so full of joy. It also sounded amazingly geeky, and I knew it was going to be queer, so I was really, really looking forward to reading it.
Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to. So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love–and sexuality–never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.
With how much love I had seen for this book since it was announced, of course I was intrigued about it. I knew it would be a coming of age story, and that made me slightly nervous simply because coming of age stories and I have a rocky relationship. But, this one is queer, and if it’s queer, I want to read it. Plus, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, and Ophelia’s story, one of trying to find herself among people who have such a clear picture of her, sounded like an amazing one. Trigger warnings: mentions of racism, homophobia
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet. On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?
Sophie Gonzales had a hand in writing this book, so of course I wanted to read it. And it’s also queer. And about a boy band. And about two boys in that boy band who fall for each other and want to come out, but their management won’t let them. Yes, I was completely intrigued by this and I was incredibly eager to read it. Trigger warnings: emotional abuse, addiction, homophobia
Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School. Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds. Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget. It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.
I’ve been looking forward to this one since the deal announcement. I mean, a sapphic dark academia with magic around the edges was basically all I needed to know to be incredibly intrigued. Plus, the hype around this book has only continued to build online, so I couldn’t wait to see what I would think of it. Trigger warnings
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate. After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
Before I even knew what this book was about, I had seen so much hype for it online. It seemed like everybody was excited for it! My excitement really kicked in when I found out that the two main characters were genderqueer, and then I found out the synopsis, and I was just a pumped about this book as everybody else. A girl who refuses to be nothing; she assumes the role of a boy and takes on her brother’s fate: greatness. Heck yeah, I really wanted to read this book. Trigger warnings
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio. At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing. So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for. But when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even though it would mean coming out to everyone—including the guy he’s falling for.
I was ready for this book the second I found out that it featured a trans main character. And a trans character who is a soccer player no less! Spencer has to decide if he wants to stay stealth at his new school, or out himself so he can get off the bench and play for his new soccer team. Heck yeah, it sounded amazing and I was incredibly eager to read this book. Trigger warnings: transphobia
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life. Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self. Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone. Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.
I mean, a closeted teen drunkenly outs himself over Twitter. Truly, that’s all I needed to know to want to read this book. I also knew it would be a coming of age story and soccer would be involved. I mean, all those things sound like they’d make a great combination! Plus, there has been so much love for this book online, so I was super pumped to see what I would think of it! Trigger warnings: emotional and physical abuse, suicidal ideation, homophobia