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In Star Daughter, Shveta Thakrar’s enchanting debut, Sheetal is the daughter of both a star and a mortal, not fully a part of either world. When her own starfire injures her dad in a fatal accident, she whisks away to the heavens where only participating in a celestial competition might save her father. Sheetal’s struggle to belong is a beautiful story of what it means to be human and the choice to love in spite of fear. Nothing in Star Daughter shines brighter than the world-building, with immersive descriptions full of vivid colors and smells. Thakrar’s prose is made of music and moonlight, and it’s easy to fall right into the Hindu mythology-inspired world. Star Daughter is a gorgeous book that will dazzle readers!
The Groom Will Keep His Name is absolutely THE BOOK—as in, the book I want all of my friends to read ASAP, and quite possibly my favorite book of the year! Matt Ortile’s collection of essays is full of brilliant and witty and sensual commentary on being gay, being Filipino, being an immigrant, the city of New York as aspirational, the process of decolonizing identity and the American Dream, and navigating a multitude of identities in various spaces. There are essays here that feel especially relevant in this specific moment, particularly the one about how we relate to history by rewriting and sanitizing it, but every essay touched me. This is a collection of essays but also a wildly smart and sharp manifesto. I cannot more highly recommend!
The Black Flamingo is a fiercely unique book that I want to gift to all of my friends! Told in verse, Dean Atta’s brilliant coming-of-age story follows Michael, a young mixed-race gay teen trying to navigate love and family while feeling like he’s never enough for any of his communities. When he discovers drag, Michael feels like he might have finally found his place. While many of the individual poems could stand on their own, they also come together into a powerful and introspective story that offers meaningful commentary on masculinity, queerness, and race. This book is such a needed addition to the YA canon, and I can highly recommend it to anyone young or old who wants to be inspired to find beauty in their own identities. The Black Flamingo manages to be both singular and universal, and it’s the fierce, fun, moving book we all need in our lives!
This should be required reading in the lead up to the 2020 election. Zerlina Maxwell clearly and eloquently analyzes where our politics are right now, and where they need to go. This book so perfectly articulates the need for progressive identity-based politics that aren't white politics, and she looks at all of the major and minor political players to make her case. Maxwell's perspective on electoral politics will definitely invigorate readers and voters, so register to vote and then go pick up this book!
Move over Twilight, there are new werewolves in town! Romina Garber’s Lobizona is a wonderful blend of Argentinian witch and werewolf lore, a magical school setting, and contemporary commentary on immigrant justice. Its unique magic system acts as the perfect setting to explore themes of belonging, love, family legacy, and what it means when we call a person illegal. This richly told story will entice young readers who’ve enjoyed Harry Potter, Shadow and Bone, and more, and I can’t wait for readers to connect with this epic story!
A memoir told in essays, Here For It is a hilarious and heartfelt reflection on Thomas's life as a black, gay, and Christian man living in America. It's the most human commentary on pop culture and politics that I've read. Here For It reads like a mix between Bad Feminist and Hannah Gadsby's Netflix comedy special, but it has a voice that's entirely its own. This book made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me cry from laughing. Everyone needs to read this treasure of a book!
This book is why science fiction exists! Riot Baby follows the relationship between two siblings—a young man indefinitely jailed in Rikers prison and his sister who has a Thing that allows her to communicate telepathically and to cause pain. But the author manages to write the dystopia here from the most dystopian parts of reality in America, giving the story an unflinching call out for our own times. This is a novel about race, and about family, justice, anger, and loss. In his author's note, Tochi Onyebuchi says he set out to "write angry, the type of angry that still leaves room for love." This book sizzles with both anger and love, and maybe even hope for an end to the dystopia.
I love The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi's lush historical fantasy! Set in 1880s Paris, the book follows an unlikely band of allies who have everything to gain and even more to lose in their hunt for an ancient and powerful artifcat. I loved the dynamic characters most of all, but there was lots here to enjoy. The romantic chemistry was electric. The banter was witty. The mystery was intricately constructed and a complete joy to watch unfold. I absolutely fell into this fun, original, and enchanting read!
It's hard for me to capture how thoroughly I fell in love with this book! Part romance and part election story, Red, White & Royal Blue tells the story of Alex, First Son of the US, and Henry, Prince of Wales, and their secret love affair amidst Alex's mother's reelection campaign. This book has it all: witty banter, beautiful love letters, timely political commentary, and an awesome squad of characters. Especially in such dark and chaotic political times, this book is a much needed breath of fresh air. Fun, flirty, and so, so smart!
I absolutely devoured this epic YA fantasy! Crown of Feathers follows Veronyka on her quest to become a legendary Phoenix Rider, despite her troubled relationship with her sister. On her adventures, she crosses paths with a young soldier who realizes he might be fighting for the wrong side and a phoenix rider apprentice with issues of his own. As all of the characters try to do what's right, the book builds to a stunning conclusion, big reveals, and a great setup for the sequel (which I promise is an equally fantastic read)! Unlike lots of YA, this one had a slow building plot, but the pace didn't keep the story from feeling fresh and exciting. I loved how intricately the history and mythology of the world were built into the book and how immersive the world was. Definitely read this one if you love epic fantasy, mythical creatures, family drama, badass heroes, and great writing!
In this fun and colorful story, two worms are in love and decide to get married. All the other insects tell them about all the ways weddings “have always been done,” but the traditions don’t quite fit our two love bugs! This great book turns tradition on its head as Worm and Worm learn that their love is the most important thing of all. A sweet and simple story that makes a great statement!
Stargazing charts the friendship between two very different girls learning to be friends and it hits all the right notes. Jen Wang is truly a queen among graphic novelists! Her art and storytelling speak to such intimate parts of the characters, but with tremendous whimsy and grace. Her drawings are fun, evocative, beautiful, and playful. I cannot recommend this book (or her first, The Prince and the Dressmaker) more highly!
This book completely captured my heart! It's a story that follows Danny Cheng, a young artist heading off to college, but whose life starts unraveling as the anniversary of a tragedy at school approaches and secrets about both family and friends surface. Kelly Loy Gilbert's lyrical writing perfectly captures what it is to be in high school and come into yourself as a person. I loved how the timeline jumped between past and present, allowing relationships to beautifully unfold in nonlinear ways. Never preachy, the story touches on immigration, poverty, adoption, suicide, and coming out, leading to a stunning ending that completely moved me. Such a beautiful book!
“Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction.” So begins Octavia’s Brood, an anthology of social justice science fiction stories. I’m a big believer that the best activists read fiction. It teaches us the power to imagine lives that aren’t our own, and worlds that aren’t our current reality, and no book uses that power more so than Octavia’s Brood. Filled with pieces by writers from various worlds of organizing, this collection of “visionary fiction” is a must-read, especially in our current moment. Some of the stories are gentle, some are angry. Some have happy endings, some are open-ended. But all of the stories in Octavia’s Brood inspired me, and I hope you’ll let them inspire you too!