Welcome to Pride Month at the Lesbrary!

Pride Month at the Lesbrary

Happy Pride Eve! Of course, at the Lesbrary we celebrate sapphic books all year long, but Pride is the one time of year that queer books get a spotlight, and this year, we want to take advantage of that!

To celebrate, the Lesbrary will be posting an article every day in June! Some will be re-posts of content you might have missed, some will be updated versions of previous posts, and some will be brand new. This is in addition to the regular features like reviews, so some days will have two posts go up. So check back every day in June for posts like: sapphic mermaid books, F/F romances by Black authors, queer lit lost in the fire, and lots more.

I’m also hoping to use this time to promote the Lesbrary Patreon! By supporting the Lesbrary for $2 a month, you get entered in monthly giveaways of sapphic books–and I have a huge stack I can’t wait to get to a good home! You also get access to the Lesbrary Discord channel, where we have a little community of nerds who love queer books. $10 and up Patrons get a monthly lesbian pulp fiction postcard from me in the mail, as well as a guaranteed sapphic book every three months (on top of the giveaways). Or you can pledge $25 to become an Honorary Lesbrarian and get a sapphic book in the mail every month, on top of the other rewards.

With the rise in anti-LGBTQ book bans, now is the perfect time to celebrate Pride by stocking up on queer books and books by queer authors and recommending them to others, so get ready to see your TBR grow. And while you’re doing that, make sure to show up to your local school board and library board meetings to fight for the freedom to read. Here’s an anti-censorship tool kit that has more info on fighting book bans.

Happy Pride! And be sure to come back every day in June for more sapphic book recs!

Feral Sapphic SFF, Plus-Sized Yuri Leads, High Femme Camp, and More Lesbrary Links

I follow hundreds of queer book blogs to scout out the best sapphic book news and reviews! Many of them get posted on Tumblr and Twitter as I discover them, but my favourites get saved for these link compilations. Here are some of the posts I’ve found interesting in the last few weeks.

This Is How You Lose the Time War cover
the cover of The Unbroken
The Jasmine Throne cover
the cover of A Long Time Dead
the cover of  She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Yuzaki Sakaomi

Just 11 People Nationwide Responsible for Majority of LGBTQ Book Challenges

LGBTQ Reads celebrated Pan Visibility Day with this list of pansexual books!

Feral Sapphic Sci-fi and Fantasy

On Reclaiming Vampires as Queer and Jewish

What Queer Parenting Memoirs Teach Us About Motherhood

The joyful affirmation of plus-sized leads in yuri

the cover of Girls Like Girls
the cover of Dykette
the audiobook cover of Dykes to Watch Out For
the cover of Homebodies
the cover of the Tegan and Sara Junior High graphic novel

Roxane Gay, Carrie Brownstein, Roberta Colindrez, Jane Lynch To Star in Audible Adaptation of Dykes To Watch Out For

The Color Purple Trailer Is Here, But Is It Queer?

Read and Listen to Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko Book Excerpt

In Dykette, Jenny Fran Davis Makes Her Contribution to the Lesbian Lexicon (Vanity Fair)

Dykette Has Plenty of High Femme Camp Antics

Homebodies Examines “the Risks of Speaking Truth to Power”

Tegan and Sara’s Junior High Brings Their Origin Story to a Graphic Novel

This post has the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even more links, check out the Lesbrary’s Twitter! We’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

If you’d like more LGBTQ lit links, subscribe to my Book Riot newsletter: Our Queerest Shelves! I round up the newest LGBTQ book news as well as the most exciting queer new releases out this week, plus each newsletter comes with an exclusive queer books post from me.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month, plus $10 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year!

For Nerdy Queer Teens Past and Present: Out of Character by Jenna Miller

the cover of Out of Character

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Talk about a painfully relatable read. I’m almost glad this wasn’t around when I was a teen, because I’m not sure I could handle reading it then!

Cass is a fat, nerdy queer teenager who is obsessed with a book series and roleplays as one of the characters in an online community. I was a fat nerdy queer teen who was obsessed with a book series and roleplayed in an online community! She’s a chronic overthinker, I’m a chronic overthinker. Needless to say, I cared a lot about Cass and felt protective of her while reading.

Cass has escaped into the world of roleplaying to avoid her parents’ fighting. Then, at the very beginning of the book, her mom sits her down to have a conversation. She met someone online, and she’s moving to be with him and divorcing Cass’s dad. She immediately gets up and drives off to another state. I feel like I was more angry at her than Cass was.

Her mother was the most important person her life, the one who overdoes holidays and ropes her and her dad into a million traditions, the one who was there for her in all her lowest moments. She was a central pillar of Cass’s life—and she just drives off after a five minute conversation. I won’t spoil anything, but she hardly gets in touch with Cass at all after that.

Needless to say, Cass is devastated. So she spends even more time in her roleplay world. She stays up late, ignoring her homework and checking her phone constantly. She’s struggled with gaming addiction before, so she keeps this part of her life from her dad and her IRL friends, because she can’t stand the idea of this being taken away from her.

Some of her best friends are online, and they are a big source of support. One of them is Rowan, who plays the other half of her ship, and they’ve always been there for each other. (Psst, I also roleplayed a gay couple with my best friend as a teen… I told you this was relatable.)

Then, something unexpected happens. Taylor, the girl Cass has had a crush on for the longest time, asks her out. Suddenly, she has a girlfriend. It’s not perfect timing, because Cass is struggling, but she’s not about to turn down this opportunity—even if Cass feels a little awkward with her, especially because she’s hiding both her online life and her family struggles from her.

The chapters are interspersed with roleplay scenes, which might not work for everyone, but was very nostalgic for me, and they nicely complemented what was happening in Cass’s AFK world.

As I mentioned, I felt so protective of Cass. Her and her dad are doing their best to make a new normal at home, so Cass hides how much she’s struggling. Her grades begin to drop, she forgets to apply to universities, and it feels like no one is noticing that she’s in free fall. My heart broke for her, and I understood completely why she felt helpless to reach out, especially as each problem compounded, making her life feel like a house of cards.

It was also nice to read about a main character who is so confident both in being fat and being a lesbian, especially as a teenager. There still aren’t many examples of that in media.

Although obviously I have talked a lot about Cass here, none of the characters felt one note—not even the peripheral ones, like Cass’s best friend’s girlfriend. It would be easy to write Taylor’s character in a way that excuses Cass not totally clicking with her, but she seems great, and I felt for her.

The conflict all comes from people having different perspectives, which are each valid. Cass’s roleplay friends are hurt and angry that she’s hiding them from the people in her life, for instance, which is understandable—even as Cass isn’t ready to have anyone question this part of her life.

While there are a lot of elements to this story, including family as well as romance, it was the friendships that stood out to me, and how seriously they’re taken. They’re often messy and imperfect, but they’re also so important to Cass, and they can be unexpected and beautiful even when they’re messy.

I highly recommend this for nerdy queer teens and those who once were nerdy queer teens—though I’m sure lots of other readers would enjoy it, too.

A Queer Abolitionist History: The Women’s House of Detention by Hugh Ryan

the cover of The Women's House of Detention

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Since the days of lesbian pulp fiction, Greenwich Village has been seen as a gay hub, a refuge for queer people from all over the country. In this book, Hugh Ryan shows that part of the reason for that is because from the 1920s to 70s, it held The Women’s House of Detention, a jail/prison for women and transmasculine people, and many of the people held there were queer.

At first glance, this seems like a narrow focus typical of a very academic book. But as each chapter looks at the prison through the decades, we see how this is a microcosm of broad social issues at the time. The story of The Women’s House of Detention is the story of LGBTQ liberation, and it also illustrates how prison abolition is a necessity.

In the introduction, the author explains how he began this research believing prisons need serious reform, but after seeing how prison reform over the decades in The Women’s House of Detention has only ever resulted in larger prisons with more people packed into them, he now believes abolition is the way forward. The prison was first built with smaller cells so that prisoners would have more privacy, each with their own cell–and then years later, they started keeping multiple people in each. A hospital was added–and then years later, it was gutted to make room for more cells. Then a hospital was reinstated. Then it was gutted again. Any attempts at reform always deteriorated with time.

Each chapter looks at a few of the queer people imprisoned during that decade, telling their stories–at least, what we know of them. It’s a fascinating look into the horrors of the criminal justice system, past and present, as well as the no-win situations these people were put in. Many of them return multiple times, because once they had a criminal record, they had no legal means of making money.

Since each chapter focuses on personal stories as a window into the lives of queer women and transmasculine people during that time period in New York, it makes this accessible and readable. We also get a look into queer communities in each decade, including how the people in The Women’s House of Detention participated in Stonewall and previous protests, even if few people saw or heard about it.

The Women’s House of Detention itself is a complicated place for many of the people imprisoned there: the conditions were horrible, but they also found a queer community there.

I haven’t read as much queer history as I would like, but this is one of my favourite books I’ve read on the topic, and I highly recommend it. The discussion about prison abolition versus reform is relevant to the conversations we’re having today, and seeing a timeline of how this push and pull has played out over a 50-year time period is helpful background. Both for the personal stories and the overall message, you should definitely pick this one up.

The Aftermath of Gay Conversion Camp: Tell the Rest by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

the cover of Tell the Rest

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In 2014, I read The Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe based solely on the fact that it was included on a book list called “Lesbians In Cold Places.” And you know what? That was a great decision, because I really enjoyed it. It was a slow-building character study set in Antarctica, with a queer main character, of course. So when I saw that she had a new sapphic book out today, I had to pick it up.

I have to start this with some heavy content warnings, because this is a book about conversion therapy and its aftermath. This review will discuss conversion camp and homophobia, and the book includes homophobia, abuse, rape, religious trauma, and suicide.

The book starts with two kids, a thirteen-year-old white girl and a sixteen-year-old Black teenage boy, running through the woods, trying to escape conversion camp. Then we flash forward to 25 years later.

Delia is fresh from a divorce and has just gotten fired as a college basketball coach. She’s also struggling with uncontrollable attacks of anger. She’s never felt so lost or out of control. So reluctantly, unbelievably, she drives across the country to her hometown in rural Oregon to move in with her brother and coach her old high school’s girls’ basketball team.

Her coach in high school was her hero. She gave Delia a path to follow, skills to develop, and a passion to nurture. Since then, basketball and the discipline she has around it has been her guiding light in her life. Maybe she’s hoping that by confronting her past, she can address the anger issues she’s having. Maybe she wants to step into her old coach’s shoes and inspire a new generation of kids. Maybe she just has nowhere else to go. Whatever the reason, she’s determined to take this team to victory, and she demands the best.

While I think this is Delia’s story, we do also get some point of view chapters from Earnest—the boy she escaped with. They never saw each other again after that night, but they both are still grappling with it and their experience at Celebration Camp. While Delia is at a difficult time in her life, though, grappling with her past, her personality, her anger, her family, her career, and more, Earnest seems more settled.
He has a job teaching poetry and a boyfriend he loves. The central tension in his story is struggling to write a poem about his experience at camp and their escape—something he’s been trying and failing to do for years.

As both of them find themselves needing to confront the past, it seems inevitable they will meet again. As we follow along with Delia and Earnest now, we also get chapters of their time at Celebration Camp, revealing more about the experience that had such an impact on them. Still, this is more about the ongoing effects of that experience than the camp itself.

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a light read. It feels like an open wound: Delia especially is still hurting so much and hasn’t gotten closure on it. Eventually, though, we do see her begin to work through it, accompanied by the glimpses of the lives of the teenage girls she’s coaching.

If you like to read character studies and quiet stories about working through trauma—and trying to lead a high school girls’ basketball team to glory, because that really is a big focus—I highly recommend this one. It’s a thoughtful, sometimes painful, but effective narrative, and it’s one that’s interesting to read after books like The Miseducation of Cameron Post, because this looks at not just the immediate horror, but the aftermath of being taught to hate yourself as a young person.

Lesbian Gladiators, LGBTQ Jewish Books, Essential Queer Comics, and More Lesbrary Links

a collage of the covers listed with the text Lesbrary Links: Bi & Lesbian Lit News and Reviews

I follow hundreds of queer book blogs to scout out the best sapphic book news and reviews! Many of them get posted on Tumblr and Twitter as I discover them, but my favourites get saved for these link compilations. Here are some of the posts I’ve found interesting in the last few weeks.

the cover of Brown Neon
the cover of Going Bicoastal
the cover of Chlorine
the cover of Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American
the cover of Buffalo is the New Buffalo

2023 Publishing Triangle Award Winners Announced

LGBTQ Reads: Happy Jewish American Heritage Month 2023! and Happy AAPI Heritage Month 2023!

20 Essential Queer Comics from the Past Five Years, According to a Queer Comics Creator

Literary Lovers: A Sapphic Reading List for Every Mood

Quiz: Which Queer Short Story Collection Should You Read?

These LGBTQ Reads Prove That Book Bans Are Regressive Trash

the cover of Moby Dyke
well of loneliness cover
the cover of Thirsty Sword Lesbians
the cover of She Drives Me Crazy
the cover of Our Hideous Progeny

Revisiting Radclyffe Hall’s Groundbreaking Lesbian Novel The Well of Loneliness, 95 years on

‘Thirsty Sword Lesbians’ Publisher Is Releasing a New Magical Girl Tabletop RPG!

She Drives Me Crazy Should Get a Shot at a Rom-Com Adaptation

C.E. McGill, author of Our Hideous Progeny, writes about queerness, monstrosity, and Frankenstein

the cover of Homebodies
the cover of I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself
the cover of Rosewater
the cover of Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer

Tembe Denton-Hurst was interviewed about Homebodies at ELLE.

Marisa Crane’s new novel is a queer dystopia, but they’re dreaming of a queer paradise

Liv Little on her debut queer novel Rosewater and LGBTQ history

Cosmoknights Hannah Templer on Her Space Opera Comic about Lesbian Gladiators Battling Against the Patriarchy

the cover of Stars Collide
the cover of If Tomorrow Doesn't Come
the cover of Margo Zimmerman Gets the Girl
the cover of This is the Way the World Ends

Stars Collide Is a Fun, Layered Queer Romance About Pop Stars Falling in Love

In Lesbian YA Debut If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come, Teen Girls Find Love in the Midst of an Asteroid Barreling Toward Earth

Margo Zimmerman Gets the Girl Is a Swoony Queer Neurodiverse Romance

Autistic Teen Girl Takes On the Rich and Powerful in Queer YA Thriller This Is The Way The World Ends

This post has the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even more links, check out the Lesbrary’s Twitter! We’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

If you’d like more LGBTQ lit links, subscribe to my Book Riot newsletter: Our Queerest Shelves! I round up the newest LGBTQ book news as well as the most exciting queer new releases out this week, plus each newsletter comes with an exclusive queer books post from me.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month, plus $10 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year!

A Con Artist at Grief Counselling: The Fake by Zoe Whittall

the cover of The Fake

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Zoe Whittall is a master at writing broody queer novels, and ever since reading Bottle Rocket Hearts, I just can’t resist them.

The description and first chapter of this might lead you to believe that it’s an action book or at least a mystery. Befriending a con artist sounds like the premise for anything from whacky hijinks to thriller territory. But while the first chapter has the main character hiding in her closet, afraid for her safety, this really isn’t a book about danger or mystery. Instead, it’s more of a character study about these people in awkward times in their lives.

After Shelby’s wife died, she couldn’t seem to find her way out of crushing grief and depression. She struggles to leave the house at all. One day, she finally works up the strength to visit a grief support group, which is where she meets Cammie. Cammie a breath of fresh air. She is energetic and adventurous, pulling Shelby out of her shell. That’s especially impressive given the long (long!) list of tragedies she’s gone through, including multiple family members’ deaths by suicide and her ongoing cancer treatment. And she always seems to find herself in bad situations at work. Shelby takes Cammie under her wing, inviting her to stay at her place. She’s happy to help her and to find something to distract from her grief.

We also get point of view chapters from Gibson, a forty-ish recently divorced man who meets Cammie at a bar and they start dating. He can’t believe this younger, attractive woman has fallen in love with him so quickly. It’s almost too good to be true—especially when she starts to demand more and more from him, guilting him if he refuses or even questions him.

When Gibson and Shelby finally meet, it’s not long before they realize that Cammie’s stories about the other are true, and that’s not the only thing she’s lying about.

I can imagine many people will find this a frustrating book, because the description basically tells you everything that happens. This is only around 200 pages, and it’s more sad than it is exciting. Shelby and Gibson are both lonely and vulnerable. Cammie is hard to pin down: is she deliberately cruel? Does she believe her own lies? We only get a little taste of her point of view in this story.

I especially liked Shelby’s struggle to decide the best way forward. Even when she’s hurt, she wants to help Cammie—but at what point do you have to cut your losses and face that this other person doesn’t want to change?

I haven’t met any con artists—that I know of!—but I think if you have had a relationship (friends, family, or romantic) with someone who is manipulative, you’ll find some uncomfortably relatable moments in the way Cammie keeps the people around her on her side—until it’s time to drop them and move on to the next marks.

The Fake isn’t a perfect fit for all readers, but if you like a glimpse into other people’s complicated psyches, though, I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a slow-paced, thoughtful look at these three characters.

New Sapphic Books Out This Week: May 9, 2023

a rainbow graphic with blurred bookshelves and the text "New Sapphic Books Out May 9, 2023"

May is packed full of queer new releases, and this week is no exception! We have a couple of bisexual fantasy series, some sapphic horror, and a whole lot of YA this week. The descriptions used are the publishers’, because sadly I have not read every sapphic book that’s out this week.

Personally, I’m most excited for To Shape a Dragon’s Breath, because I hear “How To Train Your Dragon, but queer and Indigenous,” and I cannot resist—especially paired with that stunning cover. But also, I’ve heard You Don’t Have a Shot was inspired by Bend It Like Beckham, and we all deserve the canon F/F version of that story. And I’ve been counting down the days until The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich based solely off the title.

Let’s dive in!

Fantasy

A Shadow Crown (The Halfling Saga #2) by Melissa Blair (Bisexual Fantasy)

the cover of A Shadow Crown

The highly anticipated second installment of the new adult fantasy saga that took BookTok by storm picks up where A Broken Blade left off…

To the kingdom, Keera is the king’s Blade, his most feared and trusted spy and assassin. But in the shadows, she works with Prince Killian and his Shadow—the dark, brooding Fae, Riven, who sets her blood on fire. Together, they plot to kill a tyrant king. 

In Myrelinth, the lush, secret city of trees, Fae, Elves, and Halflings like Keera live in harmony. But Keera cannot escape her past: her crimes against her own people have followed her all the way to the Faeland. There is a traitor in their midst, and Keera is the top suspect.

Keera finds comfort in the allies that have become her family. She swore she would never open her heart again after a loss she barely survived. But she will soon find she has more to lose than she ever imagined…

Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, A Shadow Crown is a tour-de-force high fantasy novel with stunning world building and a slow burn enemies to lovers romance. Readers seeking more LGBTQ+ and BIPOC representation in the fantasy realm will fall in love with the unforgettable cast of characters introduced in A Broken Blade, whose sagas are only beginning…

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose (Bisexual Fantasy)

the cover of To Shape a Dragon's Breath

The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.

Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea of how a dragon should be raised, and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, her dragon will be killed.

For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart, determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.

Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.

[Anequs is bisexual.]

Horror

Our Hideous Progeny by C. E. McGill (Queer Frankenstein Retelling)

the cover of Our Hideous Progeny

It is not the monster you must fear, but the monster it makes of men. . .

Mary is the great-niece of Victor Frankenstein. She knows her great uncle disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the Arctic, but she doesn’t know why or how. . . .

The 1850s are a time of discovery, and London is ablaze with the latest scientific theories and debates, especially when a spectacular new exhibition of dinosaur sculptures opens at the Crystal Palace. Mary is keen to make her name in this world of science alongside her geologist husband, Henry—but despite her sharp mind and sharper tongue, without wealth and connections their options are limited.

When Mary discovers some old family papers that allude to the shocking truth behind her great-uncle’s past, she thinks she may have found the key to securing her and Henry’s professional and financial future. Their quest takes them to the wilds of Scotland; to Henry’s intriguing but reclusive sister, Maisie; and to a deadly chase with a rival who is out to steal their secret.

A queer, feminist masterpiece inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic, Our Hideous Progeny is a sumptuous tale of ambition and obsession, of forbidden love and sabotage and a twisty Gothic adventure that may forever change your view of human nature.

[Maisie is Mary’s love interest.]

Graveyard of Lost Children by Katrina Monroe (Sapphic Horror)

the cover of Graveyard of Lost Children

ONCE SHE HAS HER GRIP ON YOU, SHE’LL NEVER LET YOU GO.

At four months old, Olivia Dahl was almost murdered. Driven by haunting visions, her mother became obsessed with the idea that Olivia was a changeling, and that the only way to get her real baby back was to make a trade with the “dead women” living at the bottom of the well. Now Olivia is ready to give birth to a daughter of her own…and for the first time, she hears the women whispering.

Everyone tells Olivia she should be happy. She should be glowing, but the birth of her daughter only fills Olivia with dread. As Olivia’s body starts giving out, slowly deteriorating as the baby eats and eats and eats, she begins to fear that the baby isn’t her daughter at all and, despite her best efforts, history is repeating itself.

Soon images of a black-haired woman plague Olivia’s nightmares, drawing her back to the well that almost claimed her life—tying mother and daughter together in a desperate cycle of fear and violence that must be broken if Olivia has any hope of saving her child…or herself.

[Olivia is married to a woman.]

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Young Adult

You Don’t Have a Shot by Racquel Marie (F/F YA Contemporary)

the cover of You Don't Have a Shot

Valentina “Vale” Castillo-Green’s life revolves around soccer. Her friends, her future, and her father’s intense expectations are all wrapped up in the beautiful game. But after she incites a fight during playoffs with her long-time rival, Leticia Ortiz, everything she’s been working toward seems to disappear.

Embarrassed and desperate to be anywhere but home, Vale escapes to her beloved childhood soccer camp for a summer of relaxation and redemption…only to find out that she and the endlessly aggravating Leticia will be co-captaining a team that could play in front of college scouts. But the competition might be stiffer than expected, so unless they can get their rookie team’s act together, this second chance―and any hope of playing college soccer―will slip through Vale’s fingers. When the growing pressure, friendship friction, and her overbearing father push Vale to turn to Leticia for help, what starts off as a shaky alliance of necessity begins to blossom into something more through a shared love of soccer. . . and maybe each other.

Sharp, romantic, and deeply emotional, You Don’t Have a Shot is a rivals-to-lovers romance about rediscovering your love of the game and yourself, from the author of Ophelia After All.

The Rules of Us by Jennifer Nissley (Lesbian and Gay YA Contemporary)

the cover of The Rules of Us

Come out. Break up. Stay friends? In this heartwarming queer love story about love of all kinds, exes navigate new crushes, new feelings, and a newly uncertain future after unexpectedly coming out to each other on prom night turns their lives—and their friendship—upside down. Can they figure out how to move on without losing each other?

Jillian and Henry are the kind of couple who do everything together. They take the same classes, have the same hobbies, and applied for the same super-competitive scholarship so they can go to the same dream college. They even come out as gay to each other on the same night, after junior prom, prompting a sudden breakup that threatens their intertwined identities and carefully designed future. Jillian knows the only way to keep everything on track is to approach their breakup with the same precision and planning as their scholarship application. They will still be “Jillian and Henry”—even if they’re broken up. 

Except they hadn’t planned on Henry meeting the boy of his dreams or Jillian obsessing over a cool girl at school. Jillian is desperate to hold on to her best friend when so much else is changing. But as she and Henry explore what—and who—they really want, it becomes harder to hold on to the careful definitions she has always lived her life by. Stuck somewhere between who she was with Henry and who she might be on her own, Jillian has to face what she can’t control and let go of the rules holding her back.

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude (Sapphic YA Contemporary)

the cover of If Tomorrow Doesn't Come

We Are Okay meets They Both Die at the End in this YA debut about queer first love and mental health at the end of the world-and the importance of saving yourself, no matter what tomorrow may hold.

Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to live: an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.

Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.

Never Trust a Gemini by Freja Nicole Woolf (Lesbian YA Contemporary)

the cover of Never Trust a Gemini

Cat Phillips has her head in the stars, but her romantic fantasies may ruin her shot at real-life love in this sweet and funny lesbian story.

It’s Libra Season, and Cat Phillips is ready to run headfirst into love. The only problem is that her crush is on her best friend, Alison Bridgewater, who is more interested in chatting with boys. Maybe Cat should take this as a sign to get over Alison, even if that means dating the musically challenged Jamie Owusu. After all, a new boyfriend is the best cleanse, at least according to Cat’s friends. Unfortunately, having a boyfriend is a lot harder than Cat expected. And then Morgan Delaney swoops in with her green glasses, enigmatic smile, and talent for teasing Cat in ways that make her feel überlicious. But Morgan is a Gemini, and there’s no way that’s in Cat’s horoscope. Will Cat finally get the girl of her dreams? Or is there a chance there’s more to life than Alison Bridgewater? The stars align for the cast of this energetic romp full of comedic misunderstandings and sparkling language.

This is the Way the World Ends by Jen Wilde (Sapphic YA Thriller)

the cover of This is the Way the World Ends

As an autistic scholarship student at the prestigious Webber Academy in New York City, Waverly is used to masking to fit in—in more ways than one. While her classmates are the children of the one percent, Waverly is getting by on tutoring gigs and the generosity of the school’s charming and enigmatic dean. So when her tutoring student and resident “it girl” asks Waverly to attend the school’s annual fundraising Masquerade disguised as her, Waverly jumps at the chance—especially once she finds out that Ash, the dean’s daughter and her secret ex-girlfriend, will be there.

The Masquerade is everything Waverly dreamed of, complete with extravagant gowns, wealthy parents writing checks, and flowing champagne. Most importantly, there’s Ash. All Waverly wants to do is shed her mask and be with her, but the evening takes a sinister turn when Waverly stumbles into a secret meeting between the dean and the school’s top donors—and witnesses a brutal murder. This gala is harboring far more malevolent plots than just opening parents’ pocketbooks. Before she can escape or contact the authorities, a mysterious global blackout puts the entire party on lockdown. Waverly’s fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, and she, Ash, and her friends must navigate through a dizzying maze of freight elevators, secret passageways, and back rooms if they’re going to survive the night.

And even if they manage to escape the Masquerade, with technology wiped out all over the planet, what kind of world will they find waiting for them beyond the doors?

The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Deya Muniz (Sapphic YA Graphic Novel)

the cover of The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A nobleman with a secret and a princess on a mission find love—and lots of grilled cheese sandwiches—when they least expect it, in this funny, heartfelt graphic novel rom-com.

Lady Camembert wants to live life on her own terms, without marriage. Well, without marrying a man, that is. But the law of the land is that women cannot inherit. So when her father passes away, she does the only thing she can: She disguises herself as a man and moves to the capital city of the Kingdom of Fromage to start over as Count Camembert.
 
But it’s hard to keep a low profile when the beautiful Princess Brie, with her fierce activism and great sense of fashion, catches her attention. Camembert can’t resist getting to know the princess, but as the two grow closer, will she able to keep her secret?
 
A romantic comedy about mistaken identity, true love, and lots of grilled cheese.

Nonfiction

Journal of a Black Queer Nurse by Britney Daniels (Lesbian Memoir)

the cover of Journal of a Black Queer Nurse

In this searing, honest memoir, a Black queer emergency-room nurse works the front lines of care during COVID-19.

“Can I have a white nurse?” the patient asked Britney Daniels.

“Sorry ma’am,” Britney replied, “we are fresh out of white nurses.”

Britney Daniels is a Black, masculine-presenting, tattooed lesbian from a working-class background. For the last five years, she has been working as an emergency-room nurse. She began Journal of a Black Queer Nurse as a personal diary, a tool to heal from the day-to-day traumas of seeing too much and caring too much.

We are fortunate that Daniels is now willing to share these stories with us. Hilarious, gut-wrenching, and infuriating by turns, these stories, told from the perspective of a deeply empathetic, no-nonsense young nurse, make visible the way race, inequality, and a profit-driven healthcare system make the hospital a place where systemic racism is lived. Whether it is giving one’s own clothes to a homeless patient, sticking up for patients of color in the face of indifference from white doctors and nurses, or nursing one’s own back pain accrued from transporting too many bodies as the morgues overflowed during the pandemic, Journal of a Black Queer Nurse reveals the ways in which care is much more than treating a physical body and how the commitment to real care–care that involves listening to and understanding patients in a deeper sense–demands nurses, especially nurses of color, must also be warriors.

The LGBTQ + History Book: Big Ideas by DK and Willow Heath (LGBTQ Nonfiction)

the cover of The LGBTQ + History Book: Big Ideas

Discover the rich and complex history of LGBTQ+ people around the world – their struggles, triumphs, and cultural contributions.

Exploring and explaining the most important ideas and events in LGBTQ+ history and culture, this book showcases the breadth of the LGBTQ+ experience. This diverse, global account explores the most important moments, movements, and phenomena, from the first known lesbian love poetry of Sappho to Kinsey’s modern sexuality studies, and features biographies of key figures from Anne Lister to Audre Lorde.

The LGBTQ+ History Book celebrates the victories and untold triumphs of LGBTQ+ people throughout history, such as the Stonewall Riots and first gender affirmation surgeries, as well as commemorating moments of tragedy and persecution, from the Renaissance Italian “Night Police” to the 20th century “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. The book also includes major cultural cornerstones – the secret language of polari, Black and Latine ballroom culture, and the many flags of the community – and the history of LGBTQ+ spaces, from 18th-century “molly houses” to modern “gaybourhoods”. 

The LGBTQ+ History Book celebrates the long, proud – and often hidden – history of LGBTQ+ people, cultures, and places from around the world.

Check out more LGBTQ new releases by signing up for Our Queerest Shelves, my LGBTQ book newsletter at Book Riot!

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Girl Meets Girl, Girls Fall In Love, Girl Gets Amnesia: Forget Me Not by Alyson Derrick

the cover of Forget Me Not

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Last year, I reviewed She Gets the Girl written by Alyson Derrick and her wife, Rachael Lippincott, and really enjoyed it. So when I saw that Derrick had a new sapphic YA book coming out just in time for the April 4th episode of All the Books, I had to read it. This is an amnesia romance, but while that can sound like a soap opera premise—girl meets girl, girls fall in love, girl gets amnesia and forgets girl, girl tries to win her back—there’s an undercurrent of sadness here that keeps it feeling more grounded than that suggests.

In the first chapter, we meet Stevie. She just graduated high school and has big plans for what comes next… but almost no one in her life knows about them. She has secretly been dating Nora for years, but in their small conservative town, being out isn’t an option. Stevie’s mother is deeply involved in the Catholic church, and her father watches Fox News almost every waking hour. So Nora and Stevie see each other in private, with dates in the woods. When Stevie can’t sleep, she silently calls Nora and just listens to her voice, not wanting to wake up her parents in the next room by speaking herself.

It’s been difficult keeping this private, including having to fake a better relationship with her parents than she believes and even maintaining friendships with people she no longer gets along with, but it will be worth it. They just need to get through the summer before they’re both off to California–Stevie secretly applied to UCLA and got in—and then they can start their life together. They’ve been saving up for an apartment by saving their paychecks, plus Stevie’s job at a coffee shop two towns away is the perfect cover for the time she spends with Nora.

After all that meticulous planning, though, one moment erases everything they’ve worked for. During a date in the woods, Stevie falls. She’s put into a medically induced coma. When she wakes up, she’s forgotten the last two years. She still thinks she’s 15. And she doesn’t remember ever meeting Nora.

Stevie is left trying to piece together the time she’s lost. She’s distant with her parents, and she doesn’t know why. She can’t understand why she was alone in the woods when Nora saw her and rescued her. Any evidence of her relationship with Nora was deleted or hidden, so there’s nothing to stumble on.

Interspersed with these chapters are unsent letters from Nora, explaining her heartbreak and confusion. This version of Stevie doesn’t have any idea that she’s gay, never mind that she’s in a relationship with a girl. She’s worried that telling her will scare her off, but she also feels terrible about lying to her. Stevie thinks Nora is a new friend, someone to hang out with that doesn’t have memories of her that she doesn’t have. Both of them hope that Stevie can recover her memories by retracing familiar things, but there’s no guarantee.

There’s an interesting balance happening here between Nora and Stevie’s perfect relationship (pre-coma) and their hateful surroundings. Stevie is half Korean, and she is startled to find her best friends when she was 15 have grown up to make racist jokes. Her dad has also become obsessed with Fox News in recent years. The threat to her relationship does feel real: both Nora and Stevie’s parents are conservative, so it makes sense that they would stay in the closet until they have somewhere else to live.

There is a heartwarming romance at the heart of this, including that Stevie feels drawn to Nora even without her memories, and it’s adorable to watch her fall for Nora all over again. But the amnesia trope and almost-too-perfect relationship is tempered by the more serious context of the story, including Stevie’s internalized homophobia.

I meant to just read the first few chapters of this and found myself instead reading it in one day. Even though we know the answers, it was compelling to watch Stevie try to piece together what happened in the time she lost and consider whether she really needs to recover it or whether she should embrace the opportunity to start fresh. After all, in this missing time she apparently became more distant from her friends and family and also applied to the local community college when she’s been waiting her whole life to go somewhere new. Does she really want to be that person?

This is a very readable, engaging novel, and though I’ve mentioned that their relationship was almost too perfect, that’s helped by Nora’s characterization. She’s not on the page that much, considering this is mostly a romance, but what we do see of her is charming without being one-dimensional. You can see why Stevie falls for her (twice).

The Enthusiastic Ally to Bisexual Pipeline: Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

the cover of Imogen, Obviously

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Now that I’m twice the age of many of the protagonists in Young Adult books, I have a different relationship with them. I still read YA, but I find myself feeling protective of the main characters instead of relating to them. Nothing exemplified that shift more than reading Imogen, Obviously, where I just wanted so badly to give Imogen a hug as I read it.

Imogen is a high school senior who is a very enthusiastic queer ally, even though she’s, as Imogen puts it, “hopelessly” straight. Her sister and two closest friends are all queer. She goes to every Pride Alliance meeting. Her favourite movie is But I’m a Cheerleader, and she collects editions of One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston.

Her best friend Lilli is a year ahead of her and has already found a queer friend group in university—the same school Imogen will be joining in a few months. Imogen is happy for her… even though she feels out of place. She doesn’t want to intrude, as a cis straight person.

When Lilli finally convinces her to visit, she drops a bombshell when Imogen arrives: Lilli felt insecure about not having a serious relationship with a girl before, and she lied about Imogen and her being exes. So now everyone thinks Imogen is bi, including Tessa, who gives Imogen butterflies, which is obviously just Imogen queerbaiting inside her own head.

Imogen as a character broke my heart, to be honest. She’s a people-pleasing overthinker who analyzes herself to death, twisting herself into knots until she loses sight of the very obvious. The very obvious like: she’s not straight. The very obvious like: her friend Gretchen isn’t the authority on all things queer, and can be pretty toxic when she acts like it.

In a social media graphic for the book, the author describes Imogen as having queer discourse brainworms, which is a good way to put it. She tries to educate herself about queer issues, but just ends up thinking that there’s only one right way to be queer. She doesn’t feel the same way about girls as she does in her crushes on guys, so she concludes that means she doesn’t like girls at all. Even when faced with obvious evidence to the contrary, she convinces herself that she’s just trying to be bisexual for clout and that she’s a bad person for appropriating queerness.

“Queerness recognizing queerness. It’s kind of beautiful when you think about it. I really do wish it was mine sometimes.”

Imogen longs to be part of the queer community, and while I’m sure there is some 100% straight and cis person this applies to in the world, it’s such a relatable queer experience. I was in middle school when I excitedly talked about looking forward to joining the Gay/Straight Alliance in high school, and how if I could choose, I’d be pansexual and panromantic. But, of course, I was hopelessly straight…

Gretchen was a difficult character. Some people will absolutely hate her, which I understand. But I found myself thinking that my high school self was somehow right between Imogen and Gretchen: an anxious overthinker who also was so deep in queer discourse that I thought I knew it all. Gretchen is going through some things and lashing out at other people—I hope that this is just the beginning of a journey of processing her trauma, because she’s not in a healthy place now.

I haven’t even mentioned the Tessa/Imogen romance! It is adorable. Tessa is a lesbian and Imogen (spoiler?) is bisexual. Both are Jewish. Poor Imogen takes a while to understand she’s falling for her, but it’s a fun ride, including college shenanigans with her and their friend group.

I loved reading this, even if being inside Imogen’s head could be a little too relatable at times. This is actually my first Becky Albertalli read, but I can now confirm the hype is justified. I highly recommend it to any queer person who once also thought they were hopelessly straight.