10 Sapphic YA Horror Books to Read In October

With fall finally here, you might be looking for some spooky books to read in October and to get you in the perfect eerie mood. Featuring ghosts, aliens, demons, and zombies, these books are a great way to get in touch with your sinister side and prepare yourself for the best night of the year: Halloween!

Before we get into it, it’s important to remember that, as readers, we owe it to ourselves to respect our boundaries and know our limits. This is especially true with horror books, as they can address some heavy topics and depict different levels of gore and bloodshed. Young adult novels are a good way to ease into the genre, but that doesn’t mean that they are free of any type of violence or pain. Make sure to read the content warnings and don’t hesitate to draw the line in the sand if necessary.

That being said, turn off your lights, burn a candle, play some ominous music, and curl up under your blankets. Here are 10 spooky sapphic YA horror novels to check out!

the cover of Night of the Living Queers

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror Delight edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown

In this YA horror anthology, authors explore a night when anything is possible under the blue moon: Halloween. Featuring queer characters of colour written by queer authors of color, this collection puts some fresh spins on classic horror tropes and tales. The stories are told through the lens of different BIPOC teens, including many sapphic main characters, as they experience the night that changes their lives forever.

This is perfect for people who are still discovering horror and looking to figure out which subgenres they find most entertaining, which messages speak most personally to them, and which themes they’d like to explore further. The anthology touches on a whole plethora of topics such as grief, guilt, race, gender identity, and complex family dynamics, and it features a wide array of subgenres including paranormal horror, monster horror, body horror, and horror comedy.

Content warnings: body horror, gore, blood, suicidal ideation, animal cruelty, death, child death, death of a parent, homophobia, transphobia, violence, racism, grief, blood, bullying, abandonment, mentions of substance abuse, alcohol addiction and drug overdose.

the cover of Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Set in the Alien universe, Alien: Echo follows Olivia and her twin sister, Viola, as their family settles on a new colony world, where their xenobiologist parents expand their research into obscure alien biology. One day, an alien threat unlike any other is seen and, suddenly, their world is ripped apart. Their colony collapses into chaos, and Olivia has to use the knowledge she’s picked up over the years following her parents around the universe to escape the monster and protect her sister, all while grappling with the discovery of a shocking family secret.

This is the perfect novel for sci-fi fanatics, as it really delves into the science at the core of the story, in a way that is suspiciously believable.

Content warnings: body horror, blood, violence, gore, death, child death, death of a parent, animal death, xenophobia, grief, bullying, discrimination, severe injury.

the cover of This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

In this horror comedy, four best friends venture out into the desert for one last music festival before graduation. The twist? They’re zombies. A few years prior, an unknown pathogen was released onto the world, causing certain people to undergo the Hollowing: a transformation that made them intolerant to normal food and unable to gain sustenance from anything other than human flesh. While humanity slowly returned to normal after scientists were able to create a synthetic version of human meat that would satisfy the hunger of these “ghouls”, one of the girls goes feral at the festival and accidentally kills another attendee. The group suspects that someone is drugging them to turn them feral, but can they figure out who it is before they all lose themselves too?

A horror comedy is a great way to get into a spooky mood while still being able to sleep at night. With an all-queer cast, including a bisexual main character, a trans and bisexual love interest, and lesbian and bisexual side characters, this is perfect for people who are looking to sink their teeth into mess and chaos.

Content warnings [as listed by the author]: alcohol consumption by minors, anxiety disorders, blood and gore depiction, body horror, cannibalism, captivity and confinement, dead bodies and body parts, deadnaming, death of a grandparent, death of a sibling, drugging, drug use, fire, grief and loss depiction, gun violence, intrusive thoughts, murder, needles and syringes, nightmares, parental neglect, pandemic, scars, sexism, suicidal ideation, transphobia.

the cover of Burn Down, Rise Up

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

This is the story of Raquel, a young sapphic Afro-Latina from the Bronx whose mother has recently come down with a mysterious illness that the doctors can’t explain. At the same time, multiple Black kids have been disappearing from the city without a trace, and the police are doing very little to investigate, not particularly concerned about these children’s whereabouts. One day, Raquel’s crush, Charlize, asks for her help to find her recently missing cousin, and the girls end up following an urban legend called the Echo Game, which leads them down to a sinister, unknown, underground part of the city.

This debut novel is a deep dive into the racist policies of the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s, including the redlining, the slumlords, and the gentrification. It is the epitome of “disgusting” and will keep you on edge from start to finish.

Content warnings: gore, violence, death, racism, gun use, police brutality, discussion of cannibalism, fire injuries/burns, missing family members, sick family members, homophobia.

the cover of We Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado

We Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado

In their second novel, We Don’t Swim Here, Tirado tells the story of two Afro-Latina cousins, Bronwyn and Anais. Anais lives in Hillwoods, a small, secluded town to which Bronwyn is forced to move, as her family wants to be near her grandmother in her final moments. However, Bronwyn struggles with the move, as the people in Hillwoods are predominantly white, particularly weird, and eerily standoffish. Her cousin also warns her about some unspoken rule that exists within the town which bans anyone from swimming—a big issue for Bronwyn who was a competitive swimmer back home. The story follows her as she tries to navigate this unsettling community, as well as Anais who tries to keep her cousin in the dark as much as possible and protect her from the town’s sinister past.

If you love sapphic final girls who feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, or characters who try to fight back against the idea that they do not belong or are not allowed to belong in certain spaces, you will love this novel.

Content warnings: body horror, blood, murder, grief, death, child death, racism, hate crime, gun violence, kidnapping, medical content.

the cover of Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls is the story of very different girls who live in a small community on the island of Sawkill Rock. As beautiful as the town may seem, behind the campfires and blue waves crashing against the shore, there lies a dark secret. For decades, girls have been disappearing inexplicably, allegedly taken away by an inhuman spirit. But what happens when the awkward, plain new girl, Marion, unwillingly joins forces with Zoey and Val to fight this legendary evil and save the girls in their community, including themselves?

Featuring a cast of sapphic and asexual main characters, this book is perfect for people who are all about dismantling decades-long, misogynistic traditions and who like a weird, genre-bending twist to their stories. 

Content warnings: gore, violence, blood, murder, aphobia/acephobia, loss of a loved one, grief, child abuse, cults, fire, pedophilia, sexual assault, animal death.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould cover

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Courtney Gould’s debut novel, The Dead and the Dark, is set in smalltown Snakebite, Oregon, where everything seems to be going wrong. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and the community seems hellbent on blaming it all on Logan’s two dads—hosts of a popular ghost hunting TV show—after they’ve decided to return to town. Although Logan has never lived in Snakebite before, she agrees to help Ashley, whose boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, in her investigation into the town’s deepest secrets. As they uncover the truth about the people in their community, they also start to uncover the truth about themselves and their growing feelings for one another.

Great for readers who are looking for some romance in the horror stories they pick up, this book will put you in the perfect eerie mood, while also reminding you of the power of family and love.

Content warnings [as listed by the author]: homophobia, child death, murder, claustrophobia, drowning, slurs.

the cover of Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould

Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould

In this second novel by Courtney Gould, we follow Beck, a young lesbian who has been struggling since her mother’s death, desperate for things to return to the simpler, happier days of her childhood. Wanting to understand more about her mother, a brilliant but troubled investigative reporter, Beck travels to Backravel, the town that was the center of her mother’s journalistic work for years. Followed by her younger sister, Riley, Beck soon realizes that there is something off about the small, secluded town. Although everyone’s memory seems to be filled with holes and missing information, the people seem eerily at ease with the otherwise inexplicable happenings of their community. With the help of the daughter of the town’s enigmatic leader, Avery, Beck must uncover the secrets of Backravel before her or her sister get hurt… or before she loses herself completely.

Touching on the struggle of death and grief, this novel packs an emotional punch, while keeping its readers guessing from the first page until the very last.

Content warnings [as listed by the author]: death of a parent, death of a loved one, emotional abuse, gaslighting, emetophobia/vomiting.

As I Descended by Robin Talley cover

As I Descended by Robin Talley

In this modern, dark academia retelling of Macbeth, Maria and Lily are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. The only thing that stands in their way towards a perfect future together is the golden child of their school, Delilah. Maria needs to win the Cawdor Kingsley Prize, as the scholarship money would allow her to attend Stanford and keep her relationship with Lily alive. The problem is that Delilah is seen as the presumptive winner of the award. What she doesn’t know is that Maria and Lily are ready to do anything to make their dreams come true, including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on their school campus.

This book is filled with ghosts, Shakespearian tragedy, and queer teenagers quickly delving into chaos. Featuring a disabled lesbian and her sapphic girlfriend as the main characters, this story will have you questioning the limits to which people will go for love and victory.

Content warnings: blood, gore, death, violence, self harm, suicide, murder, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, lesbophobia, forced outing, forced drug usage, panic attacks, psychosis, racism, slavery, grief, child death, emotional abuse, religious bigotry, bullying, car accident, fire.

the cover of Damned If You Do

Damned If You Do by Alex Brown

Heavily inspired by Filipino folklore, this horror comedy features Cordelia, a high school stage manager who spends her days focusing on the school play, trying to keep up with her grades, and desperately pining over her best friend, Veronica. One day, the demon to which she sold her soul seven years ago comes back to see her under the guise of her new school guidance counselor and requires that she pay back the deed. The two must work together to defeat a different, more powerful demon who looks to harm her hometown and all those in it.

This book features the perfect amount of entertaining high school drama and fiendishly clever demons, all while it explores the type of trauma that some children face at the hands of a parent and the ever-lasting impact that it has on them and those closest to them.

Content warnings: child abuse, murder, violence, gore, blood, body horror, depictions of verbal abuse, mentions of physical abuse, loss of a parent.


Looking for even more sapphic horror books? Check out the Lesbrary’s horror tag for many more sapphic horror recommendations! You can also browse just the YA horror reviews. Happy Halloween reading!

Swashbuckling, Time Travel, and Sapphic Romance: Isle of Broken Years by Jane Fletcher

the cover of Isle of Broken Years

Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

The first thing I have to say about Isle of Broken Years is that I didn’t want it to end, and it’s been a while since I felt that way about a book. The second thing you should know is that this isn’t just a book about pirates, though the cover and description, if not carefully read, may lead you to believe that’s where you’re headed. To be fair, we do begin the adventure with lots of swashbuckling and a bit of kidnapping, but this book is really more of a time travel story with lots of unexpected surprises. If Lost, Gideon the Ninth, and Their Flag Means Death had a weird little baby, it might be Isle of Broken Years.

Our main characters are Catalina de Valasco, a Spanish noblewoman being married off by her family and en route to her betrothed by way of galleon; and Sam Helyer, the cabin boy of a privateer ship intercepting said galleon. Sam, as it turns out, is not a cabin boy at all. The beginning starts off strong, with lots of action, a battle at sea, a little hostage taking (as a treat) and some getting to know our main characters. Content warning: there’s a lot of talk/threat of potential sexual assault in the beginning pages—it doesn’t happen, but it drives the opening of the book as Sam is trying to keep Catalina safe from the other sailors.

Just when you’re comfortably settled into your colonial era pirate world, the book makes a major shift. Sam and Catalina end up stranded on an island that’s not at all what it seems, and meet up with a group of other survivors previously stranded there. The diverse cast of characters and their interaction is one of the really fun aspects of the book, as they share vast cultural differences, and sometimes struggle to communicate from language barriers. While a lot of this is comedic, there are also some serious discussions involving slavery and human rights. Meanwhile, Catalina and Sam are at odds with each other, as the former has no love for pirates and thinks they all should hang—fair, considering how the book kicked off. Catalina and Sam eventually have to learn to work together, and a fun little romantic arc unfolds as well.

This book checks all the boxes: pirates, aliens, murder, creepy islands, betrayal, comedy, time travel, mystery, and yea, a lil bit of kissing. It’s a fun ride, but has a number of serious moments including struggles with identity and sexuality. My main complaint is that it wasn’t longer. There were a number of places that Fletcher could have expanded the narrative, including some of the side characters’ back stories, and even the romantic element between Catalina and Sam. But I guess it’s always better to be left wanting more!

Content warning: mention of past sexual assault, threat of sexual assault

An Anti-Fascist Queer Space Opera: Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

the cover of Some Desperate Glory

Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh is one of the most powerful science fiction books I have ever read. I have not been able to read another book because I keep wondering where the main character Kyr has gone. I look for her in everything. She is such a well-rounded, complicated character (the best kind), and her story is going to stick with me for a long, long time.

The novel follows Kyr and her twin brother Magnus as they navigate the universe outside of the only home they have ever known. They are the best of the best when it comes to their training on Gaea Station, the last stronghold of humanity that stands against the alien threat that demolished the Earth before Kyr was even born. Being the best (of the girls) is what Kyr has worked for all her life. She has given everything to Gaea Station, and she has trained her mess of girls relentlessly, never settling for anything less than perfect. She is sure that this will pay off for all of them, most especially herself, but when the adult assignments come out, Kyr’s world gets shaken so substantially that she believes her only choice is to leave Gaea Station in an attempt to fix what the leader, a man she calls Uncle Jole, somehow got wrong. Leaving Gaea Station opens an entire world (literally) of possibilities for her, and Kyr unwittingly finds herself thrust into lives outside of Gaea Station that she never even knew were possible.

I read this book after a friend texted me updates as they read through the novel for the first time. Their reactions to the book convinced me to buy it when all I knew of it was that it contained time loops (my favorite plot dynamic). I do not regret picking this book up for a second. The amount of character development that Kyr undergoes over the course of this 400-page novel is extreme. She starts off the novel as a proud raised-fascist bent on getting Earth’s revenge, but she ends it as her own direct antithesis. I have not been able to put her story down. As a big The Locked Tomb fan and Baru Cormorant enjoyer, I expected a lot out of this book’s assessment of empire and the responsibility of its characters to claw their way out of the empire’s belly. Emily Tesh does not shy away from either of these things, and I was completely absorbed in the story she was trying to tell. Kyr is sucked in deep into Gaea Station’s propaganda and brutal view of the universe, but when she is faced with the truth of Gaea Station’s corruption, she pulls herself out of it and is already a different person before we even reach the middle of the novel. When I started my reread of the novel only two days after I had finished it the first time, the Kyr at the beginning felt like a completely different character than the Kyr who ends the novel. I experienced whiplash watching her beat up a character that she ends the novel in a close relationship with, and I loved it. It made me cry, seeing what she grows from. For a character to change so substantially, Emily Tesh has to have done something right. What other characters would go through over the course of a trilogy, Kyr goes through in one novel. Her story is contained in this one piece, and it keeps the reader engaged, watching every step that Kyr takes away from Gaea Station change her just a little bit more.

I have seen some criticism online of the “queer space opera” label Some Desperate Glory wears on its inside cover, but the ability of Kyr to radically accept her brother’s queerness and to eventually find her own queerness outside the borders of Gaea Station is a defining detail of the novel. Take away Kyr’s discovery of queerness within her bloodline, and you’re left with a book that takes place in space… and that’s it. The book does not progress without Magnus and Kyr both loudly proclaiming their queerness. On Gaea Station, Kyr only knows that she is the best of the girls; she doesn’t know if she experiences attraction because it is not important. Gaea Station has Nursery. They don’t need Kyr to know who she likes as long as they can force her to produce more boys to serve Gaea Station. It is an extreme act of rebellion for her to realize she is gay. Just because Kyr is not making out with every girl she sees or falling dramatically in love with every single one of her messmates at every turn does not mean the novel is not queer; it simply means that the novel’s focus on queerness is on the identity itself instead of on the acting out of that identity. Kyr’s story is not dependent on her exploring the bounds of her queerness because she isn’t far enough out of the hold Gaea Station has on her to do that. Kyr realizing that she is queer at all is what helps her figure out how awful Gaea Station has always been and makes the term “queer space opera” ring true.

If we’re using stars as a rating system, I give this book a complete 5 out of 5. While there are a few aspects of the world that I believe were hammered in too much (we get it, the shadow engines will smear somebody across fifteen dimensions, you don’t need to keep saying it every other chapter), I found myself able to look over them due to how well the book is written as a whole. The book begins with a list of trigger warnings, and it means them, so make sure to skip this novel if any of the triggers listed therein apply to you, such as: sexism, homophobia, child abuse, suicide, and more. This book is not shy about anything; everything listed in the warnings is handled front and center, in sometimes very graphic detail. Emily Tesh clearly cares about her characters and about the world that she writes them into, and Some Desperate Glory makes me want to read everything she has ever written just to get a taste of the way she crafts a story.

Maggie reviews Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod

the cover of Galaxy the Prettiest Star

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

In Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, Taylor has a life-threatening secret. She is the Galaxy-Crowned, an alien princess hiding on Earth from the invaders that destroyed her home as a baby. Taylor’s guardian fled with her and two others to Earth, disguising themselves not only as humans, but also turning Taylor into a boy as an extra layer of misdirection. Taking their cues about normal human families from sitcoms, they settle into a small town to hide, and every year that passes Taylor grows more miserable. Not allowed to be her true self, not allowed to hang out with other kids after school lest they figure something out or be put in danger, not even allowed to grow her hair out, Taylor feels like something has got to give. Which is when she meets Kat, a new transplant from Metropolis. They click instantly, and Taylor has to decide how far she’s willing to go to be herself. Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is a beautiful trans coming of age story with a layer of superhero science fiction shellacked over top, and the result is an enjoyable yet emotional and impactful read that I deeply wish I had had access to as a teenager.

The being yourself narrative is strong within this story, and with Taylor being forced to repress not only her gender but her very species; she is trans both in her gender and in the very makeup of her being, bringing multiple layers for her to work through. Taylor the human boy plays basketball, has one bro friend, and isn’t allowed to grow his hair out or go to parties lest something give away that he’s not human. Taelyr the Galaxy-Crowned has purple skin and luxurious teal hair, discovers she loves to experiment with hair and makeup, and hangs out with her new girlfriend.

I love Kat—who among us does not wish they met a cool out-of-town girlfriend who helped us immensely with our self confidence in high school?. Kat is dismayed to find herself in a small town, but not dismayed by anything about Taylor. They share an instant connection, and when Kat states that she’s not into guys, she accepts Taelyr’s statement that she is not a guy, even before she reveals that she’s also an alien. Kat is the lifeline that Taelyr needs to grow her self-confidence because even though they’re not alike, Kat understand being herself as a conscious process. I think both adult and teen readers will appreciate both the emotional resonance and the sweetness of their romance, and watching Taelyr coming fully into herself is a fulfilling arc. It’s so significant for DC to publish a graphic novel about a trans character, and although I suspect that some may find making a trans character also a secret alien from outer space a tad heavy-handed, I’m equally certain that there will be plenty of people over the moon excited to project themselves onto a purple space princess struggling to find herself in a small-minded small town.

The other thing I really loved about this story is the artwork. It’s bright and whimsical and really sets the mood as a teen story. Taelyr’s long teal hair flows across the page as she tries on look after fashionable look, trying to find her favorite style. There’s a whole sequence where Kat’s studied second reaction after seeing Taelyr transformed is to get excited about a makeup palette she normally doesn’t get to use, and Taelyr’s party look is off the charts amazing. Kat’s green hair and stylish butch looks provide an equally fun counterpoint, and together they are a riot of teenage love and self-expression across every page and a sharp contrast to the more plebian townsfolk that reject Taelyr. Plus, Taelyr’s other constant companion is a little monitoring robot that takes the appearance of a fluffy corgi that scampers around after her, adding a little extra dash of cuteness.

In conclusion, sometimes I feel like DC’s young adult graphic novels are a little heavy-handed and simplistic but Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is gorgeous and radiates much needed trans and queer coming-of-age energy. It’s a fun story that nonetheless has an out-sized emotional impact, and the artwork is strong and sets the whole tone of the narrative. If you’re looking for trans and queer comics, I would definitely add this to your list, especially for the young adult readers in your life. It is a great read, and one that I will definitely be revisiting when I need a fun boost.

Kelleen reviews An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

the covers of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

I am in the middle of THE most epic reading slump this summer. I haven’t been reading a tenth of what I usually do, and the genres and storylines that usually capture my attention just aren’t doing it for me right now. But I’ve read these books 3.5 times so far in 2022 and I can’t imagine it won’t be more. There’s something about alien invasion and ultra-mega-creepy levels of instant fame that my soul finds very comforting right now.

This duology follows one 23-year-old woman, April May, as she accidentally makes first contact with an alien life force and then even more (or less, depending on who you believe) accidentally becomes wildly internet famous. With her band of friends and enemies and frenemies (including her ex-roommate/girlfriend), April must navigate these hitherto unreckoned dimensions, trying to save the world without losing herself.

The most remarkable thing about these books, in my opinion, is not the aliens or the internet but April herself (at least in the first book). Hank Green writes with such a strong, precise, compelling narrative voice with a narrow, central first person narrator who is so charming and funny as to make you forget how utterly unreliable she is. Especially when read in audio, the whole experience feels like April is telling you a story, directly into your ears, and the intimacy of that narration is electrifying. Hank writes complex, sympathetic, human characters whose humanity is the crux and core of every terrible decision and beautiful triumph. The story is fresh and exciting and dynamic, and then he breaks open all the doors in the sequel lending nuance and dimension with each distinctive POV.

I found myself so invested in the (beautifully executed) intricacies of plot, but even more invested in the humanness and complex hope of each of these characters. In this story, good conquers evil, but not easily. We see the full complexity of humanity, which makes each choice and each word less wholly good or wholly evil, but rather leads us to the only logical conclusion: that on the whole, human beings are good, and with intention and empathy, we can and must save the world.

April is a bi woman, and her identity feels present and honest without being didactic. And the journey we take with her relationship with Maya, the (very low) lows and the (very high) highs is so central to the complex and well-wound project of this story as a whole. It’s hopeful and messy and honest and absolutely essential.

Every time I think about these books, this story, I long to immerse myself inside it once more and then I remember that I am inside it. I live in a world eerily approaching an alien-invasion-meets-socio-political-internet nightmare. And I know there’s reason to be afraid, but I also know there’s more.

On second thought, perhaps it is the overwhelming hope that my soul finds very comforting right now.

DFTBA.

You can read more of Kelleen’s reviews on her bookstagram (@booms.books) and on Goodreads.

Larkie reviews Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

the cover of Persephone Station

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Persephone Station is a space romp with everything you could ask: crime bosses, alien life, assassinations at fancy parties, rogue AI, and fancy flying. There’s a ton packed into this book, and even when you think you’ve reached your limit, it turns out that there’s more just around the corner. If a bunch of queer ex army women getting into and out of trouble in space is your jam, then this book might be for you. However, if you’re looking for serious scifi that has a strong, unique perspective on society, then it might not. Like the source material, this review is going to be long, so buckle up.

First of all, the things I loved about this book. There was a ton of snappy dialogue, plenty of tense action, and mysteries abound as the broad cast of characters slowly came together. The aesthetics of the book come together in a very tangible way, and Leicht clearly had a strong vision as she wrote. She also has strong characters with a great team dynamic, everyone with their own specialty and voice. Her world is meticulously built, and while most of the action is on Persephone, we get a galactic tour of other planets through various backstories and outside cultural influences. 

There were, however, several aspects of the book which fell a little flat for me. One was pacing: it felt like we were going through cycles of quick scenes filled with action and snappy one liners, and then into long exposition dumps. There were a LOT of these, and they delivered most of the world building. It was a bit of a shame, because some aspects of it were really cool! But it’s hard not to space out when I’m just reading a list of detailed personal histories for the main girl gang, or an intricate explanation of alien biology (that honestly raised more questions than it answered, but typing them all out made this review unreadable). I also felt like, despite all the world building that we had, most of the book felt like it could have easily translated to a contemporary action flick with just a few scifi elements. The beginning of the book in particular is loaded with English based pop culture references, that are often pointed at and explained to be references so that there’s no way the audience could miss them. Most of the book I was questioning why this was even set in space, when it could have easily been set in Los Angeles or Chicago and very little would change. There aren’t any aliens living outside of major US cities, of course, but it was a little frustrating to feel like the setting was more of an aesthetic choice than something that’s actually important to the story.

And, since I am writing this review for the Lesbrary: what about the gays? Leicht doesn’t shy away from including a rainbow of people in her book, with lots of non binary characters, casual mentions to same sex relationships, and a lack of major male characters in general. That being said, this was…not as gay as I expected? This was mostly fine, because it’s a very action focused book. There is no major romance, no big relationship drama, and that was actually really nice. Friendship and family is more important to the story, and I loved that.

There was one thing that struck me as odd though: multiple times in the book, whoever had the POV for the chapter met a group of new people, “2 men, 4 women, and 3 nonbinary individuals”. I was really confused as to how someone would look at a group of people and be able to discern who identified as what. It couldn’t be clothing choice, because there is a non binary main character whose clothes are very femme, more so than some of the cis women. So how would they know the gender of everyone in a crowd? It felt like a well intentioned attempt at inclusiveness but it yanked me out of the story every time, when “a group of people” would be inclusive without being so awkward.

Overall, the book was fun. I would have loved it as a movie or show, which felt like the medium the author wanted as well—her attention to detail with hairstyles, outfits, and appearances really contributed to the powerful visuals in this novel. As a book, however, I was glad to be listening to it rather than reading it, because the info dumps and pacing would have dragged me down a lot. One final thing that I really, really appreciated: this book doesn’t shy away from characters over 30. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when books have ex soldiers and pilots and crime bosses who are all like 18-26. This was NOT a problem in this book, and I do recommend it to anyone who wants a fun queer action flick with emphasis on the action.

Kayla Bell reviews The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann

The Fallen cover

Remember last month, when I said that I love the publisher Angry Robot and the book that made me fall in love with them was Ada Hoffman’s The Outside? Well, manifesting works, because this month, I get to review The Fallen, The Outside’s sequel. This review will include some spoilers for The Outside, so I recommend reading that before reading this review! 

The novel picks up where the last book left off, with Yasira recovering from her trip to the Outside while her girlfriend, Tiv,  takes care of her and leads the rebellion against the Gods. We also see the return of the vengeful AI Gods and their legion of warriors, out for revenge against Yasira. I don’t want to include spoilers for the plot, so I will just say that another space opera adventure ensues. I loved returning to the world of the Chaos Zone because of the truly unique worldbuilding. The combination of spirituality and artificial intelligence is such a fascinating premise. It makes the more technology-focused parts of the novel still interesting to read about. In this novel, we see the angels struggle with balancing their emotions, their roles in the divine system, and their technological nature. We also see the toll taken on the resistance fighters, and their desire to press on despite it all. This story is engaging and fast-paced.

The only part of the novel that I didn’t love as much were the constant time skips. It was interesting to see the characters at different points in the narrative, but, especially combined with all of the new information presented about the world, it did feel overwhelming to me at times. I could still easily follow the story, it just felt a bit all over the place. Despite that, I really liked the interludes between chapters, where we get to see the diary of Yasira’s old mentor Evianna Talirr. These streams of consciousness really underpin the themes of the novel and breaks up the story nicely. 

Once again, just like in The Outside, we see representation of autism and mental illness. As a neurodivergent person myself, I love seeing this experience valued and centered in a science fiction story. Neurodiversity is explored not just in Yasira, but in different cultures throughout the world, which was amazing to see. Moreover, I love that there are emotional consequences to the events that happen in this world. Yasira is truly changed and impacted by the scary, traumatizing things she’s seen and been through, both mentally and physically. Tiv is also impacted by the things she’s seen, and carries the weight of the primary caretaker role in the relationship. This is all while the couple is still in danger, facing the ire of some of the most powerful beings in their universe. In general, I am always impressed by the exploration of mental and emotional health in this series.

Another part of the book I really liked was learning more about what happened to Old Earth, our world, in this series’ universe. There is a scene where Tiv visits a museum detailing everything that happened on Earth, focused mostly on the people’s suffering. This part felt very prescient and also made me truly understand why people in this universe relied so heavily on the Gods despite their destructive, controlling natures. It built upon the worldbuilding of the last book in a detailed way. The Fallen is another adventurous foray into the technotheocratic world that Ada Hoffmann has created. It definitely lives up to its predecessor and represents characters that are usually not included in science fiction, much less space opera. This book was released on July 13th, so you can pick up a copy now. Thank you to Angry Robot for providing this ARC.

Danika reviews The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep by Chana PorterThe Seep is a weird fiction novella (200 pages) exploring a “soft” alien invasion utopia. It begins with a section titled “Tips for Throwing a Dinner Party at the End of the World.” Earth is being invaded by a disembodied alien species–which turns out to be a good thing. The Seep forms a symbiotic relationship with humans. They get to experience linear time and human emotions, and in exchange, well, they solve basically every problem people have ever had. Illness, inequality, capitalism, pollution and climate change all disappear. People develop intense empathy for everyone and everything in the world. Everything and everyone is connected, anything imagined is possible, and everyone is immortal to boot.

A utopia may seem like a set up for a boring book: where’s the conflict? But although The Seep just wants everyone to be happy, it doesn’t understand human complexity and why we might like things that are bad for us. In fact, despite having every opportunity imaginable, Trina is miserable. She is grieving, and she’s tired of this new world: everyone is constantly emotionally processing and high on The Seep. She finds herself nostalgic for struggle and purpose. She’s trans, and after fighting for so long, she’s at home in her body and vaguely irritated at people who treat changing faces and growing wings as a whim.

Despite the big premise, the real story is about Trina’s journey through grief. Her relationship with her wife is over (I won’t spoil why), and no amount of The Seep wand-waving will fix it. This alien species of superior intellect, power, and empathy can’t grasp why she would choose to feel pain, to poison herself with alcohol, to neglect her home and relationships. This novella shows what being human really means, and how no world, no matter how idyllic, really can be without conflict–but that’s just part of the experience of being alive.

I loved how queer this is. From the beginning, Trina and Deeba are having a dinner party with two other queer couples. I liked the discussion of what race and gender and sex mean in a world where you can change your appearance effortlessly. Trina and Deeba are both racialized women. Trina is Jewish and indigenous, and other Jewish and racialized characters appear as side characters. I appreciated this focus, but I acknowledge that I am reading this from a white, non-Jewish, cis perspective, and although the author is bisexual, this is not as far as I know an own voices representation of any of the other marginalizations that Trina has. I would be interested to read reviews by trans, Jewish, and indigenous readers.

If you’re looking for a short, thoughtful, and weird read–definitely pick this up. I loved the writing and the characterizations (there are so few good bear characters in books, you know?), and I look forward to picking up anything this Chana Porter writes next!

Alexa reviews Rescues and the Rhyssa by T.S. Porter

Rescues and the Rhyssa by T.S. Porter cover

Two occasional lovers with many differences team up to save three kidnapped kids. And then it gets even more complicated.

Sophi is the captain of a smuggler ship with a diverse crew, including two types of aliens, a nonbinary human, and Muslim humans as well, if I understood the cultural clues right. They are quite literally a found family, especially with the reptile-like aliens who accept Sophi into their family as a male based on her role, despite her being a human female. I absolutely LOVED the aliens we’ve seen, and the fact that we had the opportunity to see from their perspective. Both the analoids and the blatta were well-developed, unique and complex species with their own culture that is very different from humans, and seeing Sophi as a human make the effort to take part in that culture and adjust was really interesting. (No spoilers, but there was a scene pretty late in the book that showed the crucial importance of having blattas on your ship and it was amazing. I love blattas.)

And then there’s Cadan. Cadan is big, dangerous, scarred, and she doesn’t exist. She has been turned into a weapon for her King that she is endlessly loyal to: she goes where he tells him too without question. And yet, she’s far from being emotionless. We find out early on that she is actually part of the king’s family: his children are her niblings, the king is like a cousin or even a sibling, and she is devoted to all of them because she loves them. I loved to see Cadan with her blood family just as much as I loved to see Sophi with her found family. Both of these families had unique members and plenty of love and care for each other despite their differences. I also really love the idea of a transgender king where it is only casually mentioned once because otherwise it’s not a big deal to anyone. And I love the kids. Seriously, I love the kids.

And of course, there’s Cadan and Sophi together. They are very different people with different values and different goals, which causes a lot of tension in their relationship. Yet, they love each other. There are plenty of sex scenes in this book, some of which seriously made me blush, but one of my favourite scenes was the completely non-sexual yet intimate bondage scene that Sophi used to relax Cadan. I admit that sometimes I felt like there is too much tension and not enough common ground between them for this to actually work as a romantic relationship as opposed to casual sex, but the ending/epilogue was open enough that I can believe them getting to that point.

If you are looking for a F/F sci-fi story with well-developed aliens, relationship conflicts and family dynamics, this might just be for you. I know that I enjoyed it.

content warnings: kidnapping, violence, explicit sexual scenes

Alexa is a bi ace reviewer who loves books with queer protagonists, especially young adult and fantasy books. E also has a fascination with solarpunk, found families and hopeful futures, and plans to incorporate these in eir own writing. You can find more of eir reviews and bookish talk on WordPress and Twitter @runtimeregan.

Danika reviews An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

About three years ago, I saw a post on tumblr from Hank Green, which read: “Remember when I said I was writing a story about a bisexual girl and a robot?” I was, of course, immediately intrigued. I’ve been following the Vlogbrothers for many years, and I’ve read almost all of John Green’s books (though they aren’t favourites of mine). I would already be interested in a book from Hank Green, but of course it having a bisexual girl main character really upped it. By the time An Absolutely Remarkable Thing came out, I had heard lots of excitement around the book, but nothing else about the queer content. Did it get written out? Did I only imagine that tumblr post?? I then began my usual research when I stumble on a book that maybe-possibly has queer women content. I’ll save you the Goodreads scrolling and assure you: yes, this book has a bisexual woman main character, and it’s not even a one-off line. Her relationship with another woman forms–I would argue–the emotional centre of the book, and frankly, it’s a little irritating that it took so much searching to confirm this.

On to the book itself! I listened to the audiobook, and I would highly recommend that process. The narrator was great. Before I say anything else, you should know that this is not a standalone book. I believe it will be a duology, but it’s definitely not the only book in this story (I wish I had known that before I reached the ending!)

If you’re a fan of Hank Green and Vlogbrothers, I would definitely say that this is worth picking up. Despite being a story about first contact and robots and a bisexual woman’s complicated relationship with her roommate/girlfriend, Hank’s voice really comes through. It’s a thoughtful book that has a lot to say about fame–internet fame in particular. April finds herself suddenly famous, and she leans into this. She makes herself a brand and has a media presence strategy. She becomes more and more invested in having her voice her, and trying to sway the general conversation. As that process continued, I became more and more uncomfortable, but never ever to say exactly where she might have crossed the line.

But if you are reading this review, you’re probably more interested about the representation. There is, understandably, some suspicion when a man is writing a queer woman character. Hank speaks to this in another tumblr post, which I recommend checking out if you have questions. I won’t deny that I went in with a more critical eye than I would from an #ownvoices author, but I don’t have any big objections to the representation.

[mild spoilers] There was a moment where I raised an eyebrow: April’s agent asks if there’s anything else they should know, anything that might come up… something that may be controversial, or secret… and April does not even think about bringing up her sexuality. When she is directly asked, she is open about it, but she doesn’t think of this as something that her agent might have to consider, which I personally felt would be pretty obvious for a queer woman.

After that, though, her agent asked: couldn’t you just be gay? You dated men, but you were gay all along? It would be easier. That seemed accurate to me. April says, “It was easier for her to sell a quirky lesbian than a quirky bi girl, so I was a quirky lesbian for her.” [end spoilers]

As for April herself, she is definitely a complicated character. She is deeply flawed, and although she acknowledges this, she’s not very apologetic about it. She can be ruthless in pursuing her goals, and callous when it comes from other people. She is insecure and pushes people away. She denies her own feelings. She is selfish and reckless. But she also has good intentions, and she feels so real and relatable. Her flaws feel personal, and her bad decisions are understandable, if not defensible. If you don’t like “unlikable” characters, you probably won’t like her. Personally, I kind of loved her.

[spoilers] The romantic relationship here is… painful. April is not a good girlfriend, though she is clearly in love. I really like her girlfriend, and I hope that April improves herself in the next book enough to be able to have a more stable and mutual relationship with her, because right now, she doesn’t seem capable of a healthy romantic relationship. [end spoilers]

I really enjoyed this! It gave me a lot to think about. Although I liked the audiobook narration, I feel like I want to reread this in a physical format just to have some time to process and think about the issues that it brings up. I’m looking forward to the next one!