Secrets, Sororities, and Sobriety: Thirsty by Jas Hammonds

Thirsty cover

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What would you be willing to do if it meant finding your flock? Jas Hammonds explores this age-old question in their young adult novel Thirsty. Incoming college freshmen Blake Brenner has been with her girlfriend, Ella, since freshman year; they are voted “The Couple Most Likely To Still Be Together In Ten Years” and are desperately in love. The duo is planning to go to Jameswell University and to join the exclusive Serena Society, along with their best friend, Annetta. As the summer begins, so does the Serena Society’s pledging process, which includes a fair amount of hazing. Blake is determined to prove herself—unlike Ella, who is a legacy pledge, Blake is the first in her family to go to college and has no connections or money to boost her status. However, in proving herself, Blake begins to develop an unhealthy relationship with both alcohol and partying, and she must decide what parts of herself to keep and which ones to banish.

This may be stating the obvious, but Thirsty is such a hard book to read, especially if you are an alcoholic or have dealt with alcoholics previously. I did cry at least twice and had to take self-mandated breaks while reading, so be prepared to do the same. But as hard and scary as reading Thirsty was, it also is incredibly healing, powerful, and such an important book to have out there. Narratives about alcoholism in teens/new adults feel rare, and I think that if I had read this in my early 20s, this book would have helped me curb some bad habits and/or thought patterns that existed at the time. 

The characterization in Thirsty is realistic, to the point where I sometimes felt uncomfortable with how much I identified with some of the characters and their choices. Blake’s desires of solidarity and feelings of loneliness are heartbreaking to read, all while her euphoria acts as a sort of bandage to the reader’s emotions. I also heartily enjoyed Annetta’s role in Thirsty—in a book that is dominated by Blake’s relationship with Ella, Annetta’s scenes acted as a palate cleanser and a place to emotionally recuperate. Annetta’s relationship with Blake shows how friendships should be about support, even when it may be initially unwanted.

If you enjoy Elizabeth Acevedo, emotionally complex stories, and solidarity narratives, you can order your copy of Thirsty through Bookshop, your local indie bookstore, or your library.

Comp titles: Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie, You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow, and Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett.

Content warnings include: alcoholism, hazing, accidentally outing, transphobia, intentional outing, cheating, vomiting, and vandalism.

Fake Honeymoon to Real Love: The Honeymoon Mix-up by Frankie Fyre

The Honeymoon Mix-up by Frankie Fyre cover

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Before my summer break ended, I decided to read a romance that gives off tropical vacation vibes. For this, I chose The Honeymoon Mix-up by Frankie Fyre, a fake romance set on the fictional Sapphire Isle, a resort dedicated solely to sapphic women. The Honeymoon Mix-up tells the story of Basil Jones, a woman recently left at the altar by an ex-fiancée exasperated by Basil’s workaholic ways, and Caroline King, a private investigator hired to tail Basil. After sharing a one-night stand with Caroline that Basil hopes to put behind her forever, she decides to go on her honeymoon alone so that she can still close the wine deal her mom sent her there to complete. Upon finding out that the resort has a strict couples-only policy, she enlists Caroline as her fake wife. Eventually, though, lines become blurred and the women begin to wonder if there is something more between them. 

I will be honest, it took me a while to get into the book. I think my main hindrance was that I found Basil to be annoying. She’s bitter and unhealthily devoted to her work. In fact, there were parts where I totally understood why her ex-fiancée left her. Over time, though, Basil grew on me. I began to see how her overbearing and unrelenting mom drilled into her that all that matters is the family business. By about halfway through the novel, I found myself empathizing with Basil and rooting for her to find love and happiness with Caroline and escape her mother’s grasps.

The Honeymoon Mix-up is filled to the brim with plots and subplots. You have the main story of Basil and Caroline becoming more than fake newlyweds. Then, you have Basil’s issues with her mom, Basil’s attempt to seal a wine deal with the resort, a sapphic Olympics competition against one of Basil’s hated high school rivals, Caroline’s conflict between love and her job, and Caroline’s past relationship trauma. It was a lot to keep track of, and within the relatively short length of the book, it felt at times that none of the subplots got their adequate space. None of them were left unresolved and all had some impact on the finale, but at the same time, none of them hit their emotionally devastating potential, which is a shame. Also, because most of these subplots were Basil’s, it often felt like her story rather than both hers and Caroline’s. 

Despite these drawbacks, I still enjoyed The Honeymoon Mix-up. Basil and Caroline, once they get over their issues, have fantastic chemistry in and out of the bedroom. Watching them get over their issues and fall in love was delightful. As I said earlier, I liked seeing Basil’s development from workaholic controlled by her mother to someone willing and able to forge her own path. The book is also very funny, with a lot of the humor coming from Frankie Fyre’s writing and dialogue. 

For me, the biggest strength of The Honeymoon Mix-up is how it celebrates the diversity of the queer experience. Caroline is Black and comes from a polyamorous family. Sapphire Isle is a safe and welcoming place for sapphic couples to spend time together and find community. It is located in Thailand and is predominantly staffed by Asian women. The owners, Mae and Lynn, are an older mixed race lesbian couple who help Caroline and Basil by sharing their experiences earned with age. Between all of this and the little funny sapphic in-jokes, it felt like a true celebration of what makes queer life in general and sapphic life specifically so great. In addition, I loved Lynn and found her to be the true MVP of the story and possibly one of the best side characters I have read in sapphic literature. I would absolutely take a relationship course with her. 

So, despite some issues I had with it, I found The Honeymoon Mix-up an enjoyable fake relationship romance that would make an excellent beach read. Now, I just need to find the beach! 

Meet Your New Favorite Sapphic Sci-Fi Book: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson 

The Space Between Worlds cover

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The Space Between Worlds is one of the best stories I have ever read, and I’m not even exaggerating. This novel follows Cara, a poor girl from Ashtown who is trying to make it in rich Wiley City long enough to become a permanent citizen. Her job? To traverse through different worlds like her own, snagging information that the higher ups at Eldridge need to anticipate the disasters that happened on those worlds before they can happen on Earth 0. Cara is one of a select few who is able to traverse these different realities—because she is dead on most of them. Out of all the worlds open to traversing, Cara is only alive on eight, and if you’re alive on a world you jump to, you usually die because the world cannot handle it. Being alive on only eight worlds makes her a great asset. 

This is revealed pretty soon into the novel, so I’ll just say it: the Cara who narrates the novel is not actually the Cara that came from Earth 0. Caramenta, the original Cara, landed on a world where she thought she had died only for Caralee, that Earth’s Cara, to still be alive: close to dead, but not actually dead. Caralee took the chance when she saw Caramenta’s mangled corpse and assumed Caramenta’s identity, and she’s been the one traversing ever since. 

Johnson does a great job with the pacing of this novel. Every new bit of information came at the right time and with just the right amount of foreshadowing. Even when I knew what was coming next, Johnson still surprised me, because it happened so much faster than I expected it to. Reading this book was like getting punched in the gut over and over and over again in such a good way. There was never a moment or a plot point that I thought should have been cut or changed. Johnson never shied away from a surprise twist; instead, she went full throttle into it and simply expected the reader to catch up. The novel kept its pace until it ended, and I had to sit there for a moment after I was done and just figure out how to breathe again. 

As someone who loves stories with alternate timelines and dimensions, this is such a unique and refreshing way to read it. On Caralee’s Earth, she knew Emperor Nik Nik, and she was his plaything to do with as he pleased. She has seen the Emperor across different worlds, and he is the same on all of them…except for Earth 175, the newest Earth Caralee is tasked with traversing. Johnson did such a good job showing how different this Nik Nik is from the rest of them. Cara’s trauma follows her, and she assumes that this Nik Nik is the same as all the others, only for him to be likeable, and funny, and kind. Going with Caralee through that emotional minefield kept the pages turning, and I cared so deeply about Cara’s relationship with that Nik Nik that I wound up crying when he added her picture to a necklace that held pictures of his dead loved ones. He’s so different from the Nik Nik that Caralee remembers, and I don’t know that I’ve read a story that skips around timelines before this one that lets a character be that different from the other versions of himself. Earth 175 Nik Nik helps heal Caralee’s trauma, and it was so cathartic to read as she started to believe he really could be that much better than the one she left behind. The world of the story is also so large and detailed. Ashtown and Wiley City come to life on the page, no matter what timeline or Earth we are on. 

I’m not usually a slow burn kind of person, but Johnson might have changed my tune. The romance between Cara and Dell, the coworker who sends her to the other Earths, was a delightful mix of yearning and miscommunication that I found myself enjoying! Cara is head over heels for Dell from the start of the book, and she flirts with her every moment she can because she thinks Dell will never like her back. When the details of their relationship that Carelee has been missing finally come out, it hits like a train, and every interaction at the beginning of the book makes that much more sense. Cara never shies away from her feelings for Dell. Even when she spends time with Earth 175 Nik Nik, she always makes sure to separate her feelings for Nik Nik from her feelings for Dell. Nik Nik is her ex, but Dell is the love of her life. 

I am also a big fan of stories that explore relationships between siblings, and Johnson also did a great job with that. Caralee cares so much about Caramenta’s little sister Esther and about the other members of a family Caralee never got to have, and it is one of the best relationships in the entire novel. The relationship between Nik Nik and a brother who died in most worlds is also something Johnson explores more than once, and I found myself caring about them all so, so much. Johnson’s characters are so rich, no matter what Earth they are on, and I can see myself rereading this book soon just to get a glimpse of them again. 

Trigger warnings for: death, gore, domestic abuse, traumatic experiences/memories, and violence. 

Forever is Now by Mariama J Lockington

Forever is Now by Mariama J Lockington cover

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Content warnings: biphobia, racism, police violence

Forever is Now by Mariama J. Lockington tells the story of Sadie, a Black teenage girl with anxiety that develops into agoraphobia after a truly terrible day. Her girlfriend breaks up with her and they witness an incidence of racist police violence. The idea of leaving home fills her with overwhelming dread. Anything could happen. Anyone can be lost. But the world doesn’t stop and Sadie feels compelled to help, somehow, find justice for the young woman she saw assaulted.

I am not in the majority with regard to this book. It has a very high rating on Goodreads, and I can see why. It feels authentic. The angst and teenage experiences are relatable. The representation is strong. Pop culture references are very current and the fictional social media network is both understandable and realistic. From a teenage perspective, it’s a strong read.

The cover is also fantastic. The book ultimately focuses on Black joy and the cover reflects that. Rather than showing Sadie at her worst, her most anxious, her least put-together, it shows her pretty and happy and smiling. It shows her thriving. For a book about a mental health crisis to focus on the main character at her best and a book about Black joy to present a Black girl looking happy, those are great choices.

Unfortunately, from a literary perspective, it needs work. I don’t mean to be overly harsh; the book certainly has strengths. They’re just not fully integrated or realized. Sometimes it’s minor things, but for an example, Sadie’s little brother desperately wants her to come to his end-of-camp cooking event, and that is mentioned several times. The approaching deadline is clear to readers. However, Sadie doesn’t seem to care. That missing element in a character-centric narrative really weakens engagement. Throughout the narrative, Sadie feels extremely well-developed, but others around her don’t, and the way the narrative bends around her becomes frustrating as the story develops.

The book also just needed an editor. This is indicative of a larger trend in publishing. There were typos in the manuscript; a line editor should have caught those. There was also some confusion since dialogue, thought, and things Sadie wishes she said were all indicated with italicized font. These are things that should have been fixed in the pre-production process.

I think this book has a lot to say and a lot of potential. It needed a better team working to develop it—a couple more drafts and it would have been incredible. Overall, I would deem it very okay.

More Than a Statistic: Every Variable of Us by Charles A. Bush

the cover of Every Variable of Us

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Alexis Duncan is a Black teenage girl from Philadelphia whose incredible basketball skills are her one ticket to receiving a scholarship and getting out of her poverty-stricken neighbourhood. However, after getting injured during a shooting at a high school party and being told she will never play again, her dreams vanish. Aamani Chakrabarti, the new student in school, believes that Alexis has the potential to thrive even outside of an exclusively athletic environment, and pushes her to join her on the high school’s STEM team. Alexis agrees (reluctantly) and eventually starts to learn that she has a passion outside of basketball—astronomy. But with the chaos in her personal life constantly making her second-guess if she can actually strive for a better future for herself, and her feelings for Aamani becoming ever more confusing, Alexis must fight to not let her doubts get in her own way.

I read this book back in December of 2021 and still, two and a half years later, I remember so many details of the emotional trainwreck it put me through. I made the unwise decision of reading it on a plane, and not only did I finish it within one sitting, but I also had to find a way to sob silently next to sleeping strangers for the entire second half of the story. There is something about the way that Bush wrote these characters that made me so deeply attached to them right from the beginning. I was incredibly invested in the storyline, the characters’ relationship, and especially Alexis’s character development. I really appreciate Bush writing a main character that you can root for, while still making her realistic and flawed. Alexis is a product of her environment and has opinions about other people and the world that can be ignorant, bigoted, and uninformed—opinions that happen to also impact her own identity and self-worth. Those opinions are challenged by the text, specifically through Aamani’s character, in a way that is both subtle and poignant. I think authors sometimes struggle to write effective redemption arcs for their characters, which made it that much more satisfying to watch Alexis’ redemption unfold in a carefully crafted way.

The other great thing about this book is that it absolutely is made for its target audience. Bush wrote it for a young adult reader, and you can tell that he made sure that the characters, their struggles, their anxieties, their fears, and their friendships would feel relatable to that audience, without underestimating what they could handle in a story or what they would want to read about. I think it shows just how much respect Bush has for his young readers to know that they would be able to not just handle heavy themes such as internalized misogyny and homophobia, racism, poverty, violence, and drug abuse, but concretely understand, relate to, and analyse these themes. I love when authors give their young audience the benefit of the doubt and don’t try to over simplify or sugarcoat serious storylines. It allows teenage readers to access literature that is more than just informative, but also liberating and self-reflecting.

I’ve recommended this book a lot over the years, in many different circumstances. To readers looking for: underrated novels; heart-breaking storylines; books that accurately center characters of colour; sapphic books that aren’t romance novels but are nonetheless romantic; books that heal the part of you that struggled to accept your queerness when you were younger; stories that discuss the intersection of race and queerness; novels that make you cry sad tears; novels that make you cry happy tears; books that will put you in a reading slump; books that will get you out of a reading slump. There are dozens of reasons to pick up this book and exactly zero reasons not to. It remains, to this day, one of my most memorable reading experiences and one of my favourite go-to recommendations.

Representation: Black bisexual disabled main character, Indian-American lesbian love interest

Content warnings: gun violence, gore, drug abuse, homophobia, islamophobia, biphobia, death, abuse, racism, transphobia

An Emotional Demon Hunter Romance: The Fall That Saved Us by Tamara Jerée

The Fall That Saved Us cover

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Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us centers around Cassiel, a former demon hunter who has left her abusive family behind in favor of a quiet life in a little bookshop she now runs. When a succubus named Avitue shows up one day, the two fall into a dangerous albeit passionate love affair that threatens both of their places in the world.

Despite such high stakes, this is a deeply personal book. In fact, when I think about this book, the word that jumps to mind is affectionate. This book had so much affection for its characters and their journeys, and it made it so easy for me to share that affection. While this book felt really heavy at the beginning, due to all of the religious trauma Cassiel was working through (and boy does this book do religious trauma really well!), by the end I was left feeling lighter. The relationships certainly helped with that, but even more so was the book’s emphasis on being kind, both to yourself and to others.

As for the relationships, I don’t only mean the romantic relationship between Cassiel and Avitue, though of course that is the main one. Cassiel’s friendship with her neighbor Ana, a witch who runs a nearby cafe and who gently but firmly encourages Cassiel to open up about her past when she’s ready, was a particular light. Likewise, the more complicated relationship with Zuriel, the sister who stayed behind, will likely resonate with many readers who come from difficult family situations.

Something I really appreciated with Cassiel and Avitue’s romance was the honesty. With a setup like this one, I find I expect a lot of secrecy and drama of the “how can I trust you!” variety. To my delight, however, Avitue was clear almost from the beginning about who she was, why she was here, and what each of them was risking by being together. This allowed the focus to remain on the actual building of a relationship, and it also made room for much more interesting conversations about how people deserve to be treated and what kind of future there is for a mostly-mortal and an immortal demon.

The only criticism I had was the pacing felt a bit off at the beginning, almost like things were being skipped over or time was moving weirdly or something I could never quite put my finger on. However, I didn’t notice that as an issue in the second half. While some might say the final conflict wrapped up rather quickly, that’s a feature for me rather than a bug, and honestly, I do think that choice ultimately served the book better as a whole. This is very much a character-driven book, and a drawn-out battle would almost feel like a detraction from a story that should center on Cassiel’s internal journey.

I am certainly planning on checking out Tamara Jerée’s next book, and if they ever wrote another book in this world (maybe about Zuriel and/or Ana), I would read it without hesitation. Though I would suggest  taking care if one struggles with religious themes, I heartily recommend Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us.

A Southern Gothic Coming of Age: Something Kindred by Ciera Burch

Something Kindred by Ciera Burch cover

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When I picked this up, I was expecting a horror novel. And that makes sense, because it does have a lot of ghosts in it. But the ghosts are more a part of the setting than the plot; while they’re literally present in the town, their significance in the story is on the metaphorical side. I think “Gothic” is more fitting as a genre categorization.

We’re following Jericka, who has been bouncing from place to place her whole life as her mom kept uprooting the two of them. Now, she’s spending the summer helping to take care of her grandmother as she dies of cancer. What makes this a lot more complicated is that Gram walked out on Jericka’s mother and uncle when they were children — leaving them alone with their abusive father.

One thing I appreciated about Jericka is that she doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. When she meets her Gram, she asks her directly why she left her kids and why she reached out when she got sick. This is not one of those books where you wish the characters would just talk to each other — if anything, there are times when it would benefit Jericka to stop and think about what she’s going to say for a minute before lashing out.

This is a quick read, and the writing can feel a little… sparse at times. Like Jericka, the author gets directly to the point in a way that can feel abrupt. But the strength of this story is in its characterization and relationships. The three generations of women in that house all have complicated relationships to each other—Jericka soon finds out some secrets about her own childhood that are hard to grapple with. There are no easy answers here. Jericka begins to build a relationship with her grandmother even knowing that there is no way for Gram to make up for the damage she’s done to her children. She also starts to see her father and his wife, who she’s only communicated with through the occasional phone call and birthday card.

Then there’s Jericka’s complicated romantic life. She has a boyfriend back home, James, and their relationship is… comfortable. She loves him, but she doesn’t know if she wants to try to continue their relationship long distance when they go to university. Meanwhile, she’s falling for a girl in Clearwater: Kat. Kat is the only one who talks about the ghosts in town. She’s not popular, but she has a fiercely loyal best friend who will defend her at all costs. She talks a mile a minute and makes a terrible iced hot chocolate. I appreciated that Kat was multifaceted and flawed, not just a perfect love interest. Jericka has been out as bisexual for years, so her struggle choosing between James and Kat has more to do with her fears about the future than any worry about what it means for her identity.

I suppose I should actually talk about the ghosts, but it doesn’t surprise me that it took me this long to get to them. The characters and their complex relationships — especially family relationships — are the stars here. The ghosts, usually called echoes, are the manifestation of a central tension in Jericka’s story: the choice between putting down roots and always being on the run. The people in Coldwater seem unable to leave this town, but Jericka is tired of constantly moving. The echoes are the ghosts of the women who died when the old schoolhouse burned down, and they implore residents to never leave.

Of course, this is also a story about grief and loss. Jericka is building a relationship with her grandmother knowing that soon Gram will be dead. Jericka decides that although this is extremely painful, and although she can’t forgive Gram for what she did, she doesn’t want to continue the family tradition of silence and disconnection. She’d rather reach out even with all of that history between them.

I wouldn’t recommend this for readers looking for a terrifying horror read, but if you are a fan of family sagas and coming of age stories set against a gothic backdrop—with a few creepy scenes—I think you’ll enjoy this one.

A Standing Ovation for Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo cover

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“There is another girl / on this planet / who is my kin. / My father / lied to me / every day of my life. / [ . . . ] I want to put my fingers / against my sister’s cheek. / I want to put my face / in her neck & ask / if she hurts the way I do.”

And so begins Clap When You Land, a gorgeous dual narrative novel in verse about grief, loss, and the healing power of family written by acclaimed Dominican-American poet and writer Elizabeth Acevedo (she/her).

Camino and Yahaira (Yaya) are 16-year-old young women living in the Dominican Republic and New York City, respectively. Neither knows the other exists until the tragic death of their beloved Papi upends each of their lives and reveals that they are sisters. As Camino and Yahaira grieve and desperately try to make sense of a world without Papi, they must also navigate their complex feelings about each other and figure out what it means to be sisters.

Acevedo is a masterful storyteller. Her use of dual narrative and verse made for an enjoyable and accessible reading experience. The alternating perspectives kept me engaged, and there were never too many words on a page, which allowed me to really savor what I was reading. As a Latina, I felt a swell of pride every time I saw Acevedo describe a quintessential visual from our shared experience: curious neighborhood women in batas and chancletas; a mother with rollers stacked high atop her head; a community coming together to solemnly mourn a loved one with a rosario. I also really appreciated how Acevedo highlighted the range of Afro-Latine beauty through not only her descriptions of the different characters, but also the affirmations and terms of endearment Papi used with each of his daughters.

The representation in Clap When You Land goes beyond race and color. Although all the characters have a connection to Papi, it is the strong female relationships that are the novel’s throughline. Camino refers to Tia, the curandera (healer) that raised her, as “the single love of [her] life”. Tia has showed up for Camino in ways her parents could not. Camino’s belief that “curing is in [her] blood” and her aspirations of being a doctor are borne of her deep respect and admiration for Tia. Yahaira “likes girls” and has a girlfriend named Andrea (Dre). Although Yahaira’s sexuality is a core aspect of her identity, it is free-flowing and doesn’t require exposition. Dre is Yaya’s rock. Acevedo paints a beautiful picture of how a healthy and steady love can ground you in your darkest times.

I loved this book. It was my first experience reading Acevedo’s writing, but it definitely will not be my last. If you’re looking for a quick read with lots of great Latine representation that packs an emotional punch, you should pick up this book. Acevedo has also authored Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Family Lore. You can find her on Instagram @AcevedoWrites or on AcevedoWrites.com.

Trigger warnings for descriptions of a plane crash, death, sexual assault, and colorism.

Raquel R. Rivera (she/her/ella) is a Latina lawyer and lady lover from New Jersey. She is in a lifelong love affair with books and earned countless free personal pan pizzas from the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program as a kid to prove it.

Jamaican Joan of Arc: So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole

the cover of So Let Them Burn

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I first saw Kamilah Cole describe her debut, So Let Them Burn, as a Jamaican Joan of Arc, which was enough to grab my attention even before the book had a cover. To be more specific, So Let Them Burn is the first book in a YA fantasy series that follows former chosen one Faron Vincent and her older sister, Elara. Five years after the war for their island’s independence, Elara inadvertently forms a bond with an enemy dragon, while Faron determines she will stop at absolutely nothing to save her sister from the threat of both the bond and the empire itself.  

Like I said, I was sold on the concept the minute I heard about it, but even the coolest concept can turn out to be a let down in the wrong hands. Kamilah Cole is not the wrong hands. It took less than half a page for me to determine that I was going to love this book, and as the story unfolded, I only got more invested. Every time I had to put the book down, I was just a little bit resentful that I couldn’t keep reading.

Something that I thought was really fun is that while I knew this book follows a chosen one after she’s done her duty, Faron is not the only one who fits into a popular fantasy archetype. One dynamic I found particularly fascinating is the one between chosen one Faron and Queen Aveline, who spent the first seventeen years of her life on a farm with no knowledge of her true identity and now resents Faron a little bit for the fact that when the war ended, Faron got to go home and Aveline didn’t.

Literally all of the relationships were wonderful, though. The romantic relationships had me hooked, as did the friendships, but the central relationship between the two sisters just felt so real. They both loved and admired each other so much that, despite the hints of jealousy on each side and the expected annoyances, they were both so determined to keep each other safe, whatever the cost. I loved them both, and I am terrified for what the next book will bring for them.

I also really enjoyed the narrative voice, which was the first thing to win me over. It made me laugh throughout, though it never detracted from the more serious themes. Since this was third-person, I’m much less inclined to be annoying about how distinct the perspectives did or did not feel from each other, but there was at least enough difference that I never forgot which sister’s head I was in, even when they were in a scene together, so I’m quite satisfied on that front.

I already know I’m going to miss these characters when the series is done, but fortunately I’ve got some time until then. (Less fortunately, it also means I have to somehow survive that cliffhanger until then.) Even more fortunately, this series is not the only thing I have to look forward to from Kamilah Cole. Not every book that sounds amazing ends up living up to my expectations, but this one definitely exceeded them. I recommend it with my whole heart.

Making The Future Gay: The Five Things I Checked out From the Queer Liberation Library

Recently, a nonprofit in Massachusetts put out an exclusively queer book collection on Libby called the Queer Liberation Library (also known as QLL). Their mission is simple: by providing queer people with diversity-focused literature and resources, QLL is building a future that is undeniably queer. This collection of e-materials is available to anyone with an email address, and sign-up is very easy. I signed up and had received confirmation and account information within twelve (12) hours. There are so many titles and collections available, with the focus of their homepage collections being on Black queerness right now in celebration of Black History Month. I would highly recommend signing up for a card if you want exclusively queer literature available at your fingertips. 

Of course, I went a little wild and immediately began downloading so many sapphic titles on the QLL. Here are five things that I checked out from the Queer Liberation Library that I think you should too:

Those Who Wait by Haley Cass

the cover of Those Who Wait

Sutton had a simple plan for her life: finish graduate school and fall in love. But life is never that simple, and it doesn’t help that she is useless around other women. On the other hand, Charlotte has every bit of her life planned out and is not willing to compromise it for love. When the two meet through a dating app, Sutton and Charlotte know they aren’t meant to be—or are they? I picked up this audiobook because of the cute cover and stayed for the slow-burn, friends-with-benefits romance. Don’t let the length of the book (21ish hours) intimidate you: Those Who Wait is a fast-paced epic romance sure to make your top ten books of 2024.

Sing Anyways by Anita Kelly

the cover of Sing Anyway

Nonbinary history professor Sam Bell is committed to a new (non)romantic strategy after numerous failed relationships: Thirst Only. However, having no emotional ties to relationships can be hard, especially when they are left by themselves at The Moonlight Café, otherwise known as Moonie’s to its largely queer regulars, and on karaoke night of all nights. But then Sam’s karaoke crush, Lily Fischer, steps up with a mic, and the two work together to weather the outside world and to keep singing through it all. I read this back during the summer and I remember being actively disappointed that there was no audiobook that I could listen to through my library—never again!

Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni

the cover of Mimosa

Best friends and chosen family Chris, Elise, Jo, and Alex work hard to keep themselves afloat. In an effort to avoid being the oldest gays at the party, the crew decides to put on a new queer event called Grind—specifically for homos in their dirty 30s. Grind is a welcome distraction from their real lives while navigating exes at work, physical and mental exhaustion, and drinking way, way too much on weekdays. This chosen family proves that being messy doesn’t always go away with age. I love Bongiovanni’s art style and can’t wait to sink my teeth into this story about older queer people (which I am swiftly approaching with mild disbelief).

Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought edited by Briona Simone Jones

the cover of Mouths of Rain

Mouths of Rain traces the long history of intellectual thought produced by Black Lesbian writers, spanning the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century.

This anthology features a mix of literature (nonfiction, poetry, and fiction) about a variety of topics from a variety of Black sapphic authors like Audre Lorde and Alice Dunbar-Nelson. 

Mouths of Rain first caught my attention because of the gorgeous cover, but kept me enthralled by the sheer intersectionality of the work. 

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza

the cover of Lesbian Love Story

This is the story of Possanza’s journey into the archives to recover the stories of lesbians in the 20th Century: who they were, how they loved, why their stories were destroyed, and where their memories echo and live on. Centered around seven love stories for the ages, Possanza’s hunt takes readers from a Drag King show in Bushwick to the home of activists in Harlem and then across the ocean to Hadrian’s Library, where she searches for traces of Sappho in the ruins. Along the way, she discovers her own love—for swimming, for community, for New York City—and adds her own record to the archive. I am not the biggest fan of nonfiction (regardless of how many nonfiction titles are on this list), but loved how Possanza would switch genres and use the histories to discuss questions of gender, love, and self. 

Bonus: Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H

the cover of Hijab Butch Blues

Bonus pick because I got very attached to all of these choices: Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H! When fourteen-year-old Lamya H realizes she has a crush on her teacher—her female teacher—she covers up her attraction, an attraction she can’t yet name, by playing up her roles as overachiever and class clown. However, Lamya eventually begins to make sense of her own life by comparing her experiences to the stories of the Quran, and expands on those thoughts in this searing memoir in essays. This is a title that so many of my friends have been reading lately and I am excited to join them once my audiobook hold comes in!

Happy reading!

Chloe (they/he) is a public librarian in Baltimore, who identifies as Indigenous, autistic, and panromantic demisexual. They enjoy reading queer literature for any age group, as well as fantasy, contemporary, and romance. In his spare time, he acts in his local community theaters and plays role-playing games. You can find them on GoodreadsTwitter, or Instagram.