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

Colonialism and Revolution in Fantasy France: The Faithless by C. L. Clark

the cover of The Faithless

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When I finished The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue with the series. It was brilliant, yes: thought-provoking and gut-wrenching, with commentary on colonialism and a passionate, doomed F/F romantic subplot. The strengths of the book, though—the bleakness that reflects the real-life horrors of living through war, occupation, and revolution; the fallible characters making mistakes with devastating consequences; the complexity of the depiction of colonialism—were exactly what made it difficult to read. I wasn’t sure I would be able to read another thousand pages of that between the next two books of the trilogy. By the time The Faithless came out, though, I felt ready to dive in again. And I was surprised to find that book two had everything I loved in book one, but with a lot more fun.

To be clear, this is still a story about empire and power struggles, with deaths and high stakes. But while book one took place mostly on the battlefield, book two is more about court politics in a country reminiscent of France. The power difference between Luca and Touraine is still there, but Touraine has more leverage.

It’s also interesting to see Touraine struggle with trying to figure out where she belongs: the country she was raised in as a child soldier, or the country she was born in and is trying to fight for? She feels outside of both, and is developing her own sense of identity now that she has more space to make her own decisions.

The relationship between Luca and Touraine is more of a focus, and the pining here is unmatched! It also feels more fun to read because there isn’t such a huge power disparity between them. I’m still not sure if they’re good together, but of course I was rooting for them to sleep together anyway. Also, Sabine—who has a friends-with-benefits situation with Luca—really steals the show. Her flirting with both of them and calling out their sexual tension is always fun to read.

This is still the Magic of the Lost series, so there’s a dark undercurrent underneath. Touraine is dealing with PTSD after her near death experience—something I rarely see in fantasy, even though of course you would be traumatized after something like that. The peace between Balladaire and Qazal is tenuous, and the conditions of their agreement are being bitterly fought over, which threatens to throw them back into combat at any moment. Violent revolution looms. Luca is looking for any sort of advantage to seize the throne—and finds that power comes with a price she isn’t sure she’s willing to pay.

I’m so glad I continued with this series. I appreciated the writing, plot, and characterization just as much as the first book, but I found it a much easier read—it probably helps that I’m now familiar with this world and these characters. It’s a rare second book in a trilogy that I like even better than the first. I’m excited to read the final book in the series when it comes out!

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!

A Knife-Throwing Bisexual Mystery in 1940’s New York: Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

the cover of Fortune Favors the Dead

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Content Warnings: Homophobia, ableism, depictions of violence

Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood is a fun and engaging mystery story, set in the backdrop of New York City in the direct aftermath of World War II. Willowjean Parker, who prefers the name Will, is a former circus performer and general ruffian.

After an encounter with Lillian Pentecost, the city’s premier lady detective, she is enlisted as the woman’s right hand. Pentecost’s increasing age and worsening multiple sclerosis mean that even simple investigations wear on her, and Will is just the woman to keep her in the game.

The story proper begins with the Collins case, a classic locked room mystery, with several characters theorizing a possible supernatural element. Abigail Collins was bludgeoned to death in her office during the annual Halloween party, with the very crystal ball that was just used during a seance to converse with her late husband… a late husband who died of suicide in the very same chair she was found murdered in. The door was locked, the windows barred. Who could have done it?

A mystery story lives and dies on its mystery, and I’m pleased to report that Fortune Favors the Dead does not disappoint. Spotswood has woven a complex and engaging story that nevertheless feels inevitable by the time that all the pieces are in place. I’m pleased that I was able to predict a few of the big reveals, but several were just out of my reach, though clear in hindsight. The mystery left me feeling satisfied, not frustrated or foolish, and that is one of its biggest successes.

Where the story really shines, however, is with the detectives. Lillian and Will, as well as their relationship with each other, stand above the rest of the story as main characters. Lillian is refined, clever, and deeply protective of her charge, as well as all of the women of New York City. She spends every Saturday holding open hours at her home, offering advice and consultations to any woman who comes in, no matter what they need. She is whip smart and with a reputation that precedes her, making her feel like a fun and novel take on Sherlock Holmes. Will serves as a nice contrast, a spunky ex-circus performer with a talent for knife throwing, lock picking, and a dozen other odd things. While her boss consults with people on Saturdays, Will hosts a self-defense class, teaching the women of the city how best to defend themselves.

Will and Lillian’s relationship is most present when Lillian’s multiple sclerosis flares up. Lillian often has difficulty with otherwise simple things, so Will assists her and takes over completely when possible, such as interviewing possible witnesses. The pair’s bond is given a tragic angle, the silent knowledge that at some point Lillian will no longer be able to investigate due to her condition. Will’s good nature is at its clearest here, the unabashed kindness and care she shows her mentor a nice splash of emotional warmth in an otherwise tense and exciting adventure, a kindness that Lillian returns throughout the story.

Queerness runs throughout the story. Will is bisexual, and the mutual attraction between her and Becca Collins, the daughter of the victim, runs throughout the story. Their courtship serves as a source of tension between multiple other characters, especially given the setting. In New York in 1945, same-sex relations were more than just frowned upon, and Will is threatened with physical violence several times during the story just for her interest in Becca. Seeing her rise to and above these threats, as well as the actions of her mentor to support and defend her, is deeply satisfying.

Pentecost and Parker are a version of Holmes and Watson that I didn’t know I needed until now, and I can’t wait to see more of them. The partnership between the two characters is wonderful, the mystery draws you in and makes you want to solve it, and the representation of not just queerness but also disability really make this book stand out. As of the writing of this review, two more books in this series are released, with a fourth on the way, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Pentecost and Parker.

Sapphic YA Romance in a Haunted House: The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh

The Girls Are Never Gone cover

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The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh is a YA supernatural horror novel. Its protagonist, Dare, is just beginning her summer internship restoring an old house and recovering from a breakup with her boyfriend. She plans to use the summer to launch a podcast about the house’s history of mysterious drownings. While investigating, she teams up with Quinn, who is possibly haunted and definitely cute. The book shines in its interpersonal and representational qualities, but sadly falls short of the mark as a genre novel.

As far as character writing, this one excels. Dare is openly bisexual and diabetic. Her diabetes clearly impacts her life day to day, and is portrayed as a challenge but not an impediment. Her relationship with Quinn, meanwhile, is mostly cute and genuine, with the two sharing sweet moments. Occasionally, conflicts between them would feel stale and forced, but that plays more into plotting issues discussed later.

It’s not only the central romance that was sweet. Dare and Quinn intern alongside Holly. Although the girls don’t always agree, they develop a nice friendship. In her investigation, Dare meets an older woman who casually mentions a wife and child, adding to a sense of queer normativity. Most of the characters in the book are women: protagonists, antagonists, secondary characters. It offers the book a sort of cozy feminism. Women can indeed be heroes and love interests, but they can also just exist on the sidelines.

Unfortunately, as a genre read, this one fell flat for me. For one thing, there were way too many past characters. It might have worked better if I’d read it as a print novel instead of listening to the audiobook, maybe seen pictures or something similar to develop them. Instead, it was a litany of dead and missing girls without much context to any of them, and I had a difficult time keeping track of which one did what when.

Also, for a spooky story, it wasn’t that spooky. This is partly because Dare is a skeptic—which is a fine trait to have, until it leads to a character who spends two-thirds of the book oblivious to something readers know from the summary. To me, it felt like nothing was happening because the main character actively ignored the plot, making for a frustrating and sometimes plodding read. At times the story even seemed to cut away from the most dramatic moments. I’m not a big fan of romance as a primary genre, so this made for a less-than-stellar reading experience for me.

Trigger warnings: murder, supernatural

Lack-of-trigger warning: nothing bad happens to the dog 🙂

Meagan Kimberly reviews Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

the cover of Make You Mine This Christmas

Christopher and Haf meet at a university Christmas party one night and after drunkenly kissing under the mistletoe, they’re mistaken for a couple. Rather than own up to the truth that they were simply strangers making out at a party, they go along with the idea. Haf agrees to fake date Christopher during the break with his family so as not to admit to her own family that she will be alone this holiday. Along the way, Haf meets an incredible woman at a bookstore, and oops, it turns out, it’s Christopher’s sister. Shenanigans ensue.

Haf and Christopher are absolutely delightful characters, despite what trainwrecks they both are. It’s pure bisexual chaotic energy as they go about trying to convince Christopher’s family that they’re a couple. Meanwhile, Haf is trying her damndest not to keep falling for his sister, the beautiful and intimidating Kit.

Huxley-Jones does a phenomenal job of developing Kit’s character. She is disabled and living with a chronic condition that leaves her physically exhausted and having to walk with a cane. But this never defines her entire character. She’s saucy, confident and a bit formidable, but in the best way. It’s no wonder Haf falls head over heels in love with her.

It’s easy for readers to fall in love with Haf as well. She’s a plus-size heroine who totally owns her body. It’s so refreshing to read a fat character’s story that doesn’t center on fretting over her weight. Moreover, no one around her ever makes her feel bad about her body.

Perhaps the most delightful thing about the plot is how it takes the fake dating trope and turns it into a rather sweet friendship between Haf and Christopher. It never turns into an awkward love triangle situation between her and the two siblings (which frankly I’m thankful for because that would have been too weird).

There are plenty of rom-com shenanigans to keep you laughing throughout the whole book, mixed in with heartwarming moments of friendship. There’s a particularly excellent chapter involving a baby reindeer and that’s all I’ll say about that. It’s the perfect cozy romance for the winter season and holidays.

Kelleen Reviews Three Novellas to Marathon This Summer

Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant

the cover of Caroline’s Heart

I read Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant for the first time this month and it blew my mind. It’s a queer trans historical western fantasy novella and it’s just so GOOD. I don’t read a lot of fantasy and I don’t read a lot of westerns, but I love a queer historical, so I jumped in with both feet. I don’t want to give too much away, but it follows a bi trans witch who’s trying to resurrect her lost lover and the bi trans cowboy who has her lover’s heart in his chest. And then, they fall in love. The stakes are so high, the world building is so precise, and the romance is so addictive. It’s tender and raw and absolutely electrifying. It’s the perfect Pride read for historical and fantasy lovers alike!

Representation: bi trans heroine, bi trans hero, bi trans author

Content warnings: death of a loved one, blood, violence

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole

the cover of Can't Escape Love

Alyssa Cole writes the most dynamic, diverse, relatable romance worlds and this little novella is no different. The fourth in her Reluctant Royals series, this novella follows Reggie, the badass CEO of the nerdy girl media empire Girls with Glasses and the video creator she used to have an internet crush on. When Reggie’s insomnia has made it impossible for her to keep working, she turns desperately to Gus, whose puzzling livestreams are the only thing that ever soothed her enough to fall asleep. And then, they fall in love. Reggie never actually names her identity on page, but she’s polysexual of some kind. She is also a wheelchair user. Both Reggie and Gus are neurodivergent and the way their brains work together is so lovely. These two understand each other better than anyone else does and they make something so beautiful together. The book is sexy and smart and nerdy and hilarious and absolutely delightful. Alyssa Cole is always a must-read, but this novella is EXCELLENT, and perfect for the second half of your Pride TBR.

Representation: queer, neurodivergent, wheelchair using Black heroine, neurodivergent, Vietnamese-American hero, queer, neurodivergent, Black author

Content warnings: roofies (off-page, mentioned), discussion of hospital stays

Wherever is Your Heart by Anita Kelly

the cover of Wherever Is Your Heart

Anita Kelly has given us a gift for us in the Moonies series, a series of novellas that center around a queer karaoke bar. This one, the third and final in the series, is sapphic and is my favorite of the lot. It’s a soft novella about blue collar soft butch lesbians in their late 40s, early 50s who are ready to settle down and fall in love and I love it with everything that I am. And then, they fall in love. I don’t really know how to describe it, but this book is about soft butches but it also feels like it IS a soft butch? Like it’s an embodiment of soft butchness in book form. It’s so tender and gentle and beautiful. The book takes place during Pride at a karaoke bar so now’s the perfect time to read it! My predominant feeling when reading an Anita Kelly book is warmth—I feel warm and safe and seen and celebrated, and what more could you want from Pride?

Representation: middle aged, plus sized, butch lesbian heroines, chronic pain, nonbinary author

Content warnings: Drunk driving, alcoholism, death of parent, weed

Sometimes, in my life existing as a twenty-something butchish queer disabled woman and experiencing different aspects of my community online and in the world, I worry that I am not cool and hip and irreverent enough. And sometimes, this makes me feel not only like I’m not connected to my community but that I have no business calling it my community. But all three of these books never fail to remind me that queer people are also silly and awkward and quiet (I’m not quiet) and soft and nerdy and dramatic and complicated, and that there is not one acceptable way to be queer.

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