From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.
There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.
It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.
There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.
Thank You to Colored Pages Tours for having me on this blog tour for the book Things we Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles. Check our the tour schedule here.
Thoughts and Themes: There was so much that I really enjoyed about this story. There is not enough stories about bisexual boys and I loved that in this story both the main character and David are bisexual. This story handles a lot of different things, from Gio figuring out his sexuality to him dealing with his feelings about his mother abandoning him when he was younger.
I also really liked the different mental health issues that are brought up through this story. There was a lot going on for both Gio and his brother, Theo when it comes to their mental health and I liked how that was a part of the story. We got to see them have real emotions and I loved that everyone around them took those emotions seriously. I liked that Gio was given permission by those around him to be vulnerable with them and how important that vulnerability was for him to be able to cope with what was happening in his life.
Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Gio. You get to meet Gio’s younger brother, Theo, his best friends, Ayesha and Olly, the love interest, David, and Gio’s step mother, dad, and birth mom.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Gio and his younger brother and how protective he is of him. I also liked how Theo develops throughout this story and how essential he is to the development of Gio. I like how they discuss their feelings with each other and help each other navigate their mom trying to come back into their lives after abandoning them.
I really liked the friendship that Gio has with Ayesha and Olly, and then eventually develops with David. I like how they all keep things real with each other an dhow Gio feels like he can trust his friends with his feelings. I like how we get to see a friendship develop between Gio and David before a romance plot is even explored.
Writing Style: This story is written in first person through Gio’s perspective which was something that I enjoyed. I liked that the story allowed you to be inside of Gio’s head at every moment. This perspective allowed you to feel for Gio and also understand why he was acting certain ways with different people.
JAY COLES is the author of critically acclaimed TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, a composer with ASCAP, and a professional musician residing in Muncie, Indiana. He is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University and holds degrees in English and Liberal Arts. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, serving with The Revolution church, and composing music for various music publishers. Jay’s forthcoming novel THINGS WE COULDN’T SAY is set to be released 9.21.21 with Scholastic! His novels can be purchased at Barnes and Noble or at Amazon.
Ryan Douglass was born and raised in Atlanta, where he currently resides, cooking pasta and playing records. He enjoys wood wick candles, falling asleep on airplanes, and advocating for stronger media representation for queer Black people.
Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.
Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced reader’s copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Thoughts and Themes: I had only seen negative reviews on this book so I went into this one suspecting bad and I wish I had’t. I actually really enjoyed this book and the multiple things that were happening in the story. I usually don’t like for there to be many side plot lines because I worry that they will be left unresolved but I liked the side things happening in this story. I felt that the side things happening helped move the story forward and also allowed you to learn about the characters.
I liked how this book brought up the intersection of being Black and Gay and how that was very different than being just one or the other. I thought this was a important piece that was brought up. I can’t speak on the intersection of holding both of those identities so I suggest that you all read own voices reviews as well.
Something else that I enjoyed about this book was that there were moments in which I felt the characters were coming off the screen. I loved the scenes in which there are supernatural elements involved since I felt these features brought the book to life. It was like this book was a ghost in my own living room.
Characters: In this book you get introduced to quite a few characters through their interactions with Jake and through the journal entries that are provided from Sawyer. I liked the way that we get to meet the people who were in Sawyer’s life and get to understand Sawyer through the journal entries and not just his haunting of Jake.
Something that I really enjoyed about this book is that both Sawyer and Jake are gay males. I thought it was great to see how that identity played into their daily lives and also their interactions with each other. I thought that them both being gay added depth to the story and added more to the reason Sawyer was haunting Jake. I felt that this fact made Sawyer feel like he could relate with Jake, and slowly it felt like Jake was able to relate with Sawyer.
I also really enjoyed the brief romance that we got through this book between Jake and Allister. While the romance wasn’t front and center in this story, I liked the glimpses that we get of their relationship and how it develops.
Writing Style: This story is written in first person point of view through Jake’s perspective and it also includes some of the entries from Sawyer’s journal. I like that this book goes back and forth between Jake’s life and Sawyer’s journal entries. I liked getting to know who Sawyer was prior to the shooting and try to see why that event occurred. I also thought it was great to see that this journal was being read by Jake and it was informing him of why this ghost was now haunting him.
Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, Harry Potter trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.
Their debut novel, CEMETERY BOYS, will be published June 9th, 2020.
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tour for the opportunity to host the author interview on my page. I’m very excited to share with you all what I learned from the author and more reasons why you need to get this book now. Another big thank you to Aiden Thomas for the opportunity to get to know more about them and their debut novel.Well let’s not wait any longer and jump right into the Q & A portion of this interview.
For those who are meeting you for the first time what would you say are 3 “Good To Know” Facts About You?
I’m a Cancer sun, Leo rising! (I don’t actually know anything about astrology but whenever I tell folks they go, “that makes so much sense!” so I guess it’s important for getting to know me!)
I’m 5’11”! For some reason, people always expect me to be short but I’m actually pretty dang tall in person!
I’m totally obsessed with the anime Haikyuu!! and spend most of my time on Twitter looking at fanart.
What would you say are your 5 favorite books – and why?
“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller because it has the most beautiful prose I have ever read!
“Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Cordova because that was the first time I saw my culture reflected in a book. It’s because of The Brooklyn Bruja series that I realized I could write a book like “Cemetery Boys!”
“When the Moon Was Ours” by Anna-Marie MeLemore because it was the first time I read a book with a trans character (and the book itself is so beautiful).
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins because the pacing and action is so good! I must’ve read that series close to a dozen times at this point.
“I Hear the Sunspot” by Yuki Fumino which is technically a manga series, BUT it holds a very special and important piece of my heart! It’s a gay romance and one of the main characters is deaf. It’s the first time I saw deaf/H.O.H. representation in a book and it’s done so well! I recommend it to literally everyone.
Would you say that any of those books/authors inspired you to become a writer? If so, how? If not, what did inspire you to become a writer? They’ve all inspired parts of my writing, but I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school! I’ve always had really vivid dreams, especially nightmares, so when I was little as we had to do journaling for class, I’d write them down like a story. Then as I grew up, reading great books made me want to write great books, so that’s what led me down the path of pursuing it as a life passion!
Tell us a little bit about Cemetery Boys and your inspiration behind the story? “Cemetery Boys” is a contemporary paranormal fantasy about a trans boy named Yadriel who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo. He decides, in order to do that, he’s going to summon the spirit of his cousin, Miguel, who died under mysterious circumstances and release him to the afterlife. Unfortunately, he ends up summoning the spirit of Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school. The two have to work together to find out what happened to Yadriel’s cousin and what happened to Julian’s friends the night he was killed. As they go about trying to solve these mysteries, Yadriel ends up developing feelings for Julian and that complicates everything. The inspiration for the premise actually came from a writing prompt I saw while scrolling through Tumblr! It said, “What would you do if you summoned a ghost and you couldn’t get rid of it?” and instead of the creepy scenarios that other folks were coming up with, my mind immediately went to, “And what if he was CUTE??” I also really wanted to write a book with a trans main character where it was less about being trans, or figuring out his identity. I wanted it to be a fun adventure where the main character just so happened to be trans.
Your story is set in East Los Angeles and takes place around the Day of the Dead. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book? I was born and raised in California and I decided to have “Cemetery Boys” take place there because the city is really a central place where so many different Latinx communities come together. I wanted to reflect that in the brujx — how they all have this magical Mesoamerican lineage, but they also come from different Latinx countries and pieces of those cultures are celebrated and make up the brujx community. I chose everything to center around Dia de Muertos because it’s my favorite holiday, but also because it all revolves around death and the afterlife, which perfectly aligned with the premise!
What was something about Cemetery Boys that you struggled to write or come up with? I’d say the research part of writing “Cemetery Boys” was surprisingly challenging. The Latinx diaspora made it really difficult for me to have definitive research. I wanted to incorporate different Mesoamerican cultures — Aztec, Maya and Inca — to really establish that brujx were around before and during the establishment of these cultures, that they have an ancient magic. The problem is that, due to colonization, indigenous Mesoamerican traditions and mythos have been destroyed or erased. Physical remnants of our history were widely destroyed, so we have to rely on oral tradition and try to decipher the few artefacts we do have access to, most of which have been stolen from us and put into museums. I was surprised by how difficult it really was to find research, but, if nothing else, it did give me room to be creative and make my own mythos for my brujx. And, luckily, there’s no shortage of death gods in Mesoamerican myths!
What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel? Honestly, learning the ropes of the publishing industry was a big crash course! I had no idea what publishing was like before I sold my first book to Swoon Reads/Macmillan. I didn’t even have a Twitter! So writing “Cemetery Boys” taught me a lot about what publishing is. I’m also constantly surprised by how wonderful and supportive the writing community has been.
What do you hope your readers take away from reading Cemetery Boys? I really hope readers will find connection and feel seen when they read “Cemetery Boys”. I wanted to create a story for readers to connect with Yadriel on universal truths that are basic to the human experience, things like struggling to fit in, feeling accepted for who you are, and being loved. A lot of queer teens experience their first sense of belonging or affirmation with queer bloggers, YouTubers, Tiktokers and, of course, characters in books — like Yadriel. Even if they can’t talk to them personally, seeing people with their identities, seeing themselves reflected in books, or internet stars telling them they’re valid gives them a sense of community and comfort. I really hope Yadriel can be that for some folks.
What is your next project? What have you been working on recently? Right now I’m kind of dabbling in a bunch of different stuff! My second book is already ready to be published so I’ve been taking time to explore my writing and different genres I’m interested in. I’ve been working on a trans romcom, as well as a Maya myth retelling, and I’ve also got a dark fantasy idea that has to do with kids cursed by Aztec death gods! I’m going to have a lot of fun figuring out what my next book will be!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT! I feel like writers always ask for advice when it comes to improving their story, but you have to get that rough draft down before you can make it better. The hardest part is finishing that manuscript, and you can query or get published until you have a completed draft to work on!
Check out the rest of the stops on this book tour here.
Summary: Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Thoughts and Themes: I listened to this book on audio as I followed along with it through the physical book. I have found this is a better way for me to read and be able to keep up with everything.
I love that you get a scene that is packed with emotions right from the start of the book. I thought that Audre’s feelings as she is taken from Neri and forced to move to the U.S. were raw and real. I think that each scene that is included in this book that is meant to be emotional is realistic and you feel the characters emotions along with them. There is never a moment in which I question how Audre or Mabel are feeling as the author is transparent with the reader regarding their feelings.
I think it was impactful that this book included the complexity of having a relationship with God and being queer. It wasn’t until I started picking up queer books written by people of color that I started seeing the intersection of religion and queerness come into play. I always felt that it was a large piece that was missing in things that I read and I felt that queer people couldn’t have a relationship with God. I always felt that we had to choose one or the other so seeing characters who manage to hold both a religious identity and a queer identity really speaks to me and helps me re-examine my relationship with religion.
Something else that this book touches upon is health and what it means for a high school student to have poor health. I also thought that it was important to include that the doctors didn’t have a definitive answer to what was happening to Mabel. I thought that was a good way to show the disparity in the medical community when it comes to treating Black patients and how often times they are overlooked. I thought that the questioning of this illness and Audre’s thoughts on medicine are included and her distrust of the medical system in the U.S. I thought this was another good way to show the reasoning behind why Black people and other people of color have this distrust of the medical system and where it stems from.
Something else that I thought it was important to see was the way Mabel’s poor health affects those around her and see her perspective on this illness that is killing her. I thought it was important that Mabel asks for her space as she comes to terms with her illness and that her friends respect her boundaries in this time.
I like how you get an idea of what Trinidad is like and how you get a comparison of that country and the United States. I like how you also get commentary about how the schooling is very different. I also really enjoyed the conversation that Audre has with her friends about queer people back in Trinidad and how different it is to be queer back at her home and the U.S.
Characters: At the start of the book you get slowly introduced to Audre and the people who are important to her. I like how you see the relationships that she has with other people around her. I love that they show her close relationship with her grandmother, Queenie, and how accepting her grandmother is of her relationship with her girlfriend.
You also begin to get an idea of who Mabel is right from the start as well. I love that they include her questioning her sexuality through her relationship with a previous boyfriend. As you meet Mabel, her friends, and family you begin to understand her more and see why her thought process is the way it is.
Writing Style and Narrator: This book goes back and forth between Audre and Mabel’s perspectives. What I enjoy about this back and forth between the two characters is that it isn’t one chapter for Audre and then one for Mabel. It reads more as one moment for Audre and then one for Mabel, and sometimes those moments span over one chapter and sometimes it takes more.
Something else that I found interesting was that this book includes pieces of poetry from each of the different zodiac signs as it transitions between different portions of the book. I really enjoy all of the astrology references that are included through each of the characters.
I also liked how over halfway through the book as Mabel begins reading Afua’s book, the author included pieces of that book. I also enjoy how there’s parts of other books or poetry included as Audre does assignments in school.
You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.
GoodReads Summary:Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Thoughts: Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.
The reality for Black people is that the America that they live in is not the same America that others know. The reality is that their America looks completely different and at a young age they learn what it means to be Black and live in America. This is the story that Tracy Beaumont wants you to know, she wants you to recognize the difference in the America that her and her family is being forced to grow up in.
What I like about this book is that it is real and the author isn’t afraid to bring up topics that are important. You get to see the real time feelings of not only Tracy but her younger sister, Corinne who was born after her dad was in jail and is watching her brother be chased by the police. You get to see as Tracy’s friend, Dean, struggles with his mother’s racism and his own thoughts surrounding what is happening. This is one of my favorite scenes as Dean struggles with his privilege and his inherent bias towards Black people, while Tracy doesn’t comfort him and allows him to sit in his feelings.
You not only see Tracy’s father doing jail time on death row for something he didn’t do but you also see her brother trying to prove his innocence. You see how easy it is for the police to pin these crimes on Tracy’s family with no proof and how it cost the life of one Black man as he tries to claim he’s innocent. You watch as Tracy tries to continue on with her life and everyone around her tries to keep her from getting in trouble. You watch her struggle with not being able to just be silent about the injustice that her family and community has been and is being put through.
Something else that I found important was that this book shows the race relations between Black people and white people. We saw these relations through Tracy’s friendship with Dean, and his mother’s reactions towards Tracy after her father was sent to jail. I really enjoy reading as Tracy and Dean’s relationship develops and Tracy struggles with what it would mean for her to date Dean. We also saw these relations through Jamal’s relationship with Angela and how that relationship ultimately causes Jamal to be in trouble while Angela’s boyfriend doesn’t get questioned at all.
I recommend this book to those of you who enjoy Nic Stone’s Dear Martin or Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. This is a must read book for all and is a great way to show young adults the reality of what being Black in America means. I would highly recommend this book to white people who are looking for something to help them understand what Black people go through on a regular basis.
You can pre-order this book at Eso Won Books, or look for it at your local library coming out July 28.