This stunning debut and wholly original queer middle grade novel-in-verse retelling of “Orpheus and Eurydice” adds a new chorus to the songs of great love, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World.
Love at first sight isn’t a myth. For seventh graders Olivia and Eden, it’s fate. Olivia is a capital-P Poet, and Eden thinks she wants to be a musician one day, but for now she’s just the new girl. And then Eden shows up to Poetry Club and everything changes.
Eden isn’t out, and she has rules for dating Olivia: don’t call. Don’t tell her friends. And don’t let anyone know they’re together.
But when jealousy creeps in, it’s Olivia’s words that push Eden away. While Eden sets out to find herself, Olivia begins a journey to bring Eden back—using poetry. Both Olivia and Eden will learn just how powerful their words can be to bring them together . . . or tear them apart forever.
Kate Fussner writes books for young people and bakes the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She holds a B.A from Vassar College, an M.Ed. from University of Massachusetts Boston, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University. After over a decade of teaching English for the Boston Public Schools, Kate now spends her time writing and walking her dramatic dog, Mrs. Weasley. She is represented by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, and elsewhere. She and her wonderful wife live in MA.
The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Deya Muniz
Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novel
Publishing Date: May 9, 2023
A funny, heartfelt YA romance about finding love—and lots of grilled cheese sandwiches—in the place you least expect it, from rising talent Deya Muniz.
Lady Camembert wants to live life on her own terms, without marriage. Well, without marrying a man, that is. But the law of the land is that women cannot inherit. So when her father passes away, she does the only thing she can: She disguises herself as a man and moves to the capital city of the Kingdom of Fromage to start over as Count Camembert.
But it’s hard to keep a low profile when the beautiful Princess Brie, with her fierce activism and great sense of fashion, catches her attention. Camembert can’t resist getting to know the princess, but as the two grow closer, will she able to keep her secret?
A romantic comedy about mistaken identity, true love, and lots of grilled cheese.
Thoughts and Themes: When reading the premise of this book I was very excited to get a chance to read the book and share it with you all. I loved the idea that Camembert has to have this fake identity because of the law of the land and how this gets even more complicated when she falls in love with Brie. I also liked seeing how Brie is struggling with her feelings towards Camembert once she finds out the secret that she has been keeping from everyone.
Characters: In this book, you are introduced to Camembert and her love interest Princess Brie, along with several of Brie’s close friends and Feta who is caring for Camembert. I love the relationship between Feta and Camembert and how Feta really is only trying to look out for her. I also really like how the relationship developed between Camembert and the Princess and how that ultimately wraps itself up.
Writing Style: I really enjoyed the way that this story was told through the perspective of the count and how miserable she is throughout the whole story. I also really enjoyed the art style and there were so many cute pictures that I was just aweing over. I loved how they didn’t completely change what Camembert looked like in order to disguise her throughout the story.
About the Author
1/2 Creator of Blades of Furry⛸✨|| Author of The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich 🧀✨
Come out. Break up. Stay friends? In this heartwarming queer love story about love of all kinds, exes navigate new crushes, new feelings, and a newly uncertain future after unexpectedly coming out to each other on prom night turns their lives–and their friendship–upside down. Can they figure out how to move on without losing each other?
Jillian and Henry are the kind of couple who do everything together. They take the same classes, have the same hobbies, and applied for the same super-competitive scholarship so they can go to the same dream college. They even come out as gay to each other on the same night, after junior prom, prompting a sudden breakup that threatens their intertwined identities and carefully designed future. Jillian knows the only way to keep everything on track is to approach their breakup with the same precision and planning as their scholarship application. They will still be “Jillian and Henry”–even if they’re broken up.
Except they hadn’t planned on Henry meeting the boy of his dreams or Jillian obsessing over a cool girl at school. Jillian is desperate to hold on to her best friend when so much else is changing. But as she and Henry explore what–and who–they really want, it becomes harder to hold on to the careful definitions she has always lived her life by. Stuck somewhere between who she was with Henry and who she might be on her own, Jillian has to face what she can’t control and let go of the rules holding her back.
Thoughts and Themes: I was a little worried when I started reading this book and even more so as I got into it. I was worried this was going to be Jillian and Henry both being queer except they’d be each other’s exception. Now you don’t get that from the blurb but as things progressed through the story I was so worried that this was going to be as far as they got with their sexuality. I was pleasantly surprised though and found that I loved this book so much.
I liked how they both came out to each other at the same time but I also like how Henry later brings this up as something that wasn’t the best for him. I like that we get real feelings and emotions from Jillian and Henry and how messy their friendship is after they come out to each other. I loved that we see them go back to each other multiple times because it is all either of them knows and how they find comfort in each other. The whole book felt very real to me and it was relatable.
Characters: In this book, you get to meet our two main characters, Jillian and Henry, along with their love interests and families. I loved the relationships that we get to see throughout this whole book, between Jillian and Henry, both of them with their families, Henry with his boyfriend, and Jillian with Carla.
I like that we see Jillian and Henry’s relationship change over the course of the book as they figure out how they fit with each other. I like that Henry calls Jillian out on everything having to be on her terms and how much control she has to have. I really thought that the conversation they had was important to their character growth even though it hurts as you read through that scene.
Writing Style: This book is told in first person through the perspective of Jillian which is something that I actually really enjoyed. I like that we only got to see how Jillian was feeling about everything and we were missing the perspective of Henry. I think the book would’ve read differently to the reader if we knew how Henry felt about everything that was happening. I liked that all we knew was the things he actually told Jillian about but we didn’t know these things until he had enough.
Jennifer Nissley (she/her/hers) is the author of THE MYTHIC KODA ROSE, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in Summer 2021. Although her first love is writing, she is powerfully attracted to video games, horses, and pretty much any piece of clothing or interior design with an animal on it.
She received her MFA in Fiction from Stony Brook Southampton and lives in Queens with her wife and doggo, but sadly no horses.
Currently, she’s at work on multiple writing projects.
We Are Okay meets They Both Die at the End in this YA debut about queer first love and mental health at the end of the world and the importance of saving yourself, no matter what tomorrow may hold.
Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.
Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.
If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.
Thoughts and Themes: Apocalypic, end of the world stuff is my favorite, make it queer and it gets to a level of must-read. I loved this book before I ever opened it up and when I finished it I loved it even more. The whole time that I was reading this book I felt like it was saying here have some cute stuff that fills your heart with warmness only to be like now let me rip that heart away from you.
There were so many moments in which I fell in love with this book. I loved the way this book handles the topic of suicidal thoughts/attempts and the way we get to see all of Avery’s feelings surrounding this. I like how we get to see Aisha process this and being the only person who knows what Avery’s plans were before we know about the impact coming to Earth. I like the conversation that Dr. Talley has with Avery regarding this and how he doesn’t push her to tell anyone. I like how we get to see Cass’s response to this and how difficult that is for her to process. I also liked how we got to see Avery’s parents process things and how her mom processes the death of her sister by suicide.
Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with our main character, Avery. You get to meet the love interest, Cass, her roommate, Aisha, her mom and dad, her brother and his wife, her English professor, Dr. Talley, and more. I loved all of the relationships that you see throughout this book since they all stood out to me.
So many of the relationships stood out to me because of how they impacted Avery. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see her change as she accepts her feelings for Cass and learns about those feelings. I also liked seeing her change as she starts to let people love and care about her. There were a lot of relatable factors in this book as I read on and that was why I hugged this book tightly when I finished it. Not only was it a book I couldn’t put down because I fell in love with the characters but because I saw so much of a younger me reflected in the story.
Writing Style: This book is written in first person through the point of view of our main character, Avery, and it goes back and forth from days until the impact and years/months before the impact. I really enjoyed that we got to see the past and the present playing side by side to see how one is impacted by the other. I also really liked that you only get to see Avery’s perspective throughout this whole book because we only get to see what she shows us.
Lambda Literary Fellow Jen St. Jude (she/they) grew up in New Hampshire apple orchards and now lives in Chicago with her wife and dog. She has served as an editor for Chicago Review of Books, Just Femme & Dandy, and Arcturus Magazine. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her cheering on the Chicago Sky and Red Stars. If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is her first novel.
A must-read that belongs in every home and classroom, “A Day With No Words” invites readers into the life of an Autism Family who communicates just as the child does, without spoken language.
This colorful and engaging picture book for young readers shares what life can look like for families who communicate in a nonverbal way, utilizing tools (like tablets) to embrace their unique method of “speaking.”
This story highlights the bond between mother and child and follows them on a day where they use a tablet to communicate with others.
When I read the description of this book I knew I wanted to read it and have the chance to share it with you all. I have rarely seen books that show AAC being used, even more so children’s books. I really liked the way that this book describes what voices sound like for someone who is autistic and how different those voices sound when they are coming from people who are important to them. I also really liked how this shows the kid feeling like no one can hear him because he isn’t using spoken words, and how his mother supports him. I like how we see the whole family using AAC to communicate with each other as well as with other people they encounter. I also love that we get to see the things that make the kid happy and people’s responses to that, and the way those words still hurt even as these people think he doesn’t understand their words.
Tiffany Hammond is the voice behind the popular social media account Fidgets and Fries. She is an Autistic mother and advocate. Tiffany is a storyteller, using her own personal experiences with Autism and parenting two teen boys with the same diagnosis to guide others on their journey. Her activism is rooted in challenging the current perception of Autism as being a lifelong burden, cultivating a community that explores the concept of Intersectionality and Autism, and inspiring thought leaders through storytelling, education, and critical discourse. She has a Masters in Developmental Psychology from Liberty University.
Tiffany is an Autistic Speaker and Autistic Consultant who currently uses her lived experiences to inform her audiences of the issues that matter most to this community, with emphasis on the Black Autistic experience.
Tiffany is a dreamer by day and writer by night. She doesn’t care to write about herself in the third person but can be easily persuaded to do so every once in a while. She lives in Texas with her husband, Alonzo, and their two boys, Aidan and Josiah. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.
DEADENDIA: The Watcher’s Test & DEADENDIA: The Broken Halo by Hamish Steele
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy (Graphic Novel)
Publishing Date: May 2, 2023
Synopsis The Watcher’s Test:
Barney and his best friend Norma are just trying to get by and keep their jobs, but working at the Dead End theme park also means battling demonic forces, time traveling wizards, and scariest of all–their love lives!
Follow the lives of this diverse group of employees of a haunted house, which may or may not also serve as a portal to hell, in this hilarious and moving graphic novel, complete with talking pugs, vengeful ghosts and LBGTQIA love!
In the second installment of this quirky, heartfelt, LGBTQ adventure comic, war is brewing across the thirteen planes and as always, haunted house attraction and portal to hell Dead End is right at the center of it.
It’s been weeks since Dead End was destroyed and as it reopens as a hotel, resident tour guide turned hotel manager Norma is determined to leave the ghosts of the past where they belong. But with her friendship with Barney up in the air and angels and demons using the hotel as their literal wrestling ring, Norma soon finds that unwanted ghosts can appear at any moment, especially when they’re your own.
Hamish Steele (he/they) is a freelance animation director and illustrator who grew up surrounded by legends, myths, and folktales. Since graduating from Kingston University in 2013, Hamish has worked for the BBC, Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, among others. He is the creator of and showrunner for the Netflix series Dead End: Paranormal Park, based on his graphic novel series, DeadEndia, and the Eisner Award-winning creator of the graphic novel, Pantheon. Hamish currently lives in London and can be found online at https://hamishsteele.co.uk/.
¡Ay, Mija! (A Graphic Novel): My Bilingual Summer in Mexico by Christine Suggs
Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novel
Publishing Date: January 1, 2023
“An absolutely heartwarming and vibrant story of belonging, family, and the meaning of home. This book is a treasure.” – Julie Murphy, New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’
In this bilingual, inventive, and heartfelt debut, graphic novel talent Christine Suggs explores a trip they took to Mexico to visit family, embracing and rebelling against their heritage and finding a sense of belonging.
Sixteen-year-old Christine takes their first solo trip to Mexico to spend a few weeks with their grandparents and tía. At first, Christine struggles to connect with family they don’t yet share a language with. Seeing the places their mom grew up—the school she went to, the café where she had her first date with their father—Christine becomes more and more aware of the generational differences in their family.
Soon Christine settles into life in Mexico, eating pan dulce, drawing what they see, and growing more comfortable with Spanish. But when Mom joins their trip, Christine’s two worlds collide. They feel homesick for Texas, struggle against traditions, and miss being able to speak to their mom without translating. Eventually, through exploring the impacts of colonialism in both Mexico and themselves, they find their place in their family and start to feel comfortable with their mixed identity.
Content Warning: body issues, colonialism, family trauma, diaspora
Thoughts and Themes: The minute that I read the description of this book I knew that it was something that I had to read. I am so glad that I got the chance to read this book and also to share it with you all. This book spoke to so many pieces of me especially a younger me and it felt so healing. I hadn’t even realized that this book was Christine’s memoir because of how relatable so many of the moments were.
I really liked how there were portions of the story told in Spanish and those moments were not translated. This allowed me to feel the way that Christine feels in this story as they are trying to keep up with conversations going on around them. I like how Christine explains what it means for them to not be fluent in Spanish but also want to feel like a part of that family.
I rarely get to read books in which the main character is Latinx and queer so that was really refreshing and something else that stood out to me in this book was the integration of the religion. I really liked the way you can see aspect of their religion peeking through in different moments throughout the book and how Christine is grappling with that.
Something else that stood out to me about the book was how the main character looks like me, I think this piece was the most important part of this story. This was why I kept forgetting it was a memoir because I was like this could be a younger me and relating so much. I remember throwing this book across the room because of how frustrated I was in moments because of that relatability but then also hugging the book because of what it meant to me.
About the Author
Christine’s pronouns are they/them/theirs
Christine Suggs is a comic artist and designer living in Dallas, TX with their wonderful partner, 1 dog, and 2 cats. They’re currently working on a YA graphic novel about spending their summers in Mexico as a teen, set to release in 2023 from Little Brown Young Readers. Christine’s work explores the intersection of their identities, namely being a queer, fat, Latinx leftist who loves all things cute. Bonus facts: their day job is in app design, they are an avid Dungeons & Dragons player, and they’re quite obsessed with their cats.
Danna Mendoza Villarreal’s grandfather is slowly losing himself as his memories fade, and Danna’s not sure her plan to help him remember through the foods he once reviewed will be enough to bring him back. Especially when her own love of food makes her complicated relationship with her mother even more difficult.
Raúl Santos has been lost ever since his mother was wrongly incarcerated two years ago. Playing guitar for the elderly has been his only escape, to help them remember and him forget. But when his mom unexpectedly comes back into his life, what is he supposed to do when she isn’t the same person who left?
When Danna and Raúl meet, sparks fly immediately and they embark on a mission to heal her grandfather…and themselves. Because healing is something best done together—even if it doesn’t always look the way we want it to.
Thoughts and Themes: This book was one that I had a hard time putting down and when I finished it I wanted to read it again. I have loved each and every one of Laekan Zea Kemp’s books so I was so happy to get to read this one and talk to you all about it.
There were so many moments in this book that I was highlighting both in yellow because they stood out to me and in blue to figure out how to capture those words in an image for the mood board. The poetry in this book was captivating and there were so many lines that spoke to me.
Characters: In this book, you get to meet Danna and Raul, along with a few of the people that are in their lives. You get to meet Danna’s mom, dad, and grandfather, along with Raul’s uncle and mom. I really enjoyed each of the characters that you meet throughout this book along with the relationships that they have and develop with each other.
I loved the relationship that Danna has with her grandfather and how she explains why he is so important to her. I love that she explains how it’s all about the way he sees her and this portion of the book spoke to me especially as we see how Danna views herself based on her mother’s ideas of her.
I really liked the relationship that develops between Danna and Raul and how worried she is that he will like her cousin over her. I love how he points out often that she is the prettiest girl to him even if he doesn’t directly say this to her. I just thought their relationship was just so pure and honest, and I liked how genuine they were with each other.
Writing Style: This book is written in first person going back and forth from Danna and Raul’s perspectives. I really enjoyed that this book gave you both of their perspectives because you get a chance to see how both of their lives are going apart from each other. I also like that through both their perspectives you get to see what brings them together and how they slowly are starting to understand one another.
Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, TX. She received her B.A. in English from Texas Tech University in her hometown of Lubbock, TX, and her M.A. in Teaching from the University of North Texas in Denton. She was a high school ESL teacher for several years and had the privilege of teaching students from all over the world. From 2012 to 2017 she self-published several novels, including a paranormal romance series, The Girl in Between, before writing what would be her traditionally published debut, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER & SWEET, out from Little Brown Young Readers on April 6th, 2021.
She participated in DVPit in April of 2019, signed with her agent, Andrea Morrison at Writers House in May of 2019, and sold her debut in June of that same year. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicanx grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health.
In addition to writing, she is also the host of the Author Pep Talks podcast, featuring interviews with writers who have experience writing through grief, trauma, and heartbreak.
She’s a member of the marketing collective, Las Musas, which began in 2018 as a way to connect women and marginalized people whose gender identity aligns with femininity and who were soon to be traditionally published. What started as a way to uplift marginalized voices evolved to include a mentorship program for aspiring Kidlit authors and illustrators and the first ever Latinx Kidlit book festival. Recently, Laekan along with other Musas, launched the Las Musas podcast aimed at illuminating the traditional publishing experience from a distinctly Latinx perspective.
She invites you to visit her online via her website and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @LaekanZeaKemp. She also has a personal blog, updated weekly, where she writes about creativity and mental health, as well as a monthly newsletter where she shares the details of her publishing journey. You can buy signed copies of her books at BookPeople, her local indie bookstore. She is currently scheduling free virtual school and book club visits.
When Will comes home to small-town Washington for his family’s solstice celebration, he expects to feel out of place. A trans man in a coven of witches, he’s never felt the magic his family feels. Things change, however, when he runs into an old classmate from high school. Bea sees Will in a way very few people from his hometown do, and more than that, she believes in his magic. These two grow closer over the holidays, and learn to lean on each other in the face of family prejudices and expectations, but when the holiday is over, what will happen to their budding relationship? A funny, intriguing, and sometimes bittersweet story about finding people who see the real you in a world that isn’t made for you.
Thoughts and Themes: I always forget how much I really do enjoy short stories/novellas and am very pleased when I get the chance to read one. This one was great and is definitely one that I am adding to the list of things to re-read. It’s one that was rough at the start but as it goes on and when it ends left me with a lot of hope.
I really liked the premise of this story and how the coven has no boys in the past eighty years and how our main character is the first boy and even then it wasn’t until later in life that he recognized that he is Trans. I like how this plays out for Will’s family members and how they respond to him as well as how other town people respond to him. I also like how Will points out the way his family accepts woman loving woman but not him being Trans.
Characters: In this book you are introduced to the main character, Will and the love interest, Bea. Along the way you do get a chance to meet some of their family members but very briefly. While they were a lot during the brief moments they were introduced, I did enjoy that we got to meet ‘s family because it shows a lot of why he responds the way he does.
I really enjoyed the romance that happens in this story and how Bea helps Will learn to love himself despite his family. I also like how this develops and how Will is quick to dismiss Bea at first because of them being in two different places geographically. I like that we get to see him struggle with her not being ready to leave behind all she has known.
Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Will which is something that I really enjoy especially when the conflict arises. I liked that we only get to see things from Will’s point of view and we don’t know how others are feeling. I thought this was especially important regarding his family and their feelings about him being Trans and leaving them. I thought it was great that we don’t get to see this because their feelings in the long run didn’t matter.
Alec lives in the Pacific Northwest, where they write romantic adult fantasy and self-indulgent fanfiction. They make candles inspired by their favorite characters.
Jacky Ha-Ha Gets the Last Laugh by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publishing Date: March 6, 2023
Jacky Ha-Ha is off to theater camp and funnier than ever in this hilarious illustrated novel from James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein’s #1 New York Times bestselling series.
Jacky Hart finally knows the thrill of having people laugh with her (not at her). She tries to put her comedy and theater skills to use in her summer job—but the boardwalk crowds aren’t exactly adoring. So Jacky jumps at the opportunity of a lifetime: an all-expense paid trip to theater camp!
When Jacky gets to Camp Footlights, she realizes she’s way out of her depth. The highly trained campers all seem to know everything about performing, and exactly how to command the spotlight. All Jacky wants is to prove she fits in, but the more she tries, the more she stands out—and not in a good way. With help from her new friends, can Jacky Ha-Ha earn her place in the spotlight…or will she flop?
Packed with illustrations, jokes, and hijinks, the latest book in the #1 bestselling Jacky Ha-Ha series delivers a hilarious and heartwarming dose of summer fun, perfect for reading all year round.
Thoughts and Themes: This is the first time that I have heard of any of these books and I was so happy to read them. This is one that would be great to read aloud with children. Something that I really enjoyed about this book was the short chapters along with the pictures. I thought that made the book go along quicker and much more enjoyable to read. I also really enjoy the throw backs that are included throughout the “olden times” because the story is told in the past and her daughters won’t know a lot of those things.
Characters: In this book, you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with Jacky. I really liked how in the beginning we get to meet the sisters which I thought was great. I liked how they each had their different traits which added to the humor in this book. I also loved each of the characters that we get to meet at camp including the villains of this story.
Writing Style: I love that this story has Jacky opening that she is telling this story to her daughters. I really liked when the story reminds you of this piece because it’s so important to how the story is being told.
About the Author
James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author. His enduring fictional characters and series include Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, and Ali Cross, along with such acclaimed works of narrative nonfiction as Walk in My Combat Boots, E.R. Nurses, and his autobiography, James Patterson by James Patterson. Bill Clinton (The President Is Missing) and Dolly Parton (Run, Rose, Run) are among his notable literary collaborators. For his prodigious imagination and championship of literacy in America, Patterson was awarded the 2019 National Humanities Medal. The National Book Foundation presented him with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and he is also the recipient of an Edgar Award and nine Emmy Awards. He lives in Florida with his family.
CHRIS GRABENSTEIN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. His books include the LEMONCELLO, WONDERLAND, HAUNTED MYSTERY, DOG SQUAD, and SMARTEST KID IN THE UNIVERSE series, and many fun and funny page-turners co-authored with James Patterson. You can visit Chris at ChrisGrabenstein.com.