If You Change Your Mind book review

Mind
If You Change Your Mind by Robby Weber
400 pages
published May 3rd, 2022

In this hilarious and heartfelt debut novel, an aspiring screenwriter learns sometimes love has its own script.

Harry wants nothing more than to write Hollywood screenplays. He knows the first step toward achieving that goal is winning a screenwriting competition that will seal his admission into the college of his dreams, so he’s determined to spend his summer free of distractions–also known as boys–and finish his script. After last year, Harry is certain love only exists in the movies anyway.

But then the cause of his first heartbreak, Grant, returns with a secret that could change everything–not to mention, there’s a new boy in town, Logan, who is so charming and sweet, he’s making Harry question everything he knows about romance. As he tries to keep his emotions in check and stick to his perfect plan for the future, Harry’s about to learn that life doesn’t always follow a script.

ROM! COM! Set before the summer of senior year! Surfboards! Cotton candy! Carnivals!

It’s functionally a ‘cozy’ romance! It’s like Grease but with less singing! (And also only the song “Summer Lovin”. Okay I have never actually seen Grease so maybe don’t listen to that.)

Sometimes also we are reading Harry’s superhero screenplay and it’s supposed to be thematic but I skipped those parts (and was fine with reading the rest of the book) so if you don’t like them, just skip them.)

It’s fun! It’s funny! It’s a great beach read! It’s a fun little romance! Pick it up! (Four stars.) Bookshop link here.

This Rebel Heart book review

Rebel
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
448 pages
published April 5th, 2022

The Fountains of Silence meets Spinning Silver in this rollicking tale set amid the 1956 Hungarian revolution in post-WWII Communist Budapest from Sydney Taylor Honor winner Katherine Locke. 

In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most–safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget. 

Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. 

With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke’s tour de force.

Once Again, I Do Not Read Historical Fantasy Usually but also I literally picked this one up for the cover because it’s a REALLY NICE cover. Look at it! This is set after World War 2 and it is about a Holocaust survivor, Csilla, and magic, and Jewish folklore, and the Hungarian uprising, and magical realism that is also fantasy. And I think it’s really good, actually? Very sad in parts and very intense and very slow at the beginning. Also, polyamory!

Five stars.

Bookshop link here.

Dig Two Graves review

Graves
Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil
352 pages
published April 26th, 2022

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

One of Us is Lying meets Hitchcock in this novel from celebrated author of the #MurderTrending series, Gretchen McNeil. 

I did my part, BFF. Now it’s your turn. 

Seventeen-year-old film noir fan Neve Lanier is a girl who just wants to be seen, but doesn’t really fit in anywhere. When Neve is betrayed by her best friend, Yasmin, at the end of the school year, she heads off to a girl’s empowerment camp feeling like no one will ever love her again. So when she grabs the attention of the beautiful, charismatic Diane, she falls right under her spell, and may accidentally promise to murder Diane’s predatory step-brother, Javier, in exchange for Diane murdering Yasmin. But that was just a joke…right? 

Wrong. When Yasmin turns up dead, Diane comes calling, attempting to blackmail Neve into murdering Javier. Stalling for time, Neve pretends to go along with Diane’s plan until she can find a way out that doesn’t involve homicide. But as she gets to know Javier – and falls for him – she realizes that everything Diane told her is a lie. Even worse, she discovers that Yasmin probably wasn’t Diane’s first victim. And unless Neve can stop her, she won’t be the last. 

In this twisted game of cat and mouse, the reader never quite knows who’s telling the truth, who’s playing games, and who is going to end up dead.

This book was WILD and NOTHING MADE SENSE, even on a reread. However, it was a great ride! And it’s sapphic! What’s not to love? Well, there’s the writing, the dialogue, and the major plot holes. But other than that! I would have loved reading this at my middle school library. Three stars. 

Arden Grey book review

Arden2
Arden Grey by Ray Stoeve
288 pages
published April 26th, 2022

An insightful, raw YA novel about a young photographer navigating toxic relationships and how they influence her identitySixteen-year-old Arden Grey is struggling. Her mother has left their family, her father and her younger brother won’t talk about it, and a classmate, Tanner, keeps harassing her about her sexuality–which isn’t even public. (She knows she likes girls romantically, but she thinks she might be asexual.) At least she’s got her love of film photography and her best and only friend, Jamie, to help her cope. Then Jamie, who is trans, starts dating Caroline, and suddenly he isn’t so reliable. Arden’s insecurity about their friendship grows. She starts to wonder if she’s jealous or if Jamie’s relationship with Caroline is somehow unhealthy–and it makes her reconsider how much of her relationship with her absent mom wasn’t okay, too. Filled with big emotions, first loves, and characters navigating toxic relationships, Ray Stoeve’s honest and nuanced novel is about finding your place in the world and seeking out the love and community that you deserve.

This book is genuinely very good, with a very good main character voice and excellent side characters as well. Arden reminds me a lot of myself as a teenager, and the ace/aro representation here in Arden is incredible. I’m really glad this book is out and incredibly glad that I got to read it. Four stars.

When You Call My Name book review

My name
When You Call My Name by Tucker Shaw
368 pages
published May 3rd, 2022

Film fanatic Adam is seventeen and being asked out on his first date–and the guy is cute. Heart racing, Adam accepts, quickly falling in love with Callum like the movies always promised.

Fashion-obsessed Ben is eighteen and has just left his home upstate after his mother discovers his hidden stash of gay magazines. When he comes to New York City, Ben’s sexuality begins to feel less like a secret and more like a badge of honor. 

Then Callum disappears, leaving Adam heartbroken, and Ben finds out his new world is more closed-minded than he thought. When Adam finally tracks Callum down, he learns the guy he loves is very ill. And in a chance meeting near the hospital where Callum is being treated, Ben and Adam meet, forever changing each other’s lives. As both begin to open their eyes to the possibilities of queer love and life, they realize sometimes the only people who can help you are the people who can really see you–in all your messy glory. 

A love letter to New York and the liberating power of queer friendship, When You Call My Name is a hopeful novel about the pivotal moments of our youth that break our hearts and the people who help us put them back together. 

This book is set during the height of the AIDS epidemic and it’s about two gay teenagers (17 and 18, I think), coming of age. It’s technically a romance between these two gay teenagers, but their coming of age is more at the forefront, I think? You kind of know that they’re eventually going to get together, and I didn’t really feel one way or another about it. The pop culture references in this book are also kind of rough, especially because for a lot of them, I Simply Didn’t Get Them, I Am Too Young.

And it’s really sad, and really slow in some places, and I think maybe I’d like to read it slowly, over the course of a summer instead of fairly rapidly for a review. (Honestly I was approved for this in December so that one’s on me.) Four and a half stars, rounded down for NetGalley.

The Queen of Junk Island book review

The queen
The Queen of Junk Island by Alexandra Mae Jones
400 pages exactly
published May 3rd, 2022

From debut author Alexandra Mae Jones comes a compelling, nuanced exploration of bi identity and body image with a ghostly backdrop–perfect for fans of Nina Lacour.

Still reeling from a recent trauma, sixteen-year-old Dell is relieved when her mom suggests a stay at the family cabin. But the much-needed escape quickly turns into a disaster. The lake and woods are awash in trash left by a previous tenant. And worse, Dell’s mom has invited her boyfriend’s daughter to stay with them. Confident, irreverent Ivy presses all of Dell’s buttons–somehow making Dell’s shame and self-consciousness feel even more acute. Yet Dell is drawn to Ivy in a way she doesn’t fully understand. As Dell uncovers secrets in the wreckage of her family’s past–secrets hinted at through troubling dreams and strange apparitions–Ivy leads her toward thrilling, if confusing, revelations about her sexuality and identity.

Set during a humid summer in the mid-2000s, The Queen of Junk Island simmers with the intensity of a teenage girl navigating the suffocating expectations of everyone around her.

This is the book you need for your mom trauma, your identity issues, your coming of age around generational trauma. It’s that Rory Power novel from last year (burn our bodies down) with less horror elements. It’s like reading your own journal written by someone else. It’s incredible, It’s affective (and also effective). It takes place before 2015 probably which is NOT clear anywhere in the marketing but Whatever (some things feel dated or weird). If you like the cover, the description, or my review, you should pick it up.

Bookshop link.

Blaine for the Win book review | Let’s talk

Blaine
Blaine for the Win by Robbie Couch
336 pages
publishes April 12th, 2022

After being dumped so his boyfriend can pursue more “serious” guys, a teen boy decides to prove he can be serious, too, by running for senior class president in this joyful romp from the author of The Sky Blues.

High school junior Blaine Bowers has it all—the perfect boyfriend, a pretty sweet gig as a muralist for local Windy City businesses, a loving family, and awesome, talented friends. And he is absolutely, 100% positive that aforementioned perfect boyfriend—​senior student council president and Mr. Popular of Wicker West High School, Joey—is going to invite Blaine to spend spring break with his family in beautiful, sunny Cabo San Lucas.

Except Joey breaks up with him instead. In public. On their one-year anniversary.

Because, according to Joey, Blaine is too goofy, too flighty, too…unserious. And if Joey wants to go far in life, he needs to start dating more serious guys. Guys like Zach Chesterton.

Determined to prove that Blaine can be what Joey wants, Blaine decides to enter the running to become his successor (and beat out Joey’s new boyfriend, Zach) as senior student council president.

But is he willing to sacrifice everything he loves about himself to do it?

This was a great little YA novel about anxiety, and it’s really a coming of age novel and less about a romance. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s a great afternoon or weekend read. Four stars.

Bookshop link.

Storygraph link.  

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester book review

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor
360 pages
publishes May 3rd, 2022

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary autistic teen realizes they must not only solve a 30-year-old mystery but also face the demons lurking in their past in order to live a satisfying life.

Sam Sylvester has long collected stories of half-lived lives—of kids who died before they turned nineteen. Sam was almost one of those kids. Now, as Sam’s own nineteenth birthday approaches, their recent near-death experience haunts them. They’re certain they don’t have much time left. . . .

But Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, their next-door neighbor. Yet the past keeps roaring back—in Sam’s memories and in the form of a thirty-year-old suspicious death that took place in Sam’s new home. Sam can’t resist trying to find out more about the kid who died and who now seems to guide their investigation. When Sam starts receiving threatening notes, they know they’re on the path to uncovering a murderer. But are they digging through the past or digging their own future grave?

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester explores healing in the aftermath of trauma and the fullness of queery joy.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy.

Back when I was a kid coming out, the only book around for nonbinary pals was I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver, which is a really boring book. (Sorry, it’s just that nothing happens in it). Now THIS book? About a nonbinary teenager solving a murder mystery? AND ALSO THEY’RE AUTISTIC? Excuse me??

Let’s pull out some bullet points:

  • a little bit paranormal!
  • ace spectrum
  • adoptee
  • a great dad!!!!
  • starting over at a new school!
  • new friendships!

Honestly, this is a queer cozy mystery that really just needs like, a couple more puns for it to hit four stars for me. The writing feels somewhat stilted and weird, and it never drew me in enough to ignore the fact that the NetGalley copy was a PDF, which is the absolute worst way to read an eARC. Three and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

Can’t Wait Wednesday | April 20th

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a book blogging meme hosted over at Wishful Endings. It’s to discuss and spotlight books that you’re excited about but that you haven’t read yet, to get you more excited about your TBR pile! It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, which is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. I first heard about this meme from Kappa at Kappa Reads!

An insightful, raw YA novel about a young photographer navigating toxic relationships and how they influence her identity

Sixteen-year-old Arden Grey is struggling. Her mother has left their family, her father and her younger brother won’t talk about it, and a classmate, Tanner, keeps harassing her about her sexuality—which isn’t even public. (She knows she likes girls romantically, but she thinks she might be asexual.) At least she’s got her love of film photography and her best and only friend, Jamie, to help her cope. Then Jamie, who is trans, starts dating Caroline, and suddenly he isn’t so reliable. Arden’s insecurity about their friendship grows. She starts to wonder if she’s jealous or if Jamie’s relationship with Caroline is somehow unhealthy—and it makes her reconsider how much of her relationship with her absent mom wasn’t okay, too. Filled with big emotions, first loves, and characters navigating toxic relationships, Ray Stoeve’s honest and nuanced novel is about finding your place in the world and seeking out the love and community that you deserve.

Booksweet link. Storygraph link.

Great or Nothing book review

Great Or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood
400 pages
published March 8th, 2022

A reimagining of Little Women set in 1942, when the United States is suddenly embroiled in the second World War, this story, told from each March sister’s point of view, is one of grief, love, and self-discovery.

In the fall of 1942, the United States is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the US starts sending troops to the front, the March family of Concord, Massachusetts grieves their own enormous loss: the death of their daughter, Beth. 

Under the strain of their grief, Beth’s remaining sisters fracture, each going their own way with Jo nursing her wounds and building planes in Connecticut, Meg holding down the home front with Marmee, and Amy living a secret life as a Red Cross volunteer in London–the same city where one Mr. Theodore Laurence is stationed as an army pilot.

Each March sister’s point of view is written by a separate author, three in prose and Beth’s in verse, still holding the family together from beyond the grave. Woven together, these threads tell a story of finding one’s way in a world undergoing catastrophic change.

Honestly, I didn’t like this at all! Beth, if not my favorite Little Women character, is my special interest at the moment, and when the story starts she is already dead, and the grief that the sisters experience drives them apart rather than together (which is very interesting). Jo is queer in this retelling, which is just barely an aside, and it feels like everything exciting and Little Women Traditional Canon happened before the events of the story. Also, everyone is very sad but nobody is very exact on what impact Beth had on their lives. Which is traditional Little Women canon but I’d like to see something different! Three stars. I’d check this out of the library but I wouldn’t buy it.

Bookshop link.