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.

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.

Rabbit Chase graphic novel review | But gossiping is one of the most important things we do!

Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth Lapensee and KC Oster and Aarin Dokum
120 pages
publishes April 5th, 2022

Anishinaabe culture and storytelling meet Alice in Wonderland in this coming-of-age graphic novel that explores Indigenous and gender issues through a fresh yet familiar looking glass.

Aimée, a non-binary Anishinaabe middle-schooler, is on a class trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits known to protect the land. While stories are told about the water spirits and the threat of the land being taken over for development, Aimée zones out, distracting themselves from the bullying and isolation they’ve experienced since expressing their non-binary identity. When Aimée accidentally wanders off, they are transported to an alternate dimension populated by traditional Anishinaabe figures in a story inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

To gain the way back home, Aimée is called on to help Trickster by hunting down dark water spirits with guidance from Paayehnsag. On their journey, Aimée faces off with the land-grabbing Queen and her robotic guards and fights the dark water spirits against increasingly stacked odds. Illustrated by KC Oster with a modern take on their own Ojibwe style and cultural representation, Rabbit Chase is a story of self-discovery, community, and finding one’s place in the world.

I loved the concept of this book – the art style reminds me of the book “Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy” by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo. I’m not versed in Ashinabee culture at all, and it felt jarring — but you know what? This book doesn’t have to be for me. Maybe you’re familiar with Ashinabee folktales and this book will be for you! I loved that Aimee was nonbinary, and I loved their journey through the “rabbit path”. Four stars.

Bookshop link.

Bite-sized reviews

Oof, some really short reviews for some great books this week. Sorry about that, folks, I’ve been consumed by migraines and looking at a bright screen is exceptionally bad for me. As always, I received everything from NetGalley ahead of time in exchange for an honest review.

She gets the girl cover
She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
384 pages
Publishes April 5th, 2022

She Gets the Girl

She’s All That meets What If It’s Us in this swoon-worthy hate-to-love YA romantic comedy from #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Five Feet Apart Rachael Lippincott and debut writer Alyson Derrick.

Alex Blackwood is a little bit headstrong, with a dash of chaos and a whole lot of flirt. She knows how to get the girl. Keeping her on the other hand…not so much. Molly Parker has everything in her life totally in control, except for her complete awkwardness with just about anyone besides her mom. She knows she’s in love with the impossibly cool Cora Myers. She just…hasn’t actually talked to her yet.

Alex and Molly don’t belong on the same planet, let alone the same college campus. But when Alex, fresh off a bad (but hopefully not permanent) breakup, discovers Molly’s hidden crush as their paths cross the night before classes start, they realize they might have a common interest after all. Because maybe if Alex volunteers to help Molly learn how to get her dream girl to fall for her, she can prove to her ex that she’s not a selfish flirt. That she’s ready for an actual commitment. And while Alex is the last person Molly would ever think she could trust, she can’t deny Alex knows what she’s doing with girls, unlike her.

As the two embark on their five-step plans to get their girls to fall for them, though, they both begin to wonder if maybe they’re the ones falling…for each other.

This is super voice-y and ends up being really sweet. Also, I loved the cover! Four stars. 

Bookshop link. Storygraph link.

 

Young Mungo

Mungo
Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart
400 pages
publishes April 5th, 2022

A story of queer love and working-class families, Young Mungo is the brilliant second novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart’s first novel Shuggie Bain, winner of the 2020 Booker Prize, is one of the most successful literary debuts of the century so far. Published or forthcoming in forty territories, it has sold more than one million copies worldwide. Now Stuart returns with Young Mungo, his extraordinary second novel. Both a page-turner and literary tour de force, it is a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a deeply moving and highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men.

Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars—Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic—and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

This story is heart-wrenching. Romeo and Juliete except queer and working-class set in Glasgow Scotland. It’s like a Front Bottoms song with a cello. Four stars.

Bookshop link. Storygraph link.

 

Dreams Bigger than Heartbreak

 

Dreams bigger than heartbreak
Dreams Bigger than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders
300 pages
publishes April 5th, 2022

From the international bestselling author of All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders, comes Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, the sequel to Victories Greater Than Death in the thrilling adventure Unstoppable series.

They’ll do anything to be the people they were meant to be — even journey into the heart of evil.

Rachael Townsend is the first artist ever to leave Earth and journey out into the galaxy — but after an encounter with an alien artifact, she can’t make art at all.

Elza Monteiro is determined to be the first human to venture inside the Palace of Scented Tears and compete for the chance to become a princess — except that inside the palace, she finds the last person she ever wanted to see again.

Tina Mains is studying at the Royal Space Academy with her friends, but she’s not the badass space hero everyone was expecting.

Soon Rachael is journeying into a dark void, Elza is on a deadly spy mission, and Tina is facing an impossible choice that could change all her friends lives forever.

I couldn’t get into this book, maybe because I didn’t read the first one. Everything felt confusing and soaked in neon. I loved the premise, though. Three stars, possibly revisiting this one after I read the first book.

Bookshop link. Storygraph link.

Hell Followed With Us review | I will be good. I will make them suffer.

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White
416 pages
publishes June 7th, 2022

A furious, queer debut novel about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors. Perfect for fans of Gideon the Ninth and Annihilation.

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.

But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all.    

Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.

Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC.

This is one of the most beautiful and brutal things I’ve ever read. Honestly, if this description of the premise got you interested, you’re going to love the book. It’s everything that it promises and more. Look, I’m from an age where we had three books about Homosexuality and two of them were by David Leviathan and one of them was The Geography Club. I am so lucky to live in this time and so lucky that things have changed so much so that Andrew Joseph White could write this book that is suffused with horror and trauma and love. Also there is so much fucking gore in this book. Which I normally don’t read a lot of so it was really Intense to me. Holy fuck I think this is the best book I’ve ever read. Incredibly lived up to its promise.

The main message of this book: They tried to kill us, and they failed. [And we made them suffer.]

Five stars.

Bookshop link.

Storygraph link.

Wild and Wicked Things review | Before you were only a mouse. Now you are growing fangs.

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Wild and Wicked things by Francesca May
432 pages
publishes March 29th, 2022

Honestly I have never read the Great Gatsby or even seen the movie. All I know about it is that it’s vaguely homosexual, took place in the 1920s, and everything was suffused in gold. Also I think someone dies and the green light is a big symbol. So, I can’t really tell you if WILD AND WICKED THINGS feels Great Gatsby-ish.

However. It is:
⁃ full of magic
⁃ sapphic
⁃ Really, really vivid
⁃ Prohibition based on magic instead of alcohol (I’ve never loved anything more???)

I can’t wait to read it in hardcover, sipping tea by a fireplace; the cover art is gorgeous, and the hardcover just looks really really good. I want to read it all over again for the first time. It’s a really eerie book and the vibes. The Vibes Are Immaculate.

Five stars.

Storygraph link. Booksweet link.

Count Your Lucky Stars review | Maybe disappointment wasn’t an inevitability

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, NetGalley!

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
384 pages
published February 1st, 2022

THIS IS THE SECONDTHIRD?? — BOOK IN A SERIES WHICH I DID NOT KNOW. I think this is the second time we are meeting Olivia, and then we are meeting Margot for the first time (but the first book maybe was not about Olivia?).

This is a second-chance romance novel with no flashbacks, and as your Local Flashback Hater, I’m very into this. The chemistry between Margot and Olivia is fast and heady, which I loved.

I felt uhhh extremely neutral about the sex scenes, which also seem to be the most they talk to each other. Honestly this book would have been better without the sex scenes; most of the other parts of the book are perfectly fine. The sex scenes are just. Uhhhh. Yeah.

It’s a fun read! Bring it to the beach! Bring it on a camping trip! Read it on the bus! Three stars. I’m not memorizing any passages from this book.

Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

Across a Field of Starlight

I received this at no cost from NetGalley!

Across a Field of Starlight, Blue Delliquanti
Came out February 8th, 2022

This book is a nonstop SPACE ADVENTURE featuring A REAL ACTUAL NONBINARY PERSON and it’s effortlessly queer. The art is fantastic, IT’S SET IN SPACE, it’s a concept that’s like, “what if Star Wars was actually good and featured regular people rather than Just Luke Skywalker And His Dad Constantly?” Is there some weird worldbuilding? Also yes. Could this be a toss-up between me being An Idiot and also Not Caring That Much? Yes. You might have better luck. Also there are some politics and I love some SPACE POLITICS. 

This was incredible. Yes, I did cry. Four and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley. It came out February 8th, 2022. Bookshop link. Storygraph link.

There’s a note from the editor in my early copy of this book, which reads:

Dear Reader,

Have you ever picked up a book and felt like you were finding a missing piece? Something that you had wanted, had hoped for, and then finally came across it? That is what I felt when I first saw Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti.

To explain that feeling a bit and to give you a little personal history, I have a sibling who is non-binary. One thing that we talk about constantly is the need for stories that portray different gender identities without being about those identities. Why does a book about a trans character have to be about them being trans? Why not have a book featuring non-binary characters who get to go on epic quests just like every other hero we read about?

Blue is a non-binary creator writing a story with non-binary characters, but the best part is, this story isn’t about them being non-binary — this is about space, war, and falling in love. This story is about how decisions can affect those around you, about social inequalities, and about how our environments change the way we interact in relationships. 

I cried the first time I read the full script for this book. And again when I saw the art. And I’ve probably teared up on every reread since then because this book is special. Blue creates this heartfelt journey that explores how human connection can stand the test of distance and time. Featuring a cast of all shapes and sizes, this beautifully illustrated book brings the stars to life in a new and refreshing way that readers of all walks of life and all genders will be able to connect with. 

I’m beyond thrilled to share this early copy with you, and I know this story will resonate with you the same way it did with me.

Happy reading,

Whitney Leopard

Thank you, Whitney. You’re right, it did. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Bite-sized reviews: Late March edition

I am so stressed and so sick! Great! Let’s get into these reviews. Thanks to NetGalley who keeps approving me for books even though really I should chill out.

THE CITY OF DUSK

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim
576 pages
Comes out March 22nd, 2022
  • incredibly dense
  • Really intense
  • Not the best thing to read when you are stressed and sick (unless it becomes a comfort read over time etc etc)
  • Politics! Magic! Everyone is queer!
  • I do not read enough fantasy to deal with this
  • Risha is my favorite for the record, thank you
  • This is SO LONG

Four stars. I Do Recommend It. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
400 pages
Released February 22nd, 2022
  • I heard about this SO MUCH so often
  • LOOK AT THIS COVER
  • It’s a romcom and it’s not realistic but that’s whatever
  • It’s sapphic as heck
  • Grumpy/sunshine
  • Hijinks!
  • You know I love a found family!
  • Delilah’s hot
  • Dual POV
  • These characters are kind of flat but it’s a sapphic rom-com so it’s not like. A big deal?

Four stars. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

GIRLS CAN KISS NOW

Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays by Jill Gutowitz
240 pages
Released March 8th, 2022
  • This book is so millennial it kind of hurts
  • Love some funny essays
  • I feel like I am like. Five years too young to understand most of these references. 
  • Lesbians!

Three stars. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

TRIPPING ARCADIA

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist
368 pages
February 22nd, 2022

“They lived in their own heaven, their own arcadia, where nothing, not even death, could touch them. Nothing except for me.”

  • Med school dropout! Set in Boston! Poisonous revenge!
  • It’s dark! It feels green! (I’m not explaining this) A girl kisses a girl!
  • I felt one step ahead of Lena the whole time which honestly was kind of incredible to me, I am usually very dumb
  • Unease more than horror
  • There’s so many commas in this book which is honestly kind of a mood

Four stars! Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

ELLEN OUTSIDE THE LINES

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J Sass
336 pages
Releases March 22nd, 2022
  • MIDDLE-GRADE AUTISTIC MAIN CHARACTER
  • MIDDLE-GRADE AUTISTIC MAIN CHARACTER
  • MIDDLE-GRADE AUTISTIC MAIN CHARACTER
  • AUTISTIC. JEWISH. LESBIAN. AUTISTIC. MAIN CHARACTER.
  • Yeah I think you should read this book

Five stars. Also there is a nonbinary important character. Also there is bullet journaling. I think this book is fantastic. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

The Best Liars in Riverview | Confession is a word that can mean a couple of different things

The Best Liars in Riverview by Lin Thompson
Releases March 8th, 2022

In the woods of a small Kentucky town, Aubrey sets off on a journey about growing up, self-discovery, and acceptance while searching for their missing best friend–perfect for fans of King and the Dragonflies and Three Times Lucky. 

Aubrey and Joel are like two tomato vines that grew along the same crooked fence–weird, yet the same kind of weird. But lately, even their shared weirdness seems weird. Then Joel disappears. Vanishes. Poof. The whole town is looking for him, and Aubrey was the last person to see Joel. Aubrey can’t say much, but since lies of omission are still lies, here’s what they know for sure:For the last two weeks of the school year, when sixth grade became too much, Aubrey and Joel have been building a raft in the woods.
The raft was supposed to be just another part of their running away game.
The raft is gone now, too.
Aubrey doesn’t know where Joel is, but they might know how to find him. As Aubrey, their friend Mari, and sister Teagan search along the river, Aubrey has to fess up to who they really are, all the things they never said, and the word that bully Rudy Thomas used that set all this into motion.

I received this book ahead of publication from NetGalley at no cost to me.

I love books about nonbinary kids who have supportive families — wish fulfillment for a lot of us, I think! — but sometimes you’re not so lucky. Aubrey and Joel are both growing up in a world where their family and community is not so supportive, and I think that’s really important. This book takes place during the summer, and while I was reading it during the false spring of February, I really felt that. I read this in one or two sittings — it’s very short! — and it was honestly quite hard to put down.

Not to be kid-lit on main, but this book is full of heart. If it interests you at all, you should read it, or share it with a kid who might be interested in it. It’s worth it. Five stars. Bookshop link. Storygraph link.