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Books I Would Nominate for ALA Youth Media Awards

Watching the ALA Youth Media Awards always makes my little, bookish heart incredibly happy. Every year, so many amazing and diverse titles are honored and recognized and I always end up adding many books to my TBR. I do find that, due to the limited number of honors and awards, I always find myself sad that certain books I loved didn’t make it. I wanted to share with you guys a few of the books I would personally nominate if these awards had a few more honors spots! 
I haven’t personally read all of these books because I am a huge backlist reader. However, I selected these based on how important and impactful they have been to the book community. These books have meant so much to the people who have read them and I wanted to take a moment to give them all a shout out! (Okay, and a few of them are just personal favorites.)

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Cover of The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This book did win an honor for the APALA Young Adult Literature Award but it wasn’t announced during the livestream and I think it would also make an excellent nominee for the William C. Morris Award.
This book made waves when it debuted and it has been on the top of my TBR ever since. Through gorgeous and lyric writing, Emily X.R. Pan tackles themes of mental health and illness, grief, family history, Asian and biracial identity, and culture. The author uses a lens of magical realism to tell this story and it has made a huge impact on everyone I know who has read it. 
I would nominate this book for the William C. Morris Award. 

The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Cover of The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

One of my personal favorites of the year, this book is a WWII story told through the stories of two Jewish and queer teenagers. It beautifully integrated the tragedy of the era with an empowering story that let often-silenced voices tell their own truth. This book is a WWII story about Jewish characters that isn’t about the tragedy of the holocaust and instead gives the character’s the agency and drive to work towards what they believe is right. The companion book, The Girl with the Red Balloon, was a Sydney Taylor honoree last year and I think this book deserves the same honor. 
​I would nominate this book for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. 

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Cover of Mirage by Somaiya Daud

I have heard so many amazing things about this Moroccan-inspired sci-fi. Not only does it represent a culture that is seldom written about in young adult literature, but it beautifully blends genres to bring the culture into a science fiction story with the trappings of fantasy. It is a haunting story about agency in the midst of cultural erasure that is both necessary and relevant. 
​I would nominate this book for the William C. Morris Award. 

Unbroken edited by Marieke Nijkamp

Cover of Unbroken edited by Marieke Nijkamp

This book was one that I was honestly devastated to not see honored onstage. This book represents so many different disabled experiences and does so with care and knowledge. From physical disabilities to mental illnesses, both invisible and visible, there was something for so many disabled teens to relate to in these pages. The intersectionality and representation was unparalleled and the stories shared a wide range of emotions and styles.
I would nominate this book for the Schneider Family Book Award. 

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Cover of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings cover edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Drawing from fairytales, myths and folklore, this collection reimagines the classic tales of both East and South Asian stories. The collection of writers in this anthology is a wonderful display of both veteran and new authors which is an awesome way for readers to experience new storytellers. I’ve seen so many people love and be deeply impacted by the beautiful stories in this anthology and it is one of many anthologies that I think deserve so much recognition. 
​I would nominate this book ​for the APALA Young Adult Literature Award.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Cover of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning is an adult dystopian and urban fantasy novel that I think would make an excellent nominee for the Alex Awards. It is a story where the gods, heroes, and monsters of Native American legends have come to life. We don’t get enough Native American stories in YA literature and I’ve seen a lot of YA readers love this book so I think it holds a lot of appeal for readers of many ages. 
I would nominate this book for the Alex Awards. 

Someday by David Levithan

Cover of Someday by David Levithan

Sequels probably don’t get nominated for these awards but I had to include this title. I listened to the audiobook of Someday and, not only did I love it even more than Every Day, I thought the audio production was incredible. David Levithan completely revisited the discussion of gender from multiple perspectives and added beautiful commentary on how different everyone’s view of the world is. There were different narrators for every POV in this book and I thought each one was performed to perfection. 
I would nominate this audiobook for the Odyssey Award.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Another book that handles a lot of themes with both grace and beauty, Summer Bird Blue touches on topics of grief, abandonment, family, questioning identities, and aromantic and asexual orientations. This book has a cast that is mostly people of color, many of whom are biracial, with a multiracial Asian protagonist. It gives a voice to under-represented identities and isn’t afraid to show characters unpacking more than one emotional beat at a time. 
​I would nominate this book for the Stonewall Book Award and the APALA Young Adult Literature Award.

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

I discovered Anna-Marie McLemore’s books for the first time this year and I fell immediately in love. While I haven’t had the chance to read this book yet, her stories are always filled with beautiful and lyrical magical realism, compelling and lovable characters, underrepresented queer identities, Latinx characters, and complex topics of generational pain and marginalization. I have heard nothing but amazing things about Blanca & Roja and I fully believe anything this author puts her pen to will turn to gold. 
I would nominate this book for the Pure Belpré Author Award.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

​The first book in a Malaysian-inspired fantasy duology, Girls of Paper and Fire takes on the topic of rape culture through a fantasy lens. This story shows queer women of color surviving trauma and finding their own strength again. It’s an incredibly relevant and diverse story that has left an impact on so many of those who have read it. The book features a f/f romance, strong world building, and an important story. 
​I would nominate this book ​for the APALA Young Adult Literature Award and the Stonewall Book Award.

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

This book is not like anything I’ve ever read before. It’s an Italian-inspired fantasy world where the daughter of a mafia don is trying to navigate her way through the gender roles of her society. The world building is immersive and unique and the characters all have a dark charm to them. This book features a genderqueer love interest who expresses their gender through their magical transformations and a main character who also questions her own gender identity throughout the story. I’ve never read a fantasy book that so overtly discusses gender identity and I thought it was both brilliant and groundbreaking. 
​I would nominate this book for the Stonewall Book Award. 


Let me know in the comments which books you would nominate for these awards! I’m so happy for all of the books that won this year and I cannot wait to read some of the ones that I didn’t get to in 2018.

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The Disasters by M.K. England [REVIEW]

The Disasters by M.K. England

Genre and Themes Young Adult / Science Fiction / Friendship / LGBT+
Pages ​352
Published December 18th, 2018  
Publisher HarperCollins
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight. (via Goodreads)


Stand out main character and voice

From the very beginning of the book, I loved Nax Hall’s voice and character. He’s described in all of the blurbs as a “hotshot pilot” but that doesn’t give a complete insight into his character. He’s confident on the outside but always deeply worried that he doesn’t actually know what he’s doing. He jokes and sasses as a way to keep everyone from getting discouraged and is always mindful and caring about his newly found crew. I’ve been waiting so long for a first-person narrative that has as much character and voice as this book. Nax has a wonderful voice and he added so much humor and emotion to the book.

Every cell in my body says “Oh, god, yes! Crime? I can do some crime!” I want this ship like I’ve never wanted anything in my life. I had a poster of the first-ever Breakbolt model on my bedroom wall when I was nine. It’s like a manifestation of every dream I’ve ever had, everything I’ve ever wanted for myself: a piloting license, a beautiful ship under me, and stars out the viewport. Child Nax says, “Do it, do the crime!”

​​Diverse and dynamic found family

This book was wonderfully diverse. The main cast is made up of characters who are bisexual, gay, transgender, Muslim, Black, Latinx, and mentally ill. As far as I could tell every identity was well researched and respectfully written and the diversity added so much to the story. One thing I very much enjoyed is that this book is almost entirely devoid of any homophobia, racism, or sexism. Aside from one scene recounting a character’s past where she experienced transphobia, all of these identities are fully accepted and celebrated throughout the story.

The whole cast formed a clumsy, yet loving, found family dynamic reminiscent of the Guardians of the Galaxy or Firefly crews and I loved every moment of it. Although they didn’t always get along or agree, they all cared deeply for each other and their dynamics were heartwarming and hilarious. I especially loved that the main character, Nax, tended to be the peacemaker of the group. This gave the other characters a chance to be emotional and impulsive while still keeping the story on track. The scenes where Nax took the role of the crew’s captain and got everyone to work together were some of my favorite moments of the story.

Real teens and real stakes

I think one of the strongest parts of this book was how realistically it portrayed being a teen, even when the story was so out-of-this-world. Too many young adult SFF books portray teens as just mini-adults who always know exactly what to do and are able to keep a perfectly level head while they do it. This was a book that really felt like it was written for teens. From the strong emotions the characters feel when things start to go wrong to the jokes they crack and the conversations they have with each other, each character felt strong and realistic. Were they all exceptional and skilled? Yes. But that didn’t take away from the fact that they were also scared, overwhelmed, and confused. This portrayal of character also helped give the book really strong suspense and stakes. As a reader, I was never sure if they were actually going to succeed because all the characters were so untested and unsure. This kept the book intense and interesting.

“Anything have any better ideas? Useful diversion tactics?”
“I’ve been told I’m a hell of a dancer,” Rion says. “You find me a table, I’ll create a diversion you won’t forget.”
I bark a laugh. This is going to go so well.
But also, yes, the table dancing. Let’s make that happen.

Plans vs. skills

One sort of unique thing that I loved about this book is the reliance on clever plans. Although the characters were all very skilled in their individual talents, they often did not succeed by their skill alone. They ended up finding clever and smart solutions and making plans to thwart the bad guys. Not only did this give the book much more of the “heist story” feel that I love, but it also evened out the playing field. In YA, it tends to get a bit unrealistic when unexperienced teens repeatedly thwart the plans of evil adults. This book really worked around that by using the character’s plans, not their pure skills, to give them the edge.

​This book ended up being one of my favorites of 2018 and will always hold a place in my heart. Anyone looking for diverse SFF books or who wants to try sci-fi for the first time should definitely pick this one up.

a 5-star rating

An Advance Reader Copy was provided from the publisher for review. All quotes in this review are from an advance copy of the book and may be altered in the finished copy

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Queer YA Releases | JANUARY 2019

Hello, lovely readers! I hope the new year is treating all of you well. As I was putting together my most anticipated lists for 2019, I realized there were a lot of YA book with lgbt+ lead characters that were flying under the radar. I wanted to make sure everyone knew about the queer books that were coming out this year so I made this video and post to share with you all. I will be uploading a similar post for every month of 2019 so that no one misses out on these awesome titles.

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2019 Reading Goals

Happy New Year, lovely readers! It is the time of year for setting all of our reading goals for 2019. In addition to setting a Goodreads challenge, I’ve set myself some specific goals to widen the range and diversity of what I’m reading this year. If you guys have any suggestions for books that I should read to help me meet these goals, I’d love to hear them!

Read 50 Books

50 books is my usual goal and I generally hit it about perfectly. For 2018, I had my reading goal set for 40 books because I thought I’d have less time, but I ended up hitting 70! I think I’ll be able to pass 50 with flying colors this year, but I prefer leaving my goal on the lower end anyway. 

Read more Black authors

In 2018 I only read 3 books by Black authors and only 4 books about Black main characters. Of those books, only 2 were Black authors writing about Black characters. This year I’m going to be intentionally looking for more OwnVoices Black characters to read about.
​Some books on my TBR that I’m considering reading for this goal are…
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
​A Place for Wolves by Kosoko Jackson
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Read more Native American authors

Cover of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

As much as I hate to admit this, I cannot think of a single Native American author that I have read. In fact, I don’t even think I’ve read any books with Native American primary characters. As someone born and raised in America who prioritizes diverse reading, I really need to change that.
​Some books on my TBR that I’m considering reading for this goal are…
The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time edited by Hope Nicholson
There There by Tommy Orange
​Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Deer Woman: An Anthology edited by Elizabeth LaPensée and Weshoyot Alvitre
Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction edited by Grace L. Dillon

Read more Muslim authors

Cover of The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Muslim authors is another area where I feel like my diverse reading is lacking. I really want to pick up more books by Muslim authors this year and, luckily, there are some amazing books being published this year that fit the bill. 
​Some books on my TBR that I’m considering reading for this goal are…
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizel
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali bySabina Khan
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Read more books with disabled characters

Cover of Brave Enough by Kati Gardner

Being disabled myself, disabled main characters are really important to me. I’ve read quite a few books with mentally ill characters but far fewer with physically disabled and chronically ill characters. I’m hoping to read more of those this year.  
​Some books on my TBR that I’m considering reading for this goal are…
When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger 
​So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi 
Brave Enough by Kati Gardner
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
The Arrival of Someday by Jen Malone
Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon
This Is Not a Love Scene by S.C. Megale
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Read more audiobooks

In 2018, I read 9 books as audiobooks. I love audiobooks because they let me read while multitasking and I tend to read way more books in a month when I am working through one. So my goal is to read at least 15 audiobooks in 2019. My actual selection will probably be based on what I want to read at the time and what my library has purchased, but I’d love to hear about some of your favorite audiobooks for inspiration!

Read more nonfiction

I’m a huge nonfiction fan but, because I am always so caught up in the new fiction releases, I really haven’t been reading much of it lately. In 2019 I want to read more memoirs and self-improvement books as well as more historical and biographical books. I’ve gotten some suggestions on twitter for some awesome nonfiction, but I’m still on the lookout for more (of any topic) if you guys have any favorites! I especially want to find some books about queer and disabled people from history. 

Read more adult

I’ve had some adult books sitting on my TBR for ages that I haven’t made time for because I’m always so caught up in YA. I want to get to some of the literary fiction that’s on my shelf as well as find some awesome, diverse SFF books to read. 


If anyone has any suggestions for me as to which books I should read to help me fulfill my goals, please let me know! If I mentioned a book that you think I should get to immediately (or that wasn’t your favorite) I’d love to know that too. I’m trying to read less contemporary books this year because I’m a much bigger speculative fiction fan, so sometimes I have to dive a bit deeper to find diverse reads that I will enjoy. 

Happy New Year everyone and may your reading year be 5-stars!

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Every Asexual Character in 2018 YA

2018 has been an amazing year for ace-spectrum characters in young adult fiction. We’ve gotten ace stories in romance, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, mystery, and every genre in between. There has been romantic ace rep, aromantic ace rep, and demisexual rep. We’ve had more stories by ownvoices ace authors than ever before and they are telling stories that are so, so important to ace readers. 

Unfortunately, even though asexual representation is getting much more common, it is still sometimes hard to find out which books feature asexual characters. Reviewers often forget to mention ace rep in their reviews and too often these books fly under the radar. To combat this, I’ve complied a list of every ace-spectrum character I could find in 2018 young adult fiction. This includes main characters, love interests, and side characters. I’ve also included links to reviews by ace-spectrum reviewers so that you can read their thoughts about each of these books.  

Please be aware that the fact that I included a book in this list does not mean the representation is good. A few of the books have very mixed or negative reviews so I urge you to check those out before you read them yourself if you are worried about poor representation. I included as many links to reviews by ace-spectrum readers as I could find to help you gauge which books are beneficial and which are harmful to ace readers. 

Don’t forget to check out the end of the post to enter to win any YA book featuring an asexual character!


Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Contemporary Romance
Alice, the main character, is asexual and biromantic. 
​Read LaRonda’s reviewBen’s reviewDorka’s reviewmy reviewand watch Kav’s video review

Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
Science Fiction
Aisha, the main character, is asexual and aromantic. 
Read Sarah’s reviewCeillie’s review, andLaura’s review

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
Contemporary
Lee, the main character, is asexual. ​
Read Jessie’s review

Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy
Contemporary Romance
Iris, the main character, is demisexual and heteroromantic.
Read Alex’s mini-review

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Contemporary 
Rumi, the main character, is questioning asexual and aromantic identities. 
​Read Tay’s reviewLaRonda’s review, and Harker’s review

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Historical Fiction / Companion Novel
​Felicity, the main character, is asexual and aromantic. ​
​Read Elise’s reviewCrystal’s review, and Harker’s review

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria
Fantasy 
​Alys, one of the lead characters, is asexual. 
Read Meaghan’s reviewClaudie’s Review, and Bee’s Review

The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Historical Fantasy
Wolf, one of the lead characters, is demisexual and homoromantic. 
Read Crystal’s reviewJessie’s reviewand my review

On a Summer Night by Gabriel D. Vidrine
Contemporary Romance
Ella, the main character’s best friend, is asexual and aromantic.
Read Gretal’s review

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp 
Mystery
Corey, the main character, is asexual.
Read Katherine’s reviewJessie’s review, and Harker’s review

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Fantasy Thriller
Zoey, one of the lead characters, is asexual. 
​Read Tay’s reviewLaRonda’s review, Meaghan’s review, and Lauren’s review

​One Giant Leap by Heather Kaczynski
Science Fiction / Sequel 
Cassandra, the main character, is asexual.
Read Laura’s review and Lia’s review of the first book in the series

Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth
Science Fiction
Isaac, one of the lead character, is asexual and heteroromantic. 
Read LaRonda’s review and Ceillie’s review

Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn
​Fantasy
​Dejean, one of the lead character, is asexual. 
Read Emma’s review

New World by Lyssa Chiavari 
Science Fiction / Sequel
Isaak, one of the lead characters, is demisexual and Nadin, another lead character, is asexual. ​
Read Claudie’s review and Sarah’s review of the first book in the series

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno
​Modern Fantasy
Vira, a side character, is asexual and aromantic. 
Read Jessie’s review and Alex’s mini-review

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Historical Fantasy
Katherine, an important side character, is asexual and aromantic. 
Read LaRonda’s review and Sarah’s review

Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks by Nathan Burgoine
Modern Fantasy
Alec, the main character’s best friend, is asexual. ​
Read Alex’s review

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shuan David Hutchinson
Modern Fantasy
Fadil, the main character’s best friend, is questioning ace-spectrum.
Read Elise’s review andLia’s review

Puddin’ by Julie Murphy
Contemporary / Companion Novel
Amanda, the main character’s best friend, is asexual.
Read Becca’s review and Heather’s review

Black Wings Beating by Alex London
Fantasy
Kylee, one of the lead characters, is often read as asexual and/or aromantic although it is not confirmed in the text. ​

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Contemporary
Kaisha, one of the side characters, is asexual and biromantic. 
Read Jessie’s reviewAngel’s review, and Kait’s review

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
Contemporary Romance
Juliet, one of the side characters, is asexual and biromantic. 
Read LaRonda’s reviewHarker’s review, and Elise’s review

All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell 
Historical Fiction / Anthology
Nilah Magruder’s story “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” features an asexual main character. ​
​Read Kav’s reviewElise’s review, and Heather’s Review

Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
Science Fiction
​Ana, the main character, has been confirmed as being on the asexual spectrum by the author even though it is not specified in the text.
​Read Jessie’s reviewElise’s review, and Alex’s mini-review

Miles Away From You by A.B. Rutledge
Contemporary
​Miles, the main character, is demisexual and pansexual.
​Read Amy’s review

I hope this list helped you find some great reads and awesome representation! I have loved so many of the ace books that came out this year and I can’t wait to catch up on more of these releases. If I missed any asexual YA characters from this year, please let me know here or on twitter! Also, let me know below what your favorite asexual read or character is.

Don’t forget to enter to win your choice of any YA book featuring an ace-spectrum character!

Anyone with a mailing address in a country that is eligible for free shipping from Book Depository is eligible to win. The book chosen must cost $20 or less. Anyone under the age of 18 should have their parents permission to give me their mailing address if they win. 

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Short-a-thon TBR

Black banner with blue text that reads "short-a-thon TBR" with confetti graphics

I’m starting a little late, but this week I’m going to be participating in Destiny and Kathy’s Short-A-Thon! This readathon runs December 21-31 and the goal is to read as many short books as possible. I’ve already hit my reading goal for the year, but I still thought it would be super fun to participate. I’m also including short story collections in my TBR even though the books themselves aren’t short because I really want to read some Christmas stories. 

I won’t get to this whole TBR, but I wanted to have a lot of options since I am a huge mood reader!​

Graphic Novels

​Check Please Vol. 1 by Ngozi Ukazu | 288 Pages
Taproot by Keezy Young | 127 Pages
Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner | 300 Pages
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag | 224 Pages

Short Story Collections

​If the Fates Allow edited by Annie Harper
My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

​Novels

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour | 236 Pages
The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember | 256 Pages

Novellas

The Prince and Her Dreamer by Kayla Bashe
Soft on Soft by Em Ali | 142 Pages
Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss | 93 Pages 
Stake Sauce: Arc 1 by RoAnna Sylver | 193 Pages


Let me know in the comments whether you are participating in the Short-A-Thon and what you are planning to read.