Rainbow Reading: June 12

Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.

Between June 5th and 11th, I read:

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (2018)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: One of the three POV characters is gay; several gay, lesbian, or bi secondary characters
Thoughts: I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The cover is kind of boring, but the story is much more interesting. The island of Grace Loray grows plants with magical properties: they heal, or make you fly, or explode when thrown. The nearby country of Argrid declared that the plants are of the devil and invaded to cleanse the island with brutal religious persecution. A rebellion broke out, and the Lorayans managed to overthrow Argrid. Now it’s five years later and the two nations are engaged in peace talks…until an Argridian delegate vanishes. A former rebel, a raider who smuggles magic plants, and the heretic crown prince of Argrid get drawn into plots and conspiracies as they try to save their respective skins – and countries. The story was fast-paced but didn’t neglect character development; I cared about the entire trio by the conclusion and I’m looking forward to the next volume in the series. This one, of course, ended on a cliffhanger 😡

The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Rajni Perera (2016)
Genre: picture book
Audience: juvenile
Queer rep: The MC is gender nonconforming
Thoughts: This is a richly-illustrated picture book about a young Indian boy who is fascinated by his mother’s bindi. Together with the boy, the reader learns about the cultural significance of the bindi in rhyming couplets. Bindis are traditionally worn by women, but the mother encourages her son’s exploration and doesn’t hesitate to give him his own bindi when he asks for one. The pictures are beautifully done and the story is lightly educational without being at all didactic.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (2014) and The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island (2016) by Dana Alison Levy
Genre: fiction
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: The family Fletcher is headed by two dads
Thoughts: These books were very funny. I burst out laughing more than once while reading them! The first volume follows the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the Fletchers – two dads, four adopted sons, a cat, and a dog – during the school year, while the second focuses on their summer vacation. The first book is told in a sort of vignette style, with each chapter focusing on a particular event from one kid’s perspective; although there are a few plot threads that wind their way through the entire book, it definitely feels fairly episodic (not a complaint). The second book continues to change the focus among the four kids, but has a more traditional linear plot. All four kids have very different personalities and I especially enjoyed the overactive imagination of the youngest, six-year-old Frog (real name Jeremiah).

The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember (2018)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Lesbian MC and bi love interest; genderfluid secondary character; nonbinary secondary character
Thoughts: This is a companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss, which I read back in 2017; it’s not quite a direct sequel, but it definitely works better if you’ve read the first book and have the background. I think I actually liked this one better than Seafarer’s Kiss, although I did get frustrated with the main character, Ragna, who was causing her own problems for a while due to her selfishness. She does grow during the course of the story, though, and I was firmly on her side by the end of it. This is an action-packed story inspired by Norse mythology and has some very neat worldbuilding. A glossary of Norse terms is helpfully included in the back of the book.

The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin (2018)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: adult
Queer rep: Basically everyone is pansexual; f/f romance
Thoughts: This was an engaging novella and definitely piqued my interest in the rest of the series. Princess Esofi’s kingdom has powerful mages, which led to a neighboring kingdom with a dragon problem drawing up a betrothal between Esofi and Prince Albion when the two were children. But just as they come of age to marry, Albion dies in an accident. Esofi is now engaged to the new crown princess, Adale. The two are like oil and water, however, with very different priorities and thoughts on ruling. Increasing dragon attacks, mysterious strangers in the castle, and scheming royal cousins add to the tension as Esofi and Adale try – in their own ways – to save the kingdom. A fun, quick read.

Jordan vs All the Boys by John Goode (2019)
Genre: fiction
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC and a lot of secondary characters are gay; a trio of secondary characters are bi; an important secondary character is homoromantic asexual
Thoughts: This was both funny and earnest. Jordan, age 16, is gay and desperate for his first boyfriend. His best friends try to help him find one via trips to the local teen club, but each boy he meets is worse than the last (hence the “versus” concept: Jordan vs the Jock, Jordan vs the Club Kid). Meanwhile, his friends are having more luck finding girlfriends and Jordan is getting increasingly depressed about his single status and increasingly unwilling to put himself back out there after getting burned so many times. I really liked Jordan’s friends and the overall friendship dynamic and the emphasis on his friends having his back. The writing was a little awkward in spots but overall I think this would definitely be a hit with teens in the 14-16 range.

The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson (2019)
Genre: fiction/sports/graphic novel
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep:  The ensemble cast includes a few sapphic characters and a trans boy
Thoughts: I picked this up for the amusing tagline: “Bad at soccer. Okay at friends”. This graphic novel is about Faith, who has just started middle school and gets tricked into joining the C-level soccer team. No one on the team is any good at soccer; most of them don’t even want to play. Also – most of them hate each other. It takes a while to get to the “okay at friends” part; at the start, they’re terrible at friendship, too, and there are some bullying scenes. Eventually the team starts to bond and the players support each other through their various middle school dramas. I liked the art style a lot; it was very expressive and the characters were all visually distinct, which is definitely needed with such a large main cast. The story was a little jumbled at times but overall engaging.

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsburg (2019)
Genre: fiction
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay
Thoughts: Max and Jordan are both having hard summers. Jordan is dealing with his mother’s mental illness and facing homelessness if they can’t pay 5K in overdue bills; Max is pretending everything is fine after a hookup went very wrong (TW sexual assault). Jordan is trying to revive his dad’s food truck business, and Max gets roped into it after he goes from potential customer to witness to Jordan’s mom’s breakdown. The two team up to try to save Jordan’s house while dealing with licensing issues and food safety inspections, skirting around truth in advertising, and trying not to die of heat exhaustion working a food truck with a broken AC in July in Arizona. I liked the writing style a lot, I liked Max and Jordan both individually and their dynamic together, and I liked their separate friend groups and the hilarity that ensued when they decided to try to blend them. There are sweet and funny parts to this story, but there is a lot of heaviness too and the ending is definitely on the bittersweet side. Very impactful.

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (2018)
Genre: fiction
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: The MC and several secondary characters are lesbian
Thoughts: What a lovely book. Ivy is twelve and struggling with the idea that she might like girls. She fills a secret notebook with drawings of girls holding hands as she tries to dissect her feelings. Then, in the aftermath of a tornado that destroys the Abderdeens’ home, Ivy’s notebook goes missing – but the drawings from it start showing up in her locker at school. Someone knows Ivy’s secret, and Ivy doesn’t know what to do about it. There are so many wonderful characters in this book and Ivy’s feelings come across so clearly. There’s a lot of emotional depth to this story and I can see it being a hugely important book for questioning tweens and young teens.


6 thoughts on “Rainbow Reading: June 12

  1. How did you find these stories? I love these recommendations. I’m interested in “The Boy and the “Bindi”. Did you find these all in a bundle? Love your review and recommended it to others.


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