Rainbow Reading: October 14

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

Between October 7th and 13th, I read:

cover images of TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH, FELIX YZ, CATTYWAMPUS, CIEL, and BURY THE LEDE, arranged in a grid

To Night Owl, From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2019)
Genre: fiction/epistolary
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: The two MCs have gay dads
Thoughts: Avery is an anxious, bookish New Yorker; Bett is an adventurous, outdoorsy Californian. The two 12-year-olds have never met, but Bett discovers that their dads have – and have secretly been dating! The dads want the girls to bond, and send them to the same summer camp. Bett and Avery are determined not to be friends; they each like their little families and have no interest in seeing them combined. They send emails plotting out how to approach camp and their dads’ relationship, and – despite their best efforts – start to like each other…just in time for their dads’ relationship to hit the rocks. Can Avery and Bett get the dads back together? And will they stay friends if they can’t? I enjoyed this one a lot, and there’s a great twist at the end. The entire novel is told in correspondence, mainly emails between the girls, but also between the girls and their dads, between Bett and her grandmother, and between the dads, which rounds things out nicely.

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (2015)
Genre: sci-fi
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: The MC is gay; his mother is bi or pan; his grandparent is genderfluid; a minor trans character
Thoughts: As a three-year-old, Felix was inadvertently caught up in his father’s experiment with the fourth dimension, which had disastrous consequences. Mr. Yz was vaporized, and Felix was fused with a fourth-dimensional being named Zyx. The fusion initially paralyzes Felix and leaves him with some physical impairments and a stutter. The strain on Felix’s body increases as he gets older, and now at age 13, it’s been determined he and Zyx need to be separated ASAP to keep Felix alive. But the Procedure itself might very well kill him. As he counts down the days, he keeps a secret blog to get his thoughts in order – everything from the meaning of life and death to Felix’s burgeoning crush on a classmate. I thought this book might be a little too weird for me, but it has a lot of heart. There were a few things I had some mixed feelings about, but overall I liked it.

Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo (2020)
Genre: fantasy
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: One of the two MCs is intersex; an important secondary character has two moms
Thoughts: In Howler’s Hollow, conjure magic is viewed with deep suspicion. A feud between the McGill and Hearn witch families lasted generations back in the day, and now Delpha McGill’s mother won’t teach her any magic at all. When Delpha finds her grandmother’s spell book, she’s determined to teach herself. But her experiments draw the attention of Katybird Hearn, who’s struggling with her own magic. It’s simmering under her skin, but she can’t seem to get it out. Magic is passed from mother to daughter, and she’s afraid being intersex has confused the magic. Her mother and grandmother have been watching for signs of her magic emerging and Katy is afraid they’ll pity her if they learn it’s tangled up. Katy hopes the spellbook will help her, even though it’s McGill magic and not Hearn. But as the two girls clash over it, a misfired hex wakes up a cemetery full of McGill and Hearn witches – who are determined to start the feud all over again. Delpha and Katy need to put their differences and their family histories aside if they want to reserve the hex in time to save the Hollow. I really liked this one! The story is fast-paced, the setting is rich with Appalachian culture, and Delpha and Katy are great characters (and their friend Tyler is wonderful as well).

Ciel by Sophie Labelle (2020)
Genre: fiction
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: The MC is genderqueer; their boyfriend is bi; their best friend is a bi trans girl; an important secondary character is a trans boy
Thoughts: Genderqueer Ciel is starting high school and is nervous about being visible in a new and bigger school, with kids and teachers who aren’t used to them. To make things more difficult, Ciel’s boyfriend has moved back to Iceland and the long-distance thing isn’t working so well; and Ciel’s always-supportive best friend, Sophie, wants to go stealth in high school. Ciel worries that hanging out with Sophie will “out” her, because stealth isn’t an option for Ciel. And when they post a video on their YouTube channel about an uncomfortable situation with their French teacher, they attract some online harassment. It’s not all bad, though – Ciel has almost saved enough money for a better camera to improve their channel, and they’ve started making some new friends as well. I had mixed feelings about this one. First of all, being familiar with the author from her webcomics, I had it in my head this was a graphic novel, which it is not. There’s not a whole lot of plot – it’s very slice-of-life, very quiet, and fairly short – and honestly I think it might’ve worked better in a visual format, since it’s essentially a glimpse into Ciel’s everyday life.

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn and Claire Roe (2019)
Genre: mystery/crime/graphic novel
Audience: adult
Queer rep: The MC is bi; a queer secondary character; a bi secondary character
Thoughts: Madison Jackson is an intern at the Boston Lede, and is desperate to prove herself as a real reporter before her internship ends. When she hears about the murder of a prominent Boston businessman on the police scanner, she rushes to the scene trying to get a scoop. There she sees socialite Dahlia Kennedy, drenched in blood, being arrested for the murder of her husband. The crime has no clear motive, and Dahlia isn’t talking – to anyone except Madison. Madison is getting the info, but it’s her reporter colleagues who are getting the bylines. Madison isn’t the reporter – she’s the story. And Dahlia’s manipulations are leading her into danger she never saw coming. I liked the art style a lot, but the actual story lost me in a few places. I’m not a big mystery/thriller/noir person, so I’ve not very well-versed in the usual tropes and conventions; someone more familiar with the genre probably would follow it all a little better. But overall I did like this!

~Bonus book: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson (2019) has a secondary lesbian character

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