Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between December 30th and January 5th, I read:
Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley (2020)
Genre: historical fiction
Audience: middle grade
Queer rep: The MC’s father is queer; her best friend is gender nonconforming
Thoughts: It’s 1983 and June Bug Jordan’s life has imploded. After her father’s death from AIDS, her mother – always anxious – has become increasingly paranoid, locking herself away from the world and battling incessantly against the germs she’s sure are everywhere. She won’t go into the kitchen before it’s too close to the backdoor, which leaves 11-year-old June to fend for herself with the groceries Uncle Toby brings by once a week. June goes out into the world despite her mother’s protests, but she’s ostracized by the neighborhood kids, who insist she, like her father, is going to die. Then an eccentric boy with family troubles of his own moves in with his Nana Jean next door, and Ziggy gives June a connection to the world that threatens to destroy the delicate balance of her life with her mother’s fears. This book is remarkably hopeful considering how it deals with all sorts of difficult family situations, from grief and mental illness to alcoholism and abandonment. It’s a quiet book with a lovely friendship based on imagination and embracing the wonder of the world, and I absolutely loved Nana Jean.
Die, Vol. 3: The Great Game by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans (2020)
Genre: fantasy/graphic novel
Queer rep: The MC is trans or genderqueer, one of the ensemble cast is bi, a few other queer secondary characters
Thoughts: Six teenagers sit down to play a D&D inspired role-playing game and are sucked into the world of Die (as in, the singular of “dice”). Two years later, five of them return to the real world. The sixth never does. Now they’re in their 40s and Die has come calling again. And this time, none of them can leave until everyone agrees to go. After splitting into factions in volume 2, the stakes of the game are becoming clear to everyone, and the consequences threaten to spill from Die into the real world. It’s hard to play to win when it’s not clear what winning means. As more and more mysteries of Die are uncovered, some of our players realize they may have already lost. This was a really gripping volume and I can’t wait for the next installment.
The Avant-Guards, Vol. 3: Down to the Wire by Carly Usdin, Noah Hayes (2020)
Genre: fiction/sports/graphic novels
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Multiple sapphic characters, a trans woman, and nonbinary characters (they/them pronouns)
Thoughts: The conclusion of the Avant-Guards series about a misfit basketball team at an arts and drama college, which is a great mix of sports, friendship, romance, and drama.This volume wraps up the Avant-Guards’ inaguaral season.and everyone’s parents are coming to cheer them on at this very stressful time. Throw in some interpersonal drama, a final fundraiser to organize, and the pressure of needing to win to keep the league alive, and it’s a lot for everyone to handle. Will the team finish strong or break under the strain? This is a really fun series. I wish it were longer, but not because it felt rushed or unfinished – just because I liked the characters so much I want to keep reading about them.
Rag and Bone by KJ Charles (2016)
Genre: historical fantasy/romance
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay
Thoughts: After the dramatic events of A Queer Trade, Crispin is trying to relearn magic the right way, instead of relying on the dark magic he was taught by his manipulative mentor. But his teachers, who view him with suspicion due to his history, are so focused on what he can’t and shouldn’t do that his progress is little more than a crawl. His frustrations are putting a strain on his relationship with Ned, who is heartily sick of magic. When evil magic strikes at the rag-and-bottle shop where Ned lives, the fallout might just end their relationship, especially when Crispin turns to his old way of working magic as he fights to save Ned – and all of London. This has all of the tension and magical mystery of the prequel, but a higher word count allows for more character development. I enjoyed this a lot.
The Trans Self-Care Workbook by Theo Lorenz (2020)
Audience: young adult/adult
Queer rep: aimed at trans and nonbinary people
Thoughts: Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m not quite sure why I keep trying self-help style books because they mostly just do not work for me. I thought this was an interesting concept as it combines traditional self-help exercises with trans-inclusive coloring pages, but ultimately that too didn’t really work for me because while I liked the style of the illustrations, they often portrayed scenes I had no desire to ever color. For example, one such scene involves a bigot in a MAGA hat and while it works nicely to illustrate the relevant workbook topic, why would I ever want to spend time coloring that? Additionally, most of the exercises were about affirmations, and most of the affirmations were very hit-or-miss for me personally. There was one I liked enough to write down: I am part of this world and I will live in. I liked how straightforward and factual this one was. It’s not a question of “being a valuable part of the world” or “deserving to be part of the world”, just “I’m here, and I’ll be staying here”. That’s more the style that works for me. But I can see this book being appealing to other people, and it did cover a fairly broad range of topics.
~Bonus book: Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back by Jessica Luther and Kavitha Davidson (2020) has a chapter about LGBTQ issues in sports
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