Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between January 13th and 19th, I read:
Power Surge by Sara Codair (2018)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is nonbinary
Thoughts: Erin has recently gone off their ADHD meds and antidepressants due to unbearable side effects, and when they start seeing strange creatures, they’re worried they now have a new symptom – hallucinations – to deal with. But it turns out Erin isn’t hallucinating: they have the Sight, the ability to see pixies, mermaids, demons, and other supernatural creatures. The ability comes from their paternal grandmother, an elf. Most of Erin’s family has supernatural abilities, and they’ve been lying to Erin about them for their whole life. Now that they know the truth, Erin is furious about the lies, but they have no time to come to grips with it before they’re thrown into a battle to prevent a demon takeover. This is fast-paced and full of action (and violence). Each chapter starts with a little excerpt from the Demon Hunter archives, and I thought that was a nice way to establish some of the lore of the world, and I would’ve liked more of it. This is the start of a series, and it felt like one as opposed to a complete story in and of itself.
The Camino Club by Kevin Craig (2020)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: One of the three POV characters is gay; a couple secondary gay and lesbian characters
Thoughts: As an alternative to juvenile detention, six Canadian teenagers join a summer program to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain with a pair of court-appointed counselors. The grueling hike, combined with journaling and group counseling, aims to break down the teens’ barriers, forge a bond between them, and get them back on the right path. We get the POV of three of the teens – Diego, Shania, and Troy – as they follow the Camino, reflect on how they ended up there, and worry about what the future holds for them back home. The three voices are distinct and the secondary characters (the other three teens, the two counselors, and some fellow peregrinos they meet on the way) are also developed well. This is an emotional story that’s very character-focused, and the scene is set so well that the Camino is almost a character in its own right. Not just the physical route, but the way the Camino affects the people who walk it, is described so vividly that I could imagine being there (and now I kind of want to go!). I enjoyed this a lot.
Love Me For Who I Am, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Kata Konayama (2020)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is nonbinary; secondary gay, lesbian, trans, questioning, and cross-dressing characters
Thoughts: Mogumo is a lonely nonbinary high schooler who wishes for friends who understand them. Their classmate Tetsu notices Mogumo’s gender-nonconforming fashion and tells them he knows a place they can fit in: Question, a cross-dressing maid café. The workers at Question describe themselves as otokonokos, a Japanese term for (broadly speaking) men who wear women’s clothes. Mogumo loves the maid outfits and being around other people who push against Japan’s strict gender binary, but they balk at describing themself as an otokonoko, because that means saying they’re a boy. Even at the maid café, Mogumo doesn’t quite fit people’s expectations, but here people want to understand. The café staff includes Mei, who is invested in the term otokonoko; Suzu, who’s gay and likes dressing as a woman because it allows him to be openly affectionate with his boyfriend; Ten-chan, who likes to cosplay; and Sacchan, the café owner, who is a transgender woman (and Tetsu’s sister). There’s a lot packed into the first volume, and the second volume gives some more space for nuance and more measured discussion. There is definitely some high drama in parts but this is really a very thoughtful and sweet story. The next translated volume is slated to come out in the spring and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it for sure.
~Bonus books: Re-Coil by J.T. Nicholas (adult sci-fi, 2020) has a minor nonbinary character and some sci-fi gender elements; War and Speech by Don Zolidis (young adult fiction, 2020) has a secondary gay character
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