Part two! Go read part one first if you haven’t yet.
Hello, and welcome to part two of my June books! The first part was ten books I read during the Queer Lit Readathon. This part is the remaining eight that I read during this month. All of these books are either explicitly queer or have queer side characters. Let’s start!
The Poet X. Xiomara comes from a Dominican-American family and is raised very Catholic. Ever since she started growing into her curves, she lets her fists and fierceness do the talking. However, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have anything to say. She pours out her soul, all her passion and frustration, into a leather notebook. Especially about the boy she has feelings for, and one that her family can never know about. Xiomara’s mami forces her to take Confirmation classes, and she frequently gets in trouble for questioning the pastor. Her teacher invites her to join a poetry slam club, that happens to be at the same time as Confirmation. Plus, she doesn’t how she would go without her mami finding out. But Xiomara refuses to be silent, and can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. The whole book is told in verse, so that’s a very interesting format to tell a story, but it works. Oh man, it works SO well. Xiomara’s twin brother is gay and closeted, and they both deal with family expectations of what their children should be and do. Xiomara is very aware of rape culture and sexism, how that permeates her life, and calls it out. She clashes often with her mother, and it does end on a more hopeful note. Though I doubt that’d last long, considering their personalities. I really liked this book, and would definitely recommend it. Also, I would suggest you go watch Adriana’s 5 Reasons to Read The Poet X, they do way better than I do at explaining this! And just check out the rest of their channel, they’re amazing.
Archenemies. This is the second in a series, the first book is Renegades, so I can’t really say much about this. This picks up a few months after the first book, I believe. Before I get into my feelings on this book, the queer characters in this – I completely forgot about them, since it’s not mentioned that much in the first book in my memory. They’re the dads of Adrian aka Sketch, and they have a bigger role in this book than the previous one. Okay, now that’s out of the way. I rated it 3.5, 4 on Goodreads. I did enjoy this, but be warned, it’s a chunker at almost 600 pages. I thought it was good, maybe slightly less good than the first one. There was quite a bit of repetition of things that we already knew, or was already painfully obvious from earlier on. I suspect if you loved the first, you’ll still enjoy this.
The Backstagers and the Theater of the Ancients. Again, this is the second in a series. The first is The Backstages and the Ghost Light. However, I will tell you a bit more about this one. This picks up almost right after the first if I remember correctly, and they’re casting for a rock musical, Tammy. The lead role is of a deaf girl, and they originally cast a hearing person, because that’s what had always been done. They had Adrienne, a deaf girl, as their sign language coach. Some things happen, and the hearing actress steps down because she realizes that a deaf role should be played by a deaf person. I loved that arc, and it was so well-done. There are also some illustrations of signs throughout the story. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with how ASL is portrayed in English, but the way it was done in this worked for the story. Andy Mientus has had some direct experience working with deaf actors, because he was part of the Spring Awakening revival cast on Broadway. I’d also like to add if you don’t know anything about the Backstagers, I would suggest reading the graphic novels first, then the middle grade novels. By the way, all of these have queer characters!
The Disasters. Nax Hall is a cocky pilot that often makes poor life choices, and not surprisingly, he gets kicked out of an elite academy in less than 24 hours. As he’s waiting for his shuttle back to Earth, a terrorist group attacks the academy. Everyone onboard dies except for Nax and three other washouts who barely manage to escape. They’re the only witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization, and the easiest people to blame it on. The group is now on the run, framed for crimes they didn’t commit, and they decide to do a dangerous heist to get the truth out. They may have washed out, but they will still fight. I. Just. LOVE. This!!! The crew is so diverse – the main character is bisexual and Iranian, as far as we know from context. There’s a queer love interest that’s black and British, a genius girl with anxiety and panic attacks, a hacker that wears a hijab, and a trans Kazakhstani badass. The settings are either in space or in far-away colony worlds (which are also very much not white). I just love the bi disaster that is Nax. If you know of Firefly, the show that was canceled much too soon, this reminds me a lot of that!
Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights. A nonfiction book about the history of Stonewall, this takes a closer look at the political climate before, during, and after the riots of Stonewall. It doesn’t really need more explanation than that. It did a fairly good job of presenting the various things that people have said happened, because with an event as big as this, it’s near-impossible to have a 100% accurate recording of what really happened. This book is fine as an introduction to Stonewall and that period of time in history. However, it barely touched on the women, people of color, and trans activists who played a big role in this. It doesn’t really focus on a lot of specific individuals who did play a big role during and after Stonewall. I didn’t even realize that this book was intended as a YA book until I read some reviews on Goodreads. This book was published by Viking Books for Young Readers, so there’s that. I do think they could have gone much more in-depth, despite it being intended for YA. Teens can handle quite a bit more than what was presented in this book. So again, it’s fine as an overview, but not if you want a really in-depth look at this historical event.
The Song of Achilles. Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, a young exiled prince, lives in the court of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Being who they are, their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes Patroclus in as his friend, and they grow together, learning the arts of war and medicine. Their bond becomes something much deeper than merely friends, and Thetis, a cruel sea goddess and Achilles’ mother, disapproves deeply. Achilles and Patroclus journey to Troy after receiving word that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. They spend years there, and they’re sorely tested in many ways. Adriana, who I mentioned at the start of this video, talks about this book ALL THE TIME, and I am SO glad I finally got around to reading this! This is just such a good story about love and how war tests that love, how despite everyone telling them that what they have isn’t acceptable they persist through it and stay strong to themselves. I really enjoyed this, and don’t know why I took so long to read this! Madeline Miller also wrote Circe, and I loved that as well, though that is much more of an epic than The Song of Achilles.
Carry On. Simon Snow is apparently the Chosen One, but he can’t even make his magic work right. It either does nothing or blows up in his face. In Simon’s last year at Watford School of Magicks, his roommate and nemesis is missing, his mentor is avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a monster that’s running around and eating magic, which happens to look like him as a ten-year-old. I did enjoy myself reading this, but I ultimately gave it 2.5 stars. This had a lot of allusions to Harry Potter. A LOT. I don’t have a problem with that, but it sometimes pulled me out of the story because it was so similar. I thought that how the magic system in this worked was very interesting. It’s more based on language and how it changes, along with the person’s intention. The best spells are based on common everyday phrases, and they won’t work at all if it’s an obscure phrase that almost no one uses. For example, in Harry Potter, you just say Lumos to illuminate your wand. In this magic system, you could either say “Let there be light!” or “By the light of the day.” and you’d get the same result because of your intention. It was also mentioned that you could achieve some spells in different languages that couldn’t be done in English, because there are concepts that don’t exist in English. But the entire time, I couldn’t help and wonder if this magic system would work at all for people who don’t speak, or have difficulty speaking such as deaf people like me, people who stutter, or are non-verbal for whatever reason. Back to the story. I think it is really a good concept, just too many things trying to happen in one single book. If this had been originally written as a series, I think it could’ve been a lot more successful. I did appreciate the queerness of the main characters, even though they went from enemies to lovers fairly quickly. This is good if you just want a fluffy, easy read and you’re okay with a lot of things happening in one story.
Bloom. Ari is ready to get out of his coastal town now that high school is over. He’s looking forward to moving to the big city with his band, but first he has to quit his job at his family’s struggling bakery. He loved working there as a kid, but he can’t imagine spending the rest of his life working away in a bakery. Before Ari can leave, he has to find a replacement, and meets easygoing Hector during the interviews. Hector just loves to bake, and lives for it. As Ari trains Hector in his family’s recipes, they get closer and love just might bloom. If Ari doesn’t mess it up. Yes. Just yes. I absolutely loved this gorgeous graphic novel. It’s in the same blue monochrome for the whole book, and it’s beautiful. There are some two-page spreads of no talking, just them making and baking food, and it’s amazing. The romance in this is a slow burn, and doesn’t really start to take off until closer to the end. Also, this is a very cute story, but it isn’t pure fluff. There were some times I wanted to strangle Ari, because he was just being a jerk, and there are toxic friends. There is great development of Ari, and ends on a very happy note. I loved this, and I just wish it was longer! That way, there’d be more room for development of the characters and a bit room to breathe.
And that is all of the books I read in June! I hope you found some more queer books to read, and let me know in the comments of any queer books you think I’d like.
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