Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
One of my favourite parts about these month-long celebratory events at the Pond is that I get to inundate all of you with book recommendations. And what better month than Pride Month?
For us at the Pond, Pride Month is an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the incredible work done by queer authors. Moreover, it’s important to us that the work that we do when celebrating Pride Month is deserving of the intersectional Pride Month flag that we have proudly used in our banner. Therefore, the books that we recommend will include books by authors of colour and disabled authors – and we encourage all of our Pond friends to make their Pride reading intersectional and colourful. 🌈
Last year, we did five book recommendation posts (you can find a full list here!) and we thought: why don’t we do it again? But, rather than recommend the same books over and over again every year, we wanted to give you all a fresh and updated list of queer books that we at the Pond have read and loved.
This year, the book recommendation posts that we will be sharing will be:
- 8 Books with Gay and M/M Rep
- 12 Books with Sapphic and F/F Rep
- 10 Books with Trans, Nonbinary, and Genderqueer Rep
- 10 Books with Bisexual and Pansexual Rep
- 10 Books with Asexual, Aromantic, and Questioning Rep
And if you want to check out last year’s book recommendation post for gay and m/m rep, find it here!
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.
Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.
CW: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun comes out next week and is a spectacular story about a long distance romance, family, and being true to who you are. It deftly balances the gooeyness of romance with the drama and heartache of family. I loved this, and it may be one of my favourite YA romance books of all time.
- The romance in this is so sweet, so tender, and so full of joy. I adored Mat and Jules; their chemistry was amazing, and how their relationship and romance develops over time was satisfying and wonderful to read.
- The book deals with bigotry, machismo and heteronormativity coming from a parent. Parts of this book are challenging to read, but are handled with so much care and sensitivity. (Please see the book’s content warnings.)
- I loved how funny this book was! The humour and comedy is just perfect and I found myself laughing out loud so many times. I also loved how humour was used when depicting safe sex and safe sex practices!
Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson
Weeks ago, Andre Cobb received a much-needed liver transplant.
He’s ready for his life to finally begin, until one night, when he passes out and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…in 1969, where he connects with a magnetic boy named Michael.
And then, just as suddenly as he arrived, he slips back to present-day Boston, where the family of his donor is waiting to explain that his new liver came with a side effect—the ability to time travel. And they’ve tasked their youngest son, Blake, with teaching Andre how to use his unexpected new gift.
Andre splits his time bouncing between the past and future. Between Michael and Blake. Michael is everything Andre wishes he could be, and Blake, still reeling from the death of his brother, Andre’s donor, keeps him at arm’s length despite their obvious attraction to each other.
Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs—and more importantly who he wants to be—before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and change his future for good.
CW: Love the idea of a time travel queer romance? I sure did, and reading Yesterday is History hit all the right spots – and by that, I mean that it made me yearn, it made me ache, and it, unexpectedly, made me feel hope.
- I love everything about this book; the stunning and memorable characters, the beautiful story, the time travel, and even the complex queer romances, which culminates into a fantastic love triangle.
- I love the questions that this book asks: Is there a time for love? Does love have a ‘chance’? Can love extend and exist, independent of the confines of time and space?
- If you love stories with time travel but also with ‘rules’ – and how those rules are challenged and tested – then I think this is the book you’ve been waiting for.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.
Real life isn’t a fairytale.
But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?
Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?
Skye: I listed this book as one of my top reads of 2020, and I still stand by my description of The Magic Fish ‘representing the absolute best of comics written for teens’. It follows Tiến, a teen wondering how to come out as gay to his family, and his parents (mainly his mother), who are Vietnamese immigrants to the US. The story weaves together several different narrative threads of diaspora belonging along multiple axes: race, nationality, and sexuality, all framed by beautiful retellings of children’s fairytales such as the German Allerleirauh and the Vietnamese Tam and Cam.
- This story… was so tender, and so powerfully moving. Every single friend I have recommended this book to has cried while reading it.
- Trung Le Nguyen’s art is intricate, dreamy, and absolutely breathtaking; there was so much love poured into every detail, every careful rendering of the fairytales that make up a bulk of the plot’s throughline.
- I was so captivated by the heartbreaking authenticity of Tiến’s story: his struggle to communicate his queerness to his family interwoven with his mother’s tale of immigration, connected by the stories that they read to each other at night. Through all of these narrative threads runs a thematic undercurrent of both displacement and belonging, of languages and how we communicate love to the people we hold dear. I would give anything to be able to experience this book again.
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi’s newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.
Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a U.S. Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.
CW: I read this book in a day. I’m still reeling from it, but this was such a striking story that delves into the intersection of culture and sexuality with storytelling that is at once funny and heartbreaking.
- This is not a romance story; this is a YA coming-of-age about a gay Iranian teen who has to reconcile being both gay and Iranian – and he does this by running away to Italy.
- I love messy stories, and I just loved how messy this book was. Like all of us, the character are not perfect; some say terrible things, some make bad or questionable decisions, and some are just not good people. But it is through the imperfections of the characters do we see the love inherent in the story.
- At the heart of this story, it’s about how we perceive others, and how we build these stories of people in our heads – and how these perceptions, images, or fantasies can have a profound influence in their lives.
May the Best Man Win by Z. R. Ellor
A trans boy enters a throw-down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer in ZR Ellor’s contemporary YA debut.
Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdate school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?
Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.
When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.
CW: I haven’t read this yet, but I’m anxiously looking forward to reading this. Though the front cover makes it seem like a cute romance, May the Best Man Win is a sharp and ‘morally ambiguous’ story about two queer teens who are angry, grieving, and messy who complete with one another for the title of Homecoming King. As much as I love thoroughly wholesome queer stories, I also want there to be room for queer messiness, where the queer character are, quite simply, human and imperfect. I’m a huge fan of messy YA contemporaries where no character is perfect, so May the Best Man Win sounds like something I will enjoy.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
CW: Any reader can see that Cemetery Boys was a book of Aiden’s heart – which is why it feels like such a special book that resonated with so many readers and a love letter to trans readers everywhere. I loved this book.
- I loved Yadriel and Julian’s dynamic. There is an intensity there, but it’s slow-burn and I just relished in how tender yet fiery their bond was. I also enjoyed the stakes in this; Julian is a ghost! And Yadriel falls in love with a ghost! How this is resolved in the story was so well done.
- I liked how this book explores the intersection between Yadriel’s family, their history as brujx, and Latine identity.
- As well as the lovely romance, there’s also an intriguing mystery-like side plot with great side characters – and a lot of vulnerable yet affirming gender/trans feels.
The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer
Two boys, alone in space.
After the first settler on Titan trips her distress signal, neither remaining country on Earth can afford to scramble a rescue of its own, and so two sworn enemies are installed in the same spaceship.
Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor, with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: Evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing is his own sister.
In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust one another… especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.
CW: The Darkness Outside Us is an immediately gripping and engaging read. This isn’t dreamy romance story; rather, this is a survival thriller spaceship mystery set in the void and the darkness of space – with love in it too.
- I love how atmospheric this book is; there’s an eeriness in the book and the fact that it’s set in space, and I really loved how Schrefer just captures the immensity and endless beyond of space and how terrifying that is.
- There is a central mystery in the story, and the journey is twisty and suspenseful. Paired with the high-stakes mission at hand, the revelations along the way are thought-provoking and thematically fascinating.
- There is also an enemies-to-reluctant allies-to-lovers romance, and it’s slow-burn, and how the two characters come together and the angst unravels slowly and deliciously.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.
Skye: Skye: As a lifelong coward, I’ve recently—surprisingly—been discovering a love for BIPOC-authored horror, especially in the YA category! Ever since its stunning cover reveal, I’ve been really excited for this mysterious book about a queer Black boy plagued by ghostly visions, who must survive both his supernatural hauntings and the discrimination that he faces in the real world as the only Black student in an elite school. I’m a huge fan of deeply atmospheric stories, and all the horror stories I’ve read so far have been masterclasses in mood and tension. I can’t wait to pick this up!
Releases July 13. Add this book on Goodreads!