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.
A warm welcome back to the Pond, friends! We’re back with yet another book recommendation post and I’m so excited to share today’s list of books that you can all read during Pride – and beyond 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 bisexual and pansexual rep, find it here!
Off the Record by Camryn Garrett
Ever since seventeen-year-old Josie Wright can remember, writing has been her identity, the thing that grounds her when everything else is a garbage fire. So when she wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine, she’s equal parts excited and scared, but also ready. She’s got this.
Soon Josie is jetting off on a multi-city tour, rubbing elbows with sparkly celebrities, frenetic handlers, stone-faced producers, and eccentric stylists. She even finds herself catching feelings for the subject of her profile, dazzling young newcomer Marius Canet. Josie’s world is expanding so rapidly, she doesn’t know whether she’s flying or falling. But when a young actress lets her in on a terrible secret, the answer is clear: she’s in over her head.
One woman’s account leads to another and another. Josie wants to expose the man responsible, but she’s reluctant to speak up, unsure if this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if this ends her writing career before it even begins? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?
CW: I read this book entirely in one sitting. Full Disclosure remains to be one of my favourite books of all time, but in comes Camryn her sophomore book, which is just as amazing, relevant, and profound.
- The thing I love about Camryn’s characters are how real and multi-faceted with such tangible and earnest desires and wishes and thoughts. In particular, I loved Josie’s contemplations about self-love, her fatness, justice, and being taken seriously as a young Black teen journalist.
- The romance in this was really sweet and deftly balances the feel of a ‘dream come true’ romance with an organic friends-to-lovers that felt so real and developed beautifully. Josie is bisexual and her love interest is also bisexual.
- This story is about sexual assault in the film industry and is inspired by the #MeToo movement, and I loved how this story delves into this unflinchingly yet sensitively.
Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria
Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.
Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.
CW: What I love about Destiny Soria’s books is that she consistently gives us fascinating and unique young-adult fantasies. From Iron Cast to Beneath the Citadel (which I really enjoyed!) now comes Fire with Fire, with a bisexual protagonist, a story that centers on sibling relationships, and also a story with magic and dragons! I’m so excited to dive into this.
Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan
Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.
But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.
CW: If you’re looking for a young-adult contemporary that explores immigration, a bisexual Pakistani Muslim teen grappling with anti-Islam sentiment, and intra-community prejudices, then you may want to join me in picking up Zara Hossain is Here this year! I’m looking forward to reading this.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.
Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
CW: First The Henna Wars and now with Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, Adiba is proving that young adult contemporary romances have so much to offer, and I am loving Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating.
- Featuring two girls who could not be more different; kind, helpful, and compassionate Hani and reserved yet confident Ishu – yet being the only two Bengali girls in their school, they are seen as the same and I liked how the story explores and challenges this.
- The romance in this was just gooey and soft, and if you love the fake dating trope, then you will absolutely adore Hani and Ishu’s romance and how it blossoms and grows.
- I love how this book explores relationships – from complex family relationships, the weight of expectations and friendship struggles.
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.
Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.
The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.
With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.
Skye: I recently got to briefly re-visit my love for this book during an interview with the author (linked below), and gosh, friends, I have so much love for queer teens finding healing and comfort in each other at the end of their long and arduous journeys. Here is some of what I said in our interview post about my love for the book, all of which hold true:
- The narrative arc of Down Comes the Night is a tense song-and-dance between friend and foe, romance and repulsion, all set in a decadent, crumbling mansion housing secrets, a mysterious illness, and dangerous enemies that only emerge in the dark.
- The yearning-filled romance was one of the most heartaching slow burn love stories I read all of last year, and to this day I remember so tenderly the warmth and relief that spread through me when I finally reached the moment when all the pieces of the story started coming together.
- It is such a lovely and surprisingly healing book, despite its gloomy setting and somewhat visceral magic, and I was so delighted by its larger queer-normative worldbuilding as well. We 👏 love 👏 bi teens 👏 who fall in love with multiple genders!
Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore
There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.
Skye: How lovely, lovely this book was. I don’t generally gravitate towards YA contemporary these days, but Miss Meteor is packed so full of heart and affirmation with just a touch of starry magical realism, that it is an absolutely mesmerising read.
- McLemore and Mejia create magic, y’all, pure magic. The alternating POVs between Lita and Chicky are all distinct and endearing, and the whole main cast is so easy to root for.
- The queerness in this world is delightfully normalised, even as the two girls wrestle with being out and different in their small, mostly-conservative hometown. There is an adorable transmasc side character as well, who may or may not end up in a blossoming romance with one of our main girls…
- This is ultimately a heartwarming coming-of-age story about alienation, acceptance, and how everyone deserves to be celebrated.
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
Choose your player.
The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.
For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?
Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.
Skye: I am so fond of books about the fae, you guys. I’ve been excited for this one ever since its announcement, and my anticipation has only grown as wonderful reviews have been rolling out for the fully queer cast of characters who are tasked with saving both faerie and the mortal world. I need so much more queer urban fantasy in my life.
The Marvelous by Claire Kann
Everyone thinks they know Jewel Van Hanen. Heiress turned actress turned social media darling who created the massively popular video-sharing app, Golden Rule.
After mysteriously disappearing for a year, Jewel makes her dramatic return with an announcement: she has chosen a few lucky Golden Rule users to spend an unforgettable weekend at her private estate. But once they arrive, Jewel ingeniously flips the script: the guests are now players in an elaborate estate-wide game. And she’s tailored every challenge and obstacle to test whether they have what it takes to win–at any cost.
Told from the perspective of three dazzling players–Nicole: the new queen of Golden Rule; Luna: Jewel’s biggest fan; and Stella: a brilliant outsider–this novel will charm its way into your heart and keep you guessing how it all ends because money isn’t the only thing at stake.
CW: The Marvelous pulls you in from the very first page and hurtles you through a wild rollercoaster-like game mystery that will be quite unlike anything you have read before.
- This is quite unlike anything Claire Kann has written, but I’m living for it. The characters are pulled into a game filled with riddles, mysteries, and wordplay, and I was kept guessing at every turn.
- I loved the three narrators, Nicole, Luna, and Stella, and I also love that, true to Claire’s stories, the story delves into the intersection of Black identity, fatness, and queer identity.
- I also loved the found family in this, and how the competitors of the game develop a bond that carries them through the story.
The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season…
Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.
But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.
CW: The Mirror Season is devastating, heart-wrenching, and yet healing and hopeful. There really are no adequate words to describe The Mirror Season. This is not an easy book to read, but I feel that it was a profound story that humanises victims of sexual assault.
- This book centers on two sexual assault survivors and how the trauma and horror of the night intertwine the two together. The story centers the survivors, and explores the range of emotions and feelings and responses that they have.
- The Mirror Season has elements of magical realism, and is also a retelling of The Snow Queen.
- At the heart of this, it’s a story about healing – but it also plainly depicts that healing is often painful, challenging, and fraught.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
Skye: One of my most recent reads, Iron Widow has explosively skyrocketed into the position of what is possibly my favorite YA sci-fi to-date.
- I mean, can we just talk about the premise for a second? The cocktail of giant sci-fi mechas in historical China with an elemental magic system is just so, so potent. It’s layers and layers of speculative writing condensed into a marvel of a story, that pulls inspiration from anime and Chinese culture and conventional Western story tropes alike.
- Fans of The Poppy War will also get their fill of ruthless female protagonists again: like Rin, Zetian is a poor, spite-driven girl driven thrust into a rotten system, whose character arc details her mad scramble for the power that lies at the very top—because it is the only route that ensures her own survival. History would rue the dark day if Fang Runin and Xiran’s Wu Zetian were ever to meet.
- Speaking of story tropes: did you know that this book has a love triangle that resolves in a polyamorous relationship? Between three consenting and wildly smitten teens? Because. You guys. The romance in this is good. It is very very good. The kids are all so gay for each other.