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 more recommendation post for Pride Month 2021! We’re back with our last 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!
Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology, edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver
Common Bonds is an anthology of speculative short stories and poetry featuring aromantic characters. At the heart of this collection are the bonds that impact our lives from beginning to end: platonic relationships. Within this anthology, a cursed seamstress finds comfort in the presence of a witch, teams of demon hunters work with their rival to save one of their own, a peculiar scholar gets attached to those he was meant to study, and queerplatonic shopkeepers guide their pupil as they explore their relationship needs and desires. Through nineteen stories and poems, Common Bonds explores the ways platonic relationships enrich our lives.
CW: Edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, this wonderful collection of aromantic speculative stories and altogether a spectacular addition to queer science-fiction fantasy. There’s stories about werewolves, futuristic worlds, superheroes, and magic – and there’s also some stunning poetry. The relationships explored across this anthology are wonderful. Whether you like anthologies or not, there will certainly be something here that will be for you.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
CW: I firmly believe that Raybearer is one of the most spectacular YA fantasies in our plane of existence and I’d willingly step forward to defend its honour – and I read Tarisai as a wonderful asexual character.
- The story is hard to put to words, other than the fact that you follow a character’s life from a young child to a teenager as she grapples with loneliness and love. What develops and follows is this amazing story about found family, justice, revenge, culture, and love in all forms.
- The worldbuilding is sublime. The world felt so immense, never underdeveloped nor ‘too mysterious to make up for depth’ and the magic – called ‘hollows’ – was amazing.
- It feels like I grew up with these characters. All were so complex and interesting and so well developed. I was in awe.
Between Real and Perfect by Ray Stoeve
Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?.
CW: Between Perfect and Real should be required reading for Pride Month, for its affirming, vulnerable, and moving portrait of Dean, who has always been out as queer but begins questioning and steadily realises that he is a trans boy. I loved this book and will recommend this for years to come.
- This book strikes a great balance between soft and fluffy with serious and honest. The story does portray bullying – and the bullying is awful – but it also shows trans joy and self-love, which you can feel was written with so much love and vulnerability.
- How the story explores relationships in this book was amazing. The story explores Dean’s fraught relationship with his mother, his affirming relationship with his friends, and also what his trans identity means for his romantic relationship as well.
- I feel that this story is honest yet safe in how it explores identity – that there’s sometimes a lot of questioning and self-doubt involved, but understanding who you are comes with so much affirmation and joy.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.
There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.
Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
CW: Elatsoe recently won the 2021 Locus Award for First Novel and is an absolute marvel. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about its brilliance ever since.
- The storytelling was splendid. I loved that the wider story interweaves other stories, bringing in and intertwining parts of Ellie’s ancestry and her familial ancestry, especially with her sixth-great grandmother – or “Six-Great” – and the power Ellie has inherited.
- The story is a mix of mystery, noir, adventure, paranormal, urban fantasy, and folklore – and effortlessly combines elements of all, giving rise to a unique and intriguing story.
- The relationships in this were wonderful – from her tight-knit and supportive family, to her friendship with her best friend Jay, who is a blonde cheerleader and pretty much a Golden Retriever in human-form, and even to Ellie’s dog companion, Kirby. There’s no romance, and Elatsoe is asexual.
Darling by K. Ancrum
A teen girl finds herself lost on a dangerous adventure in this YA thriller by the acclaimed author of The Wicker King and The Weight of the Stars—reimagining Peter Pan for today’s world.
On Wendy Darling’s first night in Chicago, a boy called Peter appears at her window. He’s dizzying, captivating, beautiful—so she agrees to join him for a night on the town.
Wendy thinks they’re heading to a party, but instead they’re soon running in the city’s underground. She makes friends—a punk girl named Tinkerbelle and the lost boys Peter watches over. And she makes enemies—the terrifying Detective Hook, and maybe Peter himself, as his sinister secrets start coming to light. Can Wendy find the courage to survive this night—and make sure everyone else does, too?
Skye: Darling is a YA thriller retelling of Peter Pan that I read early on in the year, but its been living rent-free in my mind ever since.
- The book is a marvelous thing of one-night escapades and nail-biting tension culminating in a horrifying twist, and it manages to be tender and terrifying and heartwarming all in equal measures. 2021 has been a year of years so far, and it’s truly a testament to the book’s staying power that I still vividly remember the adventure I went on while reading it.
- Its ace rep comes in the form of the gentlest, swooniest love interest, who is both demi and bisexual; and though the character is only introduced around the halfway point of the book, he is such a memorable, lovable character that I just had to reserve a spot just for him in this list. The author also talks a little about writing him in our interview!
- Beyond the presence of that specific character though, the story as a whole feels like it was written through a queer lens (which is unsurprising, given Kayla’s writerly oeuvre of queer YA lit). There is a prominent established sapphic relationship, a whole scene set in a drag queen show, and nearly all the characters are some varying shade of queer. Hilariously, our protagonist Wendy is really the only straight Black girl in the story’s cast of teens!
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
CW: My goodness, this book. The praise for Felix Ever After were sung high and low, and now that I have finally finished it, I can now attest to its brilliance.
- Felix Ever After isn’t a thoroughly wholesome and fluffy book, though there are fluffy moments! Rather, this is a book that delves into the messiness and nuance of identity and relationships, and I loved that.
- This book explores the experience of coming out as a trans boy, but later questioning that identity. I loved that this book explores how identity is fluid; we can grow and change and find new ways to feel more at home with ourselves.
- I loved that this book is about love. More specifically, I loved that this book is about how we learn to love others – that love is not always neat and tidy, but can sometimes be messy and difficult.
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.”
Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?
Joce: Claire Kann’s sophomore novel has a ton of heart and illustrates what can be a difficult transition from high school to college, and I loved reading her story and navigating her relationships with her.
- Claire Kann writes Winnie’s voice in first person, and her narrative flow is very much stream of consciousness—not in the Ali Smith type of way, but in that her thoughts are presented seemingly as they come, with no filter.
- The book is aptly named because for much of the story, Winnie struggles with making other people happy at the expense of herself, and thus we see her journey in establishing boundaries and prioritizing herself.
- We also see Winnie being interested in a boy who was supposed to be her Summer King after she is elected Summer Queen, and how she struggles with balancing the two and her feelings towards both of them and her queerness (she is asexual!) in relation to these feelings.
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.
Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…
CW: Tara Sim has given us a The Count of Monte Cristo retelling with a South Asian and demisexual lead. This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, but with the plethora of awesome retellings I have read lately, Scavenge the Stars sounds like it will soothe my itch to read all the diverse retellings.
What We Devour by Linsey Miller
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile… and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.
Skye: If you so much as mention a fantasy to do with “banished gods” and “a conflicted girl who hides divine powers”, I will immediately show up in your mirror and snatch the book away from you. This sounds like such a strong premise for a YA fantasy, and the cover art (by Spencer Fuller) is so foreboding! The author describes this book as featuring ‘cunning ace girls, terrible nerds, eating the rich, moral dilemmas, & magical apocalypses‘, and gosh am I here for more weird fantasy and queer girls saving the world.
Releases 6 July. Add this book on Goodreads!
Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie
Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys—way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.
So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love—and sexuality—never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.
Skye: Okay okay look, I will always be weak for book premises that involve flowers. and queer self-discovery. and dreamy, romantic girls. and coming-of-age. Which is to say: everything in this book summary feels like it was tailor-made to sucker punch me in the heart, and I am so ready. I was lucky enough to be able to pick up an ARC of this book (take that, 2022 release date 😌), and having sneakily peeked at the first few chapters? I can already tell we are in for such a treat.