For more queer reading material suggestions, check out the rest of the articles in this series!
The new year kicked off with a bang, promising new beginnings and a whole wealth of opportunity and possibility. Included in that were some truly amazing new queer reads, running the gamut of YA, NA, SFF, Romance, and beyond.
In addition to being exquisitely written and a testament to superlative worldbuilding, this past month’s best new releases delved deep into themes of toxic masculinity, coming of age, diaspora, political intrigue, reclamation of agency, loss of love and friendship, and ultimately, grief and hope. It was a glut of good books that did not shy away from the uncomfortable and the cathartic and here are some of the highlights you definitely should not miss.
Gods and Monsters Anthology by Alison Tam, Jessi Cole Jackson, Tonya Liburd, Samantha Lienhard, José Iriarte, and Sacha Lamb
Boutique publisher The Book Smugglers always pushes the envelope when it comes to new content, consistently putting out quality, diverse reads. Their latest offering is a collection of six original tales focused on the themes of gods and monsters. Originally published as free standalone ebooks over the span of 2017, this collection pulls all the stories together and is a truly excellent read. Full of magic and holy powers, there are petty thieves, goddesses, ill fated treasures and evils untold, children with unheard of powers, lovers with the ability to conjure demons, twins more unique than similar, warrior priestesses, and so much more. The themes of gods and monsters are both literal and figurative, forcing the reader to question who is what.
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire has written an irresistible series featuring Eleanor West and her Home for Wayward Children. Each of her students has the uncanny ability to find doorways to other worlds and visit them. Returning home is never an easy feat, however, and brings with it a whole slew of problems. Beneath the Sugar Sky is number three in this series and features Rini, a student who turns up in the West Home pond asking for her mother, a former student—only her mother is long dead, and without her, Rini must venture into the saccharine and dangerous land of Confection, where the Queen of Cakes is in control. Though Rini’s mother once destroyed her, the Queen’s power is growing by leaps and bounds as Rini’s own powers weaken. Battling against the riotous backdrop of candy-colored soda seas and fields of sweets, with the help of a ragtag group of would-be heroes and heroines, Sugar Sky is delightful and outlandish, proving that Seanan McGuire deserves all the awards and nominations being heaped upon her and this series.
Pet by C.S. Pacat
Fans of C.S. Pacat’s lush fantasy series, Captive Prince, will be hooked by this short story featuring a well-disliked character who was first introduced under some unsavory circumstances. Never one to shy from the uncomfortable or the political, Pacat delves into the character, Ancel, and the world he inhabits, examining his motivations and reasons for being so well and truly awful. One of Pacat’s dizzying abilities is that of flipping a reader’s well-formed opinions about characters, and it is on full display here, where a truly awful character transforms into someone not only likable, but understandable—and that in only 40 pages.
Young Adult/New Adult
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Debut author Claire Kann crafts a sweet and delicately nuanced book examining bisexuality and asexuality through the lens of Alice, the main character. Alice has her summer plans firmly in place: working at the local library, binge-watching her favorite TV series, frequenting buffets, and steering clear of love. After her girlfriend broke up with her upon finding out she’s ace, Alice wants to keep her heart off the table—that is until she meets Takumi, and all bets are off. Now, she has to decide if putting herself out there again is worth risking a budding friendship.
Abroad: Book 2 by Liz Jacobs
Book two in Jacobs’ stellar coming of age duology follows Nick, a Jewish immigrant from the U.S. studying in the U.K. for a year. Through poignant and nuanced introspection, Nick examines his own evolving ideas about identity, sexuality, friendship, and acceptance, while balancing the expectations of friends and family. The storyline encompasses not only Nick’s evolution, but that of a large cast of secondary characters equally attempting to discover who they are amongst shifting perceptions and outside influences. Abroad is very much an unflinching look at what it means to be true to yourself and to what you believe.
Chainbreaker (Timekeeper Series) by Tara Sim
In a steampunk Victorian England AU, Danny Hart knows clocks, and as a respected clock mechanic with the ability to repair not only clocks but time itself, it’s well he should. When the very real threat of time stopping rears its head, he is tasked to investigate a series of falling clock towers throughout India. But Danny would rather come to terms with the possibility of a relationship with a clock spirit named Colton, as well as a father he thought long gone. Riveting and complex, with a plot that’s not centered on romance, Tara Sim’s newest fascinating tale full of magic, intrigue, and clocks will hook you.
Agent Bayne by Jordan Castillo Price
Jordan Castillo Price’s mesmerizing Psycop series is speculative fiction at its best. Full of action, adventure, and loads of ghosts, the series follows one particular Psycop, Victor Bayne, a man who can see ghosts and ostensibly use them to solve crimes. Agent Bayne is book nine in this clever and hard-hitting series and it highlights Victor’s attempts to reinvent himself outside of being a Psycop. His partner, Jacob Marks, is a longtime employee of the Federal Psychic Monitoring Program, and when Victor joins the Program, it causes a ripple effect in both their professional and personal lives. Murder, mystery, and some heated romantic tension make this a must read.
Heart On by Amy Jo Cousins
Benched earlier in the NFL season due to an injury that could put an end to his career, Deion visits friends in Miami where he meets set designer, Carlos. The two bond over a mutual attraction that must be kept hidden from conservative family and nosy friends. When they decide to explore that attraction more, both men must decide if it’s something they want to pursue once Deion’s vacation is over. Examining what it means to be a professional athlete and openly bisexual, Amy Jo Cousins’ latest offering tackles toxic masculinity head on in addition to the devastation of losing a career to injury and coming to terms with very real aspects of your sexual identity.
Judith is an avid reader and overly enthusiastic book pusher on her site, Binge on Books. In addition to writing for the The Mary Sue, you can also find Judith talking the latest in queer reads on Teen Vogue and HEA USA Today.
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