A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha Published: Entangled: Teen (Demeber 1st 2020) Genre: young adult; fantasy, historical Rep: mostly Portuguese cast & setting, lesbian mc, lesbian Muslim li, lesbian scs TW: religion-based self harm, homophobia, internalised homophobia, blood, murder, body horror Rating: 4.5/5 🍑
My initial review for A Curse of Roses was simply “lesbians have won with this one!”, and that’s absolutely true and tells you a lot about what you should expect from this book. But let me expand on that a bit.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust Published: Flatiron Books (July 7th2020) Genre: young adult; fantasy Rep: Persian cast & settings, bi mc, sapphic li Rating: 4/5 🍑
Girl, Serpent, Thorn is revolutionary in more than one respect and for that we should all be grateful. It’s a feminist fairy tale for the modern times, even though it’s set in ancient Persia, even though it’s full of magic and monsters.
Camp by L. C. Rosen Published: Penguin Random House UK Children’s (May 28th 2020) Genre: young adult; contemporary Rep: gay Jewish mc, half-Korean gay Jewish li, Middle Eastern gay Jewish side character, demi lesbian side character, Afro-Brazilian-American sapphic side character, Black trans side character, nonbinary side character, gay side characters (really, an LGBT cast) Rating: 4/5 🍑
First things first: if you’ve read the blurb and you’re kind of worried about the whole ‘pretending to be someone else to get a boy’ thing – don’t be. It’s handled with so much grace; Randy is being called out on his ridiculous plan by basically anyone who knows about it, constantly. The words “trick him to love you” are used. It’s not a cheap plot device, it’s a driving force of the book and there are countless discussions regarding it.
Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran Published: The O’Brien Press (June 1sr 2020) Genre: young adult; fantasy Rep: lesbian mc, poc lesbian mc, lesbian, gay & bi side characters, poc side characters Rating: 2.5/5 🍑
A fantasy novel featuring a sapphic relationship between a queen and her spymaster? What could be better, you ask? Well, actually…
First things first, this is not a bad book. But. Unfortunately, there’s a but. I can see what this book tries to achieve and I deeply appreciate it, it’s just that it doesn’t really reach its goals.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar Published: Page Street Kids (May 12th 2020) Genre: young adult; contemporary Rep: Bengali Muslim lesbian mc, Afro-Brazilian Irish bi li, Bengali side characters, Korean side character Tw: homophobia, racism, outing, bullying Rating: 3/5 🍑
If I was to describe The Henna Wars in one word, I would say “comforting”. It’s comforting in a way that it’s a story about a Bengali Muslim lesbian, very clearly not catered towards white audience. The mc’s culture is a central point of the book, it plays a major role and not once is the girl made to feel as if that shouldn’t be the case. Even when facing racism from her pears, she knows it’s them who should change & adapt. I can’t even imagine what a book like this must mean to South Asian readers.
Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye Published: Penguin Random House Children’s UK (May 21st 2020) Genre: young adult; contemporary Rep: mixed-race gay mc, mlm li, gay side character, Indian side character Tw: homophobia, bullying, fights, outing, another very public outing, unsupportive parents Rating: 1/5 🍑
In a word, in a phrase? It’s a preachy bulshit. If you’re looking for a light, cute gay romcom, you should keep looking. This book is not it.
The thing we can all agree on is that stories need angst to actually make sense. You can call it conflict or whatever else, but something in the plot has to stop working for a while, for the whole book to start working in the end. The problem is, the cause for that can’t feel like bordeline tragedy porn, can’t feel like kicking one already down, repeatedly.
That’s what Date Me, Bryson Keller failed to grasp.