BLACKOUT by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.


Title : Blackout
Author : Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 256
Genre : contemporary / diverse reads
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : June 22, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’m leaving this unrated and instead rating the stories separately with mini reviews.

Tiffany D Jackson’s story, The Long Walk, is the main driving force of these interconnected stories of Black kids during a city-wide blackout, with four parts that break up the anthology. This story focuses on a couple who have since broken up and both happen to arrive an internship there’s only one spot for. Before it can be resolved, the blackout hits. With nothing else to do, they agree to walk home together and, along the way, hash out their issues. This definitely got a bit overwrought at times, I’m mostly thinking of Act Three, and maybe I’m just used to Jackson’s more mature stories but this felt very.. young, on the childish end of YA, despite the fact that the characters were eighteen. And it’s such a bummer as I’ve loved so many stories from this author. But this one just didn’t do it. Two stars.

Mask Off by Nic Stone : a coming out/coming of age short between two boys who weren’t ever quite friends but were in each other’s orbit throughout the years. Until a queer masquerade party brings them together.. in a way. But it isn’t until they are stuck on the train together when the blackout hits that the masks (not literally!) come off. Honestly, this one was just.. fine. Nothing really remarkable. Two stars.

Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk : this short was set in an senior’s living facility, where two girls, one the granddaughter of a resident and the other, who visits the seniors with her therapy dog, meet. When a photo goes missing, the two girls search the home and, as they spend time together, sparks fly. This was a little too insta for me but it tied in with the theme of all the epic love stories being told around them. It was also a tiny bit repetitive RE the granddaughter’s sorta ex but it was cute. Three stars.

All the Great Love Stories.. and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton : hmm, sorta mixed feelings about this one. I love the idea of these two best friends with their history of bets combing through a library to find the greatest book of all time. She’s working up the courage to tell him how she feels and we get pieces of their history together; he’s got a revolving door of girlfriends, she never bothers. Does he feel for her what she feels for him? Again, love the concept, but some of this, despite being a novella, dragged out a bit. The pacing was a little off. But, still, it was cute. Three stars.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Angie Thomas : this short features a girl on a tour bus, on a school trip from Mississippi, struggling with feelings for her crush.. when she already has a boyfriend. I’m not going to say much more about this and risk spoiling it, because it didn’t end the way I expected, but the tie-in is that the driver is another character’s father and he may have accidentally gone off-route to drive them towards the block party happening in Brooklyn, where all the other characters we’ve met so far are also planning to attend. Four stars. And, in hindsight, though I loved Yoon’s writing best, this was my favourite story.

Seymour & Grace by Nicola Yoon : easily the best written of the bunch! And I enjoyed the story, too, even if it felt extra short. A girl is trying to find her way to the block party all the characters have made it to where she plans to confront her ex who dumped her because she’d “changed”. She ends up in a Ryde with someone listening to a philosophy podcast and they strike up a conversation; but it’s a rocky meeting. Things go wrong on the way to their destination but, eventually, they get there. And then.. well. Spoilers. I would’ve loved an extra chapter of this, instead of the extended Jackson story, and I’m sad it was so short. It’s a softer story but felt very Yoon-like. Which is a good thing. Four stars.

But while the little throw away tie-ins in Yoon’s story to bring everyone into the story, into the party, was nice, it still boggles my mind we didn’t get a concluding chapter that made it feel, after all this build up, that we were actually at this party?.That’s still confusing. It just kind of ends. Even though the Jackson wasn’t my favourite story, it held the anthology together, working as the glue. So couldn’t we have had a proper ending?

Overall, this wasn’t bad, but I expected to love a lot more from this bind-up than I did. So that’s a bit of a bummer. But I’ve not read anything by Woodfolk or Clayton before, though I’ve definitely had the latter on my radar, and I will definitely be picking up their solo offerings in the future.

THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Alison Cochrun

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever Afterexpects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.


Title : The Charm Offensive
Author : Alison Cochrun
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Atria Books
Release Date : September 7, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 review

I snagged this from NG at almost the eleventh hour after seeing some rave reviews and I’m really glad I did. Also, this is a debut? Seriously? Wow.

I wasn’t at all interested in a premise surrounding a Bachelor-like reality tv show but the aforementioned reviews promised something grand, and queer, and delightful, and so I took that risk. And it paid off. This isn’t a story where that plot fades into the background, though, this is literally the premise, so if it’s really not your thing, I don’t think you’d be able to enjoy this.

But if you enjoy conversations around mental health, discovering one’s true self, support for a late-stage (though it really isn’t ever too late) coming out, this’ll be right up your alley.

Charlie, one of our MCs, is cast in the role of Prince Charming in a bid to correct the damage done to his reputation when he’s ousted as co-owner of his tech company. Dev, who has worked for Ever After for six years, who still believes in happily ever afters despite the end of his six year relationship, is the one tapped to coach him through the show and the dates when it is quickly obvious Charlie has almost no social skills or ability to cope with what he’s signed up for. Soon enough, their awkward acquaintance becomes friendship and then becomes more.

Charlie was so so easy to love. Watching him bloom into someone more confident, more aware of his true self, as well as someone who was seen, and own both without reserve was just gorgeous. Dev’s character definitely took a turn I didn’t expect, which was kind of the point, though I did sometimes feel he was a little inconsistent; nothing to do with his mental health, just little blips I didn’t quite get.

Once again, it bears mentioning, I’m shocked this was a debut. This was so good. You definitely shouldn’t go into this expecting full on fluff — in addition to discussion of mental health and therapy there was some homophobia and an all-around unpleasant “villain” — and while there was one part that had me howling, it was a little more serious than it was lighthearted or comedy based (outside of the outrageous premise of the show, that is).

I can’t speak for any of the rep (please check out other reviews where you can) but I definitely felt a lot of the care the author put into handling her characters and everything that made them who they were. I would definitely recommend.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

FRESH by Margot Wood

A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl’s freshman year of college

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.  


Title : Fresh
Author : Margot Wood
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Harry N Abrams
Release Date : August 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

Headlines:
Banter central
Sex-positive
Fun formatting

Fresh was a ride of a read in that it was light, fun and full of banter. This hardback was formatted pretty innovatively and the narrative had regular footnotes of sarcasm. Framed around moving into college as a freshman, Elliot drove this story with her experiences of the first year with roommates, dating and sexual experiences.

Elliot was bisexual, had ADHD and tended to crash into life at a speed of knots, picking up the pieces afterward. The narrative was part stream of consciousness and inner monologue and part banter with everyone around her. Life through her eyes was definitely witty, sometimes cringey and peppered with questionable decisions.

This was an incredibly sex-positive story. There’s not a lot that is unsaid in this book, I would say the character connections were less about chemistry and more about navigating new sexual experiences in college. When things didn’t exactly go peachy in that department, it was hilarious. I would say that I never really got deep with Elliot as a character because of the comedic facade but it was an entertaining read.

Just like the title, this read was fresh and a contemporary YA story with an emphasis on comedy.

Thank you to the publisher and Pride Book Tours for the review copy

THE VANISHING by Karla Nikole

Nearly two centuries ago, hundreds of purebred vampires disappeared without any explanation—vanished like mist swept away in the breeze.

Nino Bianchi and Haruka Hirano are mated purebred vampires: madly in love and exploring the depths of their young bond. But an unexpected event brings their cozy lives to a screeching halt. A new vanishing, much too close to home.

The world of Lore and Lust stretches deeper with more romance, mystery, love and trust. A queer vampire love story full of heart and delicious heat.


Title : The Vanishing
Author : Karla Nikole
Series : Lore & Lust (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 338
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Karla Nikole Publishing
Release Date : February 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

On the one hand, a lot more happened in this instalment compared to book one, which had been one of my big complaints, but overall.. I’m sorry, I’m still not really getting this series.

I still don’t fully comprehend this vampire society, aristocracy, hierarchy, whatever, but we did get some insight behind — go figure — the big Vanishing; which was basically the complete loss of the English pureblood (purebred?) population. Why only England I have no idea but I’m just chocking that one upto one more thing I don’t understand and just kinda rolling with it. That said, the reason for it, and the villain behind it, feels pretty flimsy. Maybe we’ll get more about that in book three.

In this book we had two romances playing out, the one from book one and another between characters connected to the main protagonists. It offered up something different and, dare I say it, more interesting.

That said, where Nino had been my favourite character in book one, there was a certain interaction with his brother that changed my opinion of him. And a few other revelations and observations from his best friend added to that. Somehow Nino’s brother Giovanni, grumpy alpha asshole who nonetheless shoulders so much responsibility and does so much for Nino, now holds the top spot.

Aside from that positive, I’m still struggling with the writing, the weird dialogue, plus all the aforementioned plot and worldbuilding weirdness, and sometimes the chapters ends abruptly or we transition into something in a strange manner. But it’s also just that.. I just don’t understand the point. This time there was less focus on the Lore & Lust book, at least in talking about it, but instead Haruka is translating stuff with a family and I just.. I don’t understand why?

This whole series is just befuddling to me.

I’m going to see through this series to the end, the third (and final?) book is out in the fall, but unless things really take off I’m not sure I would pick up this author again.

ROLE MODEL by Rachel Reid

Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.

Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…


Title : Role Model
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changes (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 284
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ sports romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : August 10, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I always have a good time when I reunite with the Game Changers series and this instalment was no exception.

Hi. I’m Troy. What’s your name?
Fuck you.”
Nice name. Pretty.”

This particular match-up is between a closeted player working through a redemption arc and the gregarious and very out social media manager for the team he’s recently been traded to. Naturally there are lots of cameos from characters from previous books (I l y a) but instead of feeling intrusive, as it sometimes does in other series, in this particular world it’s just excellent (because I l y a).

Yeah, I talk a good game but honestly, while I do enjoy this author and her books, the thing that has me go grabby hands are the cameos. And the fact that each one brings us closer to the sequel for that particular pairing.

I’m going to fucking kill you, Rozanov.”
You have been saying that for years. But I am still here.”
I think he likes you.”
Of course he does. I’m great.

But back to Role Model. I liked it probably on par with book three, it doesn’t quite edge out the last one (which was the closest I had come to love since book two), but I like that Reid offers different tropes and different circumstances to navigate even if most follow the basic formula we come to expect.

I might forget the specific details of this plot by the time I pick up the next one (which sadly happens every time) but I’m sure when I get to see these characters, along with their contemporaries, on page, either as a reference or actively in a scene, it’ll all come back. This series is like that; it’s a comfort and it’s fun and it’s a good time.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE by Victoria Lee

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself. 


Title : A Lesson in Vengeance
Author : Victoria Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ paranormal/thriller
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this would’ve worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up.

That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfriend’s death. She soon finds being back on campus is damaging to her ability to discern reality from the belief that she’s being haunted; not by her girlfriend (or not only..) but by the ghosts of girls long dead who are built into the history, the mythology, of the school. Felicity sees things, feels things, and it makes the reader question her reliability as a narrator; is she delusional, is her grief causing her prior obsession with witchcraft, with the dead girls, making her see things that aren’t there or are these manifestations actually real?

.. grief would tie itself to the small things, that I’d be living my life as normal and then a bit of music or the cut of a girl’s smile would remind me of her and it would all flood back in.

Felicity’s journey, her obsession, her grief, her hauntings, they were all compelling. Where I started to side-eye things was with.. well, almost everything else. Certain characters, with certain influences and motivations, and how transparent it all seemed. And also, my biggest problem really, was just.. why? Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be a why. Maybe I just didn’t get it.

There was one big exception to the transparent bit, though. Something I definitely didn’t see coming. And I loved it? I don’t think many will. Infact, I think the ending in general will be polarizing. You’ve been warned!

I was definitely a bit hesitant going into this, no matter how pumped I was over the concept, because I had a rough go with Lee’s debut series. This? I loved the writing, I loved the dip in and out of spooky paranormal horror, the uncertainty of it all. I started this late at night and I won’t say it scared me but oh did it do a good job with the eerie vibes.

This might not have been a solid win but parts of it worked so so well for me. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author, especially if they write more in this darker vein, but I think Lee would absolutely excel at an adult story. I hope one day it happens.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

LORE & LUST by Karla Nikole

The slow burn vampire romance you didn’t know you needed…

Haruka Hirano is alive, but not quite living. Surviving but not thriving. As an elite purebred vampire in the twenty-first century, he is broken. Content in his subpar existence.

He is done with life. But life is not finished with him.

When he receives a formal request to oversee an antiquated vampire ritual at Hertsmonceux Castle, Haruka grudgingly leaves his home to meet another purebred. The vampire is not what he expects. Truly, he is unlike any vampire Haruka has ever encountered: cautious, innocent and with the warmth and gravitational pull of the sun.

Lore and Lust is an exploration of cultures, contemporary society and romance. It puts a whimsical spin on traditional vampire lore, while also creating a vivid new world where love is love. No questions asked.


Title : Lore & Lust
Author : Karla Nikole
Series : Lore & Lust (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 284
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Karla Nikole Publishing
Release Date : October 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Surprising no one, I have disappointed buddies once again by not being able to love a non-recommendation (they don’t recommend books to me anymore, this is my fault, not theirs). To be fair, I think I expected something very different from this because despite of the title, and because of what many of us have grown accustomed to with vampires/paranormal plots. So, heads up : this is very slow moving and more sweet than angsty and violent or dark.

This actually gave me some All Souls series vibes as one of the plot points surrounds this document one of the main characters has in his possession which details accounts and records of vampires who have bonded (mated, for context) and the circumstances around that. And some random vampire suddenly seems really keen to get his hands on it. But that’s likely where the comparison stops. However it also gave me Mortal & Divine series vibes with some of the formality in both customs and speech, not to mention the fact that there’s aristocracy and clans with these particular vampires, but, again, that’s where that comparison stops, too.

It’s definitely a unique take on vampires as a culture, sort’ve in line with Regency era behaviours, except also.. not. Because these vampires are almost all exhaustingly useless and rude and entitled but simultaneously thirsty (and not just literally) AF. And I found most of them hard to endure. Some of which, in a different sense, spilled over onto one of the main characters, Haruka. I could sorta feel bad for what he had gone through, how insufferably he was constantly treated by others (which I mean.. I still feel like I didn’t get a good handle on the why behind this? was it just snowflake syndrome and he was just All That? still not clear). But the only character I actually liked was our other lead, Nino.

Aspects of this world was interesting, how the vampires mingled (or didn’t) with humans, how apparently they are not apart but worked into knowledge and existence (again, not a hundred percent clear on this, either), and the whole bloodline thing. But was I liking anything? Not really. Did anything really happen? Also not really. This was pretty slow, both in plot — of which there is no action only weird discussions about art and politics? these vampires are so weird — and also in romance, but we do at least get some satisfaction on the latter before the end of this instalment.

I struggled a bit with the writing, too, and how descriptors were constantly repeated and used as reference to people; male, dark, male, dark, etc. In addition the tense this was written in (third person present) just kept throwing me out of the story; and considering I struggled to connect to begin with, and then stay connected, it just all added to being checked out.

Overall, though? This just wasn’t what I thought it was and while the second half was easier to chew through than the first, I can’t claim to be a fan. But once my fellow buddy reader (hi buddy!) catches up, I’ll be reading on. Hopefully book two offers something more exciting; but if not at least I’m prepared for it.

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA social thriller where survival is not a guarantee.

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 sixteen 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. 


Title : The Taking of Jake Livingston
Author : Ryan Douglass
Format : eARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy/thriller
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : July 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Hm. I’m leaving this unrated for now (for good?) because my thoughts are kind of all over the place.

I think, when you’re neck deep in the spooky thrilling creepiness of this story, you’re in it. You’re having a good scary time. The problem is when you pause, put the book down, and start wondering.. why. Why are these things happening, what is this world, what is the history.. and, the biggest most perplexing thing, why did the author choose to go in this direction with the villain.

I honestly think this would make a great movie because the atmosphere and the ambience, though hella confusing, still did a great job at creeping me out. Some of the visuals were, again, sometimes confusing but somehow still managed to be translated into my brain. But so much of this needs more. Yes, the story is short, so I guess a lot of this surface level non-explanation could be blamed on that but.. why was it short? Why wasn’t this longer, more fleshed out, given context? So much could’ve been improved, including the romance.

If you want a short spooky dose of a novel that brushes up against topics of racism and homophobia, without making them the central theme, and that will likely keep you on the edge of your seat, you could probably do worse. I just wish it could’ve done.. not better, maybe, but more.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

MEET CUTE DIARY by Emery Lee

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships.

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.


Title : Meet Cute Diary
Author : Emery Lee
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Quill Tree Books/Harper360 YA
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Young protagonist
Endings and continuations
Pronouns

Meet Cute Diary says it all in the title, this was incredibly cute. Noah, the trans protagonist was 16 years old and I would say that this story felt young, younger than some other YA stories. Maybe he didn’t have street smarts, he’d just come out and was starting afresh, so I think that’s an important representation for readers to have.

The themes in this book were about endings but also how to keep relationships going with friends and family. Noah found himself in a new state, able to start afresh and I loved seeing him feel free from people’s preconceptions. I felt something pretty fishy about Drew early on and that element felt somewhat unfinished but I think Noah thought that too.

The whole concept of the meet cute diary on tumblr and the blog spiralling out of hand was really interesting. Dealing with expectations, trolls, disappointed audiences made for avid reading. I have to give a shoutout to Brian, the best side character in this book, he was the brother of brothers.

It doesn’t matter how I was born or who I thought I was back then. I’m me, and we’re brothers, and there’s nothing in the world that can ever change that.

There were some great but low key elements of education in this book regarding the range of pronouns one might choose for themselves and I welcomed the insight.

Thank you Harper360 YA and Pride Book Tours for the review copy.

JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.


Title : Jay’s Gay Agenda
Author : Jason June
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this wasn’t quite the lovely, hilarious, quirky, queer, YA love story I expected it to be. It was, however, very sex positive (though in only one specific way.. more on that later) and I think that should definitely be celebrated. Mostly because it’s the only positive thing I can attribute to this read. Sorry, no, that’s a lie. I liked Jay’s parents. Who were also very sex positive. There we go.

The problem really starts, and ends, with the main character. Not only was he a bit OTT in some ways he was just completely.. well, dick-crazed? To put it nicely, I guess (it would’ve been nice if the focus on virginity hadn’t been so prevalent but also why did no single person address the fact that sex comes in lots of forms, not just penetrative? for a queer novel, this was a very heteronormative view). And he was totally oblivious to literally so much, including his own hypocrisies. I’m not saying he was the only one to be guilty of such, and hey, this is a bunch of eighteen year olds we’re talking about here, but.. still.

I wish I could’ve loved this but I barely liked it. I hope people can enjoy this, because I absolutely think queer readers need messy romcoms they can see themselves in, and there’s definitely a plethora of messy romcoms for those of us who are straight, I just.. I hated the lying, yes, and I hated the cheating, but more than that (and this is big because I really hate cheating) was how easily he was forgiven. By literally everyone. Yes, yes, it’s a YA, we need to wrap up everything nicely, but.. nope. Teens deserve to see consequences play out. We all do. It’s part of life.

Also, COVID/quarantine was mentioned offhand like twice and a) that was really jarring and b) no, stop, I don’t want this in my fiction.

I have no idea if there’s more to come because GR indicates this is the first in a series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on. Especially not if book two is from Jay’s POV.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **