KOGITSUNE by Xia Xia Lake

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking. 

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).


Title : Kogitsune
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book 1)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 62
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

This is such a sweet, magical, little story of the birth, and early years, of a kitsune; a fox god. As he discovers the world around him, he also meets a human boy, and they develop a sweet friendship that, over time and after reuniting after a separation where they each grow into their own, becomes a romance.

Despite how short this story is, Lake nonetheless manages to perfectly set the scene, delving into Japanese folklore and myth, all through the eyes of a curious and adorable protagonist, who is both naive and wise and, like mortals, just as susceptible to heartbreak, remorse, and love.

This is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read on.

SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.


Title : Silver in the Wood
Author : Emily Tesh
Series : The Greenhollow Duology (book one)
Format : physical (library)
Page Count : 112
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : June 18, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) review

Thank goodness for the cover reveal of book two or I don’t know when I would’ve prioritized picking this one up.

SILVER IN THE WOOD is a slow-unfurling novella about the bargains made with old gods, the darkness of the wood, and new beginnings at the end of things. This wasn’t at all what I expected — I fully thought this would be darker, edgier, and instead it was more melancholy, charming, and sweet. Nonetheless I’m still rounding up, even if my expectations weren’t quite met, because I still enjoyed this so much.

We know there’s more to this Wild Man in the woods than just a caretaker and Tesh cleverly tells us the story of how things came to be as the curious new-owner of Greenhollow Hall is researching local legends and myth. And it’s when things go sideways, and a new character is introduced, that we somehow get a whole lot more worldbuilding that neither feels crammed down your throat or, considering the word count, too big for the story. But it’s the backstory that really feels rich, twisty, and also a little sad.

This novella was perfectly paced to leave you satisfied and yet wanting to read on and my only complaint is there isn’t more.. yet.

THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper – double review!

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.


Title : The Gravity of Us
Author : Phil Stamper
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA romance/contemporary
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : February 4, 2020/May 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wish I could say this was everything sweet and lovely and as interesting that I hoped it would be.. but it wasn’t.

This is a story about a space mission, social media, and first love. But the space mission never really felt real until near the end, there was so much streaming or reality tv that I felt like shaking my fist and yelling at kids to get off my non-existent lawn, and the first love was hella insta-love-y and took off at the speed of light.

Additionally this ARC was brutally formatted and the little chapter break sessions with the company running the reality tv show were unreadable. So if there was an added element that might’ve explained something.. I missed it. It was just not comprehensible and my brain bled trying to make sense of it.

That said, there is a dramatic element that results in a cool viral campaign to save NASA and I did like how that was done. It gave me the feelings of watching similar movements unfold on twitter and all the traction it gets and all the positive and, unfortunately rare, good things that happen as a result. But it was pretty late in the game to redeem the story on a whole, or even the characters — the one who spearheads the videos is the MC who is, almost in every other situation, a grade A knob.

But maybe this isn’t as bad as it seemed to me. Maybe some of my technical issues contributed to what should’ve been only minor disappointments. But I didn’t enjoy the writing or the characters and any of the good, the diversity and the mental health rep, it was all overshadowed by the unbelievable romance, the self-centered MC, and the boring everything else.

Sadly this debut didn’t wow me and I probably wouldn’t pick up anything by the author again. But I’m glad we’re getting more queer stories (particularly #ownvoices ones) and the effort was made to be inclusive, so, that is why I’ve rounded up just enough to not drop this into one-star territory.

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


Micky’s 2 star review

Gutted is how I feel if I compare my excitement at the beginning and my feelings over this by the end. I feel like THE GRAVITY OF US had all the potential but none of the execution. I couldn’t have been more excited for this context of two NASA teens finding a connection, I couldn’t have felt more let down by the characterisation and plot lines, sadly.

What didn’t work then, you might ask? The protagonist Cal didn’t work for me at all. I was actually invested for the first 25% of this book, overlooking some of the egocentric side of Cal but this all fell flat once the family had moved to Texas. Cal’s character was a lot to handle, the ego, the selfishness; he was bold to the point of being obnoxious to me.

Sadly the story went down the route of insta-touchiness, insta-feelings and insta-love with none of the narrative to make this even slightly tangible. Added to this, I found the handling of mental health issues to be problematic. Depression and anxiety were factors for some of the characters and the lack of time to work on these topics within the story really let that representation down.

I don’t want to flog this horse any more, it’s a painful review to write when I wanted this to be such a different experience. I guess it could work for readers if they are happy to read at the surface only, but really I’m only guessing.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for the early review copy.

DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal. 


Title : Dark and Deepest Red
Author : Anna-Marie McLemore
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : January 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’ve had a few reasons to not rate books over the years. But sometimes the reason is simply because I honestly don’t know what the book deserves. This here is one of those times.

This is my first McLemore despite hearing nothing but wonderful magical things about their writing for.. years. And I can admit, this was magical and at times wonderful. But did I enjoy the experience? I’m not sure. There is so much to be gained by this story, the message within, the truths, the history.. some moments really did wow me. But, again, was this ever actually enjoyable? Not really? So I’m not rating it.

Would I recommend? Maybe. If you’ve read and loved this author before, I think this is going to be another winner for your shelf. With the added bonus of it being a queer retelling. For someone new to this author? I don’t know if this is one to rush out and read. But if you’re curious, feed the beast. Borrow it from your library.

I still have every intention on working through some of McLemore’s backlist.. so maybe that, right there, says it all. Or at least enough.

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

TOUGH GUY by Rachel Reid

They have nothing in common—so why does Ryan feel most like himself whenever he’s with Fabian?

Pro hockey star Ryan Price may be an enforcer, but off the ice he struggles with anxiety. Recently traded to the Toronto Guardians, he’s determined to make a fresh start in the city’s dynamic LGBTQ Village. The last thing he expects to stumble upon in his new neighborhood is a blast from his past in the fabulous form of Fabian Salah.

Aspiring musician Fabian loathes hockey. But that doesn’t stop him from being attracted to a certain burly, ginger-bearded defenseman. He hasn’t forgotten the kiss they almost shared back in high school, and it’s clear the chemistry between them has only intensified.

Fabian is more than happy to be Ryan’s guide to the gay scene in Toronto. Between dance clubs and art exhibits—and the most amazing sex—Ryan’s starting to feel something he hasn’t experienced in a long time: joy. But playing the role of the heavy on the ice has taken its toll on his body and mind, and a future with Fabian may mean hanging up his skates for good.


Title : Tough Guy
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 262
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance / sports
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : January 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

HEATED RIVALRY, book two in the Game Changers series, was one of my favourite reads of last year. It came as a complete surprise considering the romance and tone of book one which, while far from bad, was just nothing like the follow up. As a result I was trying to lower my expectations for book three and went in to this one just hoping it ranked somewhere in the middle. And, for the most part, I got my wish.

Ryan inwardly cringed at how rude he must have seemed. He wished he could just wear a sign that said I’m sorry. I am terrible at socializing. Please don’t take it personally.

There are a few elements in this installment that make it stand out — but I don’t want to spoil the nitty gritty of it all — but more or less the majority of my enjoyment came from Ryan. This soft cinnamon roll was dealing with so much, while also thinking so little of himself, and yet despite how contrary to his personality it was, he was always expected to be a fighter. The tough guy (heyyyoooo). He was a bundle of contradictions and I enjoyed how Reid explored that.

Opposite him is a non-hockey player but who comes from a long line of hockey supporters and, when he was young, his family often billeted players, too. But Fabian has no interest in the sport or the typically homophobic alphajerkholes who play it. Except there was that one exception from thirteen years ago..

.. who happens to be Ryan.

This was one of the cuter reunion romances, though not quite a second-chance, and while Fabian didn’t always wow me on page, I did like him. Though I’ll admit I thought he was most enjoyable when amongst his friend group.. who were hilarious. I’m such a sucker for a friend group.

Price! Thank god you are here. This goblin is bothering me.”
Eat my nuts, Rozanov!
No fucking thank you.
Sorry! Sorry. I shouldn’t laugh.
Don’t encourage Rozanov.”
I think I might love him.

The romance between these two, the intimacy involved, is one of the things that stands out to me. Beyond just Ryan, full stop. Adding to the fun were cameos by a certain Russian player and, I mean, any page with Ilya is a page you’re going to love.

So, yes, this definitely wasn’t a new favourite but I did enjoy this read. I do want to say, though, that these endings give me actual whiplash. They are the most abrupt and I don’t understand why. As a result, and because of my overall love for the series and this author, I don’t want them to end. Please will there be more. I ain’t too proud to beg.

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

SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY by Emma Scott

How long would you wait for love? 

Max Kaufman was kicked out of his home as a teen and his life has been an uphill battle ever since. From addiction and living on the streets, to recovery and putting himself through nursing school, he’s spent the last ten years rebuilding his shattered sense of self. Now he’s taken a job as a private caretaker to Edward Marsh III, the president and CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Max soon learns Marsh’s multi-billion-dollar empire is a gold and diamond-encrusted web of secrets and lies.

The longer Max works and lives with the Marsh family, the tighter the secrets tangle around him. And his heart—that he’s worked so hard to protect—falls straight into the hands of the distant, cold, and beautiful son of a dynasty…

Silas Marsh is set to inherit the family fortune, but his father is determined his heir be the “perfect” son. Before Silas can take over the company and end its shady business practices, he must prove himself worthy…and deny his true nature.

Silas must choose: stand up to his father by being true to himself and his undeniable feelings for Max. Or pretend to be someone he is not in order to inherit everything. Even if it means sacrificing a chance at happiness and real love.


Title : Someday, Someday
Author : Emma Scott
Format : eARC
Page Count : 374
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : November 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

So, I want to be clear, that I respect what the author set out to do with this story. With the subject matter, the redemption, the healing.. even dragging something as relevant to our every day as the opioid crisis into the spotlight. But..

.. but. This story feels a lot like it’s trying very hard for me to feel things. For me to be heartbroken, or angry, and to champion the MCs, to rage against the villains. All of which, like, valid. The material is there. I just didn’t quite sink into any of it. Probably because so much of it is melodramatic, or manufactured, and also just vacillating between different extremes to the point that things felt a little (a lot) unbelievable and hard to hold onto.

I’ll say it again. I appreciate some of the topics, I appreciate the representation, but this was just a little too OTT for me whilst also not being enough for me to feel much of anything. But hey, what do I know, this is beloved by almost everyone, so, hey. Grain of salty salted salt.

This was my first Scott, despite having bought up most of her books during one kindle sale or another, and I would like to give her other works a try. This is definitely not the worst ‘romance author tries m/m’ foray I’ve ever read. I think I’ve just read too many better ones to think much of this one. But a lot of potential was here so I definitely won’t be deleting her off my kindle. I might even finally read those other books! Sounds like a good 2020 goal.

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

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ /


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

CRIER’S WAR by Nina Varela

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war. 


Title : Crier’s War
Author : Nina Varela
Series : Crier’s War (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 434
Genre : YA fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this is one of those books that can go either way for some readers. But, for me, I’m caught right in the middle.

First, let me say : if you considered picking this book up because you heard it was a hate to love, or enemies to lovers, or opposites attract, romance? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This, unlike another fantasy series featuring an f/f pairing, was done so so well. I believed in the evolution of this.. not relationship but this connection. It totally won me over and oh man I want more. The dynamic between them.. (chefs kiss).

As for the dynamic of the story itself? Well, I was definitely under the impression this story was actually the opposite of what it has (haha #TeamNoBlurbs). Instead of the Made-character being the outlier, this is a society where Made-beings, the Automae, are actually in charge. They are the winners of a war where they have subjugated humans. Mostly. There are some who don’t despise humans, who want to live with them equally, but overall this is not the norm. And, to be honest, I think that element made this story even better for me than had it been the other way around, or the way I expected.

However. I’ll admit that sometimes I did feel a little confused by the actions of some of these Automae and how human they did seem, sometimes. And yet others, not at all. Maybe that was done on purpose? Maybe there is supposed to be that fluctuating line to make us see how close but not at all like humans they are? I’m uncertain. Certain actions, particularly that of the villain and his manipulations, just make it to to seem.. well, convenient, that some act more human than others. I don’t know. I’m not explaining this right but I think that’s mostly because, again, confused.

The world is very interesting, though, and how certain things came about in the end..? Yeah, wow, I am reading on for sure. But that said, I’m glad that we had two strong leads to carry this story during those moments where I was just not in it, because those moments did happen. And I’m glad for these leads because I was forever sad I didn’t love the aforementioned other series because diversity and f/f and all that good stuff. But this one? This one does it. I’m here for it.

So, yes, not a super high rating, but I absolutely think book two will knock it out of the park. And I can’t wait.

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

THE STARLESS SEA by Erin Morgenstern

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth. 

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction. 

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life. 


Title : The Starless Sea
Author : Erin Morgenstern
Format : ARC
Page Count : 487
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Doubleday Books
Release Date : November 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime.

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? This won’t be a book for everyone. Just like THE NIGHT CIRCUS worked for you.. or it didn’t. But I can’t get enough of the way this author writes. Which makes it a travesty this is only book two from her. And yet.. if it takes this long to come up with something like this? I’ll happily wait. Again and again and again.

His religion is buried in the silence of freshly fallen snow, in a carefully crafted cocktail, in between the pages of a book somewhere after the beginning but before the ending.

If you enjoy evocative imagery, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy non-linear and/or disjointed narrative storytelling, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy stories within stories within stories (and on and on), you’ll love this book.

Do you want to know the secret to surviving once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole? [..] Be a rabbit.

I don’t know what to say about this one. Truly. It defies explanation and instead should just be experienced. It’s weird and wonderful and will wholly consume you. It’s complicated, it’s fantastic, it’s relevant, fantastical, and even a little bit meta. I have a feeling this is a read that’ll get better with every revisit and it’s already pretty fucking great after only one read.

“Sorry it’s so poetry out.”
So what?
Poetry. The weather. It’s like a poem. Where each word is more than one thing at once and everything’s a metaphor. The meaning condenses into rhythm and sound and the spaces between sentences. It’s all intense and sharp, like the cold and the wind.”
You could just say it’s cold out.
I could.

This is a story I didn’t want to leave while I was in it, and is lingering with me even now, and I’m sure I’ll still be thinking about it tomorrow. And the next day. But the one thing I’ll mention? I’m adding to this review on my “tomorrow” after having read, and reviewed, this yesterday. And the one thing I woke up thinking about was.. as much as I wanted to love the romance, I don’t think it endures. I don’t want to spoil things or get into detail on this one bit where I didn’t detail anything else but as much as I was living for certain elements, in hindsight, they do kind of pale against the rest. So. I’m knocking this down just a little from my original five stars. Maybe I’ll feel different in a reread? I don’t know. That said, it’s the only bit of weakness in an otherwise very strong story.

A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun.

My recommendation? Skip over the summary (which I never did read, ever) and just dive in. Do it now.

** I won an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in a giveaway with no obligation to review. **

FULL DISCLOSURE by Camryn Garrett

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon. 

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too. 

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…


Title : Full Disclosure
Author : Camryn Garrett
Format : ARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ contemporary
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 29, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I fully admit that I requested this one because of the unique circumstances described in the synopsis. A YA contemporary dealing with HIV? Not a throwback story, or historical, set against the AIDS crisis but a real person, in today’s world? I had to read it. Adding to this already rare subject matter, was a diverse cast, dealing with topics of both race and sexuality.

But ultimately I think I loved the concept more than the execution.

This story reads a little like SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA. Our lead has a secret, she’s not out about her HIV at school (not after the disaster that happened at her last one), and she hasn’t even told her best friends; which means neither does her crush know. But someone does and someone threatens to out her if she doesn’t spill the beans by a specific deadline. The threats even get worse as her crush suddenly becomes her boyfriend. And Simone has to make a choice : avoid the chance at love and be browbeat by an unknown or come clean to those she cares about.

Throughout the story, there are little red herrings as to who this blackmailer is. And I’ll admit I did guess correctly. I won’t spoil anything about Simone’s choices (does she tell, is she outed, does she tell and end up outed anyway) but I will say that, not being represented by anything in this book — I’m not queer or black or HIV positive (though the author is the everything but the latter) — I thought everything felt true. What ultimately kind of failed for me was some of the side drama with Simone’s besties. I felt they sometimes transitioned into strange discussions or arguments that never felt relevant for the circumstances whereas her friends from the support group, a gathering for other HIV positive teens, were fabulous.

The romance was sweet, the obsession with musicals wasn’t really my thing but I appreciated the relevance of them doing a production of Rent, and I would 100% read a backstory/companion about Simone’s parents. She had a somewhat complex and blended family situation, being adopted and also with particular dynamics still present between her dads, but overall I just loved them both so much. It was particularly nice that, with everything else going on, parental angst was not present.

Additionally, Simone is very aware and very responsible about her diagnosis. She has maturity, respect, and agency in regards to how she has to manage it and yet also wants to be educated on protocol for being sexually active while protecting herself and her partner. This is a story about living with HIV and living a full, healthy, life. There’s no real tragedy here.

So, yes, I didn’t love this but I love what it represents, what it will offer to other readers, and overall the education it’ll give many people who just don’t know enough, or maybe rely on ignorant prejudice, about HIV. Highly recommend for that alone.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I requested this book because it oozed the grabby vibes with a YA context of a HIV positive protagonist. This book had lots of important themes and it was generally educational to those who might not know much about the virus in the context of adolescence and sexual relationships. However, it terms of execution and connection to the characters, the narrative left me on the outside looking in, disconnected and wanting more.

The protagonist, Simone was a secure person on the cusp of womanhood but with so many new questions about a health condition she’d lived with since forever. Simone was exploring her sexual identity, potential attractions and relationships and for the first time she was questioning what that meant in the now for her and her circumstances.

What I liked were the multiple reps of sexual identity and living with HIV, there’s so much in terms of widening knowledge and horizons for young people reading this book. I loved the dads, they were ridiculously protective on the one hand and everything precious on the other. I liked Miles but I found him unrealistic in a number of situations.

I struggled somewhat with feeling connected to Simone herself and her friends, Lydia and Claudia. There was something missing in these characters, something in the narrative that just didn’t hang right and I still can’t put my finger on it. The drama lama later in the story was predictable but I did enjoy how the story came together in the end. Although I remain unsure about Miles’ parents and any resolution of that issue.

I wanted to love this book, I appreciate its existence but it was just an okay read for me. I think maybe those younger readers than me might gain more from the narrative than I did.

Thank you to Penguin Children’s for the early review copy.


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