2020 Reads: March

1. Camp by L. C. Rosen

I got my hands on an advanced proof of this sex-positive YA treasure. Unlike many queer Ya novels, this story is so much more than cutesy. Camp is a raunchy rom-com bursting with innuendo. But between laughs it boldly examines themes of identity within the queer community. My only critique is that its depiction of gay males felt a little narrow. It places a strong emphasis on the Femme and Masc stereotypes. In this case, the femmes are flamboyant, makeup wearing theatre lovers, and the masc's are self-hating, sports bros. I found this aspect hard to relate to. Some of us are just sensitive, book loving nerds. Nonetheless, it's an enjoyable read that touches on some interesting LGBTQIA topics, and I'm sure many will relate to it.

2. New Transgender Blockbusters by Oscar Upperton

There is so much fantastic contemporary New Zealand poetry to choose from at the moment, and Oscar Upperton's, New Transgender Blockbusters, is right up there. In this beautiful collection, he explores themes of identity, alienation, and childhood in modern New Zealand. Through various creative styles, he finds inventive ways to make the ordinary, extraordinary. I look forward to rereading this one.

3. Head Girl by Freya Daly Sadgrove

I love everything about this book! From the glorious cover, down to every last word inside, it is a joy to read. It's not often that poetry makes me belly laugh. But not only is it hilarious, it's also beautifully honest and profoundly relatable. I'm in love! In the words of Britney Spears, "Gimme Gimme More. Gimme More. Gimme Gimme More."

4. Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin Van Whye

"I don't think it's hit me until this week how scary it is to think about coming out. How cautious you have to be. Even when you like someone, you can't just out-right show them. Everything has to subtle. Or announced. There's, like, no middle ground. You're either in the closet or you have to announce that you're gay and dating. You can't just do it." - Kevin Van Whye. I got another advanced proof this month. This time, an adorable interracial queer romcom. I wish I could time travel back to 2001 and give my 15-year-old self a copy of this book. Even though I found it a little cutesy in parts, cute was just what the doctor ordered in these unsettling times. It's very sweet and I'm so glad that so many books like this exist for the Queer youth of today. If you were a fan of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda or To All the Boys I've Loved Before, this one’s for you.

5. Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey

This one gave me all feels during quarantine. If you follow me on any form of social media, you’ve heard me rave about it. You can also check out my full review for this title and an interview with the author in My Life in Books. I can't recommend it enough. Honestly, it's one of my favorite books. When Big Burr, Kansas, is voted the most homophobic town in America by a national nonprofit, its citizens are outraged. As a social experiment, Acceptance Across America sends a queer task force to live in the town for two years. They hope their presence in the community will open minds and change hearts. This story is told with so much compassion and dry wit, it's impossible not to fall in love

6. My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun by Emily Dickinson

"I'm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too? Then there's a pair of us - don't tell! They'd banish us, you know. How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog. To tell your name the lifelong day, to an admiring bog!" Emily Dickinson has always been a favorite of mine. Her dark wit and themes of isolation have never hit home more. I devoured her poetry during quarantine, and it brought a whole new dimension to it. Her work and its longevity speak for itself. It’s simply phenomenal.

7. Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath

This incredible short story was written by Plath in 1952 but wasn't published in its original form until last year. I adored the tension and intrigue that this story built. Plath has described it as a "vague symbolic tale", my interpretation is that it's an allegory for rebellion against societal norms. Naturally, I fell in love with it.

Pick of the Month: Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey