A sweet, heartfelt romance that thoughtfully explores identity and belonging.

BAD AT LOVE

An aspiring music journalist falls for the teen pop star she’s trying to dig up dirt on.

When 17-year-old Sasha saves pop star Rotten from the paparazzi in a chance meet-cute in Los Angeles, the magazine where she’s interning dangles the possibility of earning a college scholarship—making dreams of higher education attainable for this daughter of Brazilian immigrants—if she dates the rocker and comes up with an exclusive story about him. But pansexual Sasha realizes that Rotten, whose real name is Daniel, isn’t the bad boy the media has labeled him. Far from being the player described in tabloids, Daniel is demisexual and hasn’t even experienced his first kiss yet. He was the last to join the close-knit band that propelled him to sudden stardom and suffers from imposter syndrome. Born and raised in Brazil, Daniel also feels like an outsider as he adjusts to the challenges of life in the public eye and in the U.S. Mistaken first impressions beleaguer Daniel and Sasha’s relationship from the start, but their character arcs are skillfully and compassionately developed. A quick-paced plot and fluid prose make for an enjoyable read as the teens muddle through a blooming romance complicated by ulterior motives and Daniel’s celebrity status. As they grow closer, Sasha and Daniel also meaningfully engage in introspection about their sexuality and heritage, including issues relating to the diaspora and colorism.

A sweet, heartfelt romance that thoughtfully explores identity and belonging. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-48344-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Underlined

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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