An ambitious, but unevenly executed, gay coming-of-age story draped in high fantasy.

THE DUBIOUS GIFT OF DRAGON BLOOD

A prophecy reveals the impending death of one of the Five Dragons of the Realm of Fire.

Sixteen-year-old Crispin Haugen is chosen to be the Dragon Groom who will mate with the Dragon Queen in order to maintain the Five. Crispin, who’s gay, is stunned to learn about his hidden dragon heritage and understandably unenthused about fulfilling his role. He already has enough on his plate, from being outed to his classmates to suffering the humiliation of having a crush publicly revealed. Upon arriving at the Realm of Fire, Crispin finds that his presence isn’t entirely welcome: Though the People hail Crispin’s arrival as a blessing, the pious Prime Magistrate refuses to acknowledge the prophecy and demands that Crispin leave. Further complicating matters is the growing attraction between Crispin and the Prime Magistrate’s handsome and devout pupil Davix. The recurring emphasis on personal agency and consent is a pleasant surprise, especially as it is applied to both intimate relationships and the chosen-one trope. Detailed worldbuilding and exposition slow down the narrative, but the action picks up in the final third of the book. Same-sex relationships are the norm in the Realm of Fire, and sexuality is understood to be fluid. Crispin is White and Filipino; all humans in the Realm of Fire have brown skin and black hair.

An ambitious, but unevenly executed, gay coming-of-age story draped in high fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63555-725-1

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes.

HERE'S TO US

Former boyfriends’ “big Broadway love story” gets a revival in this sequel to What If It’s Us (2018).

Two years after their flash romance, Ben Alejo and Arthur Seuss (both now in college) couldn’t have drifted further apart. But destiny intervenes when Arthur lands his “ultimate top-tier pie-in-the-sky dream job” interning at a queer off-Broadway theater for the summer. Their long-anticipated reunion comes with a small catch: Both boys are basically taken. Ben met Mario in his college creative writing class, and, while they aren’t boyfriends, the connection—and attraction—is definitely there. Arthur’s officially dating Mikey, whose sweetness and steadiness saved him from remaining a “Ben-addled mess.” Cue the confusion—and inevitable broken hearts—as Ben and Arthur contend with their pasts and presents while trying to figure out their futures. Who will end up with whom? Albertalli’s and Silvera’s voices blend seamlessly, balancing the complexities of the boys’ situations with heartfelt (and heartwarming) nostalgia. As in the previous book, the narrative alternates between Ben’s and Arthur’s perspectives with off-the-charts wit and chemistry. Lovable side characters have grown and matured, while new characters expand the world to create an even stronger sense of community. Loose ends are tied up believably with an epilogue. Arthur is Jewish; Ben and Mario are Puerto Rican, and Mikey is White.

Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307163-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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