Camp by L.C. Rosen

I want to begin this review by saying that I have been looking forward to this book since it was announced because I’ve spent seven summers at camp as a camper/counselor and now my oldest goes away to camp too. With summer camp being cancelled for the year, I was looking forward to a camp story even more.

Randy has been going to Camp Outland for queer teens for years, but he wants things to be different: Randy wants to catch the attention of Hudson, a fellow camper, but Hudson only likes straight-acting guys, and that’s not Randy. But it could be, right? Randy spent the entire school year formulating a plan, and he shows up at camp as “Del”, who is totally not into nail polish and musicals and all the things that Randy likes.

And the plan works! Hudson notices Del right away and he doesn’t even realize that Del is the same kid he’s been going to camp with for four years, but as the summer progresses, Randy is spending all his time playing sports and doing ropes course challenges instead of being in the musical with his friends, and he begins to wonder if all the sacrifices he’s making are worth it.

As a veteran camper, I remember the intensity of summer romances, so I can empathize with Randy’s pining for Hudson, but he’s changing his entire personality for another boy and missing out on all the things that he loves—and more importantly, by doing this, he’s not being true to himself. That said, I truly understand why he would want to do something that drastic.

Camp provides an interesting retrospective on masc4masc culture, and how the attitude is already evident among 16-year-old kids. The campers might all have a place on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but there’s already a division among the returning campers; they choose to live in separate bunks, they sit at different dining tables, and they don’t even interact at group activities. However, Randy chooses to live in the “drama cabin” with this theatre friends, so some of the sporty kids end up sitting with the drama kids, and this leads to new friendships.

In Rosen’s book Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), he used the advice column medium to impart a lot of useful sex-ed information to the readers. In Camp, he uses a weekly camp program to share queer history with the readers. I love the way that both of these devices were blended seamlessly into the narrative.

I would absolutely recommend Camp. It captures the magic of camp perfectly. Randy is such a sweetheart, and he certainly learns a lot over the course of the book. I am already looking forward to Rosen’s next book.

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian

I have been waiting for this book ever since hints were dropped at the end of A Gentleman Never Keeps Score almost two years, but I can assure you that it was 100% worth the wait.

Will Sedgwick and Martin Easterbrook have been friends for their entire lives. Their paths diverged at some point, but as the story begins, Will has essentially kidnapped Martin and brought him to recuperate in an abandoned gamekeeper’s cottage. At first, Martin is quite ill, but Will manages to bring him back to good—well, decent—health.

So, there they are, living together in a small cottage. There is plenty of time to reacquaint themselves with the men they have become, and of course, to acknowledge the feelings that have always been there.

Did I mention that there’s only one bed?

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Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert

 

 

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Conrad and Alden are both part of the same Odyssey gaming group, but they have never gotten along, but that’s okay because they have separate lives and don’t have to interact outside the group.

And then they end up on a road trip together, with nothing but time to get to know each other. Read more

If We Were Us by K.L. Walther

Sage Morgan is starting her senior year at the The Bexley School, along with her best friends Charlie and Nick Carmichael. Everyone thinks that Sage and Charlie would be perfect together, but Charlie is a serial dater and they’re strictly friends. Besides, Sage secretly kissed Nick at a summer bonfire on Martha’s Vineyard.

There’s also a new student at Bexley: Luke Morrison, a PG (post-graduate). He and Charlie form a connection almost immediately, but Charlie has always dated girls and he’s worried about what people will think if he starts dating Luke.

This book takes place over the course of the school year and unfolds from Sage and Charlie’s dual perspectives. The pace is a little slow at times, but this is exactly what boarding school is like in real life. There’s a whole lot of status quo, punctuated by moments of high drama. Needless to say, friendships are tested and the characters have to figure out who they are and what they want out of life.  

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The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos

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Just about everything in the world of The Fascinators is the same as our world except for the fact that magic is real, and as one might expect, magic is looked upon with suspicion in Sam’s small town in Georgia. That’s probably why the magic club at Sam’s school only has a couple of kids— James and Delia, his closest friends.

The start of Sam’s senior year brings a number of changes: new members of the magic club, a shift in his friendship with James, and the increasing possibility of trouble bigger than they can imagine. Read more

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

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I have been excited about this book since I first heard about it, so needless to say, I was thrilled to pieces when I finally got my (digital) hands on a copy.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease”

Um, yes please!

Ollie had an amazing summer fling with Will, but their relationship came to a natural end because Ollie was supposed to go back home at the end of the summer. But circumstances changed, and his family ends up moving to the area to support his aunt while she battles cancer. Ollie texted Will, of course, but he didn’t text back—no big deal, Ollie has enough to deal with.

But then Ollie *sees* Will at his school, and he realizes that Summer Will is a completely different boy. School Year Will is a jock, a bit of a jerk, and most definitely not out of the closet.

So Ollie is left trying to start over at a brand new school and babysitting his cousins to help his aunt. He doesn’t have time for a boy who says one thing when they’re alone, and acts completely different when they’re in public. Read more

Apple Boy by Isobel Starling

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I don’t remember where I heard about Apple Boy, but I immediately told my friend Andie about it, and a couple days later, she pointed out that the narrator of the audiobook was giving away codes for free audiobooks- including Apple Boy!

I don’t read very much fantasy at all, but the premise of this book sounded interesting: a secret prince and a farmer’s son? What’s not to like?

Win is a prince, but he’s so filthy that you wouldn’t believe him if he told you- which he wouldn’t, because the last time he told someone he was a prince, they robbed him. Desperate for money to afford the coach fare to the city, Win takes a job picking apples for a cruel farmer.

But the cruel farmer has a hot son named Adam, who takes pity on Win. Read more

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

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Life is pretty good for Brooklyn teen Cal; he has an impressive follower count on the FlashFame app and he’s about to start an internship at BuzzFeed. But then Cal’s father announces that he has been selected for NASA’s upcoming mission to Mars, and the whole family is moving to Houston.

Cal thinks this is terrible: not only is his NY-based internship delayed indefinitely, but then he learns that he can’t even parlay his streaming journalism into providing content for his father’s new opportunity because StarWatch, a reality television production company has exclusive rights and they’re filming everything for their Shooting Stars show. Read more

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

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Ben De Backer tells their parents that they are nonbinary, and is promptly kicked out of the house. Ben calls their older sister, who they haven’t spoken to in years, and she says that Ben can stay with her and her husband.

It’s not easy to be the new kid at school, but it’s even tougher when it’s the second semester of senior year. Ben just wants to keep a low profile and finish school. They don’t expect to make any friends, but a boy named Nathan keeps popping up. He’s everywhere; he even lives next door to Ben’s sister! It’s not clear to Ben whether Nathan is just being friendly, or whether there’s something more.

There are so many poignant moments in this book, like Ben’s mixed feelings about being kicked out of their house. From an outside perspective, this seems like such an unforgiveable act, but Ben’s feelings are more complicated. Naturally, they are scared and angry, but after a while, they have a sense of cautious optimism regarding resolution. My heart just ached for the kid because I didn’t want to see them get hurt again.

While the story might begin with a catastrophic rejection, the tone of this book is very positive. Ben is accepted as who they are by their sister and brother-in-law, and they also have the opportunity to start therapy to help process their feelings about everything. What starts out as survival turns into thriving, and they even find a friend in Nathan.

I would absolutely recommend I Wish You All the Best. This is a beautiful book, and I am looking forward to reading more of Deaver’s books in the future.

 

 

 

Jackdaw by KJ Charles

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Jackdaw takes place in Charles’ Charm of Magpies universe series of Victorian-era queer paranormal romance novels. It isn’t a strict perquisite to read the first three books in the series, but readers will benefit from a better understanding of the larger story arc.

Jonah Pastern played a supporting role in Flight of Magpies, the third Charm of Magpies book. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will say that Jonah appeared as one of the villains of the piece, so right away, it’s interesting to see him as the protagonist in a romance.

Once upon a time, Jonah met Ben, and they were very happy together.

Until they weren’t. Read more