The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

LGBTQ

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

On the cusp of graduation, being named valedictorian, and escaping her small town, Chloe Green is counting down the days. That is, until her academic rival Shara Wheeler kisses her and then disappears, leaving only pink envelopes in her wake. Full of wit, charm, and heart, I Kissed Shara Wheeler fits perfectly into the pantheon of contemporary YA.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (List Price: $19.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250244451, May 2022)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Heartbreak Boys by Simon James Green

This crazy, madcap YA novel is just the thing you’re looking for! Nate and Jack used to be the best of friends. But after Jack came out, they drifted apart. Now they’re at prom and they’ve just discovered that their boyfriends are cheating on them…with each other. So they decide to team up and make the most fabulous, jealousy-inducing social media account of the summer to make their exes jealous. But that turns out to be a little tougher than they thought.

Heartbreak Boys by Simon James Green (List Price: $18.99, Clarion Books, 9780358617259, December 2022)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow

This is the book I, a Jewish lesbian nerd with bushy hair and a love of corgis, needed as a teen. How to Excavate a Heart has all of the tropes us hopeless romantics love- a meet-cute, enemies-to-lovers, and kissing in the snow. It also has really great advice that teenage me would’ve benefited from: your partner should add to your life, but they shouldn’t be your whole life. There’s so much beauty in the world, and part of that can be your kind of mean, hot Jewish girlfriend, but she doesn’t need to be all of it! Besides the invaluable lessons in the book, the love story is compelling and well-paced, and sweet. Shani and May are learning about themselves and love and how to deal with parents and fish fossils together, which is what love is really about. Fill yourself with holiday cheer and read this book!

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow (List Price: $18.99, HarperTeen, 9780063078727, November 2022)

Julia Hirschfield from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

A 2022 December Read This Next! Title

This is one of my top romances of 2022! Gonzales’ YA books are charming and this new adult romcom is a delight. Maya’s cheating ex is about to star on a reality dating show and all of his exes are being called together as contestants – including the other woman that helped break Maya’s heart. Sharing a room with her arch-nemesis can only lead to the best revenge plot of all time, right? This has slow burn, hilarious, sapphic joy on every page. Gonzales does a great job with bi representation and she gets better with every book.

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250819161, December 2022)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler

A 2022 December Read This Next! Title

Wholly original, astonishingly informative, and powerfully written. Imbler describes marine life with reverence and compelling detail, and deftly intertwines the lives of the sea creatures with stories of their own experiences with gender, queerness, and identity.

How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler (List Price: $27, Little, Brown and Company, 9780316540537, December 2022)

Reviewed by Sarah Arnold, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Fraternity by Andy Mientus

These chaotic passage of events and writing style reminded me a lot of the novel I Love You, Beth Cooper. Plot-wise, as a YA book, it is extremely insightful in regards to the AIDs epidemic, despite the allure of occult fantasy in this queer coming of age story. It was an entertaining read. I appreciate the tribute to notable gay figures within American history, as well as the representation of queer people of color. In all, it was extremely chaotic, and at times cheesy, but I would still read this and would recommend to those who enjoyed the Haunting of Jake Livingston.

Fraternity by Andy Mientus, (List Price: $19.99, Amulet Books, 9781419754708, September 2022)

Reviewed by Yarah Elshaer, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

It is just weeks after the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. in the summer of 2015. We meet two men who grew up together in the D.C. suburbs and are at opposite ends of what it means to be a gay man at this time in American history. Both are involved in obsessive cross-generational friendships. Sebastian has a complicated relationship with one of his out and proud high school students. Oscar is spending time with a Stonewall generation novelist on the decline. Sebastian is anxious to settle down and assimilate. Oscar is infuriated by what he sees as the death of gay culture in favor of what he views as colorless banality. I loved everything about this book. It is beautifully written and full of profound insights on what happens when a formerly ostracized segment of society becomes incorporated into the general population and what that means, good and bad, for the individuals that are part of it. Stunning!

Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih, (List Price: $16.95, Algonquin Books, 9781643752075, June 2022)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

Three cheers for Albert Entwistle! I snuggled into this heartwarming "it’s never too late" coming-out story right away and loved watching this gentle man bloom. Albert is painfully lonely, staying far in the back of the closet and avoiding human connections all his adult life. But forced retirement at age 65 pushes him to completely change his life, and he finds that everyone he knows has been rooting for him all along.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain, (List Price: $15.95, A John Scognamiglio Book, 9781496737755, June 2022)

Reviewed by Serena Wyckoff, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

THIS. IS. A. WILD. RIDE! Everyone is obsessed with Shara Wheeler. Everyone except Chloe Green. Okay, maybe Chloe Green is obsessed with her too, but totally not in the way that you think. What starts out as a fun adventure to find the missing golden girl turns into a neurotic hunt with a healthy dose of discovering queer identities and finding supportive friendships in the unlikeliest of places. Come for the intrigue, stay for the flourishing community of misfits.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (List Price: $19.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250244451, May 2022)

Reviewed by Tee Arnold, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake

This is a truly lovely and joyful romance between two women that weaves together conversations of sacrifice, family, and friendship in such a beautiful way. Delilah and Claire are true champions of queer joy, and it was wonderful to read a story where queer women were the only characters. With a focus on second chances in a small town, reckoning with your past, chosen family, and of course, the way falling in love can turn you inside out, folks who enjoy Louise Miller’s novels or Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop will fall in love with Delilah and Claire.

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake, (List Price: $16.00, Berkley, 9780593336403, February 2022)

Reviewed by Gaby Iori from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Tink and Wendy by Kelly Ann Jacobson

I love retellings of classic stories, and Tink and Wendy fits the bill to a “T”. A modern tale that completely reinvents the characters, “Tink and Wendy” is both beautiful and heartbreaking all in one. Love is never easy, especially when magic and immortality are at play, and the implied brutality throughout the book makes that clear. Nothing is ever terribly graphic, but it might be enough to make you shiver or cringe anyway. The writing style, split between time periods and perspectives, adds context without confusion. The additional of queerness into any story automatically makes it better (in my opinion), and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it!


Tink and Wendy by Kelly Ann Jacobson, (List Price: $14, Three Rooms Press, 9781953103130, October 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia


Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

When you are growing up, the world can seem to change around you in shocking ways. Things you have taken for granted are often turned on their head and ideas and beliefs to which you have always held unquestioning faith sometimes leave you wondering what you do really believe. New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman makes her middle grade debut with the story of Frankie and Bug and the challenges and difficulties they face during the summer the world opens up for them.

Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman, (List Price: $17.99, Aladdin, 9781534482531, October 2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

Radiant Fugitives covers some big topics – LGBTQ politics, same-sex marriage, religion, Islamophobia, and the Obama campaign, to name just a few! – but it is at its heart an intimate novel, focusing on the ties that both bind families together and drive them apart. Seema, originally from India, has been estranged from her parents and younger sister for over 20 years, after she came out to her father. But the imminent arrival of her baby and her mother’s unspecified terminal illness brings together the three women of the family together for an opportunity for reconciliation. What follows is both tender and utterly heartbreaking – with an ending that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed, (List Price: 27, Counterpoint, 9781640094048, August 2021)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Marvelous by Claire Kann

Jewel Van Hanen created a video diary app several years ago called Golden Rule. Since then, she’s held 9 weekend retreats on her estate for a very select few group of users. But a year ago, she dropped out of the public eye. Now she’s back with a new weekend, but this one’s different. It will be a weekend filled with puzzles and games and at the end, two winners will receive a big cash prize. Told through the POV of three of the six competitors, The Marvelous will keep you on your toes with nonstop riddles and action.

The Marvelous by Claire Kann (List Price: $18.99, Swoon Reads, 9781250192691, 6/8/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Sometimes it’s the mundane that’s the most fascinating. Kristen Arnett’s novel With Teeth takes the everyday marriage challenges of staying in love, being faithful, having patience with an unknowable child, and figuring out what to make for supper, tosses that with a dose of bizarre behavior which gives us what becomes to one queer family’s happily ever after. Arnett’s characters are infuriating and I think you’ll puzzle over Sammie, Monika, and Samson well after you finish the last page.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9780593191507, 6/1/2021)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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