Category Archives: Alex Reads

Queer YA Spotlight: The Lost Coast

Premise: The Grays are a tight-knit coven of teen witches, until their most charismatic and talented member, Imogen, walks into the woods one night and comes back a shell of her former self. The Grays cast a spell to summon someone, anyone, who might be able to help, and into town wanders Danny, a girl with a strong sense of yearning but little sense of where it’s always been trying to take her. Danny is ecstatic to find the witches and win their approval, but as the mist thickens and the ancient redwood forest fills with dead boys and disappeared girls, time is running out to discover her inner magic and find what’s left of Imogen.

Rainbow rep: a queer ensemble cast, including a self-described queer lead, a bisexual witch, a non-binary ace witch, and multiple f/f romances; many explorations of queer themes like found family and the search for a place to belong.

Content considerations: discussions of homophobia, including a character being kicked out by her parents; brief discussions of terminal illness and parental death; brief (but often poetic rather than graphic) descriptions of dead bodies.

There is magic running through the heart of The Lost Coast. Every sentence feels like it was carefully crafted to create a certain atmosphere, sometimes warm and welcoming and sometimes otherworldly and haunting. Sometimes both. The words are woven like, well, a spell: light acts like liquid, silence falls like snow, and the settings—from scrappy rental cabins to the ancient looming haven of The Lost Coast’s redwood forests—come to life with such vibrancy you feel like you’re there.

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Podcast | Yuri Manga Variety Hour

I’m a true Millennial Content Creator now—I’ve co-hosted a podcast! Listen in to my debut on Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, where I chat about manga where ladies fall in love with each other. We go through some recent series and recommend our favourite titles from the ever-growing catalogue of English licenses.

Listen to the full episode here!

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Queer YA Spotlight: Out of Salem

Premise: in an alternate 1996 where magic and monsters are a fact of everyday life, fourteen-year-old Z has died in a car crash and awoken as a zombie. Orphaned and ostracised, Z searches for a cure to their state of decay, and along the way befriends Aysel, a fellow misfit who is keeping her lycanthropy under wraps. Secrecy becomes ever more important for these monster-kids as anti-werewolf sentiment builds in their town, following the mysterious murder of a doctor who was performing electroshock “therapy” to try and disconnect fey and monsters from their magic.

Rainbow rep: a non-binary protagonist, a lesbian werewolf (a girl werewolf! That on its own is exciting!), and a queer supporting cast including lesbian selkies, trans werewolves, and sort of gender-ambiguous shapeshifters.

Content considerations: depictions of police brutality, depictions of homophobic bullying, magical plot elements that are clear stand-ins for conversion therapy, intersections of fantasy bigotry and real-world bigotry.

Queerness and “monstrosity” have intertwined plenty over the years, both for good and ill. Monsters, after all, so often represent some sort of social Other, some sort of values or behaviours or appearances that does not suit the dominant norm and is thus frightening to people who do fit into that norm. Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, the undead, are all liminal and transitory and odd in some way or another, so historically they have often been queer-coded as a shortcut to showing their villainy. However, many LGBTQIA+ folks have taken these queer monsters as their own, and felt a strange affinity for folklore, creature features, and the general landscape of the Gothic and the frightening. Out of Salem understands this connection with its whole heart, and it makes for a story that’s both harrowing and heartwarming.

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A Big Ol’ Pile of Book Recommendations (2020)

2020 was certainly a year of ups and downs, as just about every annual retrospective post will tell you… but today we’re going to focus on the “ups”, particularly as they pertain to books! Because goodness, there was some goodness out there in the booky world: some that uplifted me, some that sent me on harrowing and fascinating journeys, and some that knocked me clean over (see above).

Read on for my favourites that I read this year—novels, graphic novels, and even a smattering of non-fiction. I hope that you find something that sounds fun, because these works certainly brought me joy this year!

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Queer YA Spotlight: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Premise: Freddy is dating the charismatic, enigmatic Laura Dean, and she couldn’t be happier… except that she could be much happier, because Laura Dean keeps finding ways to make her miserable. Yet, like magnets, Freddy and Laura keep getting back together. As Freddy becomes increasingly alienated from her friends, and not even seeking advice from columnists or back-room psychics seems to help, she’s going to have to find the power within herself to reassess her priorities and find her true happiness.

Rainbow rep: a lesbian protagonist, an almost entirely queer ensemble cast, focus on queer relationships.

Content considerations: centres on a crappy, bordering-on-emotionally-abusive relationship; age gap relationships, discussions of teenaged pregnancy.

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Queer YA Spotlight: Spellhacker

spellhacker cover

Rainbow rep: a queer protagonist, a non-binary love interest, various queer side characters including a mentor character and his husband

Content warnings: depictions of panic attacks and other trauma responses, dead parents in backstory, chronic illness

Premise: magic (known as maz) is a physical resource that comes up from under the ground, but to access it you have to pay the big bucks to the corporation that has monopolised it. What if you want maz but don’t have the aforementioned big bucks? Well, that’s where Diz and her crew of thieves come in. For years now they’ve had a sweet side hustle where they siphon maz and bring it to the highest bidder. It’s a risky business, though, and Diz’s friends want to graduate and move on with their lives. So Diz (reluctantly) sets them up for One Last Job… but rather than this being the end of their story, the crew instead finds themselves in the midst of a corporate cover-up that is putting millions of lives at risk.

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Queer YA Spotlight: Felix Ever After

Rainbow rep: a trans boy protagonist (with a “niggling feeling” that he’s not 100% a guy, and an arc towards identifying as a demiboy), an m/m romance with a bi love interest, an all-queer background cast and an exploration of queer community and the ups and downs therein

Content considerations: transphobic language and actions from antagonistic characters, head-on engagement with discrimination within queer circles, subplots about homophobic abuse from parents

Premise: Felix comes to his prestigious art school one morning to find the lobby plastered with a “gallery” of photographs hacked from his Instagram account, all depicting him pre-transition. Felix is sure that this is the work of his ex-friend (and scholarship rival) Declan and is determined to get revenge. Against the advice of his protective best friend Ezra, Felix creates an online persona named Lucky to befriend—and whittle deep dark secrets out of—Declan. But the catfishing scheme goes awry when it transpires that not only is Declan innocent, but he seems to be falling in love with “Lucky”… leaving Felix in the middle of a weird digital love triangle, and with even fewer clues than before.

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The Power of Whimsy and Magic in Queer Stories

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Before the rose was there, the garden was full of moss. I started as a seed under it, waiting for the right time to sprout. Clover waited, and waited, and tended the garden, and didn’t listen to anyone who said she should give up. Moss, my other mother, she waited too. But Clover was the one who came out every morning and told me about her night, what she was planning on cooking that day, how Moss was going. […]

When my first two leaves emerged, Moss and Clover knew I would be okay.

I didn’t mean to be a strange baby made of plants, but it hasn’t caused any problems.

So begins Alison Evans’ Euphoria Kids, with the narrator, Iris, matter-of-factly regaling us with the tale of the beginning of their life: intermingled wordlessly with magic and a kind of dream-logic bizarreness, and intermingled effortlessly with queer love and affection. This sets the tone for the whole book: a dreamy, whimsical tale of understated magic that is almost rebelliously committed to letting its protagonists be. Continue reading

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Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Heroes, Heartbreak, and Heists (in Space!)

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Reviews, reviews, reviews! I keep writing them because I keep reading absolutely fantastic queer books! This time round I’m delighted to recommend these three, featuring superhero conspiracies, adventures in outer space, and the emotional tale of a friendship falling apart. Read on… Continue reading

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I Can’t Believe I Care This Much About Marvel Again (A Review of Loki: Where Mischief Lies)

loki novel

I’ve made my exhaustion with the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite public in the last little while. It just got so big, so convoluted, so self-conscious and yet so self-congratulatory. Which is a shame, because there really is some good stuff in there, and a lot of potential for fun… as this book reminded me, coming out of left field and smacking me over the head with an emotional investment in a slice of the Marvel world. Loki: Where Mischief Lies (penned by Mackenzi Lee, most famous for her queer historical YA) is a gorgeously written, tightly plotted tale of gods and magic that contains just the right amount of hijinks, and contains a frankly graceful rendering of Loki that gets right what makes his character so interesting and so likeable… and, as a bonus, he’s not at all heterosexual. Having picked this up for work and gone in with very few expectations, this book blew me away, and I am so delightfully baffled that it gets its own post. Continue reading

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