Today, I have Kelly Quindlen, author of the recently released Late To The Party on the blog for Pride Month Features. I’m ecstatic to put some spotlight on her YA book that depicts the meaning of being a teenager and explores the theme of sexual identities. You should certainly pick up this contemporary and while you’re at it, check out these queer books recommended by Kelly! Time to grow your TBR pile without any guilt.
Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.
The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
From author Kelly Quindlen comes a poignant and deeply relatable story about friendship, self-acceptance, what it means to be a Real Teenager. Late to the Party is an ode to late bloomers and wallflowers everywhere.
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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
This soft, lush, bold and beautiful novel is unlike anything I’ve read. It tells the story of two Black girls – Audre, who is uprooted from her home in Trinidad, and Mable, who is dealing with a mysterious illness in Minnesota – and their journey of falling in love. This book is a reclaiming and celebration in so many ways, exploring Black and queer mythology around astrology, the Garden of Eden, the diaspora, the ocean, and more. Off the top of my head, I can name four different romantic couples of Black, queer girls whose stories are threaded through this book. (Spoiler alert: one of them is Whitney Houston!)
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
For the rom com crowd! Liz Lighty is poor, Black, queer, and awkward, so there’s no way in hell she could win Prom Queen…right?! But when scholarship money is on the line, Liz decides to risk everything she knows about herself to run for Prom Queen anyway. This novel is about coming into your own and seeing yourself for all that you are – and finding love along the way. Because go figure that once Liz enters the running for Queen, she catches feelings for one of her competitors, a cute skater girl named Mac. Can Liz nab the crown and score her happily ever after?
How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
Remy is 17, Black, gay AF, and adopted, which is a lot for him to figure out. When his English teacher assigns an essay asking the question “Who are you?”, Remy sets out to unpack his identity, all while trying to maintain a social life, a happy family, and…possibly a romance with a cute new boy? This examination of intersectionality is a must-read, and Remy’s voice is one of the funniest I’ve read in YA fiction. He and his loved ones are endearing and unforgettable.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Yes, it’s worth the hype. Felix is a trans, queer Black boy roaming around New York with his friends while trying to score an art scholarship in the process. When an unknown classmate publicly posts Felix’s pre-transition photos and dead name for the whole school to see, Felix embarks on a revenge scheme to catfish the guy he suspects is behind it. I’m only 100 pages in so far, but the relationships Felix has with his dad, his estranged mom, and his best friend were enough to hook me, even before digging into the plot. Felix is flawed and real and someone you can’t help rooting for.
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Gosh, this book. I don’t see nearly enough people talking about it! Suzette returns home from boarding school to find her family in a state of disarray. It seems her step-brother, Lionel (“Lion” to Suzette’s “Little”), is struggling with bipolar disorder and refusing to take his meds. Suzette is torn between her loyalty to him and her promises to their parents, and to add more stress, she can’t figure out her sexuality. This character-driven book is a beautiful examination of family, mental illness, sexuality, and love. Suzette is Black and queer while Lionel is white and straight, but the two are thick as thieves, and their platonic sibling love story is the beating heart of the narrative. (But don’t worry, there’s plenty of romance, too!)
Kelly Quindlen is the author of the young adult novels Late to the Party and Her Name in the Sky. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and a former teacher, Kelly has had the joy of speaking to PFLAG groups and high school GSAs. She currently serves on the leadership board of a non-profit for Catholic parents with LGBT children. She lives in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter @kellyquindlen.
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