Top Ten Tuesday: Queer Couples!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is a love freebie, and so I’m choosing to focus on queer couples from my 2017 and 2018 reads this week! Here are my favorites:

10.) The Peskin-Suso Moms, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso’s moms are on the shortlist of my favorite book parents ever, and while they weren’t main characters I still felt that they deserved a place on this list.

9.) Andrew and Rusty, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Andrew and Rusty didn’t have a perfect relationship in the hospital, but I really loved how their relationship played out later. Had we seen more of the healthy elements, I would have put them further up on this list.

8.) Ramona and Freddie, Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Overall I really loved Ramona and Freddie; Ramona was still figuring her sexuality out, and Freddie tried to support her as much as he could. They’re lower on this list because Freddie’s ignorance bugged me a few times, but overall I really liked them.

7.) Echo and Zara, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Echo and Zara had quite a bit going on behind the scenes (pardon the pun) during their relationship… They weren’t perfect, but they had great chemistry and were a nice pair.

6.) Odessa and Meredy, Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Odessa and Meredy had an adorable hate-to-love romance. They had several issues to start with, but their bonding and chemistry was really touching.

5.) Alice and Takumi, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Alice and Takumi are just adorable. They were really sweet together and made a solid effort to figure out how to make the relationship work as well as it could for them. They were respectful and very, very sweet.

4.) Grace and Eva, How To Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Grace and Eva’s chemistry captivated me from the first page they shared together. I loved all of the sneaking around into lighthouses and the bonding they did through their struggles in their lives.

3.) Taylor, Theo, and Josey, 3 by Hannah Moskowitz

Best. Trio. Ever. Did I want to be there with these three wonderful characters as their story progressed? Yes. Yes I did.

2.) Simon and Blue, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Is there really any question about this one?

1.) Rufus and Mateo, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Rufus and Mateo stole my heart and then made me cry. Thanks, Silvera.

Who are your favorite queer couples in books? Let me know in the comments!

How Reading More Diversely Broke My Reading Slump

I loved reading as a kid. New books were the most exciting thing in the world for me — during Scholastic Book Fair seasons, my mom would buy up all of the books that I said I wanted, and then she’d keep them hidden in a cupboard and give them to me every so often throughout the year. Barnes and Noble’s summer reading program was exciting because I could get a brand new book at the end of it, and all I had to do was read! I spent countless hours volunteering in a small library when I got a little older, and During those childhood and early teen years I couldn’t get enough of books.

Something changed during my late teens.

During my early teens I didn’t know I was going to end up being a bi, demisexual, non-binary, neurodivergent, disabled* person. That was a scary thing to start figuring out as a teen because I lived in a rural, conservative community with conservative parents and no real support in that regard. All of a sudden, I found myself wanting books that represented my newfound queerness especially, and yet I learned that getting my hands on them was exceedingly difficult. I got tired of all of the white allocishet abled characters and their white allocishet abled romances because the only thing that I had in common with them was that I was white.

I still had my books and I still collected new (mostly used) ones, but from the ages of about 17-21, I almost entirely stopped reading. I didn’t make a lot of time for it, it didn’t feel fun to me anymore, and yet I still liked the idea of it. The idea of reading good books sat so well with me that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in libraries. I felt at home surrounded by books, but I couldn’t get myself to read them.

In early 2017, I made a concentrated effort to read more diversely, and my world expanded. I found bi characters who understood me so well that I couldn’t stop grinning. Trans characters who knew how I felt so much that I cried. Characters with OCD who understood what was going on in my brain so well that I had to sit back and just let that fact sink in.

I didn’t just find characters like me; I found characters that weren’t. Even though I could no longer relate to those white allocishet abled characters from my early teens, it’s still a fact that I know far more about that culture than I do other cultures I don’t share. I read more books by Black authors. Latinx authors. Jewish authors. Muslim authors. I fell in love with these characters, and while these books didn’t make me an expert by any means, they did help me grow as a person. They got me outside of myself and into the shoes of others, and I grew more empathetic than I’ve ever been in my life.

Diverse books made me feel excited about reading again. I feel alive when holding one in my hands, and I feel so much more deeply when I read than I’ve ever felt before. Despite being a full-time graduate student with three jobs and hardly any time to breathe, I’ve managed to read 91 books so far this year, and I am well on my way to finishing 100 before December ends. Without diverse books, I don’t think I would have even managed half of that this year. Not every book I read WAS diverse (I’m still on a quest to finish every Stephen King book, I did a Harry Potter re-read, and I read quite a few Lurlene McDaniel books for the Hey Lurlene! podcast this year), almost all of my favorites were by diverse authors about diverse characters, and the excitement I felt while reading those stories kept me wanting more. I’ve pre-ordered and bought more new books this year than I ever have in my life, and all but one of those books was diverse. I found my happy place while reading again. I found that spark.

Part of me wonders whether I would have had such a long reading slump at all if I’d had access to diverse books earlier in my life. I can’t say for sure, but the genuine happiness I feel while reading these books now is something that I probably could have used as a teen. If I were to give my teen self a gift, I’d give them a letter saying “yeah hi YOU’RE NOT CIS OR STRAIGHT FIGURE IT OUT ALREADY” and a box of my favorite diverse reads from this year. I’d like to think that I would have turned out just a little bit happier.

Books I’d include in the box to myself (in the order in which I read them this year, and linked to either my review or the book’s Goodreads page):

These books brought joy back to reading for me. I wish teen me could have had them.

 

*I still have trouble claiming the term “disabled” for myself, but I’m figuring that one out.

**If you’ve read my review then you’ll know that I didn’t think TATWD was THAT great for a YA novel, but the OCD rep in this book hit me so hard that I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to my past self. It would have done wonders for me.

ARC Review: Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Echo After Echo

Author: Amy Rose Capetta

Category: YA Mystery/Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/10 October 2017

Edition: ARC

Pages: 421

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27258116-echo-after-echo?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/076369164X/ref=x_gr_w_glide_bb?

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/echo-after-echo-amy-rose-capetta/1125580196#/

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy. 

I received an ARC from the Publisher via LibraryThing in exchange for a review. This book has content warnings for sexual harassment and detailed depictions of attempted murder.

So, I somehow managed to get my ARC of this book in the mail literally the day after the book released, which was cool but also kind of a bummer because I’d been hoping to write my review for it before it came out. Either way, it came, I read it, and I absolutely adored it.

There was so much about this book to love. I just adored Zara and Eli and how they interacted with each other. Zara is making it in theater as a chubby bisexual Jewish girl, which is fantastic, and Eli is a Puerto Rican lesbian who works on the technical side of the theater. The creepy director guy tells Zara not to have any distractions while the show is going on, and so the two of them have to keep their relationship quiet as it goes on. It’s nice that keeping it a secret didn’t actually seem to bother either of them by itself; they didn’t mind the secret. They just worried someone else would blow it for them. They weren’t a perfect couple, but they had wonderful chemistry and their relationship was beautifully written. I should note that there was one point where Eli was freaking out about Zara and her male co-lead and Eli’s internal commentary came off as borderline bimisic because she’d thought that maybe Zara was faking being gay and hadn’t acknowledged that she could like more than one gender, but that disappeared pretty quickly and once she knew that Zara was bi she was okay with it. It threw me out of the book for that one small paragraph, but it wasn’t a pervasive issue.

This book is definitely a slow burn, but it’s so engaging that it’s still a pretty quick read. The balance between the romance, the mystery, and the play is incredibly nuanced and well done, and the multiple points of view pull you in with each of the characters and their own stories. While the book is ultimately about Zara, it’s still left a lot of room to flesh out the rest of the characters, and it worked beautifully.

The theater was the perfect location for a novel like this — it has a flair for the dramatic, and the different genres it’s comprised of complement the setting well. The ending had me on my toes, and it left me breathless as I turned to the last page. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one — definitely a favorite of the year.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars