Book Club

This is an excerpt from the novel Like You a Latte, which features a gay young adult romance. This section shows our heroes getting to know each other while discussing literature.

“I have to read The Great Gatsby for a class,” Owen explained while gesturing to the slim paperback currently obscuring my notes. “What are your thoughts?”

Are you actually reading the book or cheating and looking up a summary on the internet? That was my first thought. He was clearly different than me and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it was the second one then this budding friendship could end right now with no regret on my part. There were some things that just couldn’t be tolerated.

Yet it felt rude to outright ask. Instead, I questioned, “You want to have an academic discussion with me?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t know if you’d really want to just hang out without being ‘productive’ or whatever.” I fought the urge to look at the notes the book covered again. “So I figured this would be the best of both worlds.” He grinned and leaned towards me. “You surprised me.”

Hmm, had I been too eager by just agreeing to chat with him? It wasn’t like me. I felt defensive and too obvious, like a silly, infatuated boy who fell for the first guy with a nice smile, but then again, he put thought into a conversational topic. He wanted to think of something that would make me keep chatting with him, so maybe we were even.

I couldn’t hold back the moment of truth any longer. “Are you actually completing the readings or are you just finding the relevant information online?”

He scoffed. “Seriously? I’m trying not to be offended here.” That was fair, just because he went to public school and seemed laidback didn’t mean he couldn’t also be serious about his studies. Maybe I judged him too much based on shallow observations.

“I’m sorry,” I started automatically. I would hate someone doubting my intellect.

“Did I look online, really?” He looked smug. “I watched the Leo DiCaprio movie.”

Oh dear. There were no words to adequately convey my horror. I felt frozen for a moment. Whatever expression was on my face made him crack up.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he clapped his hands, still chuckling at me. “That was totally worth it.” People glanced over at our table and he paid them no mind.

I didn’t care if we were causing a commotion either. I had to clarify that, “You’re actually doing the reading?” My relief beat out embarrassment or annoyance. That was the second joke he played at my expense, but it didn’t feel unfriendly. He apparently liked teasing me and I didn’t mind as much as I should.

“Not only am I doing the readings,” he said while leaning back in his chair, “I finished the book early.”

Pretty good, especially for a public-school kid. No that was unfair; not everyone could control where they went to school. Still, I felt giddy with relief. God, imagine trying to be friends or having a crush on someone who used Sparknotes. I couldn’t even picture it; it was too absurd.

I tried not to look too overjoyed, going for a simple, “Good for you.”

His arm nudged into mine good-naturedly. “I may not be the Hermione Granger type, but I’m not a complete slacker. I do my homework.”

Would Hermione Granger have a better GPA than me? No, I couldn’t start down that road, it was madness. “I can’t decide if it’s a compliment or not to be compared to Hermione,” I told him. She was the uptight book nerd stereotype on magical steroids.

“She’s the cleverest witch her age,” he responded immediately. “It’s totally a compliment.”

“Perhaps,” I said with a smile. “But I would look terrible with long, bushy hair.” And no way would I want the job of wrangling Harry and Ron.

He laughed. “You’re more fun than I thought you’d be.”

I wasn’t sure many people would agree with him, but the words ridiculously pleased me. I tried not to show it. “Why did you want to get to know me if you didn’t think I’d be any fun?”

He looked away for a second and coughed awkwardly. Oh, were we getting into dangerous territory? “I just meant,” he started after a moment, not quite meeting my eyes, “That I didn’t think you’d be so willing to talk to me. I thought it’d be a challenge to get you to just chill.”

I’d never been accused of being easy in any capacity. Yet I found myself lacking and I didn’t like it. “Well, I hate to disappoint—”

“No, you aren’t,” he assured me. “I’m glad you can relax and have some fun.”

Well, no one had ever accused of me of being able to relax and have fun either. It just showed my defenses were weakened by a busy schedule and a pretty face. It was my turn to cough awkwardly and try to get us back on track. “Okay, what did you think of the book?”

Just being with him was a distraction I needed to avoid, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Once I started looking at him, I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t even remember what the book was. I looked down at the table. Right, The Great Gatsby.

He considered the question a moment, then gave me a droll look. “Is it a totally cliché and uninteresting opinion to think the two dudes totally wanted each other?” The part of my brain that couldn’t help itself added that question to the growing list of reasons he batted for my team, next to the rainbow wristband and the way his eyes seemed to lock on mine.

I took a sip of my drink but couldn’t hide an amused look. “Are you pandering to your audience?”

“No, I think, I mean,” he stuttered adorably for a moment. Was there a blush on his face? It was hard to tell with the lighting in here. “I really think Nick wanted Jay Gatsby like Gatsby wanted Daisy, even if his feelings weren’t returned.”

I wasn’t completely sold that anyone from The Great Gatsby got down in the forbidden garden of homosexual delights, though Quinn agreed with him. She called it The Great Gaysby once. I told her to quit joking around. Literature was serious. Everything was serious when it came to me. Owen really thought I was fun? I stopped thinking about this.

“Do you want to tell a class full of students that?” I asked. I was out and from the conversation it sounded like he was too but that didn’t mean I’d want the trouble of trying to defend the inherent gayness of a literary classic to all my skeptical, straight peers.

“Oh,” he said as he considered my words. His face scrunched up adorably and his shoulders sagged. “I might be in trouble then.”

“Stick to the symbolism of the eyes on the billboard and the light at the end of the dock,” I advised. “You’ll be fine,” I advised. “And focus on the main themes of class divides and wealth if you need more to say.”

He nodded seriously. “And when do I talk about the Jay-Z songs they used in the movie?”

I felt my eye twitch. “You’re trying to torture me, aren’t you?”

He grinned unrepentantly. “I couldn’t help it.”

We sat there looking at each other and the moment started to feel intimate. He was cute, funny, clever, and I needed to stop listing his positive attributes. I cleared my throat. “I should get back to studying.”

“Come on” he argued. “We didn’t get to discuss Hogwarts houses.”

“I have work to do and so do you,” I reminded him. I had my fun for the night. Besides, I was clearly a Ravenclaw and he was such a Gryffindor. Back to studying. He eyed me and I met his gaze without flinching. I wasn’t going to budge. “Back to work,” I said firmly.

“So, you are a challenge after all,” he concluded evenly.

That totally wasn’t what I was trying to do. I wasn’t playing coy or hard to get. I’d had my break time and now it was time to get back to work. But instead of calmly explaining all this, I asked, “That a problem?”

His lips quirked up. “Nope.”

We both got back to our respective work. That was all, show’s over, nothing to see here.

Now would be the worst time to start something new. I didn’t have any spare moments. And yet, I wanted to anyway. I didn’t even have the free time required to start obsessing about whether this was the best time to get into a new relationship or not. I would have gladly spent more time worrying about this but.

I wanted to get to know him. Something told me he would be worth it.

You can get the rest now on Amazon or KU.

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Best Bad Boy Books in Gay YA Fiction

With devil may care attitudes and rugged good looks, it’s easy to fall for the bad boys even when you shouldn’t. The bad boys in these stories shake up the status quo, cause trouble, and may break a few hearts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find true love in the end.

Why are bad boys so irresistible?

I don’t know, but here’s ten books about rebels, punks, jerks with hearts of gold, and dangerous, brooding bad boys.

REASONS TO LOVE A NERD LIKE ME– BECKY JERAMS
Love Stories Book One

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Scotty Williams is the nerdiest 17-year-old at Havensdale College – and proud of it. However being a nerd can have its downsides, particularly when you’re constantly being targeted by the school bully Taylor Raven and his cronies.

As Scotty tries to navigate his final college years with the aid of his best friend Olive, he also finds himself on the radar of the mysterious and intimidating Vincent Hunter, toughest guy in the Sixth Form. Is Vincent really as bad as he seems? Will Scotty’s darkest secret ever be revealed? Can he ever just finish his last few college years in peace? But most importantly… will any guy ever find the reasons to love a nerd like him?

Writing Style: First Person, one perspective, fast paced, plot driven. 417 pages
Topics and Tropes: nerd/punk dynamic, high school drama, bullying
For those who enjoy: humor, great romantic relationship and friendships, heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories

What Readers Think:

I was slightly wary of this book, because the summary looks a bit predictable. However, I was mostly wrong! There were parts of this book that I could not stop reading. I also love LGBT representation in all forms, and I think Jerams does a good job of showing both sides of acceptance. The plot is definitely more complex than I expected, with twists and turns at every corner, and of course the romance is extremely sweet. Though sometimes the dialogue is a bit cheesy and unnatural, this novel definitely is enjoyable, entertaining, and meaningful.

Rebecca, Goodreads Review

THE RED SHEET – MIA KERICK

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One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, realistic yet whimsical, 190 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/nerd dynamic, personal growth, bullying, amnesia

For Those Who Enjoy:  humor and unique storytelling

What Readers Think:

Kerick makes great use of chapter length, the majority of them being rather quick so that I got so invovled in the rhythm of the story that I had to keep reading to see what Bryan would do next… This story not only offers a lot of humor but some very relatable issues that speaks to teenagers… a definite recommendation for all people who have bullied others, experienced bullying, or who just want a good read.

Kwriter07, Amazon Review

LAST OF THE SUMMER TOMATOES – SHERRIE HENRY

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Kyle Jackowski, typical sullen emo teen, struggles to find a way to deal with his sexuality and finds himself in trouble with the law… again. But instead of being sent to a juvenile detention center like he expected, he is given a chance to commute his sentence by working on a farm for the summer.

Enter Sam, son of the farm owners, who shows Kyle what he feels is perfectly normal and that he doesn’t have to hide from his feelings. In turn, Sam’s parents show Kyle that his abusive stepfather and battered mother are not the norm. With their love and support, Kyle finds his place in the world—by Sam’s side.

Writing Style: Third person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes:  city boy and country boy, redemption, insecurities and acceptance,

For those who enjoy:  hopeful or serious stories, cute love stories

What Readers Think:

I LOVED Sam’s parents, omg they were the best. I had to keep taking off my glasses to wipe the tears away, Kyle was so starved for love and Sam’s parents had plenty of love to give. What can I say about Sam? Not surprising that he was a great guy, with the greatest parents he had no choice but to be the sweetest and the most patient guy with Kyle. I loved hearing about their farm life and omg I wanted to taste all the food that was talked about.

TRUST ME – JEFF ERNO

Shawn Graham and Bobby Wilder couldn’t be more different. Shawn is a devout Christian fundamentalist from northern Michigan; Bobby is a street-smart latchkey kid from southern Ohio. From an early age, they are both confused and troubled by their attraction to the same sex. Shawn believes that homosexuality is sinful, and a traumatic incident of childhood sexual abuse adds to his guilt and shame. Bobby has an image to maintain and flatly denies the possibility that his same-sex attractions even exist. He’s just too cool to be gay.

When they finally connect, their preconceptions are suddenly dwarfed by what they feel for each other. They become inseparable and fall deeply in love; however, love doesn’t make life easy. Plans are in motion that will surely devastate the young couple. Painful experiences of the past overshadow happy memories, and heartbreaking obstacles loom over the possibility of a future. If Shawn and Bobby want to stay together, they will have to fight with everything they have.

Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV. 366 pages
Topics and Tropes: 1980s setting, self identity struggles, balancing religion and sexuality (warning for rape/sexual abuse towards children)
For those who enjoy: tear-jerkers, steamy scenes

What Readers Think:

A story where emotions and personal relevance definitely overrode my reactions to the writing. Coming-of-age story tackles a lot in its pages and does a good job at presenting a balanced view showing ugliness as well as beauty – Bobby and his teenage “bad boy” ways, Shawn’s struggle with his identity in the face of his religious convictions…

Lil’ Grogan, Goodreads Review

GO YOUR OWN WAY– ZANE RILEY
Go Your Own Way #1

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Will Osborne couldn’t wait to put the roller coaster ride of his public education behind him. Having suffered bullying and harassment since grade school, he planned a senior year that would be simple and quiet before going away to college and starting fresh. But when a reform school transfer student struts into his first class, Will realizes that the thrill ride has only just begun.

Lennox McAvoy is an avalanche. He’s crude, flirtatious, and the most insufferable, beautiful person Will’s ever met. From his ankle monitor to his dull smile, Lennox appears irredeemable.
But when Will’s father falls seriously ill, Will discovers that there is more to Lennox than meets the eye.

Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV, simplistic. 326 pages
Topics and Tropes: Love/hate relationship, abuse, biracial character
For those who enjoy: angst, sexual tension, character driven stories

 

What Readers Think:

Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It takes the wrong side of the tracks trope and knocks it around. Lennox is a fascinating boy and it’s painful to watch him make bad choice after bad choice.. As he starts to open himself up to Will in the tiniest of little pieces, you start to hope for Lennox… The characters in this novel are vividly drawn. I find myself attached to all of them. This was a beautiful start to their journey.

Ritz Bitz, Amazon Review

SWEATERS & CIGARETTES – MIKA FOX

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Theo can’t stop looking at Max. With those black clothes and piercings, and that sarcastic charm that’s enough to intimidate pretty much anyone, he’s not exactly what you would call ordinary. Especially not when Theo is as ordinary as it gets, for a high schooler, along with all the insecurity and awkwardness that comes with it.
Basically, Max is everything Theo is not, but no matter how hard Theo tries, he can’t get him off his mind. He’s honestly crushing on him so hard, that it’s not even funny.
Theo has never spoken to Max, has even tried to hate him, but when their paths actually cross, their first conversation takes a surprising turn. And before long, they both find themselves falling harder and faster than they ever could have anticipated.

‘Sweaters & Cigarettes’ is a story about first love, first times, and all the sweet thrills that go along with it.

(This book has some mature content)

Writing Style: Third person, one POV, character driven. 488 pages
Topics and Tropes: high school life, intense chemistry, banter
For those who enjoy: steamy scenes, fluff, strong characters

What Readers Think:

This book was refreshingly realistic in its depiction of two high school senior boys that find each other and fall in love. The characters and their situations seemed quite genuine and I found myself caring about them very early on in the book. There are some quite descriptive sex scenes in the book, but they are in good taste and also realistic to the story and how they are exploring their relationship.

Tony, Amazon Review

WES AND TOREN– J.M. COLAIL

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It’s not so easy being young, gay, and in love for the first time at the average high school. Senior Toren Grey cares more about his family and his grades than what brand of clothes he wears. He agrees with the majority consensus that he’s a nerd. So he’s quite surprised when resident bad boy Wesley Carroll speaks to him in the hall, stirring feelings that Toren has to hide.
Disconcerted by Wes’s free and easy ways, Toren can’t deny the attraction between them. As he relaxes and gets to know Wes better, he finds there’s more to the sexy rebel than his public image. Before long the young men are exploring new territory and falling in love, but life just isn’t that simple. After they graduate, obstacles block their relationship at every turn: Wes working versus Toren in college, the virulent disapproval of parents, and everyday trials faced by any struggling young couple. Wes and Toren have to believe in each other… and never doubt that their love can conquer all.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, relationship driven. 304 pages
Topics and Tropes: coming of age, nerd/bad boy dynamic, high school to college storyline
For those who enjoy: sweet love stories, steamy scenes, light angst

What Readers Think:

This is the ultimate comfort read for me. It’s just a sweet story. It’s long and it’s relaxed like someone taking a leisurely walk through a park on a spring day. There was a natural progression to Wes and Toren’s relationship. There was no insta-love and they don’t have sex two minutes after they meet.

Laddie, Goodreads Review

HEARTLESS – J. ROMAN
Keeping Secrets: Book One

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For gay teens in the South, Erwin High School is as good as it gets. The prevailing liberalism means being gay doesn’t have to be the focus of your life—which frees up seventeen-year-old Jason Strummer to take on the role of bully. Jason understands his beauty and power and has a reputation to match his attitude. No one but his best friend suspects the cruelty Jason hides behind is a ruse to keep his hellish private life out of the public eye.

Jason has only loved one boy in his life, and that crush on Tommy Johnson ended so badly that they’re no longer on speaking terms. When an ex-lover threatens Jason and Tommy steps in to help, the heartless playboy can’t help but fall a little bit back in love with him—but Jason will have to choose between keeping Tommy or his secrets.

Writing Style: First person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes: second chance at love, personas and masks, enemies to lovers

For those who enjoy: an atypical main character, thoughtful portrayal of difficult subjects, rocky love stories

I felt like I actually was inside a teenage boy’s head… I really enjoyed the story. Even though Jason isn’t exactly an endearing character, I felt compassion for him and am looking forward to the next installment where I hope he’ll find happiness and soften up a bit.

Madison Parker, Goodreads Review

OUTSHINE THE STARS – NASH SUMMERS

51esvudlkkl-_sy346_Justin is hell on legs. He’s a self-proclaimed brat, a manipulator, and has a bit of a flare for the dramatic. While Justin might look like the picture of innocence, he leaves a path of terror wherever he goes.

His senior year starts off like all the others, him and his best friend sticking their noses up at everyone else while they bask in their own glory. But when a handsome new student catches Justin’s eye, he recruits the likes of a smart-mouthed kid named Connor to help him in his mission to capture the heart of the attractive newcomer. When Justin is finally forced to face himself and the truth behind his self¬-centered universe, it feels like the sky comes crashing down

 

Writing Style: Third person, one POV, prose, 44 pages
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, growing up, tragic backstories

For those who enjoy: funny dialogue, short stories, easy reads that also pack a punch

Lulls you into a sense of knowing the quirky characters then surprises you with unexpected depth. Great descriptions. Lovable folks.

Deborah Albee, Amazon Review

GUYLINER – J. LEIGH BAILEY

515tfc3kg5lSeventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.

As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.

 

Writing Style: Third person, character driven, two POVs. 273 pages
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, sports, conformity, friendship to romance

For those who enjoy: bi characters, coming of age stories, sweet romances

Guyliner has it all — a great story, told well with three dimensional characters and settings. And the writing and pacing, the glue that keeps it moving, is fantastic.

Short version: A great read beginning to end. ENJOY!

JD Hood, Amazon Review

Which of these are your favorites? Are there any other books featuring bad boys I should check out? Let me know!

 

10 Gay Opposites Attract Stories for YA Fiction Readers

Throw two characters together with absolutely nothing in common and force them to interact and you’ve got a classic rom-com. Why do opposites attract? Maybe it’s because love stories are more fun when things are a little complicated. Maybe it’s because two very different people can meet and become stronger together than they were on their own.

Or maybe Stiles is right:
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Yes, it’s possible I was a Sterek shipper at some point.

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Whatever the reason, unlikely pairs with undeniable chemistry are fun to read about. These are some of the best opposites attract stories in YA fiction involving gay romances.

ONE MAN GUY – MICHAEL BARAKIVA

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Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything “these Americans” could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself–like you never have before.

Writing Style: Third person, one POV, humorous. 274 pages
Topics and Tropes: high school freshman, Armenian culture, coming of age
For those who enjoy: music, first love stories, romantic comedies

What Readers Think:

 The story itself was very upbeat. I loved everything about the city (again, it was spot on with the attitude we get when we go into the city- we aren’t tourists, but we’re not New Yorkers). Plus, it was great to get a cute story that didn’t end with suicide or depression. I feel like a lot of LGBT books deal with those heavy topics, and while that is a very important issue, not all people face that. To have a book where the people are accepting is just nice to see.

Erin Weinman, Amazon Review

 BY THE CREEK – GEOFF LAUGHTON

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Soon-to-be high school junior David Harper hates his family’s move to the country. There’s nothing to do, and he misses his friends in the city. But he doesn’t have a choice. His mother’s job is in Mason County now, so David and his mom are too, and he has to make the best of it.

At first, the only redeeming feature of David’s new home is the swimming hole across the field from his house. Then David meets Benjamin Killinger, and suddenly life stops being so dull.

Benjamin is Amish, and cooling off in the swimming hole is one of the few liberties he and his brothers enjoy. A friendship with an English boy is not—but that doesn’t stop him and David from getting to know each other, as long as it’s on the neutral ground by the creek. After David risks his life to save Benjamin’s father, the boys’ friendship is tolerated, then accepted. But before long, Benjamin’s feelings for David grow beyond the platonic. Benjamin’s family and the rest of the community will never allow a love like that, and a secret this big can’t stay secret forever….

Writing Style: Third person, one perspective, descriptive setting. 180 pages
Topics and Tropes: boys from different backgrounds, friends to lovers, slow build, city boy and country boy, forbidden love
For Those Who Enjoy: coming of age, different cultures, inherent natural drama, unique story

What Readers Think:

Love does not know cultural boundaries, thank God. Two young men meet and fall in love, beliefs are questioned, conflicts occur. Will love be strong enough? Read and find out in a touching story of discovery. There is no need for graphic details of love making, it is not necessary, the story carries well on it’s own. I think it is a great read for young and older adults as well.

Just Relax, Amazon Review

HEAVYWEIGHT – MB MULHALL

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Secrets. Their weight can be crushing, but their release can change everything—and not necessarily for the better. Ian is no stranger to secrets. Being a gay teen in a backwater southern town, Ian must keep his orientation under wraps, especially since he spends a lot of time with his hands all over members of the same sex, pinning their sweaty, hard bodies to the wrestling mat.

When he’s trying not to stare at teammates in the locker room, he’s busy hiding another secret—that he starves himself so he doesn’t get bumped to the next weight class.

Enter Julian Yang, an Adonis with mesmerizing looks and punk rocker style. Befriending the flirtatious artist not only raises suspicion among his classmates, but leaves Ian terrified he’ll give in to the desires he’s fought to ignore.

As secrets come to light, Ian’s world crumbles. Disowned, defriended, and deserted by nearly everyone, Ian’s one-way ticket out of town is revoked, leaving him trapped in a world he hates—and one that hates him back.

Writing Style: First person, one perspective. 230 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/artist dynamic, eating disorders, sports, friends to lovers,

For Those Who Enjoy:  interracial romance, adept treatment of serious subjects, rare perspective of male eating disorder, sweet love stories

What Readers Think:

Hate is still alive and well in far too many lunch rooms. This is one of the better books I’ve read in the recent years that truly tackles these subjects. Immense in it’s realism on the subject matters it tackles, M.B. Mulhall deserves every award in the book for not taking the easy route on this. It’s gritty, and at times very hard to handle, but the way Mulhall crafts the story allows it to be the punch in the face it should be.

Rebecca A. , Goodreads Review

NAIL POLISH AND FEATHERS– JO RAMSEY
Deep Secrets and Hope #1

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Sixteen-year-old Evan Granger has no problems with being gay. Despite his mother’s objections, he wears nail polish and makeup to school and pursues his goal of becoming a professional drag queen.

TV drag star Taffy Sweet gives encouragement and Evan’s cousin Holly tries to protect him, but school bullies abuse him so badly because of his sexuality and the girly way he dresses that he ends up at the hospital emergency room. After that, even his new crush, a closeted football jock named Moe Garcia, is unhappy about Evan’s choice to live his life openly gay. But even in girly clothes and nail polish, Evan is a force to be reckoned with, and he soon shows the bullies—and everyone else—that beating a drag queen up does not mean the queen is beaten down. (Available on Kindle Unlimited)

Writing Style: First person, one perspective. 210 pages
Topics and Tropes: drag queens, a closeted jock, bullying, gender fulidity
For Those Who Enjoy:  character story with a side of romance, teens with a strong sense of self, stories about overcoming adversity

 What Readers Think:
Evan Granger, is adamantly effeminate and not about to hide it. He wants to grow up to be a drag queen. So rare is it that a YA novel really deals with the issue of a boy who simply cannot “pass” in a straight world… The book is about Evan’s agency, and it is surprisingly powerful. I found myself echoing his friends, “why can’t he just tone it down?” And then realizing that I, too, reflect the problem the book is trying to illuminate. It is Even’s refusal to back down that is at the core of this tale.
Ulysses Dietz, Amazon Review


KING OF SNOWFLAKES
– MICHELE FOGAL
West Coast Boys #1

Grade twelve is flying by like a pride parade of gay freedom and love until Skyler finds his gorgeous downtown boyfriend cheating on him over Christmas break. The breakup leaves him raw and not up to ignoring the usual gay taunts from soccer star Ryan and his teammates.

When Skyler loses it, he’s surprised to find a straight jock like Ryan knows what it’s like to have your heart broken and what it’s like not to belong. Behind his cocky smile, Ryan is feeling hopeless about his grades, his chances of getting into university, and his lack of real friends.

When Ryan invites him on a family ski trip, Skyler thinks escaping the city will let him lick his very private wounds in peace. He doesn’t count on Ryan’s warmth and affection amid the grandiose snow-covered mountains with their wonderland white trees, or the magical way Ryan’s silky hair fills with perfect six-point snowflakes. He certainly doesn’t expect Ryan to have secrets of his own that could burn them both–or lead to Skyler’s first truly loving relationship.

Writing Style: Third person, POV alternating,  vivid descriptions. 200 pages.
Topics and Tropes: enemies to lovers, sports, whirlwind romance, self discovery,
For those enjoy: compelling romance,  bi characters, atmospheric novels, light angst

What Readers Think:

King of Snowflakes is a story that zeroes in to the heart of its characters and drags every secret out into the open. I loved it… KoS takes a very realistic view of sexuality, and takes an incredibly kind and mature approach to the idea of exploration and open communication. It was such a breath of fresh air to see these characters open up to each other and admit what they want and need. I definitely recommend King of Snowflakes for anyone who enjoys LGBT romance, it could make you feel warm inside in 10 feet of snow.

Lala, Amazon Review

LOVE COMPLICATED – Teegan Loy
Game, Set, Match Book 1

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Life is all about making choices. Some are complicated. Some are simple. But for eighteen-year-old Jalen Marten, none are easy. Jalen has managed to stay invisible for his entire high school career. He has a small group of friends, and it’s enough for him. He doesn’t want or crave attention from his peers. All Jalen wants is to survive high school.

Austin Suter is the hot, talented tennis player who has the entire school bowing at his feet. Girls routinely throw themselves at him, and boys like Jalen stay the hell out of his way. Austin is destined for greatness on the world stage of professional tennis.

The kiss between them wasn’t supposed to happen. Falling in love definitely hadn’t been part of Jalen’s plan.

And when Austin turns pro, Jalen begins to realize that the choices he makes will affect Austin’s life. One wrong choice and Austin’s career could be over before it really begins. Jalen is not sure where he fits, or even if he fits at all in Austin’s life. But the more complicated things become, the less the idea of being apart appeals. Love should simplify things, not complicate them.

Writing Style: First person, single POV. 280 pages
Topics and Tropes: sports, music, self confidence issues, angst
For those who enjoy: intense romantic relationships, strong supporting characters, a blend of YA/new adult

What Readers Think:

Ok, this is a five star read because it appeals to the ooey-gooey, sappy center of me. It’s exceptionally talented teenagers-in-love who really, genuinely have a sweet relationship and they made me root for them the entire time. It’s the sort of book that makes me want to read a fluffy HEA sequel where they just keep being strong together and triumphing over obstacles. It’s a chicken-soup comfort read sort of warm fuzzy book.

Trace, Goodreads Review

UNDER THE STARS – GEOFF LAUGHTON

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Ethan Tanner is an out and proud, fastidious, and fashionable sixteen-year-old vegetarian who likes theater and musicals. This year, it’s his sister’s turn to pick the vacation destination, so he ends up on a dude ranch he knows he is going to hate. What with the dirt, animals, and germs, he can’t possibly be happy.

Jason McCoy is the closeted sixteen-year-old son of the ranch owners and is trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit him. He takes an interest in Ethan, shows him around, and gets him to ride a horse. When he invites Ethan camping, Ethan thinks Jason must be joking. But Ethan takes a risk, and the two boys bond under the stars.
After that, Ethan and Jason are inseparable. Their friendship grows into something deeper as they begin to figure out what they want from life. But Ethan’s home is in Chicago, and the distance might be more than the two teenagers—and their blossoming relationship—can withstand.

Writing Style: Third person, one perspective, atmospheric. 180 pages
Topics and Tropes: city boy and country boy dynamic, friends to lovers, long distance relationship
For those who enjoy: coming of age stories, secret relationships, angst

What Readers Think:

Under the Stars is a sweet gay teen romance and coming of age tale about two high school boys who meet at a remote dude ranch – one a guest and one a ranch hand… This is a solid entry in the gay YA coming of age library. While perhaps not as stellar or challenging as some other gay YA books, I found Under the Stars most enjoyable. If you enjoy gay coming of age fiction, you’ll enjoy this book.

William Siwicki, Amazon Review

VANILLA – BILLY MERRELL

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Vanilla and Hunter have been dating since seventh grade. They came out together, navigated middle school together, and became that couple in high school that everyone always sees as a couple. There are complications and confusions, for sure. But most of all, they love each other. As high school goes, though, and as their relationship deepens, some cracks begin to show. Hunter thinks they should be having sex. Vanilla isn’t so sure. Hunter doesn’t mind hanging out with loud, obnoxious friends. Vanilla would rather avoid them. If they’re becoming different people, can they be the same couple? Falling in love is hard. Staying in love is harder.

Writing Style: First person, multiple POV, verse, episodic. 325 pages
Contains: asexuality, acephobia, established relationship
For those who enjoy: poetry, unique perspectives, unconventional storytelling

What Readers Think:

Many people are saying this book is aphobic, and I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. I just finished this book today and found it to be powerful, evocative, and frankly quite good.

Kevin, Goodreads Review

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER – ROBBIE MICHAELS
Most Popular Guy in the School: Book One

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High school can be some of the best years of life—and some of the toughest. Mark Mitchell’s strategy for surviving is to emulate the mighty turtle: pull back inside his protective shell and keep a low profile to avoid trouble. And it works—nobody bothers him. Of course, nobody really knows him, either, even in a town so small it seems like everybody must know everyone else.

Mark certainly knows Bill Cromwell, whom he meets officially when his father volunteers him for manual labor at the school. Bill is his polar opposite: outgoing, gregarious, athletic. But when a massive snowstorm traps the two boys together for three days, Mark learns that being popular doesn’t mean you can’t be bullied or abused—or gay—and that bullying doesn’t stop at the school doors.

Mark isn’t naïve. He’s seen the news reports of gay teen suicides, and he’s determined not to become a statistic. But it’s not himself he’s worried about.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, journal/diary tone. 200 pages
Topics and Tropes:  jock/nerd dynamic, thrown together by circumstance, domestic abuse, small town life
For those who enjoy: friends to lovers stories, teen issues, serious topics

What Readers Think:

Mark’s narration is simply addictive. A bit self deprecating (he is classified as a nerd), sometimes funny but totally honest and all heart… I like that Bill is not the typical jock character depicted in most similar stories and the nerd is not the one in need of help here. Bill is the victim and his rescue is the best part of the story.
IMHO, Amazon Review

Dumb Jock – JEFF ERNO
Dumb Jock Book One

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Jeff Irwin is short, timid, and studious. A bit of a social outcast, he lives quietly in the shadows of the popular kids at his school, his life ruled by his ever-present fear of rejection or failure.

Enter high school football hero Brett Willson and the chance for Jeff to embark upon the challenge of educating the world’s dumbest jock.

But what develops between Brett and Jeff proves far more challenging than any tutoring session. In 1983, rural Michigan isn’t ready to embrace love between two men, never mind two teenage boys. If they’re going to make a go of it, Jeff will have to come out of his shell—and Brett will have to prove he’s more than just a dumb jock.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, older narrator telling his childhood story. 200 pages
Topics and Tropes:  jock/nerd dynamic, small town life, bdsm,
For those who enjoy: coming of age, past setting, high school to college stories

Despite some qualms about the nature of Brett and Jeff’s relationship, the core of the story touched me very deeply. It was written from the heart. I liked seeing Jeff come into his own and working him way through some pretty deep issues – not just the typical teenager issues, but with his family. And darn it, I liked that epilogue.

Crabby Patty, Goodreads Review

Have you read any of these? Tell me what you thought! Are there any other opposites attract stories I should check out?

Under the Stars is one book I’m currently giving away, along with several others. You can click on the banner to go to the contest page.

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