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.

Advertisements

Gay YA Kindle Unlimited Reads

Kindle Unlimited has about a million books, but finding the readable ones is sometimes a challenge. Was that a diplomatic way to put it? I was trying to find a diplomatic way to put it. I like KU! My books are on there. That totally wasn’t a hint that you should go check out my books, but you can if you want to.

Anyway, if you’re looking for some young adult novels featuring gay romances that are available on KU, here’s some I found that are worth a look. Are there any others you like? Let me know!

 Cupid Painted Blind

Summary: Few things are more exciting and, frankly, unnerving than your first day of high school. Except, maybe, coming out to your friends when they already kinda knew you were gay. Or finding out that the breathtakingly handsome guy you’ve just met is best buddies with your archnemesis who happens to be a homophobic bully. Or being teamed up for a school assignment with that decidedly unattractive, facially-deformed, freaky-looking weirdo who hasn’t got a friend in the world. Or all of the above.

My thoughts: Anything by Marcus Herzig is a safe bet. I’m currently reading (and LOVING) Never Do A Wrong Thing. I had trouble getting into Cupid Painted Blind, but the writing is good and I bet a lot of people would like it.

Nail Polish and Feathers (Deep Secrets and Hope Book 1)

Summary: 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.

My thoughts: Slice of life story for a resilient young man who is determined to be himself. This is a series and the first two books are available on KU.

At the Lake

Summary: Shane Martinelli and William Houghton come from very different backgrounds. They meet at a high-end summer camp in the Adirondacks, where Shane works as a lifeguard to earn some money and begin saving for college. William is one of the guests, and he doesn’t want to be there. As far as William knows, his father only dumped him at the camp so he could spend time with his latest mistress. When Shane figures out William can’t swim, he offers to teach him. William enthusiastically responds, but when an unexpected storm blows in, William is caught in the water and Shane comes to his rescue. They barely reach shore before lightning strikes the dock—close enough to damage Shane’s hearing.

The following summer both boys return to the camp. Shane doesn’t let his use of hearing aids stand in his way. William is now a counselor-in-training. The attraction between them is undeniable, but how can they possibly make it work? Once camp is over, a week at William’s family home in the Hamptons will determine if the love that bloomed at the lake can survive in the real world.

My thoughts: Chronicles a developing romance with some drama and surprises thrown in. There’s lots of good characterization and descriptive settings.

Pride & Puberty

Summary: Diego Ramírez is an eighteen-year-old gay with niche internet fame who is just trying to get through high school without being recognized. Everything is turned upside-down when his Filmmaking teacher throws him into a group project, and of course one of his partners is Mauricio Fernandez, the quarterback. His plan of successfully making it through high school without anyone taking notice of him was beginning to fall apart as his group managed to insert themselves into Diego’s life. Somehow, he’s not even mad about it.

My thoughts: For those looking for cute, fluffy romances without angst or drama.

Bisexual Blues

This is a scene from One Little Lie, a humorous romance featuring a bunch of queer high schoolers. The book is currently on sale!

Luke

Zach was at our lockers, thankfully by himself and not making out with anyone this time. I viewed him from the other end of the hall. Wait, I’m glad he’s alone because he’s been all over girls and he makes it hard to get my books. Not that I’m heading over there at the moment. But that’s why I said thankfully. Because of him and the girls.

Not for any other reasons but that he was annoying and got even more cocky after fooling around. Yep, him going after everyone was totally a hassle and I wasn’t thinking of any one specific instance where it wasn’t a girl he was kissing.

“You can’t avoid him forever.” Ryan stood beside me and looked amused.

I would have tried to act all casual and like I had no idea what he was talking about, but then I looked down at myself and realized I had scrunched myself against the wall as much as possible in the space before the lockers began and was half obscured by the tall structures, with just one eye and one side of my face peering intently at Zach.

Avoiding Zach forever? “I could test that hypothesis,” I said loftily.

“Okay, you speaking science to me is so hot,” he leaned close to me with a smile on his face and then playfully pushed me in Zach’s direction. “But really, go talk to him.”

I nodded. I probably should. I really don’t want to. I gave him a pitiful look. “Please don’t make me?”

“I won’t.” My boyfriend is a sucker for my puppy dog face. I didn’t even have to break out the dimples. Except then his face turned calculating. “I’ll go tell Lydia.”

She would definitely not fall for my puppy dog face, my dimples, or any of my faces.  “I really hate you sometimes,” I told Ryan seriously.

He only smiled at me and quipped, “Don’t be like that, Undecided Nickname.”

“Oh my god. Fine. I’m going.”

This wasn’t a  big deal or anything, but Ryan had totally gotten here early. There was nothing special about today at all, he was just here before homeroom because he knew I’d be freaking out about Zach and wanted to provide moral support or something less sappy sounding.

And that was pretty cool of him and I wasn’t at all getting sentimental over the little gesture and behaving like a giant girl whose boyfriend did something nice and so I got all dreamy and swoony and melty. Yeah, Ryan was great. No big deal, nothing to see here, move along.

Book Review: Just A Dumb Surfer Dude

Quick summary: Cooper’s life is fine but uneventful. He’s smart, his classes are easy, he has people who care about him, but he mostly feels like he’s waiting for his life to start. Then a new kid comes to school and everything changes.

(I tried not to spoil things but there are probably mild spoilers and hints about what happens in my review.)

What I thought: Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale is a quick, fun read that would work well for reading during the summer or at the beach but can be read anytime. The “surfer dude” is less important than one might think by the title, but those who like humor, sweet romances, and romantic comedies will enjoy this story.

I really liked the narrator’s voice and liked that there were multiple love interests, that’s not always something you see in LGBTQ teen fiction. It started out a little slow for me, but I got more interested as I kept going.

Depending on how perceptive you are, there may be a fun twist or two. I am usually much better at picking out this kind of thing, but I didn’t see it coming, so I really liked the surprising direction the story went in.

The Romance: Cooper is presented as an intelligent guy, but he has no experience with relationships or dating, so there’s a coming-of-age aspect where he explores getting close to guys romantically. It’s all new and intense and scary. While this story is on the shorter side, it still tells a complete story about finding love. It’s not heavy on the angst but has a few ups and downs and isn’t completely predictable.

If you’ve been reading a lot of stories about boy meets boy and then one or both boys freak out about liking another boy, this book offers variety. Cooper already knows he’s gay, so the story explores finding that special person more fully and what makes someone “the one” without any sexuality crises.

There’s also a sequel.

Plotty Details: Cooper’s life at his all-boys school is okay, but there isn’t much going on. He has one best friend he’s close with and his relationship with his father is important to him. Both he and his father don’t enjoy being single. He’s one of the only gay kids he knows and hasn’t had any romance yet and is sort of getting impatient waiting for it. While there’s no love interest in his life, his best friend is also gay. They aren’t out to everyone, but Cooper’s dad knows.

Cooper finally gets some excitement in his life when a new student comes to school. He’s even paired up with the hot guy in one of his classes. The problem? This new boy seems to like him even though his best friend really wants to go out with the new guy.

Best Part: Cooper has great relationships with his father and his best friend Alex. If you like your romances to have a little more depth, there is also plenty of father-son moments. Cooper and his dad don’t relate to each other perfectly but love each other and that comes through. The father is an English teacher and there’s a lot of little quips I enjoyed about different books. The dialogue was at its most witty when Cooper was with Alex or his father. Cooper’s a big smart alec who loves tormenting the people he loves.

Sam Dorsey and his Sixteen Candles

Sam Dorsey and his Sixteen Candles is right up my alley. It’s a definite rom-com where’s there’s a bunch of zany antics that could realistically happen in real life but probably wouldn’t, especially at the same time, but if you’re someone like me who can suspend disbelief and just read about the crazy week Sam turns 16, it’s a funny, enjoyable story.

Sam Dorsey And His Sixteen Candles (Sam Dorsey And Gay Popcorn) (Volume 1)

The Plot: Misfortune always befalls Sam Dorsey or his family on his birthday, so he’s dreading the consequences of putting off the celebration he doesn’t even want and having a whole birthday week. On the bright side, his crush Jake finally seems to know he exists. But his new friend Mitch doesn’t seem to like that.

My thoughts: The narrator in this story, Sam, has a good voice that adds a lot of character and humor. The tone stands out and lets you know what you’re reading, it’s not just another book that blends in with the rest.

I feel like I should say something about the references to the Sixteen Candles movie, but as I’ve never seen the movie, I can’t. As far as I know, some characters have similar  names, but it seems like it’s more the tone of the story that’s similar than actual details.

There’s a lot of guys in this story that seem to be at the very least bicurious. Just a whole lot of queer dudes, which is something you don’t see a lot anywhere, especially in YA. I think it’s great, especially as I tend to have multiple gay characters in my stories too.

Best Part: Many stories deal with the negative fallout of coming out and while that’s realistic, I don’t think disapproving parents are a universal experience anymore, so I enjoyed the approach this story took a lot.

I don’t know what classifies as full length or a short story and what this technically ranks as. Since the action takes place over a few days and it’s around 150 pages, it feels like a short story. It’s a cute, quick read. There’s other books in the series and they all seem to be available on Kindle Unlimited.