A quote from One Little Lie, which will be released on Oct. 20.
A quote from One Little Lie, which will be released on Oct. 20.
A quote from Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: about great (or not so great) literature.
“What books did you read this week?”
“Catcher in the Rye. Thinking about becoming a totally ungrateful punk who swears a lot, then run off to New York City with a completely inadequate sum of money…. I expect you to be waiting by the phone to rescue me when I somewhat come to my senses. But I’ll still be an ungrateful little brat after all that. Don’t expect much of a redemption arc in my story…. except maybe to give the spoiled little brat in everyone a reason to say ‘yeah, somebody understands me’.”
(Yes, I don’t like Catcher in the Rye.)
Whether relaxing by the beach with a good book or just dreaming of the perfect vacation, there’s a lot of books that capture the magic of summer. Summer means driving with the windows down, splashing around in the surf, staying up late, and getting up to no good. The teens in YA novels have less responsibilities and more freedom when off from school and it feels like anything could happen.
Here’s the best summer romance books in YA gay fiction.
It should have been simple – a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family’s holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn’t interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.
Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara’s cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.
Writing Style: First person, one POV. Descriptive. 247 pages.
Topics and Tropes: sports, surfing, identity crisis, love triangle
For those who enjoy: introspective pieces, sweet love stories, developing relationships
What Readers Think:
Even if you’re not a fan of coming-of-age stories, athletes as main characters, or homosexual pairings, I urge you to give “Caught Inside” a try. The struggle to find love and acceptance is one we’ve all faced, regardless of gender, sexual preference, age, or ethnicity.
The hot Texas nights were lonely for Ben before his heart began beating to the rhythm of two words; Tim Wyman. By all appearances, Tim had the perfect body and ideal life, but when a not-so-accidental collision brings them together, Ben discovers that the truth is rarely so simple. If winning Tim’s heart was an impossible quest, keeping it would prove even harder as family, society, and emotion threaten to tear them apart.
Something Like Summer is a love story spanning a decade and beyond as two boys discover what it means to be friends, lovers, and sometimes even enemies.
Book 1 in the Something Like Series
Writing Style: Third person, one POV. Descriptive prose. 293 pages.
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, life in the 90’s, love and life
For those who enjoy: humor, steamy scenes, stories that span the years, books with their own movies
What Readers Think:
Wow! I was immediately hooked! The story of Ben and Tim is very moving, full of strong and emotional moments. I felt (and still feel) that Tim and Ben are real people and have been lucky to have a glimpse of their live and love story. And I still cannot decide which one I prefer!
It’s Dade’s last summer at home, and things are pretty hopeless. He has a crappy job, a “boyfriend” who treats him like dirt, and his parents’ marriage is falling apart. So when he meets and falls in love with the mysterious Alex Kincaid, Dade feels like he’s finally experiencing true happiness.
But when a tragedy shatters the final days of summer, he realizes he must face his future and learn how to move forward from his past.
Writing Style: First person, one POV. Sharp, realistic. 332 pages.
Topics and Tropes: Small town setting, closeted jock, bad boy. Deals with issues like suicide, divorce, drugs, crime.
For those who enjoy: angst, coming of age stories, evocative writing.
What Readers Think:
It’s a “Catcher in the Rye” for the Millennial Generation. Burd can be effortlessly poetic when he wants, but he also knows when to just say less and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. More than anything, this is a dreamy meditation on growing up, coming of age, and falling in love. Burd is a helluva writer and this is a hellaciously good novel.
Dance Academy reject, Archie Corrigan, resents the stereotype guy ballet dancers are gay. Because he isn’t. At all. Forced to reassess his life goal at Camp Crystal Cove, it’s by sheer dumb luck he meets Landon Summers, who turns everything Archie was sure of into chaos.
Poor boy turned teen heartthrob, Landon Summers, is the name on everyone’s lips. With his unexpected leap to fame, his agent advises him to keep his bi status on the down low. Not a problem! Until Landon meets Archie.
Their unexpected friendship leads to an inevitable kiss, but their moment is caught in high definition and used as fuel for blackmail. If the truth gets out, Landon’s career could be over, and Archie will be forced to acknowledge the one thing he’s fought to deny.
But how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?
Publication Date: Sept 16. 343 pages.
Topics and Tropes: summer camp, stereotypes, fame, blackmail, bi main character
For those who enjoy: humor, banter, flirting and developing relationships, good supporting characters
What Readers Think:
This was such a cute story. It’s the kind of book that definitely gives you all the feels. At it’s heart, it’s about two young men who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. The fact that it’s a love story is a complete bonus.
Malcolm Small has lived a sheltered life with parents who don’t seem to care about him. Now, during the summer between high school graduation and going away to college, Mal wants to take control of his life and make some improvements…starting with making a new friend.
Wes, the boy across the street, quickly becomes both friend and a sort of mentor to Mal. With Wes’s patient guidance and example, Mal’s breaking free of his life-long shy shell and taking chances.
Mal is also feeling free enough to start listening to the tiny voice inside him that whispers his attraction to Wes. After years of denying it, could Mal be gay after all?
Self-acceptance comes easy for Mal with Wes by his side. What about telling Mal’s parents? What about being out at college? Mal’s about to undergo some very challenging times as he grows up fast and must decide what he’ll stand for and against.
Writing Style: First person, one POV, strong voice. 260 pages.
Topics and Tropes: coming out, friends to lovers, opposites attract, anxiety and panic attacks, new beginnings
For those who enjoy: coming of age stories, love stories with light angst, some steamy scenes, new adult stories
What Readers Think:
While some of the main events were predictable, the way the story was told was all of fun, sweet, moving, funny, occasionally teary. Missy has a clever turn of phrase which is delightful!
Sam’s best friend in the world is ditching him; moving out of state to go to college and leaving him behind. It hurts like hell but he doesn’t know how to tell Ryan that he needs him to stay without saying too much. Like maybe that he might want to be a lot more than just friends…
Ryan has to get out. He’s been in love with Sam for so many years he’s afraid if he doesn’t leave that he’ll spend his whole life alone in love with someone he can never have…but of course Ryan can’t tell his oldest and best friend that he’s in love with him. It would ruin the most important thing in his life.
Before it’s too late, they have to find the courage to tell each other the truth about how they feel…to finally say those things they’ve kept to themselves for far too long.
Writing Style: Third person, two POV. 69 pages.
Topics and Tropes: best friends to lovers, surfing, misunderstandings, unrequited love
For those who enjoy: short stories, angst with a happy ending, new adult
What Readers Think:
I loved this story! If your a sucker for a good romance then this is for you. It may be a little predictable, but our hearts tend to go in that direction in these stories anyway. They both love each other but they don’t dare tell each other for fear of losing their friendship. A great read that wont disappoint. 🙂
Can a boy-boy romance bloom among the disapprovers? Paul Wu, age 15, has been crushing on Trevor Harris, the good church boy, for two years. Now he suspects Trevor likes him back. Maybe it’s time for Paul to reveal his feelings, but how? He can’t just say, “Dude, I think about you all the time,” or can he?
Trevor, meanwhile, has been saying prayers to confess his sin of lust for Paul, but maybe it’s time to confess he is gay and give up trying to change the fact.
On a surf trip to Mexico sponsored by a church that condemns homosexuality, the pressure builds as the boys sit close to each other at the campfire.
Writing Style: First person, two POV. Strong voices. 209 pages.
Topics and Tropes: surfing, religion, young love, Asian main character, alcoholism,
For those who enjoy: found families, the innocence of first love, light hearted yet serious reads
What Readers Think:
It really delves into the inner workings of a couple of kids wrestling with the dynamic tension of spirituality, religion, family, and other deep themes, but does so in the voice of its teen protagonists. This book avoids the typical tropes of YA literature and gay romances by maintaining true heart and a sense of romantic innocence, while also being grounded in the reality so many teens face.
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.
Writing Style: Third person, one POV. Descriptive, thoughtful. 247 pages.
Topics and Tropes: summer camp, age difference, rich/poor dynamic, growing up, MC with a disability
For those who enjoy: slow build, emotional connections, character studies and character driven stories, a few pleasant surprises
What Readers Think:
If you like young adult romances that center around dealing with who you really are, if you want to know what it’s like for two young gay men to figure out their place in the world and what they want to do with their lives, and if you’re looking for a sweet read with a lot of tenderness and some very loving moments, then you will probably enjoy this novel
Cooper is a genius. At least that’s what everyone else keeps saying, even if he doesn’t like it. But that’s not his biggest problem. Being gay while attending Dextrus Academy, an all-boys prep school, and only having one other gay friend, life can be…difficult.
Cooper wants to stay true to himself, and being a hormonal gay teen makes that difficult at times. So far, he’s managed to navigate being a good son, a good student, a best friend, and not lose himself in the process.
But when Logan, a hot surfer dude, transfers to Dextrus Academy, is it possible that Cooper will lose himself for a chance at true happiness?
Writing Style: First person, one POV. lighthearted, 141 pages.
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, coming of age, academics, literature
For those who enjoy: romantic comedies, friendship and familial story lines, shaking up the status quo
What Readers Think:
This an entirely SFW teen romance very much in the vein of the recent film “Love, Simon”. A very promising author I will continue to follow.
Identical twins Aiden and Max Kingsman have been a matched set their whole lives. When they were children, Aiden was happy to follow his extroverted brother’s lead, but now that they’re in college, being “my brother, Aiden” is starting to get old. He’s itching to discover who he is outside of his “twin” identity.
Oliver’s goals for the summer are simple: survive his invasive family, keep his divorced parents from killing each other, and stay in shape for rowing season. He’s thrilled when he runs into his old friends, the Kingsman twins, especially Aiden, the object of a childhood crush. Aiden is all grown-up, but some things have stayed the same: his messy curls, his stability, and how breathless he makes Oliver. Oliver’s crush comes back full force, and the feeling is mutual. Summer just got a whole lot hotter.
Fun-loving Max takes one thing seriously: his role as “big brother.” When Aiden drifts away, Max can’t understand how his own twin could choose a boy over him. Summer won’t last forever, and with friendship, family, and happily ever after on the line, they’ll have to navigate their changing relationships before it’s too late.
Writing Style: Third person, Three POV. New Adult. 226 pages.
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, second chance at love, childhood crushes, family drama, first times
For those who enjoy: strong romance and supporting relationships, sweet yet substantial stories, fleshed out characters
What Readers Think:
I love LGBT romance that includes family dynamic. It enriches the whole story and reading experience. It hits home. This story was so moving that I encourage people to experience and enjoy it. It is an excellent romance novel.
Jonah Beckett has been in love with his older brother’s best friend, George “Laurie” DeWitt, since he was thirteen-years-old. When his boyfriend, Dirk, breaks up with him for refusing to put out, Jonah uses his heartbreak over the situation as an excuse to ask Laurie to teach him all about sex before he starts college in the fall. Problem is, he made Dirk up, and Jonah has no idea what will happen when Laurie finally finds out the truth.
Writing Style: Third person, one POV. 54 pages.
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, best friend’s brother, longtime crush, scheming
For those who enjoy: fun short stories, sweet and sexy romances, new adult
Book One in the Wanting Series
What Readers Think:
A truly heartwarming, sweet, romantic story. This would be the perfect read while sitting at the edge of the lake one afternoon during the summer. It’s one of those books that works in that setting and just leaves you with a feeling of peace and happiness.
Have you read any of these titles yet? Are there any more stories like these I should check out? Let me know!
You wouldn’t know it (yet) by checking my titles, but I love series. Series? Serieses? Series’? Multiple books in a group or seasons in a TV show, whatever it’s called. I hate it when stuff ends. I’m always ready for the next thing to sink my teeth into. And the pop culture nerd in me is especially happy when there’s lots and lots of material to obsess about.
That might be why I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve never seen all 45 seasons of it or however many there are, but I’m on season eight right now. I know it’s not the best show in the world, but it’s definitely not the worst, and it’s extremely likable.
Also, as a Hispanic bisexual person from a Catholic family with a father who came around and a mother who didn’t, Callie Torres really, really resonates with me. As the kids say, she’s my spirit animal.
None of this is especially related to what I wanted to say, which is that I wanted to discuss my current projects. So, here goes,
Watching: Grey’s Anatomy
Reading: Fjord Blue
Writing: The Sequel to One Little Word
That was easy. So, what are you currently working on, whether professionally or personally?
This contains spoilers for Summer Romance. The scene is between a couple, one person wants to come out and the other one doesn’t.
This was kinda weird. I was in a hospital room having a relationship discussion. Sort of. Carter’s dad had his procedure and Carter got his dad settled into his room or whatever while I went and got some lunch from the cafeteria for us and I hung around, letting him do whatever he needed to do and then his dad was asleep and we were on the floor of his hospital room, not talking much, but whispering when we did so that we didn’t disturb his dad.
His phone was obviously on silent, but it sat next to us on the floor. He’d answered it for a while, responding to people’s text but had given up for now. It keep flashing and lighting up, floods of messages pouring in.
“Everyone always loves you,” I whispered.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Maybe it is.”
“What so I should have no friends like you?” He winced immediately after he said it. He opened his mouth to apologize but I grabbed his hand and squeezed it. I looked at him, trying to gauge if that was okay. He glanced at his dad but then just sighed and squeezed my hand back.
It was hard to hold a few harsh words against a guy when you were keeping him company in his dad’s hospital room.
“I don’t see why I should want people to dislike me just because it builds character or something,” Carter said.
“The thing is, there’s always going to be something about you people might not like. You can hide negative stuff by being popular and friendly but it’s still there and maybe those people aren’t worth being friends with if they only want you to be perfect.”
I had to see Max again.
I only caught the barest glimpses of him at the next few spelling club meetings both our siblings attended. I had to straighten things out between us… was that a poor choice of words? Max was a giant loose end. I couldn’t afford another screw up.
I had to get this sorted out with Max. I hoped we might be even. I embarrassed Max years ago when I defeated him and now he’d settled the score. It was all water under the bridge now. We could start over, right? And if that meant we could act like nothing happened and I wouldn’t have to worry about him telling anyone about our tryst… well, that was just a pleasant side effect.
My family may be well off, but we believed in practicality. Our motto was substance before style; style was still important as image was everything, but substance mattered too. No, our motto would probably be ‘Beat Everyone, Win Everything.’ We had a lot of mottos. The point was that I don’t drive a flashy sports car unlike some kids in my grade who were gifted with glitzy vehicles when they turned 16. I owned a modest, dependable Honda Civic. At least it was dark green. I had begged for any color, literally any color except the beige my parents wanted.
An excerpt from my story, What Love Means.
Do you own a dictionary? I’m not sure I do. The internet takes care of that for me. The only problem is that you can’t flip to a random page of an internet dictionary and start looking for challenging words. You need an idea of what you want to look up. Typing in “hard words” just gives you the definition for ‘hard’ or ‘words’.
This was my super serious predicament when writing What Love Means where spelling bees serve as a backdrop for the action. Luckily, vocabulary.com was around to help me out. That might be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever said and I have a few seasons of Star Trek on DVD.
Apparently, the site does more than help authors find challenging spelling bee words. I think you’ll be happy to know that at least one queer book is popular/important enough to have a vocab list on the site.
Way to go, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. You’re official. You can see the vocab here or here. It’s split into chapters and includes the word, definition, and sentence the word was used in during the book.
In the spirit of list, I made my own little vocab list for What Love Means.
A super stupid person, usually Max.
Her parenting advice normally involved stern words and phrases like ‘stop being a dumbass’ and ‘make smart decisions because I’m not paying for bail.’
Cal Winthrop-Scott. That’s all. That’s the whole definition.
Cal looked preppy and chipper in the afternoon light. He’d look like a perfectly modern yuppie tool if he had a sweater tied around his neck to complete the picture.
An illicit drug.
What would it be like to kiss Max after he smoked? Would I get a contact high from probing my tongue into his mouth? Maybe I should buy some pot and smoke with him. Oh god, I was addicted. All it took was one puff. Marijuana really was a gateway drug!
What Cal and Max can’t help doing with each other.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable with him hitting on me here in the light of day while I was stone sober and at my old prep school, until he closed off for a second and left me bereft. I apparently didn’t like him not flirting with me either.
dissatisfaction due to an unresolved problem.
I wanted to throw my body on him and bruise him, get all my frustrations out with my lips and teeth and have him do the same to me.
Max’s biggest foe.
I shouldn’t lose my cool again and act all… emotional like a person with feelings, a guy with a heart just waiting to get it broken.
What everyone but Max is. Usually, this is a bad thing. Usually.
Cal was so cute when he was being an uptight nerd, and it was fun to get him to loosen up. Shit, I had it bad.
This has been your vocab lesson for the day. I’m sure you’re much smarter now. You’re welcome.
I’ve chosen some questions from one of those ‘get to know me’ surveys for Cal from my book What Love Means to answer. They’re written from his point of view.
Get to know Cal Winthrop-Scott
What time do you wake up most mornings?
Around six for school. Earlier if I forgot to iron my clothes for the day. I mean, six, and never earlier because my family has a maid that does the ironing. I totally don’t even pay attention to ironing and have no preferred way for my slacks to be creased. What 17-year-old boy does? Definitely not me.
What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day?
What is this ‘relax’ you speak of? I don’t think I’ve heard of it before and I know many words since I used to compete in spelling bees. At the end of a stressful day (everyday), I thank whatever gods are listening the day is over and count down the days until I can legally consume liquor.
Where did your last kiss take place and with whom?
I don’t remember the specific logistics, but it had to be with my ex-girlfriend Katie. And– no, the less said about this the better.
Do/did you get into trouble a lot at school?
Of course not! I’m on the honor roll.
Do you often pick up on double entendres and innuendos?
Yes, unfortunately. I wish I didn’t as I have a friend… acquaintance… associate? A, um, Max who makes many innuendos. Well, I don’t have him, he’s not mine or anything, I. Next question.
Have you ever been offered drugs but declined?
Just say no. I’m above the influence and straight edge and all that. I’m all kinds of straight, all the kinds of straight one can be.
Have you ever met someone who has completely altered your way of thinking?
No one comes to mind. Most people I know are like me; they go to the country club and come from good families. I certainly don’t know any leather jacket wearing rebels that are so comfortable about themselves and who they are, who make we wonder how to do that.
Have you ever been offered drugs and accepted?
Of course not! Wasn’t that already asked? Okay, maybe there was an occasion. It was just a puff or two of marijuana. Max and all his friends were around; they’re bad influences! Peer pressure is a real thing, okay?
I mean, I’m going to politely decline to answer this question.
Tell us something weird that turns you on.
There’s nothing weird, I’m just a totally normal guy who likes girls. Not leather jackets or a hint of stubble and a smoldering stare–
Um. No comment.
When did someone last admit romantic or sexual feelings for you? Was the feeling mutual?
Good lord. Absolutely no comment.
What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately?
College decisions. How closely I want to follow in my parent’s footsteps. Certain brunettes. Shit, how about some easier questions?
Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now.
This is definitely not easier.
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
There, perfect. I eat whatever the cook makes. Okay, it may not have yielded a very exciting answer but really this was a much better question.
When did you last swallow your beliefs to avoid an argument or confrontation?
Swallowed my beliefs? Isn’t this a bit harsh? So maybe I haven’t been as vocal as I could about wanting to attend Stanford, but it’s not that simple. My parents went to Princeton, their parents went to Princeton, so I’m just waiting for the right time to broach the subject. It’s strategic. Smart. Shut up.
Do you usually initiate hugs?
I’m a wasp. Wasps don’t hug.
Are you a very affectionate person?
I will refer you to the above.
Do you think you’re a good person?
Who is to say what good means? I don’t murder anyone or play music without earphones in the library. I would say that I follow the rules and do whats expected of me and I generally try not to be a terrible person, but am I actually kind to people? Caring? Happy? I mean, good? I don’t know. Are these questions meant to be an emotional powder keg or is it just me?
What are you looking forward to?
Being done with high school. Starting my future. Being away from my parents. No, that’s far too harsh. Being an adult and making decisions for my self… And though I would absolutely deny it if asked again, maybe when Max isn’t around, I might look forward to seeing him again. Maybe. Just a little.
Here’s what you need to know about my book What Love Means using the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.
Who: Finn Manning. Me! That one was easy enough. And I’m not an egomaniac by putting that one first, it’s just how the list goes.
If you want to know a little more about me: I’m a queer author who writes queer fiction. I’m in my early 20’s and I live on the West Coast in North Carolina. I have two nephews I adore, a dog I spoil, and my interests include Zumba, going to the beach, and working my way through a giant queue of books and TV shows. I’m currently reading Reasons to Love a Nerd Like Me by Becky Jerams and just got done watching the latest season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I planned on watching season five of Arrow next but started Wild, Wild Country instead because Netflix told me to.
What: What Love Means is a gay YA romance. Without falling back on my fancy synopsis, it’s about two old friends who parted on bad terms. Max and Cal are about as opposite as can be. One is rich and the other is poor, one is an uptight academic and the other is a bad boy with a motorcycle, one is brunette and the other is blonde. You get the idea. Aside from mutual lust, the only other thing they have in common is that they both have younger siblings. When the kids both start competing in spelling bees, Max and Cal must confront their past and find out whether they could have a future together.
When: It’s contemporary, so it takes place now. The main characters are beginning their senior year of high school.
Where: New Jersey. Let’s see, the action takes place in many locations. There’s a party at an abandoned warehouse where our heroes have a chance encounter that makes sparks fly. There’s one tiny apartment and one fancy ass mansion. Max has two uncomfortable conversations in two coffee shops. A sexy scenario happens in the least appealing place Cal can think of: his old middle school. An emotional conversation happens in what Max considers the worst place for a serious discussion: the parking lot behind the auto shop where he works.
Why: My previous work, One Little Word, involves the classic jock-nerd dynamic. I wanted a similar opposites attract scenario without doing the same thing, and I love spelling bees. That led to the concept of two old friends meeting again years after their last bee. One of them is the studious, hardworking teen one might expect would come from the spelling bee (i.e. an uptight nerd for those who aren’t familiar with spelling bees) and the other has gone through a complete transformation and become the dangerous, carefree rebel that first character really shouldn’t be attracted to, but dammit, he is anyway.
What Love Means is available now on Amazon.