I received a proof copy of this book from Hardie Grant via my work - this doesn't colour my opinion or my review in any way. STARS LIKE US was marketed for fans of Leah on the Offbeat, Red, White & Royal Blue, and Heartstopper: Volume One, so I knew it was my type of book!
Liliana is a sixteen-year-old Australian girl on a scholarship at a prestigious music college in London. After she's asked to audition for Lady Stardust, a secret band that's forbidden by the rules of her scholarship, she meets Carter, Richie and Sam who change her life forever. Even though she has a girlfriend back home in Sydney, Liliana starts to fall for Carter, and writes a song about him. Lady Stardust use Liliana's song for their entry into a Battle of the Bands competition, and win. On the cusp of superstardom, and a flight back to Sydney booked for 12 hours time, Liliana is forced to choose between her life back home with her friends and potentially ex-girlfriend, and her love and passion for music.
So, a super fun story about rock and roll with a queer Australian main character? Sign me the HELL up!! What I thought was going to be a cute coming of age / love story about a girl conflicted between her girlfriend back home and her hot new bandmate, all in a high school context, ended up being so much more than that. STARS LIKE US highlights discussions of obsession and fame, the pitfalls of the music industry and music labels that take marketing too far, and the importance of having a found family. I really loved the separation Liliana created between her authentic self, and the 'character' of Lily, created for her as a band marketing tool. And the songs -- all I want out of life right now is to listen to King Cutie because it sounds like it absolutely SLAPS.
A huge new favourite for me. I'll be recommending this for years to come!!
INTERVIEW WITH FRANCES CHAPMAN
I was lucky enough to interview author Frances Chapman about STARS LIKE US! Thankyou to Lauren from Hardie Grant for this opportunity. It was super insightful and interesting to hear further information about the writing process, and other bits and pieces about Liliana's story!
How did STARS LIKE US come to be? I’m told there’s an intriguing origin story involving Justin Bieber!
Yes, it was a paparazzi photo in the paper when he toured Australia: he was having a casual lunch in a chicken shop, chatting to his friends, and there was a bodyguard holding back a line of teenage girls. It was the girls which got me thinking – they looked bored, a bit dazed, lost, even. You could see that they’d chosen their outfits with care, come out with the intention of meeting Justin Bieber, but now that they were there, it was like there was a huge gulf between what they’d imagined the day would be like and the hard reality of standing on the sidewalk watching a person eat his lunch. And I loved that he was just ignoring them, continuing his conversation, apparently unselfconscious: this was just his life. It got me thinking about what it might be like to be famous – the actual lived reality, not the glamorous fable.
How did STARS LIKE US come to be published? What is the Ampersand Prize process like?
I shopped the manuscript around to a bunch of agents and got a lot of rejections. A lot of the feedback was positive: some of them liked the writing but they felt it would be a hard book to market for a young adult audience. The version I was trying to get published at that point had a lot more drug use and older protagonists, they were living in sharehouses, working in restaurants to make ends meet, and it was just generally grittier. The feedback I was getting was that they couldn’t see a market for it and I was trying to decide whether I started to write something new or reworked it again for a more adult market.
So when I sent it into the Ampersand prize I didn’t expect it would be shortlisted. I was shocked when they rang me and to talk through some of the changes they wanted me to make. The main one was aging the characters down so that they were still at school. Chatting with Marisa Pintado at Hardie Grant Egmont about that made me feel really excited – it was like I needed someone to tell me which direction to go in. It was a lot of work – I basically rewrote the entire first third and then there was a lot of other work to do throughout the rest. But it felt like the right direction and I was really excited to be working with a publisher who was so passionate about the story.
I think the Ampersand process is so valuable because now I can see that although I had a manuscript, it was nowhere near ready for publication. The Ampersand process meant that the publisher worked closely with me to turn it into a book, and most first-time writers don’t get that opportunity. I feel so lucky.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I had a very hyperactive imagination as a kid and have always read a lot. I started writing more seriously about eight years ago when I was living in Melbourne, and a good friend of mine was living in Israel. We used to send each other a chapter a week, and he was always so enthusiastic about reading the next instalment. Having a deadline and a reader meant that I kept going and those chapters became the first manuscript I finished.
What draws you to writing YA? Do you see yourself writing in other genres or age groups?
I feel like being a teenager is very close for me. My best friend from school said to me the other day that she can barely remember being a teenager and I was shocked. I can remember the whole thing in excruciating detail. You’re forming your identity and learning who you are, and I had so much hope at that time in my life – and so much pain. It’s a time ripe for fiction.
I am thinking about writing for adults - I didn’t particularly set out to be a writer for young adults, it was more that I felt this story would be best for a teenage audience. The next idea I’m working on is also a queer love story, but it’s much more personal and smaller in scope, so although it has teenage characters I’m not sure the readership will be the same. We will see what my agent thinks!
What do you love most about writing?
I feel like there’s something kind of magic about books: the writer creates a picture that only exists for the reader. It’s a work of collaboration. No two readers will have the same picture in their minds and I love that.
What are you currently reading?
I’m just at the beginning of Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein. I really love her work but I’m told this is a bit scary, so I’m reading it with the lights on! I don’t read fiction at all when I’m working and then I binge.
Why did you choose to write Liliana’s strong connection to her heritage and her name?
I felt like having a strong family connection would be a good way to show her integrity, and when she loses that connection I hoped it would demonstrate the new, very inauthentic world she was inhabiting. I chose Italian because that’s my heritage and because I could choose a name which could be anglicised - although I’ve since been told that some readers think I’ve based her on Ariana Grande, which was absolutely not my intention!
What bands influenced Lady Stardust? What do you think Lady Stardust sounds like?
I think Lady Stardust sounds like AM-era Arctic Monkeys but with a female singer. The lyrics were influenced by Bright Eyes, Gang of Youths, Polish Club and of course, Bowie. Addie Marmoset, who is Liliana’s mentor and love interest, is a solo artist who used to be in a manufactured girls group – a female Harry Styles, if you will – and her music sounds like Dua Lipa.
If STARS LIKE US was to be made into a film, who would you want to play each of the main characters?
I get asked this question a lot and I know it’s boring but I’ve never really thought about it. I think it would be better for the characters to be played by musicians than to try to find actors who can sing, if that makes sense. I’d love King Princess to play Liliana, although she’s American. Raleigh Ritchie – also known as Jacob Anderson - for Carter; Ncuti Gatwa for Sam because I just love him; Dua Lipa for Addie; Sacha Dhawan for Amir. That would be an absolute all-star cast and I would lose my mind if my book was made into a movie.
How different was the final product from what you initially imagined for the story?
The story is fundamentally the same – in terms of the shape of what happens to the band, Liliana’s journey, and the main characters of Liliana, Carter and Sam. The main difference is that the characters were younger than I initially imagined, but I actually think it works better this way – it raises the stakes and heightens the emotions to have characters who are just gaining their independence for the first time, falling in love for the first time, still feeling their way. So I’m really pleased with that change, even if it’s not what I initially envisaged.
STARS LIKE US is an own voices queer story, and it was wonderful for me personally to see a bisexual character lead this story. What does representation in YA mean to you, and what was the process of writing Liliana’s sexual identity like?
Thank you! That’s so awesome of you to say. I mean, how long have you got? What I really wanted to do with the story was have a bisexual main character whose sexuality was not the fundamental story. It’s not a coming-out story. For most of us, our sexuality is one element of who we are, and not necessarily the defining one. Representation in YA is incredibly important and we still have a really long way to go, although we’ve also come a long way. When I was growing up, there was zero representation. I remember when one of the characters on Dawson’s Creek came out and it was so chaste but was kind of heralded as a huge moment. Then when I got to uni, we all devoured The L Word, even though by today’s standards that show is kind of problematic. The thought that a teenager might read my book and see themselves represented in Liliana or any of the other characters makes me feel a bit teary, to be honest. I wish we’d had the own voices movement when I was a teenager.
Hi all! Coming at you with a short post about what I'm planning on reading in quarantine! Hope you're all well and washing your hands and STAYING INSIDE !!
I've been in some form of isolation for just over a month now! My uni classes shifted to online on March 16th, however my work has remained open this entire time so I've still been leaving the house to work one or two days a week. I think this is what has kept me sane!!
Onto books - I have a huge and ambitious stack of books to read, as pictured. Will I likely cave and read Heartstopper for the emotional support it gives me? Probably.
Half of this stack is graphic novels - I figure I can read post of them in one day or one sitting as a relief from uni work! I'm most excited for Go With The Flow, which I bought recently after seeing it at work. I've heard great things about Bloom and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me too!
As for the middle section of books, many of them are books I've had for a long while that I haven't gotten around to reading. I bought The Mars Room around the time it was released, and it's sat on my shelf for over a year! I read most of Fangirls for a university assignment at the end of 2019, and found it so interesting. I know it won't take too long for me to get through the remainder of it! Stars Like Us is a reading copy I received from my work a few years ago, which sounds really cute and queer! I may save this one for June though, for a pride month TBR.
Finally, the top three books of this little stack are three essays and interviews I recently bought. I've got two of the Nelson Mandela Foundation's I know this to be true interview series' to read - Jacinda Ardern and Ruth Bader Ginsburg! I've also got Stan Grant's essay On Identity.
Hope you're keeping well read in these times of self-isolation! Let me know what you're reading!
A huge thankyou to Bloomsbury for sending me a proof of this! This was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, and I was SO chuffed to get a copy early for review. As always, this doesn't affect my opinion or review of the book. On with the spoiler-free review!
"I think we need all sorts of stories for queer teens—ones where identity is a major conflict, ones where identity is fully normalized, ones where homophobia, etc. can be deconstructed on the page, and worlds that are created without hate. There’s something refreshing and empowering about taking a story that revolves around a queer romance and putting that story into a world where homophobia isn’t acknowledged. I’ve been blindsided by books with unnecessary homophobic scenes (usually to further the cishet main character’s story line or just to remind queer teens that they’re oppressed), and I wanted to be clear that, in this book, queer teens are safe here."
- Phil Stamper, Goodreads interview 31/1/20
I really enjoyed THE GRAVITY OF US! A fab representation of queer love, teen angst, mental health and self-discovery. A little simple at times, however I recognise that I'm not really the target audience for a 13-17 teen fiction title. I still really loved alot of aspects of this, such as the discussions of social media and fame, and the historical exploration of the 1960's space race.
I also really love the concept quoted above - no two queer stories are the same, and it's important that they don't all end in tragedy. Stamper stated that this 'no homophobia' idea stems from Dan Levy and Schitt's Creek, and it's a concept I highly agree with also. I've read far too many queer YA books (usually by cishet authors) that explore homophobia and prejudice in a really confronting and upsetting way. I'm happy to see there's people out there in the media working against this stereotype. Queer kids deserve to see happy stories and happy endings to those stories. Being queer doesn't mean a lifetime of struggles and hardships pertaining to sexuality. It can be a positive and good thing.
Four stars. My fave book of the year so far!
As the end of the year (and the decade!) draws near, I thought I'd share my thoughts about my 2019 reading adventures! I've only truly loved a small number of books this year, but they were all hugely impactful for me, and are actually some of my top books of the decade. As of right now, I have read 28 books, and have two on the go that I'll finish before the end of the year for sure. Here are some of my faves, in order of when I read them.
ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas
Finished reading February 3rd
“Unarmed and dangerous, but America, you made us, only time we famous is when we die and you blame us.”
I was pleasantly surprised by ON THE COME UP! After reading THE HATE U GIVE in 2018, I was really excited for Thomas' next novel, especially considering this was the book she had wanted to debut with initially before THUG was written. The fact that this book was Thomas' passion project is really obvious. I liked this so much more than THUG. What jumped out at me immediately was how distinct and unique Thomas' voice is. The discussions surrounding racial profiling, poverty, and family expectations are incredibly relevant in the political and social climate of today, and this book reflects life as it is for many marginalised people in the world. Ultimately, it's an exciting and thought-provoking story about legacy, prejudice and fighting for what you want.
RED, WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston
Finished reading May 11th (first), June 20th (second, audio), October 14th (third)
“The moment you first called me a prick, my fate was sealed. O, fathers of my bloodline! O, ye kings of olde! Take this crown from me, bury me in my ancestral soil. If only you had known the mighty work of thine loins would be undone by a gay heir who likes it when American boys with chin dimples are mean to him.”
If you've ever interacted with me in real life or on the internet, you know how much I love RED, WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE, and how much it means to me. Alex and Henry's romance is just heart-melting and endearing - enemies to forced friends to lovers will never get old. Although they're a powerhouse couple, Alex and Henry are also fantastic and three-dimensional individual characters, with flaws and quirks and traits that you cannot help but fall in love with. The way this book has resonated with so many people is a testament to McQuiston's writing, and a clear signifier of the desperate need for more well-rounded queer stories. I've also read this book three times this year, and takes the crown (pun intended) for my favourite book of the year! GIVE ME THE MOVIE AND MAKE IT TEN HOURS LONG (and cast Alex and June as Latinx you cowards)
GROWING UP QUEER IN AUSTRALIA eds. Benjamin Law
Finished reading September 17th
"I am unlearning the self-loathing, the doubt, the pressure, the terror, the worry of being at once too much and not enough ... To Jessica. To Buffy. To all the girls who've made my heart flip before I brushed the feeling away. I can be both"
I was really looking forward to this anthology, and it absolutely delivered! I bookmarked my faves as I went and five stories stood out more than anything else. My favourite was absolutely Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen's 'How to be Both', a personal and affirming piece on the gatekeeping surrounding bisexuality that made me cry alot. Other standouts were Thomas Wilson-White's dot-point list 'Trust Me (Tips for My Teenage Self)' that begins with 'you were right about Anthony Callea', M'ck McKeague's commentary on queer life in country and conservative Australia, and Jax Jacki Brown's piece on the intersectionality of queerness and disability. Cindy Zhao's poetic piece includes a poem of Bukowski's that punches me in the gut every time I think about it - 'there's a bluebird in my heart that / wants to get out ... he's singing a little / in there, I haven't quite let him / die'. Overall, it's a stunning exploration and portrayal of what it promises to be - of growing up queer in Australia.
I'm looking forward to a productive reading year in 2020! Stay tuned for a post full of my anticipated reads. Let me know what books you've loved in 2019, and what you're looking forward to reading next year! Come find me on Twitter at @tessakmarsden and Instagram at @totallybookss !
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE LUCY WENT?
SHE WENT TO PLAY THE GAME.
YOU CAN PLAY TOO.
FIND A PARTNER.
FIND A KEY.
FIND THE ROAD.
YOU HAVE TWO DAYS.
Cross The Blair Witch Project with Stranger Things and you've got Kate Alice Marshall's stunning and spooky new release RULES FOR VANISHING - a skin-crawling story that grows more unsettling with each step. RULES FOR VANISHING explores the local legend of Lucy Gallows. Once a year, a road appears in the forest just outside of Briar Glen. Follow Lucy's rules and play her game, and if you reach the end of the road Lucy will be there waiting. Lucy's game is not for the faint of heart, something Sara Donoghue finds out when she and her reluctant classmates enter the forest, in search of her sister Becca.
I don't read many books with horror or supernatural elements, so this was a pleasant surprise! It's been a long time since I was truly enthralled by a story in this way. I was reading on the metro and almost missed my stop because I was so hooked. This is simply the kind of book that you cannot put down! I wouldn't call it *scary*, but the thrill of the supernatural elements and the mystery that unfolds as the story progresses kept me on the edge of my seat at all times. It was much more supernatural-focused than I was expecting. The way the story was told was what grabbed me initially; through interviews, 'evidence' such as text messages and video descriptions, and Sara's 'written testimony'.
This book is also beautifully diverse, but not forcibly so. Certain elements were made better by this diversity, such as Vanessa's stutter and Jeremy's hearing difficulties. These traits were woven into the story and played key roles in storytelling. However even with characters who have such different traits and personalities, it did take me a little while to fully understand exactly who each character was. When you have nine characters all interacting with one another in the one location, things can get a little confusing. This confusion may have also been a result of Sara's unreliable narrating, which was otherwise a fantastic way to tell the story and watch the mystery unfold.
Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me a copy of this fantastic book!
1st October 2019 (AUS) / $16.99 AUD
Happy Spring everybody! One of my favourite times of year, aside from it being the beginning of Magpie season here in Australia - catch me covering up my hair and sprinting from my house to the bus stop so I don't get attacked by the black and white devils of the skies. Straya :')
Although I'm halfway through my uni semester, I'm determined to keep reading and get ahead of my Goodreads challenge! I've finished August with 19 books read out of 30, which puts me one behind schedule. I figure if I set a TBR for September / October, it will hold me at least a little accountable!!
I'm currently reading GROWING UP QUEER IN AUSTRALIA, which I'm planning to finish over the next week or two! With contributions from Australian voices from across the spectrum of LGBTIQA+ identity, Benjamin Law's anthology of the queer Australian experience is personal and touching, and is incredibly important in the current conversation surrounding queer identity and experience in Australia. I can sense that this will be an easy 4 or 5 stars!!
I received an ARC from Walker Books Australia of Kate Alice Marshall's RULES FOR VANISHING, which looks intriguing and unique and spooky as all hell! Marketed as The Blair Witch Project meets Stranger Things, it's safe to say that I'll be diving into this as soon as I can! I'll be posting a review on September 23rd, so keep your eyes peeled!
I participated in a book swap a few months ago, and received a copy of BRAZEN - a graphic novel all about rebel ladies who rocked the world! It seems a quick read, and the art looks just gorgeous. I have no idea why I haven't picked it up yet!!
Amanda Montell's WORDSLUT caught my eye as soon as I saw it online and in stores - for good reason! A feminist guide to 'taking back the English language', WORDSLUT discusses the use of gendered language throughout history and in culture, and explores why words matter, and why is it imperative that women embrace their unique relationship with language. This is my absolute jam and I'm so so psyched to read it!
If there's one person in today's political climate I look up to for their fierce bravery and bad-ass attitude, it's Greta Thunberg. Her collection of speeches, NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, is a tiny little volume that I'm told packs a punch. I can't wait to read it this month - in fact, I may just pick it up after I post this!
Whilst browsing shelves at Kinokuniya a few weeks ago, I came across the comic series PAPER GIRLS, and bought myself the first volume as an early birthday present. It looks very vibrant and bright, and alot of fun!
I really love the show Black Mirror, so when Walker Books sent me a copy of Tom Pollock's HEARTSTREAM, I was so intrigued! I was hoping to get a move on with it, and read it well before its release on September 1st, but unfortunately uni work prevailed! Hoping to get started on it ASAP, and get a review out really soon!
Here's to finding more time to read this month! Come chat to me on Twitter or Instagram, or leave me a comment here telling me your September TBR! Let's keep one another accountable!
June was a very busy month for me! I had a family wedding, my finals for uni, and my last exam for the semester all rolled into the first half of the month! I started seriously reading after June 17th, and managed to read three books - less than I would have liked, however I have all of July off of uni, so hopefully I'll get a decent amount of reading done around the release of Stranger Things Season 3, and the drop of all seasons of Glee on Netflix. Just when I thought I'd have a productive holiday......
This month was pride month (in case you'd missed that small fact), so I endeavoured to only read queer books! Not too different from the norm for me, to be honest, but it was a conscious decision I made when choosing books to read this month. Let's dive in!
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston was technically a reread, but I bought the audiobook when my physical copy arrived so I could read them together. Since reading an ARC back in May via Netgalley, RWRB has become my new favourite book. I've almost exclusively been listening to the Spotify playlist because it just makes the feels flood right back in. The romance between Alex and Henry is endearing and sweet and real. Every time I think about the story, I want to pick it back up and read it all over again; hence why I've read it twice since May. Six stars out of five. New favourite book. New hyper-fixation / obsession.
Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? by Elfie is a poetry chapbook I stumbled across on Twitter a few months ago. I caved and bought it on Amazon, dropped a bath bomb into my bath and flew through it in one sitting. These poems explore the dichotomy between religion and sexuality, and how the two can sit hand-in-hand, as well as general personal experiences and hardships associated with having a queer identity. Four stars for a stunning and deeply personal read!
Jilda's Ark by Verity Croker is an Australian YA novel that I received a free eARC of, in exchange for a review. Marketed as a story about family, self-discovery and environmental refugees, with a queer protagonist, I was excited to jump in and explore the story. However, I found the pacing of the book to be very odd, and the plot left me with alot of questions with no answers. The queer plotline seemed to have been thrown in for the sake of it, with no real purpose. What could have been a fun story about discovering your identity and the importance of family was lost in a confusing plot and strange setting. Two stars.
Happy Monday, all! Thankyou so much to AUS YA Bloggers and Walker Books Australia for providing me with a copy of this stunning book to review. The importance of queer stories and representation is dearly important to me, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to participate in this tour!
What does it mean to be queer? What does it mean to be human?
In the world today, it can be easy to think that queerness means hardships. Or struggles, heartbreak, oppression, difficulties. And that being human means feeling hopeless, or disconnected, or tired. It’s true that difficulties arise from both these things, and that certain things about this moment in time are harder than they have been previously. Whilst some of these things may ring true at times, it’s important to realise that this is one side to a multi-layered and diverse array of experiences.
Michael Earp’s KINDRED: 12 QUEER #LOVEOZYA STORIES is a glowing array of stories from some of Australia’s most beloved writers. Each of the #ownvoices stories are sweet, inviting, and downright heartwarming. They are an optimistic reminder in a somewhat greyscale world that life is good, and things will soon be better – even the bright yellow of the cover makes me cheerful! Themes of family, dystopia, religion, disability, activism, and magic realism, among others, make this anthology a powerful celebration of the diversity of the queer experience. The concept of a book like KINDRED, and what is represents, allows for a discussion of identity, family, belonging, and community in YA. There is such power in having a book like this in the world, giving both queer and questioning young people a space to explore and a way to connect with their personality and identity.
I was lucky enough to attend the Sydney launch of KINDRED at the Sydney Writer’s Festival on May 4th. At the KINDRED panel, Michael Earp talked about the beginning page of the book, beginning with a definition;
(n) a body of persons related to one another, or a family, tribe, or people
(adj) associated by origin, nature, qualities.
As author Lili Wilkinson expresses in her review, KINDRED is ‘a book for everyone’. Perfect to add to your pride month TBR, this anthology is heartwarming, simple and unapologetic. Whilst it’s important to uplift queer voices and stories, diversity in YA shows teens of all identities, experiences and livelihoods that the world is a diverse place. Normalising queer stories into mainstream media creates a similar effect in the real world. Hardships, difficulties and disconnectedness have been present in the queer experience, and the human experience, for a very long time. It is my hope that books, stories, and activism like this is the first step in moving away from this, to a world full of acceptance, positivity, and celebration.
It truly has been a hot minute since I last posted. I've been as active as ever over on Instagram, and rambling endlessly on Twitter, however my darling little blog has been unattended. After stumbling into my second year of law school, and discovering the wondrous television show that is Schitt's Creek (okay, that was only in the last month...), blogging has simply become secondary in my list of priorities. I'm getting this down in writing - I'm going to try and get into blogging more regularly!
June is on the horizon! June was chosen as the month to represent pride and advocate for LGBTQ+ communities to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich, NYC, which occurred at the end of June 1969. Pride month represents the coming together of intersecting communities, the impact of LGBTQ+ people around the world, and the push for equality that we continue to fight for. In honour of this month, many people in the community are choosing to read exclusively LGBTQ+ books in June, which is a fantastic way to share more queer stories around the community, and read a more diverse array of stories. However since I tend to read almost exclusively queer fiction in any month of the year, I don't think pride month is required to motivate me to diversify my reading. I will be planning out a small and tentative TBR list though, to keep myself on track!
June will be a very busy month for me! I have my finals and exams for university this semester, as well as my brother's wedding! I won't be doing much leisurely reading until the middle of the month, however I am participating in two blog tours, one of which is PERFECT for kick-starting your own pride month TBR.
Some other titles I'm hoping to get to this month post-wedding celebrations...
Here's to queerness! Here's to pride month, and to showcasing queer authors, readers, characters and storylines. Let me know what you're reading this month in a comment here, or come talk to me on Twitter or Instagram!
Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads
Hello 2019! Here's to a fantastic and productive year of reading!
There's some wonderful titles being released this year - here are some of my most anticipated!!
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
Australian release: February 5th
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it. On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.
It's a goal of mine in 2019 to read a more diverse range of books - both regarding the perspectives of characters, and reading content from more authors of colour. The representation of marginalised communities in YA and general media is improving, but it's still very much an area that is lacking. There's alot of #ownvoices books coming out this year, including On The Come Up, and I'm excited to witness this change happen.
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Australian release: March 19th
Rebellions are built on hope. Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards. Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
An Americanised and racially-driven retelling of The Handmaid's Tale? Yes please. Rebellion tales and stories of survival are getting increasingly more relevant in this political climate, but I'm excited to see how this story unfolds!
Growing Up Queer in Australia ed. Benjamin Law
Australian release: June
Not a whole lot of information on this one yet. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia was published by Black Inc. in 2018, and Growing Up Queer is expected to follow the same formula; an anthology of first-person accounts and writings about growing up as a member of the queer (LGBTIQ) community.
Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: A Definitive Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Australian release: May 28th
Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.
In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.
These ladies are my whole LIFE. My love and interest in true crime stems from hours of listening to their podcast My Favorite Murder, and I'm excited to see what their part-true crime, part-joint biography entails! SSDGM
I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
Australian release: unknown, 14th May in USA
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they're thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents' rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school. But Ben's attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan's friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life. At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
In my quest to read every YA LGBTQ+ book ever written (one can dream...), I was SO excited to come across this one! Books themed around queer-specific events and experiences that are written by non-OV authors give me the creeps. For a very long time, if a published book was queer-centric, it was tragic, heartbreaking and upsetting, serving as commentary for non-queer readers about how awful life is for queer people. Often, non-OV queer books follow this formula. I'm ready to see a change in this, and I think I Wish You All The Best may be a key text to get us there.
What are your most anticipated reads for 2019! Let me know in a comment, or contact me on Twitter or Instagram!!
@totallybookss on Instagram
@tessa_mars on Twitter
Hello!! My name is Tessa, and I'm a 20 year old bookseller and blogger from Sydney Australia. I love queer YA, Schitt's Creek, and pizza scrolls.