When I approached Rebecca Podos and asked her if we could PLEASE collaborate on something because I loved The Wise and the Wicked, Rebecca came up with this fantastic idea to match queer SFF YA books with music. I was in love. And then I received her post and, ‘holy moly I didn’t even know what love was before’. Talk about the perfect mix of music and words. With some phenomenal Queer SFF YA books – like seriously, it’s a hit list of my favorites – including Rebecca’s!
Rebecca’s Awesome Mix
We’ve all heard of writing playlists, the tracks you put on to get in the mood, tune out the world and draft the book of your heart. But you know what’s underrated? Reading playlists. I can’t be the only one who likes to pair a gorgeous book with the perfect song, sit back, reflect on the story, and feel my FeElInGs. So, to celebrate the birthday of THE WISE AND THE WICKED, I present to you my Queer SFF YA Reading Playlist *chef kiss*
SAWKILL GIRLS by Claire Legrand
The Song: “Control” by Halsey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so8V5dAli-Q)
I’m bigger than my body
I’m colder than this home
I’m meaner than my demons
I’m bigger than these bones
Claire Legrand is one of my insta-buy authors (and yes, I WILL be devouring KINGSBANE immediately). This one is her stunning horror novel about three girls who occupy very different corners of the same creepy island, where girls have gone missing for decades, taken by a monster nobody has been brave enough to acknowledge or strong enough to fight…until now. Full of feelings—complicated, painful, and often queer—this is literary horror at its best.
Find Sawkill Girls on Goodreads, Amazon, Book Depository, and Indiebound. My review: “In Sawkill Girls we have to find compassion and forgiveness for those who were manipulated and who made bad choices for survival. Maybe everyone isn’t exactly what we thought they were. Maybe they can be more”.
GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan
The Song: “Fear on Fire” by Ruelle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKpw_9I5wj4)
Hold on for dear life
Until it’s all gone, we’ll come alive
And set fear on fire
Like just about everyone I know, I’d been waiting for this books for months before its publication, and it still exceeded my expectations. A breathtaking fantasy following the fate of the eight Paper Girls—the lowest caste in Ikhara—taken from their homes to be consorts for the king. So it has always been. But this year, there’s a ninth girl, and when she falls in love with one of her fellow consorts, she sends tremors throughout the kingdom that may just lead to its fall.
Find Girls of Paper and Fire on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, The Book Depository. My review: ” What I also loved, besides the f/f romance elements, was the way that the paper girls learn more about each other. I’d read just a whole book about them. They deal with their trauma in different ways and Ngan doesn’t shy away from this. There are the ways in which we cope, deny our feelings, and try to find meaning, some shred of happiness in a world beyond our control”.
DAMSEL by Elana K. Arnold
The Song: “You Don’t Know Me” by Son Lux (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GL35e5mwD5I)
You see my face in the stars
You write my name on the walls
I feel you tracing my scars
I see you down on your knees
You don’t know me at all
Okay, this one is more lowercase queer than capital Queer, but I read it how I read it. DAMSEL starts with a prince who braves a dragon to rescue, then wed, his damsel. Except this particular damsel has no memory of her life before waking in the prince’s arms, and, as it turns out, no say in her fate. This über-dark fantasy sets aflame the traditional notions of gender and sexuality baked into our fairytales, and so I say it earns a rainbow badge.
WILDER GIRLS by Rory Powers
The Song: “Bury a Friend” by Billie Eilish (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUHC9tYz8ik)
What do you want from me? Why don’t you run from me?
What are you wondering? What do you know?
Why aren’t you scared of me? Why do you care for me?
When we all fall asleep, where do we go?
Powers’ debut isn’t out until July, but everyone needs to preorder this ASAP. This horror/thriller takes place on another creepy island, inhabited by the Raxter School for Girls, quarantined months ago when the Tox infected its teachers and students, turning them…strange. Now the girls must rely on themselves for survival, and on the pitiful supplies sent from the mainland, ever-dwindling. The book revels in the monstrousness of its female protagonists, while questioning what we call monstrous in the first place.
Find Wilder Girls on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository. Also read a sneak peek of my review which isn’t published yet: ”
what Wilder Girls really shows are girls who are allowed to be wild, scarred, and terrifying – monstrous. It seems the perfect setting for changes we cannot predict and that leave us soaked in blood. But it’s also the perfect setting for exploring what happens when we are faced with our own mortality? What relationships will we create, honor, and sacrifice?”
ASH by Malinda Lo
The Song: “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” cover by Sleeping at Last (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ifR2A9Afbk)
Every little thing she does is magic
Every thing she does just turns me on
Even though my life before was tragic
Now, I know my love for her goes on
A Queer SFF playlist without Malinda Lo would be seriously lacking, and this is the fairytale that inspired so many authors to follow. ASH, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, has just turned ten years old, and its importance in the Queer YA canon can’t be overstated. This book is lush, wildly imaginative, and, while there’s angst a plenty, none of it stems from the main character’s newly-discovered sexuality. An absolute must-read!
WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS by Anna-Marie McLemore
The Song: “What If” by Emilie Autumn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aj9y6yksSjc)
And what if I’m a snowstorm burning
What if I’m a world unturning
What if I’m an ocean
Far too shallow, much too deep
We can’t talk about magic realism without mentioning Anna-Marie McLemore, one of my all-time favorite authors. This is a gorgeous story about love and identity and the interplay between the two. It features Mexican and Pakistani folklore, magic, and queer love, and is impossible to describe in a short paragraph. So just trust me and pick it up, and you’ll never be the same.
Find When the Moon Was Ours here, add it to Goodreads, on Indiebound, or Book Depository, or check out the author’s website here. Or my review: ”
It is a book that combines the fantastic and the utterly real in a portrait of small town life: one that is populated by individuals with magical abilities, but who still struggle with the same universal problems of growing up and living together.”
SHATTER THE SKY by Rebecca Kim Wells
The Song: “Make Them Gold” by Chvrches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pa9L81hAGw)
We are made up of our mistakes
We are falling but not alone
We will take the best parts of ourselves
And make them gold
I’m biased because I happen to represent this brilliant author, but even if I didn’t, SHATTER THE SKY (out in July) would top my TBR. This is a classic and yet totally fresh fantasy about a girl determined to rescue her girlfriend, who’s been kidnapped by the corrupt empire, even if she has to steal a dragon to do so. GET READY, because it’s as epic as it sounds.
Find Shatter the Sky on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository. Read a sneak peek of my review: “Shatter the Sky is a book about a moment in time – a bubble about ready to burst – as the world is going to change for them – ripped apart by prophecy and uncertainty. It’s a book that is very aware of what it’s like to live in a home that isn’t technically ours anymore, a history that has been stolen from us, and how Maren has to steal a dragon to rescue her girlfriend”.
THE WISE AND THE WICKED by Rebecca Podos
The Song: “The Day I Died” by Alex Winston (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCntY4rGTzs)
I need an exorcism, this ain’t no way of living
Slow and steady down the aisle but my heart is a child
With an inner demon pleading to be forgiven
Shake me out if I’m alive, cause I feel three thousand miles away
I mean, I’ve heard good things about this one?
WOAH WOAH WOAH, Lili here butting in. Here are some of the good things I’ve said because this book needs a paragraph like all the rest!
The Wise and the Wicked is a story about confronting our fate, of wondering if we are willing to sacrifice what it takes to change it, and go against what we thought. It’s a story of expectations, of bravery, and friendship. All while it being a story about stories themselves, about heroes and villains, and whether we can find the power in our blood to re-write our ending.