Your New School Library: Malinda Lo, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, and Marisa Calin

When I first started this column, a tiny part of me did wonder if I would ever run out of young adult books with lesbian or queer female protagonists to write about. Alas, almost a year later, not only has this not happened, but this month I didn’t even have to comb through books published in the last few years to find some gems. This month, there are three outstanding books that fit this criteria just from the last two months! How awesome is that? The answer is, real awesome! At this point, I could turn this into a weekly column if I wanted to! But I can’t read that fast, so you’ll still have to deal with once a month, okay! Now let’s start this thing with a familiar AfterEllen.com face!

Adaptation, Malinda Lo, Little, Brown and Company, September 2012

The scene: Phoenix airport, Arizona. The protagonist: Reese Holloway, who waits for a flight back to San Francisco after a debate competition. She worries about her poor performance in the competition, her confused feelings about her debate partner, David Li. But soon, there are bigger issues to think about.

The weird: Birds are dropping dead from the sky to the ground. So many birds, in fact, that they’re causing planes around the country to crash to the ground, killing all passengers on board. Every other flight–including Reese’s–is cancelled, and she realizes quickly that they need to get home as soon as they can. As people around the nation descend into panic mode, Reese and David try to get back to San Francisco in one piece via a rented car. But when birds freakishly fly at her windshield one night, an exhausted and surprised Reese swerves off the road. This road, by the way, also happens to be the Extraterrestrial Highway in the Middle of Nowhere, Nevada, rumored to head straight through the famed Area 51. She wakes up a month later in a military hospital in the desert, with no memory of anything that has happened since the accident. The only thing Reese Holloway knows is that she’s not the same as she was before, and no one will tell her why or how.

And that’s only the first 50 pages! 

Even more intrigue and plot twists emerge with each chapter, including–

The girl: As Reese recovers from her recent trauma, finally back home in San Francisco, she runs into a Miss Amber Gray in the park one day. And I mean literally. Amber smacks right into her on her skateboard, sending Reese and her coffee flying. Amber is the type of girl who grabs my heart immediately: bright pink hair, gray eyes, an independent yet compassionate spirit. She’s like no one Reese has ever befriended before, and she makes Reese feel things no one ever has before. 

Between coming to terms with these new queer desires and struggling to figure out what exactly they did to her at that hospital, Reese begins to feel like her life is spiraling out of control. But together with some friends, she’s determined to find out what happened to cause all those birds to fall from the sky, and what the government isn’t telling them–even if the conclusions she finds reach beyond what she ever believed.

This was the first book I’d read in a long, long time that actually befit the name “page turner,” where the time flew by as the plot grew thicker and creepier, where the world it created inhabited my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading it. This book is exciting in so many different ways: aside from just being a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling read, it’s one of the first sci-fi young adult novels I’ve ever read with such solid queer characters. The plot of this book is so engrossing that it won’t just be read by queer kids because it’s queer. Kids of all stripes will read this, and get an awesome queer perspective injected into their brains as a bonus. I feel like this could really propel Malinda Lo even further in her career than where she is now, and it would be completely well deserved.

I should also note that while I am normally a wimp when it comes to anything scary, this book hit the perfect note of fantastically creepy while not being unnecessarily frightening. Meaning, I could still sleep at night while I was reading it, but if a bird ever happened to fall dead at my feet now, would I scream out loud? Yes, yes I would.

While the official release date for this book is September 18th, Amazon, for better or worse, has apparently been shipping its copies out early. So go order it now–or wait until its official release date to get it from your local bookstore or library! You have both my word and Heather Hogan’s word: you will not be disappointed.

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