In some of my reviews I’ve mentioned how LGBTI young adult books are getting more diverse in the stories they tell. “One Man Guy” isn’t one of them. It’s a “boy meets boy” book, and “realising you might be gay” book, with a healthy dose of that young adult staple “forging your own identity separate from your family for the first time”. But just because it’s straight-forward and familiar doesn’t make it any less charming. The story’s “hook” is that the protagonist, 14 year old Alek Khederian is an Armenian-American living in the suburbs of New Jersey. He is saddled with high-expectation parents who have sentenced him to summer school for falling off the honours track in his first year of high school. And to top it off, he has a perfect older brother who is always showing off how committed to Armenian culture he is. It’s through summer school that Alek meets Ethan, the cute skater boy legendary for starting a food fight. Ethan is the classic older, cooler,Continue reading »

Simon is gay, closeted, and emailing anonymously with another gay boy at his school he knows only as “Blue”. But now one of his class mates saw the email programme Simon left open, and is threatening to out him unless Simon sets him up with Simon’s friend Abby. The relationship between his friends is getting more complicated, opening night of the school musical is getting closer, and the emails with the frustratingly shy Blue are getting more flirtatious by the day. This is a fun read. The book is told from Simon’s point of view, but periodically interrupted by the email exchanges between Simon and Blue. The email conversations feel very true to life – occasionally revealing, occasionally flirty, filled with the type of things you might say to someone anonymously in an email but would be terrified to say to someone in real life. Simon starting to fall for someone he’s never met feels pretty natural, as does Blue’s reluctance to admit his identity or meet Simon in realContinue reading »

While Comsie is away wrestling with an army of small children, the rest of us have to keep things ticking over here. So it’s time for another review! As you might guess from the title – this book is very gay. JT lives in Clearwater, Florida. He has a loud best friend called Heather, and gorgeous boyfriend called Seth that JT thinks is way out of his league. But he won’t be able to attend college without a scholarship, and the alternative is being trapped in Clearwater forever, working at his parents’ gas station. Then Seth springs a surprise on JT – a beauty pageant for teenage drag queens, with a college scholarship as first prize. JT is more than reluctant. His one drag queen performance, at his high school talent show, ended in disaster and humiliation, and he’s been too traumatized to try it in public again since. But with no other options for escaping Clearwater, JT agrees to enter, and he, Heather and Seth hit the road. It’sContinue reading »

No gay content in this novel – but it features teenage (and almost teenage) boys, plus it’s good. Fair warning: keep the tissues handy. This book is incredibly sad. Narrated by 12 year old Jack, it tells the story of 14 year old Joseph, who comes to stay on Jack’s dairy farm as a foster child. Emotionally and physically damaged by a stay in a juvenile prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to see the daughter he’s never met. It’s clear from the very first chapter that Joseph has suffered, but just how much isn’t revealed until halfway through the book, when the full story of how Joseph ended up in Stone Mountain is revealed. It’s not all unrelenting gloom; Jack’s parents are amazingly sympathetic and empathetic, and as the book progresses, you can see Joseph begin to imagine a future he never considered possible. The story is set in winter in Maine, and frankly you can feel cold just reading it at times… It’s a fast read, and toldContinue reading »

There are few authors for whom my eyes light up whenever I see a new book from them, because I know it’s going to be interesting. Patrick Ness is one of those authors. His first books were the utterly amazing “Chaos Walking Trilogy” (to feature in an upcoming book club) and then he followed it up with “A Monster Calls”. All of his books have intriguing premises and “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” is no exception. The book is a mash-up of two very typical young adult genres: the classic teenage “problem novel” and the “kids chosen by destiny save the world from destruction”. And these stories run alongside each other. Imagine Harry Potter written from the perspective of the muggles. Or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as seen from the perspective of the other kids at school. Mikey and his friends know weird stuff is going on, because something crops up every few years… the undead invasion, the soul-eating ghosts, the vampire romances and deaths. But its alwaysContinue reading »

“Savior” is a vampire story set in Chicago. The plot, setting and style are all very reminiscent of “Gone From Daylight” which may have been a major inspiration for the story. There are no obvious cross-overs with GFD – Comsie’s characters don’t appear, there aren’t visits to the junkyard, the intricate GFD lore is absent… and yet there is nothing which rules out the possibility that the stories might exist in the same universe. As a reader you could imagine it either way. Thirteen year old Tyler witnesses a vampire attack in an alley. At first he’s terrified… then one of the young vampires he witnessed follow him home, he becomes obsessed with tracking the vampire down. David has a nice clean straightforward writing style, and the chapters are short, so the story is a fast enjoyable read. I found myself increasingly caught up in the action as the story went on, and the bittersweet ending left me wanting more. I highly enjoyed “Savior” and would recommend it to fansContinue reading »

Today at Cirrus’ Book Club we’re featuring our first story by a Shack author. I’m always looking for more stories to review, so if you’ve written something you want me to look at, post a link. “Mad World” by Bobby (aka Brokendreamboi) As I started reading this story, it revived vague recollections that I might have read it before when the story first came out. It was fun story to revisit. This is a love story, but between two people who desperately need each other. Twenty-two-ish real estate agent Michael’s life has been torn apart by a sudden and unexpected tragedy. Sixteen year old Collin is homeless and living on the streets. What starts as Michael simply offering Collin a meal and a shower blossoms into a romance… but the road to happiness for both of them is far from smooth. There’s also a mystery element to the story as Michael tries to uncover the full story behind the tragedy. No sooner did I find myself finishing one chapterContinue reading »

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first. It’s impossible to read this story without noticing parallels with a certain phenomenally successful series of childrens’ fantasy books (rhymes with “Larry Otter”). Simon is The Chosen One, destined to save the World of Mages. He’s attending a British boarding school for mages. His best friend is a girl who is better at magic then he is. He’s an orphan, and the headmaster of the boarding school has taken on a surrogate father role. Then there’s the Draco Malfoy character, who comes from one of the Old Families, and is scheming against the headmaster. Baz is possibly evil. Probably trying to kill Simon. Almost certainly a vampire. And also Simon’s roommate. But if you think you’ve got the story all figured out from the description, it skews the familiar plot lines in new and interesting ways. At time it feels like you’re reading the last book in the series, because the story keeps alluding to events that happened in theContinue reading »

“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that they don’t got nothing much to say. About anything”. That first line kicks off one of the best young adult / sci-fi stories I’ve ever read. It seems almost criminally unfair that a debut novel should be so good. The set-up for the story needs a bit of explaining. Thirteen year old Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, a month away from some mysterious activity which will make him a man. Prentisstown town is a human colony on an alien world. A world where men broadcast every thought in their head for the entire world to hear. If you think the “Noise” would drive everyone a little mad… well, you’d be right. And I did a mention there are no women left in Prentisstown? Then an advanced scout ship from the next wave of colonists due to arrive on the plan crash lands near Prentisstown. The only survivor from the crash is a girlContinue reading »

As they say “And now for something COMPLETELY different”. This book is Literature with a capital L. It’s so prestigious it won the Man Booker Prize, one of the most significant awards for novels in the world – only the second book by a New Zealand author ever to do so. And it’s a complicated beast. The story is set in the gold rush town of Hokatika on New Zealand’s west coast in the 1860s. Walter Moody has just got off the ship convinced he’s seen a ghost. And he stumbles into a meeting of 12 different men from around town, who have gathered to compare notes on various strange goings on. The books copies the concept and style of a popular Victorian novel format, to the point where the style can seem positively archaic. For example, there’s a common axiom is screenwriting “show, don’t tell” when it comes to action. This is a novel that does a lot of telling. By the sixth or seventh I had met aContinue reading »

When I was in high school, you couldn’t find many Young Adult books with gay themes. When I was at university, some hard-working librarian in New Zealand put together a bibliography of basically all of them at the time. It ran to about three pages. And most of them revolved around the “Am I gay?” question, with lots of appropriate teenage angst. Times have changed. Thanks to authors like David Levithan and others, there are not just more books out, but a wider variety of books. Books that are actually… fun. Seventeen year-old Jonathan Parish is out and proud, and obsessed with Kylie Minogue. But his senior year takes a left-turn when in a drunken haze, he sleeps with a girl at a party (he hums “Mmmbop” during the act), and suddenly all the girls in school are flirting with them. And then the richest girl in school makes him an offer he can’t refuse – pretend to be her boyfriend and she’ll fly him to London to see KylieContinue reading »

  Have you ever had that best friend that you’d do almost anything for, but who frequently drives you completely insane? That’s Stephen’s best friend Marco Kimura: short, gay, half-Japanese, half-Italian. The boys have been partners in crime all through elementary and middle school. But now Marco has abruptly decided to go to the local private academy, and Stephen has no idea why. Just as Stephen contemplates high school without Marco, Marco plans one final heist: sneak into the high school prom, and declare his love on stage for Benji, the adorable British exchange student who’s heading back to the UK for the summer the following day (Benji is playing in his brother’s band). The heart of the book is the complicated relationship between Stephen and Marco. Stephen has always been the sidekick, backing up Marco’s missions and schemes. You see time and time again how much he cares for Marco, intercepting snow-cones thrown at Marco, fetching the Tylenol for Marco’s headaches, and trying to protect him from bullies. AtContinue reading »

  Nick: “I know this is going to sound strange, but would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” Norah: I answer his question by putting my hands around his neck and pulling his face down to mine. Nick and Norah both have Ex issues. A chance encounter at a club where Nick is playing in punk rock band – The Fuck Offs  -leads to an all-night first date through the weird and wonderful nightlife of Manhattan (there’s a stop at a burlesque where nuns strip to songs from “The Sound of Music”). The story is told in alternating points of view (I’m guessing that Levithan wrote Nick while Cohn wrote Norah), and from that moment of the first impromptu kiss, this is a book that just brims with sexual energy. It boils down to two people who are really, instantly hot for each other who try not to blow it. The book was made into a movie. DO NOT SEE THE MOVIE. The movie just missesContinue reading »

  If you’ve never read a Terry Pratchett book, you need to rectify that mistake immediately. Terry Pratchett is a legend in the field of fantasy writing. He has written approximately 40 books set in the “Discworld” universe, but sadly died early this year due to Alzheimer’s. First thing to know: The Discworld novels are fantasy (as you’d expect in a world that is literally a disc, supported on four elephants, on top of a giant turtle floating through space). But not serious fantasy – fun fantasy, that pokes fun at all the clichés of the genre. Second thing to know: The Discworld novels feature a sprawling cast of recurring characters, but the central protagonists change from book to book; the central character of one book might turn up in a cameo appearance or a supporting role in another. So within the 40 odd books, there are informal sub-series focusing on particular groups like the wizards at the Unseen University, the Anhk-Morpork City Watch, or the witches led by GrannyContinue reading »

Spark : A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius” by Kristine Barnett Breakthrough : How one teen innovator is changing the world” by Jack Andraka with Matthew Lysiak At the heart of these books are two quite extraordinary teenagers. Jacob Barnett is an autistic teenager with a quite astonishing gift for maths. Jack Andraka developed a potential diagnosis tool for pancreatic cancer that could potentially be world-changing. Oh and by the way, he’s gay. Now reading what they’ve accomplished before they’ve even finished high school would be enough by itself to make just about anyone feel like they haven’t done much their lives. But in both cases, the kids had quite a journey to get where they are now. Jacob Barnett started as an apparently normal, giggling baby, who in his toddler years withdrew into a completely uncommunicative state, obsessed with shadows and patterns, and all but oblivious to the world around him. The majority of “Spark” documents his mother’s frankly heroic efforts to try and get through to him, andContinue reading »

Cirrus’s Book Club Introduction: We’ve got “Sealed with a Kiss” and “Wet Dream of the Week” and “Movie Monday” and “Jimmy’s Jukebox”… …but I think there’s still a gap in the market for another weekly article. Ladies and gentleman… Cirrus’ Book Club! I’m going to be reviewing books I like that I think would be of interest to the Shack audience. So expect books about gay people, books about teenagers, books about gay teenagers, and books that I decided to review just because I think they’re interesting and worth your time. But wait! That’s not all! I know for all the aspiring internet authors out there, it can be a challenge getting feedback. You work on your creation, you release it into the wild… and tumbleweeds. Did they like it? Did they hate it? Gimme some kind of reaction here folks! Comsie was doing reviews for a while… and they were detailed and thoughtful and thorough. But as you may have noticed, Comsie is hella busy between answering emails (soContinue reading »