Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

Confession: I'm really not fond of Alcott's Little Women. But Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy is a contemporary retelling, in graphic novel format, and it removed a lot of the reasons I couldn't make it past the halfway mark of the original story. Sometimes the girls' letters to their dad felt clunky, more like an info dump than realistic letters from his children. (This didn't bother my 10-year-old at all, though. She said she enjoyed the letters.) The Women's March illustration at the end included some trans-exclusive imagery, which was especially disappointing considering how diverse and inclusive the book otherwise was. But overall, I enjoyed this retelling. The characters are facing situations and issues that kids today can relate to,…

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Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishtree is a sweet story about loving your neighbor and taking action in the face of injustice. Red, a 216-year-old raggy tree, is our narrator; the community ties wishes to Red's branches once a year. Interesting nature facts and vocabulary are casually woven into this beautiful narrative. I would have liked this to be a tad longer so the friendship between Stephen and Samar could have been fleshed out more. If insta-friends are a thing, these two were it. But I otherwise really enjoyed this gentle early middle grade novel.

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Amateur by Thomas Page McBee

In his memoir Amateur, Thomas Page McBee tackles the masculinity crisis and toxic masculinity, drawing from his own experiences as a trans man. McBee's insights complement the works of both Julia Serano and Brené Brown. If you're like me and the thought of reading about boxing makes your eyes glaze over, don't worry - it's honestly not too bad, and he connects it to broader, truly important points. This was so compelling that I listened to the audiobook straight through. Even though I was left feeling grieved at the end, I also had a lot of points to mull over, things I'd never considered before. Amateur is the kind of book that sparks compassion, encourages discussion, and effects change.

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Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein

I loved Weinstein's Children of the New World, so I was eager to read this title. The speculative stories in Universal Love imagine how future technology will impact humanity; how we survive, how we come to know ourselves, and how we connect to each other. The premises seem far-fetched, but terrifyingly not the more you read. I enjoyed every single story, but "Beijing" and "Comfort Porn" were my favorites by far. LGBTQ+ folks who've been made to feel that living authentically creates problems for others will be moved by "Beijing." "Comfort Porn" frankly explores social media's effects on friendship and human connection, especially in a capitalist society that reduces people to transactions. Universal Love was everything I love in speculative…

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Things You Leave Behind by M.L. Kennedy

First off, how about that retro cover?! As I read M.L. Kennedy's Things You Leave Behind, I kept thinking, yeah, this is good. I'm enjoying myself, I'm turning the pages, eager to find out what's going on. And then the end was SO profound for me, I can't put it into words. It tied the whole book together, and it's one of those endings that I think will mean something different to each reader. Two things kept this from being 5 stars for me: 1) A brief conversation about gender identity occurs between Angela and Susan. It's realistically clunky, but in a way that felt bad to read and perpetuated outdated views instead of correcting them. 2) Angela uses a…

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Day Zero by Kelly deVos

I like Young Adult fiction just fine, but it takes a lot to completely win me over because—let's be real—I'm long past the target age group. But wow, Kelly deVos had me hooked with Day Zero. I couldn't tear myself away from this whirlwind of intrigue and excitement. The pace is fast, there are unexpected twists and turns, and I was shocked by what happens/is revealed near the end. There's an interesting focus on what motivates people to align themselves with various political movements, and that tension is intense without being overdone or too black-and-white. Be warned: This ends on a cliffhanger. I'm not even annoyed by that—I cannot wait for the second book!

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Tender Cuts by Jayne Martin

Jayne Martin's Tender Cuts is one of my first encounters with flash fiction. We're talking very short stories: just a page, usually; sometimes only a handful of sentences. I was surprised at how much story and emotion could be packed into such a compact format. I was not a fan of the drawings at the end of each story. I felt like the words were powerful enough on their own, and the illustrations detracted from that impact. My favorite stories from this collection include: "Zero Tolerance" "Blue Boy" "Thanksgiving," "Morning Glory" "Pinky Swear" And of course, I couldn't help but feel for beauty pageant contestant Julie-Sue, who we see in different stages of life in her multiple appearances throughout the…

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I'd been meaning to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for years. I was at an indie bookstore and this particular cover caught my eye, so I finally snagged a copy. I've never watched the movie Blade Runner, so I went into this without really knowing what it was about. Okay, so this definitely has a good bit of ableism and sexism throughout, but I can't deny that I really had trouble putting it down. I could fully imagine the world and its technology, and I liked that it wasn't over-explained. The plot moved along at a quick pace, and it brought up some philosophical questions that will stick with me for a while. All in all, this was…

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay focuses on coming to terms with and moving beyond loss, grief, and loneliness. The relationships/friendships between the characters in this book are complex, but more importantly, healthy and respectful. And the characters' diverse identities aren't "issues"! This is such a wholesome read. The quiet, gentle tone throughout had me feeling like I was holding my breath⁠—it was that stunning. What a wonderful character-driven novel.

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Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

It's been a long time since I read a book that had me mark "Did Not Like It" on Goodreads. Southern Lady Code just got worse and worse the longer I read. The humor felt completely outdated, and I didn't find it funny. Ellis romanticizes some really messed up stuff, does that gross "gay friends as trophies" thing that straight women so often do, is casually ableist, and brushes off racism like it's a cute, innocent character flaw. I really enjoyed the stories in Ellis's American Housewife, and I think that's the only reason I held out hope for this book and didn't set it aside.

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