I’ve seen lists like this floating around on some bookish Reels on Instagram, and I figured that I wanted to make a list of my own for the blogosphere.
What I mean by “undercover” is this: if you’re a closeted reader and you’re in a homophobic space/community, you can read these books without anyone else knowing that you’re LGBTQ+, but you can still get the LGBTQ+ rep that you want to see. These are books that have great queer representation, but aren’t explicitly queer from the cover or synopsis. That way, if you’re in an unsupportive/homophobic space, you can still seek out good LGBTQ+ books without outing yourself. These are mostly YA books, but we’ve got several genres in the mix. I know I’m lucky to have supportive family and friends, but it sadly isn’t the reality for all queer people, so I thought I’d provide this list for others in that situation.
And as always, never forget: you are loved, you are valid, you are beautiful, and nobody has any say in your identity except for you. 💗
I got this one as an eARC last year, and it was such a fun fantasy! Dani, one of two POV protagonists, is bisexual as well as mixed-race (white/Latine), and frankly, there’s not much better than queer girls and dragons, so this one’s a must-read.
There’s no shortage of great LGBTQ+ rep in this novel – Diz is queer, her love interest is nonbinary (as well as the author!), and there’s several wlw and mlm couples interspersed throughout. I’ll always recommend this one for fans of both sci-fi and fantasy – it’s a great blend of the two genres!
This one’s sure to please all the YA space opera fans – lots of strange aliens, sudden powers, and intergalactic battles. There’s no shortage of good queer rep in this one – Tina is bi/pan, her love interest is a Black trans woman, and there’s a wide variety of pronouns used for the many (MANY) characters!
I don’t use masterpiece lightly, but On a Sunbeam absolutely is one. With simplistic but stunning artwork and a multiracial wlw relationship told in alternating timelines, there’s no excuse to pass this one by.
None of Sarah Maria Griffin’s books are talked about enough – Other Words for Smoke is hauntingly beautiful and well-written in every sense of the word. There’s a lesbian relationship in this one, and it’s unrelentingly feminist as well.
I highly recommend anything of Anna-Marie McLemore’s – their novels always have the most gorgeous prose, combined with fairytale-like fantasies and Latine culture and mythology. Their books always include queer characters, but this one in particular features an entire cast of queer sisters and a genderqueer love interest!
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Did you like any of these books?Do you have any undercover LGBTQ+ recommendations? Tell me in the comments!
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I’ve been trying to think of more original posts to do, and I figured that this one would be something really fun to explore. I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about tropes, but genre-specific ones are always interesting to think about/discuss, and in much of the YA book fandom, I feel like sci-fi doesn’t get as much love. So I decided to look at six tropes that are specific to sci-fi (for the most part). Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so I got super excited thinking about all of these different tropes, and some (mostly) YA books that use them in different ways.
So let’s begin, shall we?
WARNING: This post may contain some book spoilers (Aurora Cycle & Dare Mighty Things series), so read at your own risk!
CRYOSLEEP, BUT FOR WAY TOO LONG
Ellen Ripley – and Aliens in particular – probably set the blueprint for this one, but as the trope gets more popular, authors have started to push the limits on this one, which I think is a really cool move.
It’s most often the protagonist that this happens to – our hero, on the eve of something great, is put into cryosleep for an interplanetary mission, only for something to go terribly awry and stay in cryosleep for longer than they were supposed to. Ripley got an accidental 50 years, Auri from Aurora Risinggot 200 years, and Andra from Goddess in the Machinegot a whopping 1,000 years.
This trope presents two main advantages for writing: a vehicle for exploring the novel’s world through fresh eyes, and internal conflict within the character. If your cryosleep character is completely unfamiliar with the world, seeing it through their eyes gives the reader a more in-depth look at the world than they’d get with a character that’s already familiar with it. They’ll inevitably notice more things and fixate on different things than another character might, which gives the reader more insight about what’s unique about the world that the author has crafted.
As for the internal conflict piece, this part’s always touched on, but in most of the novels I’ve read with it, it’s a lot more shallow than you’d think. There’s the existential crisis that inevitably occurs when the character realizes that everything they know and love is all but gone, but beyond the first few chapters from their POV, they get over it…relatively quickly? It seems like the kind of trauma that would leave lasting psychological scars, and probably physical health repercussions as well. I’ve yet to read any book that explores all that in depth, but it seems like the perfect setup for a sci-fi novel.
So this one’s a trope that can make for a lot of creative choices, but often has a lot of untapped potential.
GOTTEN INTO A SITUATION YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF? TIME TRAVEL!
Apparently this one is a lot more common than I thought, but I’ve only started to see it in YA more recently. (Well, there’s Avengers: Endgame, but it took me a while to realize how common of a trope it is…)
This trope has the possibility of ENDLESS freaky hijinks whilst traversing through time. Sometimes it’s just pushing the events of the past so that everything lines up a little bit nicer, and sometimes it’s rocketing back to another time period entirely. It usually happens only with the last book in a trilogy or duology, just so everyone can fix the mess they got into in the first books.
I have mixed feelings on this one; one the one hand, there’s never a dull moment – time travel jokes, fitting VERY badly into a different time period, and very high stakes, most of all. If the first books have followed a similar formula, it might be good to try for something else to end the series with a bang.
On the other, though, something about it almost feels…lazy to me. Often, this trope arises from The Gang™️ getting a situation so bad that there may not be a feasible way out of it, but…maybe they could? If done wrong, it can feel like lazy writing – an easy way out, and one that provides instant comic relief. And often, the means of said time travel are vague, and often reduced to technobabble from The Smart Character™️, which, hey, I don’t know much about the science of it either, but maybe at least put a little time into it?
So this one’s a double-edged sword: instant plot, or lazy writing? The choice is yours!
*this one doesn’t come out until November [screams] but we know that time travel will play a big part in this one, so…
ALIENS THAT BASICALLY JUST LOOK LIKE HUMANS (BUT WITH A FEW MINOR DIFFERENCES)
Most of the other tropes I’m going to be discussing in this post are ones that I like on some level, but…this one gets on my nerves. For the most part.
Far too many times, I’ve fallen into the trap of picking up a sci-fi book that promises aliens, only to discover that the aliens just look like humans, but with either a) unusual eye colors, b) some sort of powers, or c) a combination of both. And of course, they have to be ✨ridiculously attractive✨ as well. 🙄
Now, I completely get making your aliens humanoid (hey, I’m doing it with some of my aliens for my sci-fi WIP), but there’s a certain point where it feels a bit lazy. Unless there’s some way you can back it up, it seems weird to me that in this entire universe, the only other intelligent beings, by some cosmic chance, are similar to us in almost every way.
But I’ve seen some authors use it to their advantage – in particular, One Giant Leap(the sequel to Dare Mighty Things) does this especially well. The main alien civilization there look exactly like humans, but it’s because of genetic modifications performed so that they could survive on Earth. See? That’s actually a really good way of turning the trope on its head, and doing so in a practical way!
For the most part, this trope never ceases to bug me, but there’s a few ways to turn it on its head.
For me, at least, this trope is the most fun – and it presents some of the scariest and most formidable antagonists in sci-fi.
Villainous AI are some of the most fascinating characters to explore – they have unmatched power, in some cases, and whether they’re a pre-installed ship AI or an android, it’s always interesting to hear their perspective on all of us puny mortals.
Given that humans trust AI a bit *too* much in most sci-fi novels, they often have a fearsome amount of power at their disposal. AI installed inside of a ship? Access to all the security footage, navigation, communications, and controls of the ship. They know their crew up and down, and have the possibility to play everybody’s weaknesses against each other. They have the power to sabotage anything and everything, and more often than not, they do. WITHOUT HESITATION. A corrupt AI often harbors a hatred or jealousy of human beings, and if it’s not that motivating them, it’s some sort of technologically-stemmed god complex, which is always terrifying to watch play out. (Lookin’ right at you, David…) It’s even more of an interesting development if their moral compass shifts over the course of the series – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from sci-fi, it’s that benevolent robot overlords never stay benevolent for very long.
Corrupt AI as antagonists are often more compelling than human or alien ones (for me, at least) partly because so much is left up to the imagination about the inner workings of their minds. We’ve never developed any kind of artificial intelligence that’s become intelligent enough to have devious tendencies like many sci-fi villains, so a lot of it is the author’s personal choice. There are endless possibilities – but more often than not, they’re all terrifying.
And even if they aren’t main antagonists, the addition of a slight unstable AI as a character is always amusing; for all of its flaws, I loved Gregorovich’s existential musings in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and his character added some much-needed flavor to the rest of the cast.
TL;DR: There’s nothing more terrifying than a villain that knows everything about everything, and uses that power for its own gain at whatever the cost.
HIGH-STAKES COMPETITIONS TO GO TO SPACE…WITH SOME SERIOUS ULTERIOR MOTIVES
Scared to send your experienced, highly intelligent scientists to space? Send some teenagers instead!
This one tends to crop up the most in YA, as it’s primed for a book that has a primarily teenage cast. The ones I’ve read do tend to follow a formula, but for the most part, it’s one that’s actually a lot of fun!
The worldbuilding/motives behind it are always a little bit messy (again: sending teenagers into space! What could possibly go wrong?), but often times, you just have to hang in there; it’s a given that whatever program is funding the competition is doing something astronomically shady. (No pun intended.) Part of the fun with this trope is the mystery of it; slowly but surely, the competition starts dropping like flies, and things go very wrong very quickly.
More on the mystery aspect – the mystery that often occurs in these types of novels is very slow-burn, building on itself before the heartstopping reveal at the end (often a cliffhanger). From program superiors lying to scheming androids to deaths under mysterious circumstances, there are endless possibilities for many, many things to go wrong. Add in the not-so-friendly rivalries between the competitors (also scheming, along with everybody else), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nail-biting sci-fi mystery.
And once/if they get to space? Everything gets way worse. There’s bound to be aliens, but whether they’re intelligent or just parasitic, things are bound to go way, way south. But there’s never a dull moment – there’s no shortage of suspense, and our protagonist is often at a loss as to how to escape their situation.
Plus, for reasons I’ve yet to figure out, these ones always tend to have the most clever pop culture references. (See: all of the Radiohead songs in the Final Six duology)
EXPLORING OTHER PLANETS GOES VERY, VERY WRONG (Or, “Don’t do intergalactic colonialism, kids”)
Here’s another common – but by no means overdone – trope that’s always open to endless possibilities!
Because our planet was never enough, apparently (or if we destroyed it…probably), there’s a whole host of sci-fi stories that are set on entirely new planets, with the sole goal of making them a new home for humankind. But just like with our planet, it’s always unpredictable, whether you’re dealing with a foreign contagion, carnivorous wildlife, or superiors who aren’t what they seem.
I’m always a nerd for creature design in sci-fi, and life on other worlds presents all sort of possibilities for creatures lurking in the bushes. Whether it’s flora or fauna, exploring these sci-fi worlds along with the characters is an adventure, especially if the author is particularly creative. Of course, most of the wildlife ends up being carnivorous, or malicious on some level, so there’s all sorts of danger lurking.
But beyond that, this trope is often a great commentary on colonialism. Human history is rife with frightening periods of raping and pillaging land that wasn’t ours to begin with at the cost of those who originally lived there; telling the same story on alien planets serves as a particularly potent comment on the malicious tendency of our species to overstep and overstay our welcome. Books like A Conspiracy of Starsand The Pioneer explore what happens when humanity comes in contact with intelligent life and unlawfully sets foot on their land; both of them do an amazing job of exploring the intricacies of the political implications, as well as the tense conflict that results. I think sci-fi as a genre is one of the best mediums for raising commentary on this kind of thing. Exploring new frontiers in space is bound to happen once we get the technology, but we must always ask ourselves if it’s the right thing to do. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. (Let’s be real: I would be SO excited if we found evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, but…let’s not have a repeat of all of human history, okay?)
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite/least favorite tropes in sci-fi? Have you read any of the books I listed, and what were your thoughts? This’ll probably be one of several posts on the subject, so I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Friday, bibliophiles! Man, I’m so glad it’s spring break…
I found this tag over on Ashmita @ the fictional journal and it looked like so much fun! I’m not 100% into zodiac signs, but I do believe there’s a lot of truth to it, and plus, it’s a whole lot of fun. (And the birth chart I got a few years ago was startlingly spot-on…) This tag was created by Just Dreamland.
Hi again, bibliophiles! I’m back, from the looks of it!
Finals week was this week, and even though I still have one final left to go before the semester ends [trembles in fear at the thought of my AP Bio final], I only have one final to study for as opposed to, well, y’know, four. So that allows me to get back on my normal blogging schedule, because my break starts next Tuesday! So here I am.
Anyway, this tag was originally created by Phoenix @ Book with Wings. It looked super fun and creative, so I had to give it a go! (And if you don’t follow Phoenix already, I suggest that you do!)
Okay, unpopular opinion time: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?was PAINFULLY boring–even more so than Blade Runner, which is really saying something. I guess Philip K. Dick just really isn’t my thing, but I stand by my opinion that hardly anything happened.
5. A book where two main characters were separated
Everybody got split up in Blood & Honey, but neither of the subplots seemed to accomplish much…[pained sigh]
PART THREE: THE WORLD TRIES TO REOPEN (AND BEGINS A SECOND WAVE OF THE PANDEMIC)
6. A book in which the characters made a bad decision
The Year Shakespeare Ruined my Lifewas another eARC I got this year. I didn’t like it all that much, and most of my low rating could be chalked up to how self-destructive Alison was.
7. A book with an impatient/overly eager character
In Other Landswas a DNF for me, and a lot of that ended up being because Elliott SERIOUSLY got on my nerves.
PART FOUR: THE WORLD ADJUSTS (SORT OF)
8. A book in which the character’s goals change midway
Ooh, this was a hard question…
I guess On a Sunbeamwould work? I suppose Mia goes from wanting to reunite with Grace to wanting to rescue her.
PART FIVE: THE END & LOOKING FORWARDS
9. A book whose sequel you really anticipated/are anticipating
TRUEL1F3was one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I’m glad to say that it 110% delivered!
10. A book whose sequel was better than the original
Despite the average reviews it seems to be getting, How the Multiverse Got Its Revengewas even better than book 1! I loved them both, though. I’m thinking of doing a review of the whole Thorne Chronicles duology next week, so stay tuned…
11. A book you read just to finish it (didn’t like it but wanted to finish anyway)
It really pains me to say it, but Kingdom of Soulswas really a chore to read. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it felt like hardly anything happened.
I don’t think I’ll put it here, but if we’re talking about 2020 reads, I’ll just say this: I’m planning on doing a post on my 5-star reads of 2020 near the end of the month, so stay tuned!
I’m so glad that we have a snow day…I was trying to find a good day to fit this post in, and now we have the perfect opportunity!
As some of you know, this week, October 25-31, is Asexual Awareness Week, or Ace Week for short! The whole week is meant to celebrate everyone on the asexual spectrum (asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and more) and spread awareness about the community. All too often, this community is unjustly discriminated against, even in LGBTQ+ spaces, which never fails to break my heart. Well, if I haven’t made myself clear enough, I’ll just go out here and say that everybody on the asexual spectrum is so loved, so valid, and so beautiful!
So for the occasion, I decided to compile a list of YA books with characters all over the asexual spectrum–among them on this list are characters who are asexual, demisexual, aromantic, and more. Thing is, SHAME ON ME FOR NOT READING ENOUGH ASPEC LITERATURE. I try my best to, and I found some examples, but not enough ones that I’ve actually read to make a substantial list. So, the first half of this post is ace books that I’ve read, and the other half is ace books that are on my TBR.
Let’s begin, shall we?
THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR ASEXUAL AWARENESS WEEK
I’m so lucky to have gotten an eARC of this one over the summer. Besides having great asexual representation, the author is Lipan Apache, and so is Elatsoe! A wonderful paranormal murder mystery with lots of lovely ghost critters.
REPRESENTATION: Zoey (one of three protagonists with alternating POVs) is asexual
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Another five-star read of mine this year. There’s no shortage of great LGBTQ+ representation from this one; beyond Zoey’s asexuality, and the other two protagonists (Val and Marion) end up being in a wlw relationship.
REPRESENTATION: Nathaniel (one of two protagonists with alternating POVs) is aromantic/asexual
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Another lovely sci-fi with a bluish purple color scheme on the cover! There’s a beautiful scene where Nathaniel discovers his identity, and it’s so tenderly beautiful. Plus, there’s a wlw relationship between the other protagonist (Anna) and another secondary character as well!
REPRESENTATION: Luca (secondary character who is supposed to play a major role) is demiromantic/asexual
I put this on my TBR over the summer and completely forgot about it, so hopefully I can read it soon…
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels? What are your thoughts? Any other books with ace rep that you recommend?
Oh, and one more thing: I just found out a few hours ago that today is also Intersex Awareness Day! I hardly see any intersex rep in literature, so if any of you have good intersex book recs, don’t hesitate to tell me about them in the comments!
Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is books that have morally gray characters. This one was a bit harder than the rest–I’m trawling my brain for all the antihero-ish books I can think of…
There’s always the possibility for moral grayness when you’ve got a naïve extraterrestrial who has powers beyond imagining, but has no idea of the consequences…(oh, and goes and forms his own religion, as one does…[ahem])
As with The Final Six, there’s a significant exploration of moral grayness in book 2 (here); it’s one of the highlights of the book for me–it encourages the reader to think about the different sides of war, and whether or not there is truly a “good”/”bad” side, and that there may be neither hero or villain in the conflict.
I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!
That’s it for this week’s Top 5 Saturday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I figured that today would be a good day for a tag, and in lieu of the announcement that the Netflix Shadow and Bone/Six of Crows show has wrapped up filming, I figured this one would be fun to do. (I’m kind of scared for how the show will turn out, because some of the Grishaverse books are kind of my babies, but that’s a story for another time). I found this tag over at SMELLFOY CAN READ?
Since I should probably give this post a little pizzazz, here’s some Six of Crows art from one of my favorite comic artists/book cover artists, Kevin Wada. (Same guy who drew the covers for Carry On and Wayward Son, actually!)
Let’s begin, shall we?
The Thief • Kaz Brekker: A Layered or Complex Character
One of my first thoughts here was Art from Like a Love Story. Definitely someone who presents a tough exterior, but is deeply wounded on the inside.
The Wraith • Inej Ghafa: A Book With a Twist You Didn’t See Coming
Without question, the end of Thunderhead. The ending came out of nowhere…I think I still bear the scars from having to wait almost two years to see how it all turned out…
The Sharpshooter • Jesper Fahey: An Author that Never Misses the Mark
Though I haven’t read any of his adult works, Jay Kristoff has never disappointed me. With his signature wit and heartrending writing, I’ve never read any book by him that I didn’t like.
The Heartrender • Nina Zenik: A Book that Broke your Heart or Gave you All the Feels
First off, I’ve seen most other people who’ve participated put in some pictures of their cats, so I thought it would be fitting to put mine in here as well.
This is Padmé; she’s incredibly chatty, and has an affinity for clinging to people’s left shoulders. Doesn’t matter who’s shoulder it is, so long as it’s the left shoulder. Don’t question her.
Here’s Anakin, Padmé’s younger cousin. He and Padmé are inseparable. He’s also an itty bitty little cat, even at about 11 years old.
Finally, here’s Hobbes, the newest of the bunch. Most of the time, she acts too dignified to be petted, but when she’s affectionate, she’s the sweetest little cat around. (In fact, she’s sleeping right above me as I write this out.)
OH. OH. I forgot this book existed for a minute there…
YIKES. The corny names. The cringy, fake slang. The timeline. God, Earth Girlreally was something of a train wreck…
BEING IN PLACES THEY SHOULDN’T – Least favorite cliché:
If I had to pick…most definitely love triangles. Much of the time, they only serve to muddy the existing plot with unnecessary angst and bickering. I won’t be sad to see them phase out of YA literature. I sure hope they do.
THE GOOD OLD CARDBOARD BOX – Most underrated book series?
Ever since I finished up Dare Mighty Things about a year ago, I’ve been absolutely ITCHING to read the sequel. I’m excited to say that One Giant Leap was almost better than its predecessor, delving deeper into complex themes while still retaining everything that made book 1 so spectacular.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Dare Mighty Things, so if you haven’t read it (and plan to), I suggest you turn away right now. In the meantime, click here for my review of book 1!
Enjoy this week’s review!
One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2)
The competition that landed Cassandra Gupta on an exclusive mission into the vast reaches of space is finally behind her. But before her is an extensive mass of trouble.
What appeared to be a mission to explore extraterrestrial life on other worlds turns out to be humanity’s entrance into an intergalactic war. Luka, the one other cadet chosen to accompany the more experienced astronauts on the mission, is not who he seems: he is one of the few, extraterrestrial survivors of an unprecedented, near-extinction attack on his species. Now, Cassandra and the others must grapple with their newfound truths, and take action against the vrag, the perpetrators of this intergalactic war. But is it all so black and white?
After the absolute whopper of a cliffhanger that Dare Mighty Things left us on, One Giant Leap was a smooth transition into an entirely new novel. Kaczynski dealt with a wildly different subject matter, and her storytelling proved to be just as deft–if not more so–that the previous novel.
Cassandra and Luka had the best chemistry, and I immensely enjoyed spending more time with them. Plus, I’m all for male-female friendships that don’t automatically end in romance. Cassandra’s asexual, anyway, and though they only touched on this in book 1, I’m still giddy about that representation. 🏳️🌈
Kaczynski’s handling with the aliens was equally deft. I was worried at first, because we’ve stumbled onto yet another trope that I positively despise in YA sci-fi…aliens that look exactly like humans, but with a few minor changes in eye color/powers that make them oh-so-special.
I was so afraid that One Giant Leap had fallen into this trap, but Kaczynski explains it an inventive way: Luka’s species (I forget what they’re called, though I believe it started with an ‘M’…oops…) gave themselves genetic modifications in order to blend in with humans on Earth, and therefore look just like them. (Permanently.) So thank you for that reprieve, Mrs. Kaczynski! The vrag as well were very well designed, making for some stunning and gorgeous imagery that I might just want to draw. I’ll get back to you all on that one.
Beyond that, One Giant Leap explored the theme of the gray areas that exist during war; in this instance, both species had their reasons for going to war with one another, and one had trouble grappling with who was the “hero” and who was the “villain”. And truly, that’s how things are in real life; as my teachers have said countless times during my various history classes, history is written by the victors of these wars, and therefore, they’re painted as heroes. The losers might have equally reasonable motives, and have gone to similar lengths to get their way. And in reality, there are no clear heroes and villains. So kudos to Kaczynski for tackling this subject matter.
If nothing else, come for the POC/LGBTQ+ representation, stay for the aliens in book 2. All in all, an incredibly satisfying end to a masterful duology. 4.5 stars for this one.
I watched The Life of Brian on Sunday night, and it was an absolute RIOT. This song’s been stuck in my head ever since. Easily the best end to a film in cinematic history.
That just about wraps up this review! Have a lovely day, and take care of yourselves!
It’s been an interesting week, to be sure. We got DUMPED with snow here, and we had a 2-hour delay AND a snow day, all in the same week. WHOA.
I finally finished up the Watchmen TV series (AAAAA), got through a much better library haul than last week, saw Birds of Prey last night (super fun!), got to a really fun spot in my main WIP (almost 70 pages now), and as a result of all the snow delays, got to post a lot more! Pretty good week, I’d say.