This was such a sweet and adorable teen gay romance (although a bit too cheesy at times), but also a story about dealing with bullying and homophobia, absent and abusive parents and learning to trust others again after being rejected and told that you’re not good enough as you are.
Jack’s On Fire follows teenage musician Jack who gets bullied and abused at his homophobic high school after being outed by his vengeful ex, and whose religious, bigotry and evil mother is threatening to send him to correction camp. Luckily though, his older brother offers him to move in with him in California and Jack gets the chance to start a new life with new friends and the freedom to be himself. Things are getting even better when Jack gets invited to the varsity band, and when his Geometry tutor turns out to be the hot captain of the JV soccer team, Damon. But not only is he out of Jack’s league, he’s also straight. Right?
There were so many wonderful characters in this book! Jack’s brother was such a sweetheart and I loved his sassy girlfriend, as well as the fun and witty friends Jack made in Red and Sarge. I also really loved both Jack and Damon as main characters and how sweet they were together. Some parts were a bit too cheesy though, and it got quite annoying with the repetitive use of the word “babe” between them as well as the use of “bro” in every sentence when Jack talked to his brother.
The pace was a bit slow of and on, and I think the story would have benefitted from not being quite so full of all details about exactly what they did and when.
But all in all, Jack’s On Fire was the heartwarming, modern, queer fairy tale the blurb promised. It was such a sweet and hopeful coming of age story with great character development, amazing friends and an adorable teen romance showing how everyone can find their happy ever after where they least expect it.
Thank you NetGalley for the free ARC of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
Get your own copy:
I have such mixed feelings for this book. The blurb sounded amazing – a queer vampire story set at a gothic boarding school – but unfortunately the execution was very problematic with all the racist and homophobic remarks, as well as the completely unnecessary HP references. So even though I did enjoy a lot of things in this story, it was not at all what I’d hoped for.
In short, Youngblood follows the two former childhood best friends, and vampires, Kat Finn and Taylor Sanger as they end up as roommates at an elite vampire-only boarding school. Since a virus has infected nearly all of humanity, vampires can no longer drink blood from humans but have to rely on an expensive synthetic blood substitute (Hema) to survive. This has led to a division between vampires, with elite vampires who can afford the drink and who have separated themselves from humans, whereas other poor vampires struggle to make ends meet, and even having to risk their lives to feed on humans when they can’t afford Hema – like Kat’s dad.
Desperate to find a way out of her and her mother’s poverty, Kat applied to the prestigious elite vampire school with a full scholarship. At school, she not only meets but have to share rooms with her former best friend, now enemy after Taylor betrayed Kat and her family. Taylor has grown up in the wealthy vampire world, but she’s tired of its backward, conservative values—especially when it comes to sexuality, since she’s an out-and-proud lesbian.
Soon other problems start to rise, when Taylor stumbles upon the dead body of a vampire, and Kat makes a shocking discovery in the school’s archives. On top of that, the straight Kat might not be as straight as she’d always thought, when she’s starting to have more than friendly feelings for her roommate…
I really enjoyed the concept of this story. It was witty and fun with so many things I love - queer, vampires, boarding school, friends to enemies to lovers, and headstrong female main characters – and it gave me such great Vampire Academy vibes. I also really loved Taylor’s character. But unfortunately, it was also very problematic and dealt with issues like racism and homophobia in a terrible way, and on top of that added HP references.
It was so unnecessary to ruin the story with all these racist and homophobic remarks. It feels like the author added them to prove how woke Kat was as a character, but it only made me like her less and ruined the story for no reason. The story would have worked just as well even if the boarding school had been queer-friendly and diverse.
The blasé attitude about colonization, racism, homophobia and the HP references was way too off-putting for me to be able to recommend this book to anyone. But I’ve decided to give it a 2.5 star rating nevertheless, since there were a lot of things I enjoyed and since the book ends in way that made it possible to interpret it as if the new generation got their eyes opened to the bigotry amongst the elders and that they would create a better world onwards.
2.5 stars rounding up to 3
Beautiful, heart-wrenching and raw! A Million Quiet Revolutions is a powerful, yet vulnerable, YA story written in verse about two trans boys coming out together, falling in love and finding their queerness through stories of queer history.
This magical and important story is about Oliver and Aaron, who grew up together in a small town where they were the only queer kids. Not only were they best friends, they also discovered that they were trans and went through all trans milestones (like getting their first binders, deciding on names and coming out) together. But just as they were starting to fall in love, Aaron moved away with his family because of a trauma that happened to his brother. The two boys therefore stay in touch mostly by writing letters and by discovering queer history in parallel to their own journey of self-discovery.
It’s not a linear story but more of a stream of thoughts, doubts and feelings told from both main characters perspectives, as well as sent and unsent texts and letters to each other. The verse format was perfect for this story. I loved the intimacy and beauty it created, and how raw and vulnerable it made it. It was so relatable in the way Oliver and Aaron doubted their decisions, their chosen names, their feelings for each other and their longing for being seen and recognized for who they were. The two main characters were so fleshed out and complex, and so much more than just trans boys, even though Robin Gow made a wonderful job showing how their queerness affected their whole lives and beings.
I also found it so inspiring how Oliver wanted to find queer people throughout history and give them their voice and place in history back by telling their untold, forgotten and silenced stories. This book is so important from many aspects, and it has such amazing representation. I truly enjoyed the discussions about family relationships, culture and religion, and Aaron’s insecurity about coming out because of it. This book does such a wonderful job describing how difficult it can be to correct people about your gender and name, even though it means giving up a big part of yourself, but sometimes it’s just the safest option.
I only have two minor criticisms. The first one is that the POVs of Oliver and Aaron were a bit too similar, which made it really hard to separate them and made some parts of the story a bit confusing. I also never really felt the chemistry between them, and I sometimes had problems with the selfish way Aaron acted towards Oliver. But since I loved both characters so much, it wasn’t a big deal for the story itself. I just wished that Aaron would have been a bit more understanding and supportive of Oliver and realizing that he went through a lot of struggles as well.
The other minor criticism is that the characters love for the queer history was a bit too obsessive at times. I really appreciated the focus on queer history and found it both inspiring and enlightening, but the reenactment parts just felt kind of odd to me. It was also a bit odd how they named themselves after two possible trans Revolutionary War soldiers. I certainly can understand the feeling of wanting to connect to and honor trans people of the past to make sure that they are not erased from history, but naming yourself after them and reenacting their war time experience just felt a bit over the top for me.
But all in all, this was an absolutely magical, powerful, heart-wrenching and emotional book that I loved with all my heart! It was so beautiful how Oliver and Aaron found solace and validity through the connection between them and to queer history. And the writing style, with the poems and letters, was brilliant and absolutely perfect for the story. Please do yourself a favor and read this book!
4.5 stars rounding up to 5
Get your own copy:
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens Deonn Tracy D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Serena Bell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez