It is my sincere pleasure to announce that the July 2016 Book of the Month is Summer Love: An LGBTQ Collection. Edited by Annie Harper, this short story anthology features nine authors, each of whose contributions touches on romance, summertime, and queerness in all its facets. The publisher is an imprint of Interlude Press, called “Duet”, for LGBTQ young adult fiction. I highly recommend taking a look at Duet’s and Interlude Press’s other publications if you are on the hunt for more in this genre.

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Here’s how the anthology stood up to the HerStoryArc Scale of Inclusivity:

  • Not offensive to women: 1/1 points
  • Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character: 2/2 points
  • Passes the Bechdel Test: 3/3 points
  • Artistic and/or entertaining: 4/4 points
  • Above and beyond general media: 5/5 points

Total points = 15/15 or 100%

I was introduced to Summer Love  by debut author Rachel Leigh, who I had the good fortune to meet at WisCon 40 this year! I love being able to meet new authors and find gems like this book. The collection is a lovely roller coaster whose only direction is up. I absorbed the book in three days, savoring the sweet romance and optimism. I can’t think of a more enjoyable summer read than happy love stories set during, well, the summertime. While I won’t give a description of each story here, I will touch on the highlights I enjoyed while reading the collection.

The first story in the collection, Rachel Leigh’s “Beautiful Monsters”, is about a teenage boy named Cody who reluctantly takes on an assignment at the campaign office where he volunteers. Tasked with providing political campaign supplies for the local Pride parade, Cody learns to face his fears and by doing so gain new friends and relationships. Rachel’s skill as an author comes through in the subtle way she weaves the reader into the emotion of the story; I got goosebumps as I read the last paragraphs. Plus, she involves TTRPG mini-figures (and you know I like my mini-figures!).

“What the Heart Wants” by Noami Tajedler spoke directly to my own youth as a pining artist. Where my drawing skills never hit a professional classroom, the character Noam is spending her summer taking a course at her local community college. Her sexually active best friend gives her an increasingly hard time for showing no interest in men or women, but Noam has just not met the right person yet. That is, not until one of the nude models enters the class’s art studio. I really enjoyed how Noam grew both in her artwork and in her sexuality in this coming of age story. It was completely relate-able.

The story that touched my heart the most is entitled “Something Like Freedom” by Caroline Hanlin. I may be partial to a story involving bi-sexuality after my own coming out, but I dare anyone to read the last page and not feel at least one tear of joy threatening to fall. The main character Elias is home for the summer and spending most of his time at his best friend Hannah’s house. He predicts a long summer spent getting over a bad breakup with his ex-girlfriend. However, Hannah’s quiet cousin Gabe has moved in with her family, and Elias’s summer takes a turn for the better. Gabe is a talented musician trying to make sense of his troubled background, and his journey to fulfillment is, at the risk of repeating myself, tear inducing.

The last story in the collection, but by no means the least, is “On the Shore” by Rachel Blackburn. Rachel’s descriptions of solitude at a beach house is an introvert’s wet dream (pun intended). The main character Poppy is at her family’s cabin early this year, in order to heal herself after being dumped by her girlfriend. She relishes the time alone for three days, but her plans are pleasantly interrupted by a rowdy group that is renting a beach house nearby. Realizing that she is tired of solitude, Poppy is ready to be social, especially when the attractive Ava extends her an invitation. For anyone who has ever had a bad breakup, you’ll especially enjoy the catharsis of seeing someone else get over the hump and find passion again.

Trust me when I say this is a book you should be reading this month. Take it to the beach (put on sunscreen first!) and lay on a towel in the sand. The magic of the sun and the talented words of the authors will be a memory you’ll want to repeat again next year.

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