Bookworm’s Nest: Julia Ember shares her top 5 queer YA reads from 2015-2016

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unicorn tracks julia emberWe love supporting queer YA – and so does Julia Ember, author of the upcoming Unicorn Tracks. We’re delighted to have her on Bookworm’s Nest today to chat about some of her favorite queer YA!

In Ember’s Unicorn Tracks, Mnemba excels as a guide in a safari business after she’s driven from her home. The mystical animals allow her to forget the terrible memories, but when she and Kara, the daughter of her boss, discover a conspiracy to capture a group of unicorns, they team together to find a way to protect them – even as they begin to fall, forbidden, for each other.

Unicorn Tracks releases from Harmony Ink Press in April 2016. For more on Ember, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.


I’m very excited to write as a guest for The Bookworm’s Nest! I love discussing queer books and when Nicole suggested that I share my Top 5 Queer YA Reads from 2015-2016 (so far), I couldn’t wait to get started on the post!   I’ll preface this post by saying that in 2015 and the start of 2016, I’ve read 72 queer books! Not all of them were YA, but picking just five was super challenging!

#1: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

the abyss surrounds us emily skrutskieIt seems quite fitting that I’m writing this post on February 8, the official release date of my favourite queer read of last year. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of The Abyss Surrounds Us months ago from Netgalley. This book totally floored me. It’s a pacey, unrelentingly exciting read, and I devoured it in a single day.

Cas Leung trains genetically modified sea monsters to protect commercial ships against pirates. On her first voyage alone, pirates take over her ship and take Cas as a prisoner, forcing her to train a sea monster to work for them.

As a super-dedicated cat lady, I absolutely love animal narratives. Emily Skrutskie really explores the training, breeding and bonding process behind creating monsters like Bao. I found that completely fascinating. Throw in pirate queens and a sweet, evolving f/f romance … This book was pretty much written for me. In my initial review on Netgalley, I couldn’t really get my thoughts together because I was jumping up and down and squealing internally.  I can’t wait to receive my paperback copy by post!

#2: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

simon vs the homo sapiens agenda becky albertalliBeautiful. Super Awkward. Amazing.

This was genuinely one of the most adorable YA novels I’ve ever read. Simon has been carrying on an online relationship with a boy he’s never met. He’s not sure he wants to come out as gay yet.  But when Martin, a boy in Simon’s class, finds out about the correspondence, Simon is blackmailed into playing wingman for a romantically challenged classmate.

I fell in love with Simon from the second he admitted his love for Harry Potter fanfiction. (I am also a Draco/Harry shipper) Becky Albertalli created an incredible character with so many nuances and perfectly captured the voice of a slightly nerdy, somewhat neurotic teenage boy on his quest to find love and acceptance. This book has won countless awards for 2015 and it deserved all of them.

#3: Undone by Cat Clarke

undone cat clarkeThis book left me an emotional shattered, destroyed shell of a person. It’s been a long time since a novel evoked such a strong emotive response in me. Undone is haunting and really explores just how nasty teenagers can be to each other.

Jem was in love with her gay best friend, Kay.  When a group of students blackmail him over a series of photos taken at a party, Kay commits suicide and Jem is destroyed. She vows to seek revenge on the perpetrators, no matter the cost to herself.

Kay leaves behind a series of letters. Jem opens one a month. I think these letters from beyond the grave might truly be the saddest things I’ve ever read in an entirely fictional work. Usually books that aren’t about animals don’t make me cry. This one did.

this is not a love story suki fleet#4: This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet

Suki Fleet’s writing reads almost like poetry. She has a raw talent for describing emotion and the lyric quality of her prose is just amazing. While I was reading, I had moments where I had to put the book aside, just to reflect on the gorgeousness of a particular chapter. This book does not pull punches and is probably only appropriate for older young adults due to some quite graphic sexual violence.

The novel tells the story of Romeo, a mute and homeless teenager trying to make it on London’s cruel streets after his mother disappears. He falls in love with Julian, another boy on the streets, who acts as a sort of translator and protector towards him. Julian tries to look after both of them, while spiralling deeper into drug abuse and street prostitution.

#5: Recipe for Magic by Agatha Bird

recipe for magic agatha birdI really like novellas. I think they’re kind of an underappreciated form and sometimes I love a quick, fluffy, uplifting read. And when it comes to Queer YA, I don’t think I can ever get enough of authors that give their characters a [happily ever after]. Recipe for Magic was definitely the most adorable of the queer fluffy fixes I read this year. Many awkward, loveable moments.

The novella tells the story of Connor and Landyn, two students in the mage academy with opposite powers. There is a political rivalry between their families and the two boys have never gotten along. When the boys are paired together for the academy trials, they have to learn to work together and find balance in their elemental powers.

What are the best queer YA novels you’ve read recently? Sound off in the comments below!

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About Author

Julia Ember

Julia Ember was born in Chicago, but now resides in Scotland with her menagerie of pets with Harry Potter themed names. She is the author of the recently released f/f YA Fantasy novel, Unicorn Tracks. Find out more about her and her writing at her website.

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