Collage by Beth Hoeckel.

Amanda Baeza
2017, kuš! mono

Amanda Baeza’s Brume is a book that skillfully portrays the moods of events almost better than the facts of the events themselves. The colors Baeza uses to enliven her stories are the catalysts of emotion-revealing. When the palette goes from vivid and manifold to pale and two-tone, you know something’s up. My favorite page shows the narrator’s face, taking up nearly the entire page, with a pimple the size of their hand. The crushing discovery of a newfound pimple is portrayed as dramatically as it feels when you wake up with a bump on your face. The blobby creatures that fill Baeza’s pages are as human as they are not. They experience a broad range of nuanced emotions, but they also seem to be completely untethered to our world of muddled pop-cultural references and political worries, as well as a little more physically amorphous than earthly people. The drawings are said to be based on real events, and Baeza acts as their filter; removing what’s temporal, and maintaining what’s at the heart of her memories. —Rachel Davies

Scott Westerfeld
2014, Simon Pulse

Afterworlds is the story of Darcy Patel, a teenage writer who moves to New York City for her first book deal. She is swept into the world of young adult publishing and a relationship with another writer. All of a sudden, Darcy has to navigate her new life as an author while still trying to figure out who she is as a person. Darcy is gay and in the process of coming out, but it’s barely mentioned. That rarely happens in YA novels—books with LGBTQ characters tend to only represent LGBTQ issues. Darcy is just a normal teenager who happens to be queer. This book is also different from other YA novels about writers because of a formatting detail: The chapters alternate between Darcy’s real world and chapters from her story. I’d recommend reading the book from start to finish your first time through. After that, you can just read Darcy’s everyday life or the chapters from her book—whichever you like best. —Lennon Walter

A Safe Girl to Love
Casey Plett
2014, Topside Press

A Safe Girl to Love, by Casey Plett, is a collection of 11 short stories that follow the lives of young trans women. Some of the stories last only a couple pages, while longer ones span days and weeks of the characters’ lives. Some take place in Brooklyn, and others are set in the sun-drenched prairies of Mennonite communities. The girls Casey writes into being are strong and fearless. They defy a world that fetishizes and loathes them. While they are sometimes scared and fragile, they also turn others’ insecurities into their own strengths. My favorite story is “How to Stay Friends,” in which an unnamed narrator has dinner with an ex for the first time after transitioning. You can feel her energy bounce off the page as she anxiously anticipates the meeting and, at the same time, is filled with overwhelming memories of who she was in the relationship. These stories are genuine, sincere, and packed with brutal honesty. This is Plett’s first collection, and I really hope she will publish more. —Kati Yewell ♦