Also published on this date: Wednesday, May 1 Dedicated Issue: Norton Young Readers

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Pagination Bookshop Opens in Springfield, Mo.

Pagination Bookshop opened Monday at 1150 E Walnut St. in Springfield, Mo., with an event featuring Debra Gwartney, author of I Am a Stranger Here Myself. Jennifer Murvin, co-owner with Kory Cooper, posted on Facebook Saturday: "This has been such a long journey, and Coop and I are so grateful to everyone who has helped us get here. We can't wait to celebrate with you.... I am in tears with gratitude. We love you--thank you, and we can't wait to be part of your lives and your bookshelves!" The bookshop is planning "a big bash to kick off our grand opening and Artsfest on Historic Walnut Street" on Friday.

Yesterday Pagination noted: "Last night was so beyond special--we are still reeling! Thank you thank you with our whole hearts to everyone who came and showed their love and support. And thank you to @debra_gwartney for her incredible warmth, generosity, and brilliance. There couldn't have been a better first evening for our bookshop, our dream come true."

Co-owners Murvin and Cooper are featured in the April issue of 417 Magazine, which reported that they rehabbed a historic, "white two-story house near National Ave. The structure has everything they wanted--there's even a cupboard under the stairs that's perfect for a Harry Potter theme, and there's a dedicated room upstairs for an Airbnb....

"The couple has a very specific idea of what they want their bookshop to resemble. The shop offers literary fiction, science fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics, fantasy, mystery, horror, memoirs, young adult reads, a children's section and more, and focuses on both independent publishers and larger publishers. Local and regional authors are also featured, and literary gift options like journals and pens put the cherry on top of the shopping experience." They also envision the space to be used for parties, author readings, book clubs and writing workshops; and hope to add coffee and snacks to their inventory.

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Orca Books in Olympia, Wash., Goes Co-op

Linda Berentsen, owner of Orca Books in downtown Olympia, Wash., has chosen to transition her store to a cooperative business model and is seeking members, the Olympian reported.

Orca Books was officially incorporated as a cooperative on April 17, during an event called Co-opatopia. Berentsen worked with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center to form the cooperative and told the Olympian that she hopes to raise $300,000. That money would go toward buying her out of the business, paying off outstanding debts and raising capital for the store's ongoing operations.

Would-be members can choose from three different tiers of membership. Low-income memberships are available from $25 to $99; regular memberships are available for $100; and organizations or businesses can join for $200. All memberships are one-time fees, and members will be rewarded with discounts, voting rights and other, yet-to-be-decided benefits. The bookstore's new board, which at the moment consists of store employees, eventually will broaden to include community members.

Berentsen told the Olympian that she "didn't want to walk away" from the bookstore, but she was unable to keep subsidizing it by forgoing a salary. She has been in the book business since the early 1990s.

Interested parties can inquire about store membership at Orca Books.

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

BISG Annual Meeting: Dealing with Paper and Printing Problems

A major focus of the Book Industry Study Group's annual meeting last Friday in New York City was the paper and printing problems that resulted in booksellers having difficulty reordering many popular titles during the holiday season last year. Those problems were what Janet McCarthy Grimm, v-p of Lindenmeyr Book Publishing Papers, called "a perfect storm," which included paper shortages, fewer printing and binding machines for books, several company collapses, a shortage of qualified workers, trucking and warehouse shortages, all occurring when the printed book has had a resurgence and some titles were in very high demand.

Although there were improvements in the general situation in the first quarter of the year, there is usually "some seasonal downtick at this time," Grimm added. "When orders pick up, we could switch back to a situation like last year very, very quickly."

Grimm (r.) and Baehr

Speaking at the session on State of the Supply Chain: Paper and Printing, Grimm emphasized that part of the problem has its roots in decisions in recent years by paper mills, printers and binders to cut back on book-printing capacity because of the consensus that the book business was going to take a digital path similar to that taken by movies and music. Although this hasn't happened as predicted, the book-making industry hasn't adjusted well. As Matt Baehr, executive director of the Book Manufacturers' Institute, put it, "Those exiting the business are not coming back" and existing companies are not adding enough capacity. "No one is investing millions of dollars" in this area, he said.

In some cases, printers that don't specialize in books are taking on books as a side business to printing cards, brochures and fliers. Hardcover printing remains the most troublesome area because of the need for perfect binding. And publishers doing digital printing for hardcover books still have to find the right binders.

Baehr noted that the general printing difficulties extend to shipping and warehousing, saying that "the trucking industry is under tremendous pressure." Shipping continues to grow in volume, and there are many seasonal spikes, such as needing to transport food at harvest time and dealing with bad weather. Like the printing business and most other blue-collar businesses, the trucking industry is also having difficulty finding qualified drivers.

Both Grimm and Baehr emphasized that publishers need to be in steady contact with everyone in the book manufacturing chain and plan ahead as best they can. "Reach out to your manufacturing partners," Baehr said. "They want to be partners." Publishers should plan farther ahead than usual, and Grimm emphasized that this is especially true for big projects, and also lessens the stress of inevitable surprise projects.

Baehr noted that publishers who last year had "better luck printing generally were those who supplied their own paper." He advised publishers to "consider taking their destiny into their own hands" by finding paper sources.

Both printing problems and possible solutions are international, Grimm and Baehr said. Grimm said one way to improve the general situation is "to fill holes in the system with product from offshore."


The BISG meeting was another well-organized, topical event. With more than 200 attendees, it was sold out. The organization's overall condition is solid. Membership is up 20% since 2017 and the organization is in excellent financial health. Many praised the efforts of executive director Brian O'Leary, who joined BISG in fall of 2016 and has revitalized the organization.

In other BISG news, Andrew Savikas, president of getAbstract US, was elected chair for a two-year term starting July 1, replacing Maureen McMahon, president and publisher of Kaplan Publishing; McMahon, like O'Leary, was praised for helping turn around BISG. She will remain on the board as immediate past chair. Besides Savikas, five other new board members were elected, with terms beginning July 1: Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, director of sales, content acquisition, Ingram Content Group; David Hetherington, chief marketing officer, knk Software; Dan Kok, senior v-p, operations, Crossway; Kempton Mooney, executive director, product management, NPD Group; and Patricia Simoes, director of content operations, Rakuten Kobo. (More on the BISG meeting tomorrow.) --John Mutter

Two Protest Drag Queen Storytime in N.J.

On Saturday, two men who said they were members of a Catholic group called American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property protested the drag queen story hour appearance by Harmonica Sunbeam at Little City Books in Hoboken, N.J., the Jersey Journal reported.

The men stood across the street from the bookstore holding signs that read "God made them male & female" and "honk to protect our children." The protest occurred the same day that a group of white nationalists interrupted an appearance at Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., by Jonathan M. Metzl, a psychiatrist and author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland (Basic Books).

Harmonica Sunbeam told the Journal: "It's surprising that two men would take a beautiful Saturday afternoon to go to another town and protest, instead of living their own lives." She added that the event was "overwhelmingly positive. It's a very simple situation. If you don't like it, don't come." She does story times at Little City Books and WORD in Jersey City.

According to the newspaper, Hoboken Councilman Mike DeFusco, who is gay, called the protest the "kind of divisive language and intolerance [that] has no place in Hoboken, Hudson County or anywhere in our country.... We should be teaching children to embrace diversity and acceptance, not spreading hateful rhetoric that aims to set us back on the strides we have made to get closer to full equality."

Borderlands Closing Cafe, Focusing on Books

Borderlands Books, San Francisco, Calif., is closing its café today, Mission Local reported. Owner Alan Beatts said that the decision was made because of problems finding staff, slumping cafe sales and his desire to focus on the bookstore. "It's not that we lost our lease; it's not like we're going bankrupt," he told Mission Local. "It's unfortunate that it's a choice that makes sense... I like running a café, but I love running a bookstore."

He added that the café was "designed for Valencia Street in 2010, not Valencia Street in 2020," and thus doesn't carry the range of food and drink that many customers expect nowadays.

Likely this year, Borderlands Books is moving to Haight Street into a property Beatts was able to buy after raising $1.9 million in loans from supporters in 2017. The store had nearly closed two and a half years before that. Borderlands Books specializes in science fiction, mystery and horror.

Obituary Note: Les Murray

Les Murray, "one of Australia's most successful and renowned contemporary poets" whose career spanned more than 40 years, died April 29, the Guardian reported. He was 80. Murray published close to 30 books, including the recent Collected Poems with Black Inc., which said: "We mourn his boundless creativity, as well as his original vision. His poetry created a vernacular republic for Australia, a place where our language is preserved and renewed.... Les was frequently hilarious and always his own man. He would talk with anyone, was endlessly curious and a figure of immense integrity and intelligence."

Margaret Connolly, his agent for 30 years, called Murray's death a huge loss to Australian literature: "The body of work that he's left is just one of the great glories of Australian writing. The thought that there will be no more poems and no more essays and no more thoughts from Les--it's very sad and a great loss."

Murray's works include New Selected Poems; Dog Fox Field; Subhuman Redneck Poems; Learning Human; Conscious and Verbal; The Biplane Houses; Poems the Size of Photographs; and Taller When Prone; as well as Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression. Among his many honors were the T.S. Eliot Prize in 1996 and the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry in 1999. In 2012, the National Trust of Australia classified Murray as one of Australia's 100 living treasures.

In a tribute, poet John Kinsella wrote: "It’s not a simple portrait when painted from this angle: a complex person, a brilliant poet with a genius for language, with some terrible politics. But it’s still a deeply admiring picture of Les Murray, whose poetry looked out to the world at large, a broader world that he was always conscious of but was never going to bend to.... Although university educated, he was a fierce autodidact, whose facility for foreign languages informed the etymological plays and departures of his poetry. Les told me he didn’t trust the avant-garde poets of anywhere or any time, but strangely, he shared more in common with many experimentalists than with the more conservative traditionalists who lionise him."

Australian author David Malouf told ABC that Murray thought of himself as "the voice of people whose voice otherwise was suppressed and who were otherwise unseen or looked down on.... He could be very funny, he could be very harsh--but it was a voice we all listened to and needed. He knew that he could be difficult--nobody pretends that he wasn't--but he was always difficult in an interesting way."

From Murray's poem "Self and Dream Self":

Routines of decaying time
fade, and your waking life
gets laborious as science.

You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.


Image of the Day: Cottage Time at Saturn Booksellers

Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Mich., hosted the launch event for The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman (Harlequin). Viola Shipman is the pen name for author Wade Rouse (front), and the photo shows a set that the bookstore created from a scene in the novel: the Saugatuck Chain Ferry, complete with sunglasses!

Video: MahoganyBooks Owners on Steve Harvey TV

Derrick and Ramunda Young, co-owners of MahoganyBooks, Washington, D.C., were featured on Steve Harvey TV in a segment titled "Bringing Black Literature to the Public."

On the bookstore's Facebook page yesterday, they posted: "Yes, we are still reeling from the adventure and blessing.... We stand tall in gratitude for each of you who continue to share & support.... Stay steadfast in all you do. Even if no one understands the vision but you and God. #JustExecute."

And later: "We are excited that more and more people across the country will be aware of their ability to access our powerful literature no matter [where] they are. We are only a small portion of this dynamic black book selling community and are excited to help shine the light for so many of our other brothers and sisters who’ve been on this journey for years and years. #weallwin."

Consortium Adding Four New Publishers Effective June 1

Our item last week about Consortium Books Sales & Distribution adding four new publishers contained some incorrect information (the company's fault, not ours). Distribution of the four publishers--Charco Press, DENPA, Rabsel Editions and Unbound--starts June 1, not September 1.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Oliver Bullough on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World (St. Martin's Press, $28.99, 9781250208705).

All Things Considered: Enrique Olvera, author of Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook (Phaidon Press, $39.95, 9780714878058).

TV: Rivers of London

Stolen Picture, the production company set up by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, will adapt Ben Aaronovitch's epic Rivers of London fantasy book series for television. Deadline reported that the series follows Peter Grant, "an ordinary police constable turned magician's apprentice as he solves crimes across the British capital with a blend of urban fantasy, mystery thriller and fantasy caper. The franchise has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide."

Frost said he read the first book--titled Midnight Riot in the U.S.--on holiday years ago: "Suddenly we were in a position where I said 'there's this book that I loved' and it became available, more or less. I was chuffed to bits that I could get the rights to make it into a TV show. Everyone wants to potentially find the next Game of Thrones and the chance to turn Rivers of London into an eight-hour movie and hopefully find someone who will financially back that is a real draw."

Pegg observed: "This era we're in now, TV has suddenly evolved into something far more cinematic, where you can tell stories and elaborate. A lot of books that are made into film are criticized for not being as good as the book, because they are contracted into something more simplistic. But what TV offers us now, which is a cinematic playing field, you can tell these stories with scope and get into creative detail."

Aaronovitch, who will serve as an executive producer, added: "I've worked in television before so I was wary of sticking my head back into that lion's den. It was a difficult thing to sell so that it wouldn't get horribly butchered, and television up to now has had a lot of difficulties. [But] how could I say no [to Pegg and Frost]? I feel confident on several levels. I'm working with creators and I know these people don't like bollocks. There will be creative conflicts and where external forces force us to make compromises but I know that the starting point is that we won't make those compromises unless we have to. [Simon and Nick] are tremendous nerds and I don't have to explain things to do them about magic, they just get it. we have a common language, which we don't have in a lot of TV companies."

Books & Authors

Hachette UK Launches Mo Siewcharran Prize

Hachette UK launched the inaugural Mo Siewcharran Prize "to help discover unpublished fiction writers from BAME backgrounds," the Bookseller reported. The initiative, named in memory of Nielsen Book's former director of marketing and communications, "aims to nurture talent from under-represented backgrounds writing in English and give them the chance to be published by Little, Brown imprint Dialogue Books."

Siewcharran died suddenly in June 2017. The new prize is being supported by her husband John Seaton, who launched a fund to encourage young people from BAME backgrounds pursue a career in the arts, along with Nielsen.

"It's been such an honor to create an award in the memory of Mo Siewcharran," said Sharmaine Lovegrove, Dialogue publisher and co-chair of Changing the Story. "Mo was a brilliant advocate for inclusion in publishing and she truly believed in the power of books. I very much look forward to reading the entries and finding brilliant new voices from BAME backgrounds to publish in her legacy."

Seaton added: "This is a brilliant idea. I can say that without embarrassment as it is not mine. I have Hachette, and especially Sharmaine to thank for that. It is a wonderful initiative in bringing to the fore writers from under-represented backgrounds. I am thrilled, much more to the point I know Mo herself would have been. That it is being announced on what would have been Mo's birthday gives it an added poignancy."

Stephanie Enderby, senior marketing manager at Nielsen Book, said the company "is delighted to be supporting the Mo Siewcharran Prize. Mo was a much loved and integral member of Nielsen for over 16 years. Her enthusiasm for reading and the book industry was infectious and well recognised both internally and amongst our clients. We are thrilled to be involved in this fitting tribute to her memory."

Awards: Four Quartets Winner

Circus by Dante Micheaux (Indolent Books) has won the $20,000 Four Quartets Prize, sponsored by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America and honoring "a unified and complete sequence of poems published in America in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book."

The judges commented: "How right that this poet's first name should be Dante. For his Circus is a Comedy: a savage comedy, lacerating dialects, fingering wounds, looking for loves right and wrong in the crevices of history and of humiliated bodes. And yet, and yet. His language exults, triumphs, and freely rummages in the treasuries of the Bible, Baudelaire, Whitman, Eliot, Baraka, and Mahalia Jackson, taking what it needs, making it his sovereign own, a wrested blessing. Congratulations, Dante Micheaux, on your astonishing Circus."

Finalists were Catherine Barnett for 'Accursed Questions' from Human Hours (Graywolf Press) and Meredith Stricker for anemochore (Newfound Press).

Reading with... David R. Dow

photo: Katya Dow

David R. Dow is the Cullen Professor of Law at the University of Houston and the Rorschach Visiting Professor of History at Rice University. He teaches constitutional law and legal history and also runs a death penalty clinic. He and his team have represented more than 100 death row inmates over the past 25 years. His first memoir, The Autobiography of an Execution, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for nonfiction. Confessions of an Innocent Man (Dutton, April 9, 2019) is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

I am going to have to use the word "on" rather loosely, because I have books on the floor, on a table and on a window sill. At the moment they include: Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry (I actually just finished this novel, and once I finish rereading the dog-eared pages, it will make its way back to our library), You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. The lattermost was recommended by someone who read a memoir of mine called Things I've Learned from Dying, and this reader sent me an e-mail out of the blue suggesting Benjamin's novel, and now that I am 50 or so pages into it, I am going to read every book that e-mail correspondent recommends. I also have a well-worn copy of Wallace Stevens's The Palm at the End of the Mind, a book of poems I've read probably 20 times. I'm always in the middle of several books of nonfiction. At the moment, they include Peter Hoffer's Uncivil Warriors, which is about lawyers during the Civil War; David Stipp's A Most Elegant Equation, about the mathematician Leonhard Euler's formula that is sometimes called God's equation (e i p+ 1 = 0); Jill Lepore's history of the U.S., These Truths; and Jim Holt's When Einstein Walked with Gödel, a beautiful book about physics and philosophy and mathematics and a nice reminder to me of what a fool I once was to think I could be a mathematician.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Probably Huck Finn, but I also really loved the Encyclopedia Brown stories and a biography of Sandy Koufax. As an adult, though, the favorite books I liked reading to our son were Goodnight, Moon (when he was really little) and Green Eggs and Ham (when he was a bit older). I think it is impossible to overstate the genius of Dr. Seuss.

Your top five authors:

The answer to this question will change by the time I finish saying it. But at the moment, if you'll allow me six, my favorite novelists are probably Cormac McCarthy and Zadie Smith. My favorite poets are probably Stevens and Pablo Neruda. My favorite historian at the moment is Doris Kearns Goodwin; every elected official in America should be required to read Team of Rivals. And my favorite science writer is James Gleick. I find science writing to be impossibly difficult, and I don't think anyone is better than Gleick.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh my, I am too old to fake reading books. But I am willing to admit to books I am slightly embarrassed not to have read. They include practically all of Shakespeare's comedies--I just cannot get into them--and D.H. Lawrence, who has me falling asleep almost from page one. Also, while I devour David Foster Wallace's nonfiction, I gave up on Infinite Jest.

Book you're an evangelist for:

McCarthy's Blood Meridian, which I like more than I like the Border Trilogy (and I like those books a lot), and Frank Conroy's Body & Soul, which is way better than the professional critics said. If you like big Dickensian stories and also love music, try this book.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Body by Harry Crews. But I have no regrets. Great book.

Book you hid from your parents:

Are you kidding? My parents had five boys. They were very cool and adapted to anything. They gave me a book of dirty magazine cartoons for my bar mitzvah.

Book that changed your life:

I do not think there is just one book that has changed my life. But when I was in middle school, I was a debater, and for a while I competed in a category called Declamation which involved delivering a famous speech. I memorized Lincoln's Second Inaugural and John Brown's closing statement to the jury at his trial for treason before he was sentenced to be hanged. Even as a young boy, I knew those speeches were lessons in how to live life. Both Brown and Lincoln were abolitionists, of course, but while Lincoln was a statesman, Brown was a revolutionary. He told his kids to be good haters. As for Lincoln, his words are incapable of improvement: It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered.

Favorite line from a book:

It's from the Talmud. In Hebrew it's Eh-zeh who ha'cham? Ha-melomed mi-kol adam. Who is wise? The person who learns from all humankind.

Runner-up is from James Baldwin's No Name in the Street: "People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become, and they pay for it, very simply, by the lives they lead." I actually had not read Baldwin until I read Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina, and her epigraph for that novel came from Baldwin, so I read him next.

Five books you'll never part with:

A first edition of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses; a copy of Pirke Avot (a compilation of ethical sayings from the Talmud) my father gave me when I graduated from law school; a book called The King's Two Bodies by Ernst Kantorowicz, which was a gift when I finished my M.A. in history from a mentor of mine; Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, because this list must absolutely positively include a Lincoln biography, and if I had to choose just one, it would be Donald's; and finally, Zbigniew Herbert's Collected Poems. But if that's cheating and counts as more than one book, then I'll say Herbert's Mr. Cogito, which is smart and funny and whimsical and new, every time I read it.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, because on every reading, there is so much I missed before, it is as if I am reading it for the first time. I was giving a talk years ago at Ole Miss the day before Faulkner's estate, Rowan Oak, was reopening to the public. There was an all-night reading of Absalom, Absalom! and you really would be amazed, or maybe you wouldn't, by how many Faulkner nerds made the journey to Oxford, Miss., to participate in the reading. As a souvenir I bought a postcard with a photograph of Eudora Welty handing him the Nobel Prize.  

Computer alerts you have set up to notify you of new books by writers you admire:

As soon as Jennifer Egan or Zadie Smith or my friend Tom Perrotta has a new book in the pipeline, I get a pop-up notification, and I'll be preordering it moments later, months in advance of publication.

Book Review

YA Review: Like a Love Story

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (Balzer + Bray, $17.99 hardcover, 432p., ages 13-up, 9780062839367, June 4, 2019)

It's September of 1989, and Reza is beginning his senior year at a new school, having just moved to Manhattan from Toronto "by way of Tehran." His father is dead, and Reza's mother has remarried a wealthy Iran-born businessman. Reza has no intention of stepping out of the closet: he can't forget that he comes from a country that punishes homosexuals, and he doesn't want to make trouble for his mother's new marriage.

At school Reza meets the fashion-forward and unrepentantly ample-figured Judy, who finds him dazzling: "If Rob Lowe's hair follicles and a perfect ocean wave had a baby, they would birth your hair." Judy's best friend, the out-and-proud Art, joins the conversation and picks up on her crush on Reza. On the evening that Reza's stepbrother brings Art, his science-project partner, home to study, Art goes to Reza's room and warns him against leading Judy on. He also gives Reza a Madonna CD. So begins Reza's infatuation with them both.

Judy's uncle, Stephen, an ACT UP activist battling AIDS, hosts her and Art for weekly movie nights, and when Reza accepts Judy's invitation to join them one evening she considers it a date. They continue to see each other, although Judy can't figure out why, two months into their relationship, Reza's kisses still lack juice. Following her botched attempt at seduction, complete with homemade lingerie, Reza finally comes out to her, admitting his attraction to Art.

After Reza finds the courage to confront Art about his feelings, they are ultimately reciprocated, but the romance costs them their friendship with Judy, who feels that Art has stolen her boyfriend. The couple has another problem: although Reza is happily paired with Art, he's terrified at the prospect of intimacy; while Art considers Uncle Stephen his "spiritual father," Reza sees the man as a reminder that gay sex can mean a death sentence.

Having teenagers who are too scared to become sexually active doesn't traditionally rank among parents' worst anxieties. But Like a Love Story, Abdi Nazemian's socially real--very real--young adult novel, makes a compelling case that there's a psychic cost to fearing sex. The book has too many comic book homophobes and Islamophobes, and the comic book aspect is reinforced by the frequent use of ALL CAPS, but Like a Love Story is an absorbing drama that doubles as a gay-history primer. Scattered among chapters from the perspectives of the book's three main characters are a sampling of Uncle Stephen's Queer 101 notecards, which he created for Art. Among the featured entries are Love (#75), Garland, Judy (#54) and High School (#63), which concludes with a sentiment relevant to teenagers of all sexual orientations: "Just remember that high school ends. And that there is another life waiting for you, over the rainbow." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: In this fearsome young adult novel set in 1989 and '90 Manhattan, the teenagers in a love triangle are straight, gay and united in their Madonna worship.

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