This list was produced by Alex and Nat from Words Worth Books.
Booktok is still going strong, so we don’t need to worry about the Emily Henrys and Colleen Hoover’s of the world. Likewise, the Globe & Mail and NYT will handle the big buzz literary fiction titles.
And so, with Pride month upon us, and a nod to BIPOC and other marginalized creators I give you Words Worth’s Summer Reads for 2023.
Love at First Set
Jennifer Dugan What’s summer without lounging on the beach reading a cozy romance, and this book is sure to be a huge hit. The story of gym rat Lizzie who accidentally convinces her bosses’ daughter, Cara, to leave her fiance at the altar.
As Cara starts exploring what her life has been missing, Lizzie unwillingly follows along, trying desperately to make sure her boss never learns the role she played in ending the wedding, and even harder tries not to lose her heart to the runaway bride. Dugan has already made a rom-com name for herself in YA with the likes of Some Girls Do and Verona Comics and now makes her adult romance debut with this book you’ll want to devour.
The follow up to Alexander’s 2022 book Chef’s Kiss, Chef’s Choice is a delightful queer rom-com about fake relationships and learning to cook, in more ways than one. Luna O’Shea has just been fired in one of the most expensive cities in the world and worries about her future. Enter Jean-Pierre, a young man set on inheriting a culinary empire, IF he can land a girlfriend, and the pair can cook his celebrity grandfather’s signature, elaborate dishes.
Sure, Luna can barely boil water, but what could possibly go wrong? This book is immensely sweet, and gives us something that is rare in the literary world, even though it’s common in queer spaces: a T4T (or trans for trans) romantic pairing front and centre.
All the Right Notes
So, how awkward is it when you have to try and convince a guy you knew in college—now one of the biggest Hollywood celebrities in the world—to come back and perform in a charity fundraiser. Oh, and he’s also the one that got away, the one you haven’t been able to stop thinking about since that night. This is the situation gifted pianist Quito Cruz finds himself in when his HS choir teacher of a father asks Quito to convince former high school jock and crush, Emmett Aoki, to return to their shared hometown.
And he needs to try not to lose himself to the chemistry they have that’s stronger than ever. Told in dual time periods, this book is a love letter to queer joy, Filipino American pride, and the power of the heart knowing what it wants.
Of course, summer isn’t only about romance, nor is it even everyone’s bag, so we have other picks as well, starting with Burr! The debut novel by Southwestern Ontario author Lockyer is a Southern Ontario Gothic tale set in the 90’s. The story deals with thirteen-year-old Jane, who longs to be reunited with his recently deceased father, who connects with a local man, Ernest who still suffers from the loss of his sister many years prior. And when the pair disappear together, it throws the town into an uproar in a way only small town Ontario can. This novel is full of magical realism and promises a great start to Lockyer’s novel writing future. Note: Brooke is presently touring indie books stores and will be at Words Worth on June 7 at 7pm.
Toronto author Victoria Hetherington’s Autonomy is a philosophical sci-fi novel about a near-future that’s all too plausible.
In a world where Canada has been annexed by the U.S. ‘for its protection’, a university therapist named Slaton is detained when an accusation is made against her about helping a student obtain an abortion (once again illegal).
While in custody, she encounters an A.I. named Julian who determines he will stay with Staton so he can learn about humanity and grow. Hetherington brings a fresh voice to a story that has been told before, and in a present where US politicians will go on social media to promote the invasion of Canada and questions about A.I. in all aspects of our life rise, books like Autonomy become full of frightful possibility.
VenCo by Cheri Dimaline – Métis author Cheri Dimaline has become one of the most important voices in Canadian fiction when it comes to the voice of the Indigenous and Métis experience.
Since 2017’s The Marrow Thieves she has been getting a lot of attention, and with good reason: Cheri knows how to write great fiction! With her latest, VenCo, she does what she’s best at, mixing Indigenous experiences with fantastical situations. Lucky St. James’ life always seems to be going from bad to worse, right up until the day she finds herself drawn to a magical spoon. This draws the attention of Meena Good, finder of witchy women, and puts Lucky on a path of adventure and fear she never could have thought possible in this deeply feminist novel.
The White Knight
The Knights of the Round Table were alive and well in modern day Vancouver…well, maybe not necessarily well. Queer autistic author Jes Battis (they/them) brings us a urban fantasy detective tale unlike any that I’ve encountered in recent years, where a Valkyrie investigates the murder of one of the members of the table, aided in part by one of the suspects, a reincarnated Sir Gawain named Wayne, even as he tries to strengthen his new relationship with Bert, who also happens to be a suspect in the crime. The White Knight brings us a fantastical murder mystery, while also providing us with a deeply personal look at the autistic experience through queer and trans heroes we rarely see represented on the page.
Jade Song’s debut Chlorine could be described as a book for those interested in horror but too scared to jump right into the deep end. Riddled with longing, Chlorine follows Ren’s harsh experience on her high school competitive swim team living as a human girl. Her human life doesn’t last long, however, because she soon realizes that she is actually meant to be a mermaid.
Song explores important themes like broken families, young love, and what it means to conform to expectations, all while capturing the reader’s interest via spurts of suspense. Content warning for those just getting into horror: the climax of the book contains descriptive body horror. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Chrysalis Anuja Varghese
Sometimes we want something short. We don’t have a lot of time, but we want something satisfying to read. In this case, short fiction is perfect, and Chrysalis, the debut short story collection by Hamilton author Anuja Varghese, give us a collection of stories that defy simple classification while giving us a singular focus on women of colour, queerness, belonging, and where all those intersect. Alternately chillingly suspenseful and beautiful, one thing all these stories have in common is this: they will make you feel!
Simon Sort of Says Erin Bow
Finishing off, we’ll give something for the younger readers. Local author Erin Bow is a KW treasure. Winner of the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for YA fiction for Stand on the Sky, Bow never fails to provide a profound depth to her middle grade fiction, and she continues this with Simon Sort of Says.
Simon O’Keefe is a boy of immense imagination, and tells everyone his family moved to a tiny Nebraska town because of alpacas. The truth involves a locked classroom, an active shooter, and a media cycle that refuses to let Simon go. With the help of new friends and a giant radio telescope for contacting aliens, can he rewrite his story?
This list could have easily been twice or three times as long. It was hard not to throw in books coming out later in the summer that I’m excited about, but I’ve made sure to focus on books that are out now, or will be out early into Pride month.