“She Gets the Girl”

by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $18.99)

“She Gets the Girl” is a delicate balance of humor, heartbreak and warmth, allowing the novel’s central romance to entertain readers without surviving on cheap humor or mawkish sentimentality. When I started reading the novel, I was not invested in the characters whatsoever, but about halfway through, I could not stop turning the pages. Likewise, I was initially concerned that the shift in perspective for alternating chapters was merely a gimmick, but it helped make the characters’ relationship more thoughtful and dynamic. Since the title spoils the book’s happy ending, readers can focus on how the main characters’ relationship blossoms and speculate on which of the characters will get together. Overall, “She Gets the Girl” is a remarkably cerebral and engaging portrayal of the struggles of college dating and human interaction at large.

“The One True Me and You: A Novel”

by Remi K. England (Wednesday Books, $18.99)

“The One True Me and You” is the kind of story the world does not need right now. It follows the interactions of two queer high schoolers, a pageant queen and fanfic author, as they fall in love over the course of two simultaneous conventions in their respective fields of interest. Although the novel’s theme of embracing identity is critical, the feel-good narrative lacks nuance and thus doesn’t feel earned. England’s writing is clunky, but I would like to believe that this is intentional to help capture the anxieties of teenhood. Despite the book’s lack of memorability, I believe it still deserves praise for its sweetness and positive queer representation. As I finished the book, I had a smile on my face, but it only lasted a moment.

— Reviews by Kyle Gerstel

“Café Con Lychee”

by Emery Lee (Quill Tree Books, $17.99) 

This is not your average POC rom-com. For starters, it’s from the perspectives of multiple identities, both an Asian American and a Latinx American. “Café Con Lychee” switches stereotypes up for Asian Americans because it doesn’t rely on the model minority myth. This gay romance novel centers on Theo Mori, who is just fine with not being perfect and has rejected the toxic expectations of him. He’s gay in a small, predominantly white town, is both Chinese and Japanese, and has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Enter Gabi Moreno, a closeted, Latinx teen whose parents run the other racially authentic restaurant in town, opposite to Theo’s parents. Literally kicking off from a soccer practice, the story follows the two boys who go from enemies, predictably, to lovers. After Theo injures his wrist — compliments of Gabi — Gabi offers Theo a helping hand. Reluctantly, Theo accepts. The book casually depicts perfectly imperfect Asians, shares messages against toxic masculinity and humanizes the experiences of queer people of color. While it’s a predictable read, it beautifully represents valuable underrepresented lives. An uplifting gem in our tumultuous times, “Café Con Lychee” is just what you need in a Pacific Northwest Juneuary. 

“A Magic Steeped In Poison”

by Judy I. Lin (Feiwel & Friends, $18.99).

Once upon a time, in an Asian land called Daxi, there was a girl named Ning who had to kick butt at a magic tea ceremony where generally only the best male Shennong-Shi (magic tea makers) participated. Ning hopes to win the tea ceremony tournament’s prize, a favor from the royalty, so that she can save her sick sister. After Ning gets to the capital she meets another girl from the outer province named Lian, who is also looking to compete in the tournament. Successfully they enter. From there Ning is ready to break through the Shennong-Shi’s bamboo ceiling. Though there are few fight scenes or battles, the book never needed any as the plot worked masterfully without them. Admittedly, the first few chapters felt a bit slow, but it was a solid read with excellent and often unheard female Asian representation. Despite this flawed pacing, I remained loyal to the story and read to the ending. For this I was rewarded with an interesting cliffhanger, which made for an altogether enjoyable read.

— Reviews by Daniela Mariz-Frankel

This article was written on special assignment for The Seattle Times through the TeenTix Press Corps, a teen arts journalism program sponsored by TeenTix (teentix.org), a youth empowerment and arts access nonprofit organization.