GA Book Recommendations

Written by Heather Verani and Becca Betty

Although Valentine’s Day is over, its never too late to show a little love for the activities you enjoy. In this post, my fellow graduate assistant Becca and I are providing some romance book recommendations in honor of the holiday, and would love to hear feedback on what your favorite romance novels are!

Becca’s Recommendation- Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

While not an out-and-out romance, Ryka Aoki’s Light from Uncommon Stars features a romantic subplot of a demon and alien finding new senses of identity and a renewed purpose for their lives through lesbian love. The main plotline follows the struggles and victories of a trans girl trying to escape the abuses of society, find acceptance from others and herself, all while discovering and creating a community to share her unique skills as a violinist. This novel unites video game mediums, Faustian curses, an other-worldly apocalypse, and the subversive power of kindness wrought from a defiantly joyful existence. With powerful commentary on good allyship and the value of trans and queer lives, Light from Uncommon Stars profoundly shapes narratives of self-acceptance and difficult choices within a desperate and rewarding fight against an apathetic universe that gives this book teeth (teeth that could sink into a Texas-sized donut).

I found this to be a sincere, evocative contemplation of queer existence. Equal parts devastating and uplifting, comical and solemn, LFUS frontlines the idea that queer and trans joy is radical and redeeming as it confronts a world where dominant ideologies would see such lives eliminated. Aoki’s story tells us there is a place for queer and trans lives and indeed, the universe would be lesser without them.

Heather’s Recommendation- A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

This new-adult novel is a modern retelling of the classic (and my favorite) fairytale Beauty and the Beast. The novel is centered around the character of Feyre, a nineteen-year-old huntress whose killer instinct costs her her life, as one of her kills forces her to interact with a beast like-creature. Through this relationship, she learns of the Fae, a dangerous but powerful form of fairy that whose wicked presence she must stop, or else face their eternal control that would change her world forever.

I recommend this novel because it I like the creative decisions the author makes in transforming this story for older readers. The main character of Feyre is one that has a powerful feminist portrayal, as in a turn against the original story, she goes to the “beast” on her own accord, and not because she is either forced to or feel obligated to by her father. Another is that this novel incorporates themes of romance and sexuality, which have been purposefully omitted from more popular retellings of the story (such as Beaumont’s 1756 adaptation) to promote popular societal values in younger girls at the time. In the original narrative of the story by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve there is a theme of sexuality in connection to the main female character, so I am happy that in this adaptation Maas was able to connect with and renew this element of the story for modern readers.