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Queer Up by Alexis Caught – Blog Tour Book Extract

Cover image of Queer Up on a brightly coloured background with postcards and a pin

Hi all and welcome to my spot on the blog tour for Queer Up by Alexis Caught. Today I’m sharing an extract from the book on Allyship.

About the Book

Queer Up is an insightful and empowering guide which takes young people by the hand, and offers uplifting advice and activities to help readers through life’s challenges and instil them with confidence and pride. The book provides an inclusive account of what it means to grow up queer, with chapters on questioning, coming out, friends and family, love and relationships, sex, shame, pride, being transgender and/or non-binary and allyship, with a key focus on positive mental health strategies.  The book also features personal stories from notable LGBTQ+ figures and allies, including award-winning transgender activist Charlie Craggs, author and journalist Kuchenga, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, writer and producer Russell T Davies, and writer and activist Scarlett Curtis.

Walker Books will be donating 20p for every copy sold to Shout 85258, a free, confidential, 24/7 text support service for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope, for which Alexis is an ambassador and trained mental health volunteer. 45% of young people who text Shout 85258 identify as LGBTQ+.

“This books is like a big, queer hug, every bit of advice is a lesson in how to be confidently LGBTQ+ and happy.” – Dr Ranj Singh

About the Author

Image of the author

Alexis Caught is the creator and co-host of the British Podcast Award-winning LGBTQ+ podcast Qmmunity, exploring queer culture, history and identity. He is also a mental health advocate, qualified psychotherapist, writer, speaker, model and rugby player. His writing has been featured in Attitude magazine and The Mirror along with the best-selling anthology It’s Not Okay to Feel Blue. His areas of passion and expertise are mental health, wellness and the queer community. On talking about the book, Alexis said this is the book that he “so desperately needed when [he] was 14.”

Extract on Allyship

What does an ally do?

Take a minute to think about what you’re actually, proactively doing to support LGBTQ+ people.

• Whether you know them or not, if you see or hear someone being made fun of, are you speaking up or is your silence deafening?

• When you’re with friends and your unfunny mate tells another gay joke, are you challenging them or are you just not responding?

• When the phrase “that’s so gay! ” gets thrown about, are you challenging them or are you letting it slide in a way you’d never let someone say “that’s so Black” or “that’s so Jewish” as a way of meaning something bad?

• If somebody is outed or gossiped about, are you indulging in the gossip and spreading rumours or putting it to bed with a “so what?” and expecting better of your friends.

• When considering what television show to watch, do you think about what kind of jokes the characters make or what message their storylines are sending? Do you stop watching it if hosts or characters say homophobic or transphobic things? When you think about how much you like other celebrities, are you considering their behaviour and the things they’ve said?

• If a problematic relative is going off on one about how “everything’s too liberal these days” are you just letting them dominate and set the tone or are you making it clear that no, you don’t agree, and speaking about people in derogatory ways is not OK?

• If you have siblings, cousins or friends who may be LGBTQ+, are you helping to make sure that they know they are free to be themselves and express themselves however they like around you? And that you love and support them unconditionally?

• Are you actively creating a safe space that your friends can go to and be their authentic selves, knowing they can trust you and that you’ll never share their secrets or judge them?

I apologize if you found the last few paragraphs confronting, uncomfortable or challenging. Self-reflection is often very uncomfortable. Thank you for sticking with it. We need to be able to have uncomfortable conversations to get anywhere. The starting point of doing better is always reflecting on how well we’re doing now. But I also want to clarify — if you found yourself awkwardly recognizing that you might be guilty of some of those behaviours, I don’t blame you. I don’t think you’re a bad person. I don’t believe there is a single person on this earth who isn’t at least 0.1 per cent homophobic — even LGBTQ+ people can be, and are, homophobic or transphobic. All of us are a little bit because it’s how we were raised. But that’s not an excuse and it’s up to us to educate ourselves and do better.

Education plays a huge part in becoming a great ally. The first step (and it’s a continual process) is to educate yourself — and you’re already doing that! So, whether or not you already knew that when you picked up this book, you’ve already taken a great step forward and I’m so pleased to have you on this journey with us — your friends and siblings will be too.

What is not allyship?

Being an ally is not a fixed status, one that you achieve once and then get to not think about again. It is something that must be consistently practised, regardless of who is around us. Allyship is not a party trick, something you perform in front of us and other people for praise. Being an ally is something you do when we’re not in the room and, even more importantly, when you’re then the odd one out for calling out queerphobic behaviour.

Being an ally is not a title you can award yourself, it is earned and given to you by those you support. Importantly, it’s also not an opportunity to put yourself in the spotlight. Think of it like this: in most films and TV shows queer characters are sidelined and become “the gay best friend” and are just a token. But this is our film, we’re the main characters and a good ally is a supporting cast member.

Power and privilege

Without allyship, what is friendship and support of the LGBTQ+ people around you? Being neutral is only an option for people with privilege and power. There is nothing inherently wrong with having that privilege or power, that isn’t your fault as you didn’t decide to have it (just as we didn’t decide to be queer) — but what you do with it is your decision.

Whatever the equality and rights movement, it needs allies, but they cannot be centred within the conversation, otherwise a space and a movement designed to bring greater power to a minority can quickly become a place where that minority is once again marginalized and made a side feature in their own story. All too often this happens to LGBTQ+ people — in particular to women, people of colour and trans people as sexism and racism are still social issues within the LGTBQ+ world.

The important thing for an ally to do is to use their inherent power and privilege to help others. Don’t change the narrative of our story to build up your part or get more lines. Instead, please tell our stories and share our stories. Use your voice, your power, for that. Echo us, don’t talk over us.

Copyright © 2022 Alexis Caught

Cover design and Illustrations © 2022 Walker Books Ltd.

From QUEER UP: AN UPLIFTING GUIDE TO LGBTQ+ LOVE, LIFE AND MENTAL HEALTH by Alexis Caught

Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London, SE11 5HJ

www.walker.co.uk

Image of book’s content page
Contents page so you can see what else is in store

Being an Ally is a constant journey and reading books like this to educate ourselves and find out more about why our Allyship is needed is a really good place to start.

Check out the other spots on the tour. Thanks to Walker for the #gifted copy of the book, the pin and the postcards.

Blog tour poster

Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman – Blog Tour Book Extract

Hi all. I’m kicking off the blog tour for the new book by father and son writing duo Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

About the Book

Above our world is a toxic wonderland where the party has raged for centuries. Humans know the partygoers simply as “narcotics”, “opioids”, “drugs”. But here they are malevolent gods, toying with the fates of mortals. Roxy and Addison have made a wager to see who can be lethal the quickest. Isaac and Ivy Ramey are their targets. Ivy is under-stimulated and overmedicated. Isaac is desperate to recover from a sports injury that jeopardizes his chance of a scholarship. This is the start of a race to the bottom that will determine life and death. One will land on their feet. The other will be lost to the Party. The only question is… Which one? Roxy is a chilling take on the opioid epidemic by the New York Times bestselling Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman, suitable for ages 14+

About the Authors

Neal Shusterman is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include the acclaimed Arc of a Scythe series (Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll) and Dry, as well as the Unwind series and Challenger Deep, which won a National Book Award in America. He also writes screenplays for film and television, for shows such as Goosebumps and Animorphs. He lives in Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @NealShusterman. Jarrod Shusterman writes for film and television, and his talents extend to directing films and commercials. He and Neal are adapting Dry for the screen. Jarrod lives in Los Angeles.

Extract

1

Naloxone

I am no superhero. But I can save you from the one who claims to be.

I am no wizard. But I cast a spell that can bring back the dead.

Almost.

And never often enough.

I am, if nothing else, your final defense – your last hope when hope itself has spiraled into that singularity that crushes not just you, but everyone around you.

And so here we are, you and I. The scene is set. Never identical, yet always the same:

Today it’s a room in a house on a street that was born when dreams were milky-white appliances, and cars were like landlocked ships, too proud to ever be slung with seat belts.

This was once suburbia, but it was long ago consumed by a gelatinous urban tsunami. The neighborhood struggles and sometimes even thrives. But this street? This street is dead. It has been sacrificed for the greater good.

The trees on either side have already been taken down, their trunks turned into firewood, their limbs fed into a chipper. Most doors and windows have been stripped and salvaged, leaving the homes with the deadest of eyes and gaping, silent mouths. Nearly a mile of this. And just beyond are bulldozers and rubble, and beyond that, towering concrete pillars reach skyward like the columns of an ancient temple.

Because a freeway is coming. A six-lane corridor that will cleave the neighborhood in half, right along this very street, in a brutal rite of passage called eminent domain.

When night falls, the doomed street is engulfed more completely than anywhere else in the city.

And there you are. In the fifth house on the left.

You’re not from this part of town, but somehow you found this place, drawn by darkness so dense you can wrap it around yourself like a blanket.

Now flashlights illuminate a familiar tableau. One officer, two paramedics. And me.

A medic leans over you – presses a finger to your neck.

“Hard to find a pulse,” she says. “If it’s there, it’s weak.”

This room was once a bedroom. But there’s no bed, no dresser. All that remains is a warped desk and a broken chair that no one deemed worth saving. You lie on carpet mottled with mold that has left it looking like a wall-to-wall bruise. It is the very epicenter of abandoned hope.

“I can’t detect any breathing. Beginning CPR.”

Rats would complete the scene, but vector control has already been here with some of my more vicious cousins to kill the vermin. But they can’t get rid of the roaches no matter how hard they try. They are the victors of this world, the roaches. Truly undefeatable.

You, on the other hand, are defeated. How defeated is yet to be seen.

Thirty chest compressions, two rescue breaths. Repeat.

The other medic prepares me for what I’ve come to do, while the officer gives a description of you on his radio. They don’t know who you are. I don’t know who you are either – but soon you and I will be close. I will be inside you. A kind of intimacy neither of us wants but both of us need. It is, after all, my purpose. And you? You have no choice.

“Administering the naloxone.”

“Make sure you get the muscle.”

“I never miss.”

The needle plunges deep in your left thigh – and I surge forth into muscle tissue, searching for capillaries that will carry me to larger and larger vessels. And yes – you’re still alive! I do hear your heartbeat! Slow, faint, but there!

I ride the long sluggish wave of your beat into the chambers of your heart, and out again, up and up toward your brain. Only there can I save you. I will rip you free of the hold they have over you.

They.

The others. Who care for you only as long as they have you locked in their embrace, as if you are nothing more than a child’s tattered toy. They do not know love – only possession. They promise you deliverance and reward you … with this:

Thirty compressions, two breaths. And me.

It is you, and those like you, who gave them power, and continue to give them power day after day. Because who but you can generate current enough to feed the bright flashing lights of their eternal Party? How could you not see that the others – my brutal cousins – are the cancer at the core of seduction? The void at the heart of your craving? They see themselves as gods, but in the end they are just like me. Nothing but chemicals. In complex combinations, perhaps, but still no more than tinctures, distillations, and petty pharma. Chemicals designed by nature, or by man, to tweak your chemicals.

If they live, it is only because you gave them life. As well as the license to end yours. And if they act in roles beyond their purpose, it is only because you placed them upon the stage to perform.

Thus the stage has been set. The audience cool and dispassionate – waiting to be entertained but too jaded to believe it ever will be.

But we must try, must we not?

And so here, between the chest compressions and the lifesaving breaths, I will do my part, struggling to wrest your fate back from the capricious “gods.”

I am no superhero. I am no wizard. But I can save you. Although half of the time I don’t. Too often I am too late. Victory and tragedy will forever fight for purchase on this stage.

And today the dimming footlights find tragedy.

Your heart begins to fibrillate. Then it seizes like a furious fist … and then releases. The wave is gone. I can’t do my work if I can’t get to your brain. Still, the medics keep working CPR, but it will not change the fact that you have surrendered your life in the bruised room of the rotting house, on the street that will soon be gone.

They tag your toe with the last name on your ID, and your first initial:

Ramey, I.

Then they wheel you out, and I have little left to do but settle in your veins – one more chemical to parse in the autopsy.

And I curse the others.

My soulless clan who brought you to the Party, then left you in this desolate place, where even those who tried to save you are too world-weary to shed a single tear.

If I had a voice, I swear to you I would tell your story. At least enough of it so that I might know who you are.

Thank you to Kirsten at Walker for the gifted copy for the purposes of this post. Check out the rest of the extracts to be posted this week.

The Broken Raven by Joseph Elliott – Blog Tour Book Review

Book Covers with Viking Boat


The Broken Raven is the second book in the Shadow Skye trilogy, which started with The Good Hawk (a Carnegie medal nominee). I haven’t had a chance to review book one yet so I am going to review the series so far. Please be advised this blog post contains some spoilers for book one.


The Good Hawk Synopsis

Agatha patrols the sea wall with pride, despite those in her clan who question her right to be there, because of the condition she was born with.
Jamie is a reluctant Angler, full of self-doubt and afraid of the sea.
When disaster strikes, the pair must embark on a terrifying journey to a land where forgotten magic and dark secrets lurk in every shadow…


The Broken Raven Synopsis


Agatha and Jamie have rescued their clan and returned home to Skye as heroes. But when Agatha uncovers a threat to their people, she unwittingly releases a terrible power that could kill every living thing on the island. Jamie must race to Scotia to hunt an ancient blood magic, which may be their only chance of survival.
Meanwhile, Sigrid, a Norwegian girl with an unusual gift, journeys to the court of Ingland where a dangerous alliance is forming – one that will soon turn its vengeful eyes to Skye, Sigrid will have to risk everything if she and the people of Skye are to survive the gathering shadows…


About the Author


Joseph Elliott is a writer and actor, well-known for his work in children’s television including CBeebies series “Swashbuckle”. His commitment to serving children with special education needs was instilled at a young age: his mother is a teacher trained in special needs education, and his parents provided respite foster care for children with additional needs. He has worked at a recreational centre for children with learning disabilities and as a teaching assistant at Westminster Special Schhols. The heroine of his debut series, the Shadow Skye trilogy, was inspired by the many incredible children he has worked with, especially those with Down’s syndrome. The Good Hawk has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal, on the IBBY 2022 outstanding books for children and young people with disabilities list and is long listed for the Highland Book Prize.

What I Thought


These books are set in a mythical version of Scotland with Vikingesque threats from “Norway” as well as the threat of Plague from “England” – uh hello 2020!! Oh and shadow creatures (which reminded me a little of the Grisha series).


The Good Hawk and the Broken Raven of the titles are not actually referring to animals although animals do play an important role in the series – and if you don’t want a pet vole or to ride on a a Highland Cow after reading these books I just don’t know who you are!


Agatha and Jamie live on Skye, in an almost commune like setting. Roles are allocated for each person when they reach a certain age, and many things are regulated. You do not cry, you do not marry, you don’t know who your parents are, you know your place. But despite this it doesn’t seem an unfriendly place – if you fit with the status quo that is.


Agatha presents similarly to those who have Down’s syndrome though of course that terminology is never used. I love that we get her voice front and centre in the story. She is the Hawk of the story title, a Hawk is a look out, an important role in protecting the clan, until she isn’t anymore. Agatha also has another thing she is good at, but one that she is urged to keep secret. But that will become very important to their survival.


Jamie has the weight of the world on his shoulders and it tells. An anxious sort he has been allocated two roles that are not right for him but he bears them as he has been taught to. He is drawn to things he shouldn’t be – the wrong job, the wrong person… The bird that represents him is a Heron.


Sigrid, our Raven, joins them as a point of view character in book two and boy does her voice just leap from the page. She has such a fun dialect. She also has a superb memory – am I jealous – yes!


I think it’s worth mentioning that The Good Hawk does also introduce another point of view character. Initially this character is a mystery and it was a little jarring but it does pay off so stick with it – just store your questions up and they do get answered.


And one of my favourite characters isn’t a POV character so I won’t name them but I wonder if you can guess who it is.


In book one Agatha and Jamie work very much together but book two sees all three point of view characters take on their own journey. Although it was good to see them each take the spotlight I hope book three pulls them all back together again – I also hope we don’t have to wait too long for it to come out.


Despite the youth of the characters the plot is quite grisly in places and I think Joseph Elliott has taken a leaf out of George R R Martin’s book. Expect the unexpected. There is very real and present danger creating a tense atmosphere.


This series is fresh and it shows what originality diversity can bring. We have disability, mental health and LGBTQ+ representation and I love how the different clans and people see and deal with these things in a variety of ways. Glimpses of how things could be if difference was respected.


The characters are definitely the driving force in this series but the plot does make you whip through at pace, I definitely felt my heart pounding a few times wanting to know what happened next. I definitely recommend this series and I also look forward to hearing more form this author in future.


Finally can we give a shout out to Levente Szabo and Violet Tobacco for the stunning cover illustrations.


Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour. Thanks to Rebecca at Walker for the gifted copy of The Broken Raven and to Book Box Club for introducing me to book one. Book three is already on my TBR and I’m guessing that maybe we get a Heron in the title!

Blog Tour Poster
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