How Would You Rule?

You’ve been crowned and now the future of the Kingdom of Kolonya is in your hands. What kind of ruler would you be? Would you be kind? Powerful? Fair? Take the quiz inspired by Rule by Ellen Goodlett to find out how you would rule.

Zofi has spent her entire life traveling across the Reaches. Just when her freedom matters most, the king’s men arrive and drag her away from her fellow Travelers to bring her to the capital—Kolonya. 

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a ladies’ maid at court. She dreams of being a noble herself one day, but being ominously summoned to the king’s courtroom after a misdeed isn’t exactly what she had in mind. 

Akeylah was raised by an abusive father in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by brewing insurrection. She’d do anything to escape her family, even accept the invitation of a king who has every reason to despise her.

Learn more about Rule by Ellen Goodlett >>

Cover Reveal: ASH (10th Anniversary Edition) by Malinda Lo

10 years ago, Malinda Lo's retelling of Cinderella was one of the first queer fairy tale reimaginings of its time. 

Ash was groundbreaking when it first published. In addition to it being one of the first modern LGBTQ+ YA novels, it was also a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. 

And now, NOVLers, we’re so excited to present the 10th Anniversary Edition of Ash! With a fresh cover, Q&A bonus content, and a new introduction from Holly Black, this sweeping, epic romance is one that will capture hearts of new and old fans alike. 

A queer Cinderella retelling and lyrical modern classic by award-winning author Malinda Lo—now with an introduction by Holly Black, a fresh cover, a letter from the author, a Q&A, and more!

In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love--and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

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When I heard that there was another Brandy Colbert book coming out, I was like, "I'M GAME. LET'S DO THIS." Brandy brings the perfect balance of diversity, romance, and real life to her books. It's no surprise that Little & Lion won the Stonewall Book Award, and that readers everywhere are falling in love with Finding YvonneWell, Brandy did again with The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, a novel about first love and family secrets, perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Nicola Yoon. Without further ado (because I can go on about this forever), here's a little teaser...

Cover Reveal: QUEEN OF RUIN by Tracy Banghart

By now, you’ve definitely read the feminist adventure of the summer, Grace and Furyright? If you haven’t, why not? Sisters Nomi & Serina and the twists and turns they take will seriously keep you at the edge of your seat until the very last page. (Also, if you haven’t, stop reading now because all of the spoilers are coming right up.) 

All to say, if you’ve read Grace and Fury, you’re definitely salivating for the sequel Queen of Ruin. And don’t worry G&F fans, all of your questions will be answered!

  1. Will Serina ever escape Mount Ruin? What about all the other prisoners? OMG are they going to get off that volcano or what??

  2. What happens with Malachi? Like, does he even survive that boat ride? And if he does, will the sparks between him and Nomi become full-on flames?

  3. Will Serina and Val have a happy ending? Now that Serina has gone total revolutionary leader, does she even want him around?

  4. Does Viridia turn into an even more totalitarian society? Or does Asa get his in the end? More importantly, will the women of Viridia ever be allowed to read?

  5. Will this be another twisty, cinematic, fast-paced girl power adventure that will make the reader feel like completely empowered and ready to take on the world? We’ll go ahead and answer this one now because the answer is YES. OBVIOUSLY!

If that’s not enough to get you excited for the sequel, take a look at this gorgeous cover for Queen of Ruin and just imagine how beautiful it’s going to be on your shelf sitting next to Grace and Fury.

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Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart

Banished by Asa at the end of Grace and Fury, Nomi and Malachi find themselves powerless and headed towards their all-but-certain deaths. Now that Asa sits on the throne, he will stop at nothing to make sure Malachi never sets foot in the palace again. Their only hope is to find Nomi's sister, Serina, on the prison island of Mount Ruin. But when Nomi and Malachi arrive, it is not the island of conquered, broken women that they expected. It is an island in the grip of revolution, and Serina—polite, submissive Serina—is its leader.

Betrayal, grief, and violence have changed both sisters, and the women of Mount Ruin have their sights set on revenge beyond the confines of their island prison. They plan to sweep across the entire kingdom, issuing in a new age of freedom for all. But first they'll have to get rid of Asa, and only Nomi knows how.

Separated once again, this time by choice, Nomi and Serina must forge their own paths as they aim to tear down the world they know, and build something better in its place.

The stakes are higher and the battles bolder in Tracy Banghart's unputdownable sequel to Grace and Fury.

Add Queen of Ruin to your shelf >>

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Cover Reveal: TEETH IN THE MIST by Dawn Kurtagich

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by Dawn Kurtagich, author of Teeth in the Mist, And the Trees Crept In, and The Dead House

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The same can be said for publishing with book covers. Authors aren’t generally involved in the creation or design of their covers and for good reason: we’re writers, not designers! I’ve been incredibly lucky to have such an enthusiastic publisher, one who understands the strange and wacky things I do with my art. I’ve been given a lot of freedom to express ideas and give input into the visuals.  

When my editor asked me if I had any specific ideas for the cover of my third full length novel, Teeth in the Mist, one line from the book wouldn’t unstick itself from my mind: “The Devil is upside down of God.” This idea is so integral to the heart of the story that I had an immediate concept of what that might look like. I ended up putting together a black and white concept image. It depicted a black mountain on a white background, and beneath it, upside down, a white house on a black background.

The team loved the upside down element and sent me a cover composition a few months later that was so ridiculously perfect I fell instantly in love! Because of licensing issues, that specific composition couldn’t be used, so my editor (being the amazing wonder-woman she is!) said that a photo-shoot would be done to recreate the cover. Not only that, but I would be sent a portfolio of the models they were considering and get to pick who I liked best (what?! I. KNOW. Amazing). I ended up choosing the girl on the cover as well as her outfit!

The end result is this amazing, gorgeous cover, which I will happily put up on my wall as a poster as soon as I can. The cover reflects the strange, eeriness of the world between the pages and I’m thrilled to have such a uniquely talented team behind this book. Thank you, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and thank you, NOVL! Teeth in the Mist hits shelves June 2019.

 *tries not to stare but can't help it*

*tries not to stare but can't help it*

A genre-bending epic horror-fantasy, inspired by the legend of Faust, spans generations as an ancient evil is uncovered—perfect for fans of Kendare Blake and Ransom Riggs.

Seventeen-year-old Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember—so she and her best friend Poulton decide to explore the ruins. But are they really alone in the house?

In 1851, sixteen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward—one of three, all with their own secrets. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.

This haunting horror and captivating mystery redefines the horror and fantasy space.

Add Teeth in the Mist to your shelf >>


World Suicide Prevention Day

Even though today is designated as World Suicide Prevention Day, it's a topic that should be talked about every day. It hits home for many of us and it's tough, but the importance of self-care cannot be stressed enough. Take some time each day to check-in with yourself and others to make sure that no one is suffering in silence.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan and Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul are both beautifully written novels that discuss the topics of suicide, mental illness, grief, love, family, and hope. They're both so important and so real. We want to live in a world where people can openly talk about mental illness without fear. We need more stories like these.

You are not alone and you never will be. The team behind NOVL is always here with open arms and ears. 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, + Justin Paul

Dear Evan Hansen, 

Today's going to be an amazing day and here's why...

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore—even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be? 

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

If you are thinking about suicide or just need to talk to someone, you can speak to someone by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and or by texting HOME to 741741, the Crisis Text Line. And here are suicide helplines outside the US.

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Cover Reveal: RISE by Ellen Goodlett

Rule by Ellen Goodlett comes out tomorrow! Fans of Three Dark Crowns and Pretty Little Liars, this is the book for you. In Kolonya, the king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion is brewing in the east. But before the kingdom descends into leaderless chaos, there are three unexpected options. Enter Zofi, Akeylah, and Ren: the king's three illegitimate daughters who are uprooted from their different backgrounds and find out that one of them must become the heir. But each has their own secrets, and someone in Kolonya is out to get them.

I screamed (and slammed my fist on the counter) when I got to the end of Rule. It's a striking fantasy and I'm so excited to introduce Rise, which is fulfilling all my needs for dark pasts and forbidden romances. But before I show you the cover, let me give you a little teaser to each sister in Rule...


Build A Bookstagram and We'll Give You A Book to Feature

Sometimes it's okay to judge a book by its cover, especially when the cover is just so Instagrammable! Based on the bookstagram you make, here are some book covers we think you'll love to photograph.


#ThrowbackTitles from Your Childhood that are Worth the Re-Read

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Like most book lovers, my addiction began as a child. As the back-to-school IG posts start popping up on my feed, I get a little nostalgic for the books I loved in middle school.

There’s no way to go back in time. But the books I carried in my heart (and in my gigantic middle school backpack) are still in print today. So join me as I take a trip down memory lane, and here are some of my favorite books and series that I read as a kid. 


One of my favorite bookish memories is my girl scout troop friends and I reading The Mysterious Benedict Society together. I loved all the twists and turns and trying to solve the puzzles and riddles with my friends. Just looking at the charming covers and illustrations makes me nostalgic! 


These books were so juicy and SO GOOD. Even though I never actually wanted to be a celebrity or be caught up in gossip and drama, it was always too much fun reading about it! These books make me think of all the Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazines still piled up in my teenage bedroom. 


While (of course) Twilight was one of my favorites in middle school, I can’t forget about all my other favorite vampire books! Enter The Vampire’s Assistant and Cirque Du Freak series: binge-worthy and super creepy, I ate up every single one of these. This was ALSO one of the OG book-to-movie adaptations I was super excited about. 


I have so many memories reading this series with my mom and brother—looking back on it, this series was so quirky and cute. We loved reading from this narrator’s perspective, and ate up all the jokes about chocolate (haha, see what I did there!). 

What were your favorite books to read in elementary and middle school? Let us know in the comments! 

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Cover Reveal: WE RULE THE NIGHT by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Forbidden magic? Flying and fighting? Girl power? Yaaaaas, we're all for it! NOVL is here to give you a teaser to We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett, a riveting debut that's part Shadow and Bone, part Code Name Verity.

Revna didn’t realize the war had come to them. Not until the factory stopped.

She sat at her conveyor belt like a good citizen, oblivious to the oncoming storm from the west. The organized cacophony of industry filled her to the brim. Shining war beetle parts drifted past, twitching and trembling with fear and faint traces of magic. As the belt slowed, the voice of her supervisor emerged from the din. “Girls!”

The hissing, ratcheting, and clanging died away. Revna’s fingers were half-buried in the oily bones of a leg that shivered and twisted of its own accord. She soothed the living metal, trying to keep the sudden spike in her heartbeat from infecting it with her own unease. In her three years working at the factory, she’d never heard the machines go still.

She turned her wheelchair away from her workstation and pushed toward her supervisor’s voice. Machines towered around her like trees, frozen in the act of spitting out legs, carapaces, and antennae. Revna rounded the base of an enormous sheet press to find Mrs. Rodoya standing at the door of her office, hands clasped over her belly. Other factory girls crept out from behind conveyors and riveters, ducking under cranes. They clustered together in front of the sheet press, gripping one another with slick fingers.

Mrs. Rodoya took a deep breath. “We need to evacuate. Get your things.”

God, Revna thought reflexively, even though Good Union Girls weren’t supposed to think about God anymore. They would only evacuate for one reason—the Elda. She imagined regiments of blue-and-gray men marching through the smoke, bringing the hard mercies of conquest. But the Elda wouldn’t march into Tammin. They’d obliterate it from the sky, with Dragons of steel and fire.

And when they came, they’d aim for the factories.

Mrs. Rodoya sent them back to their workstations for their War Ministry–approved survival kits. Revna strapped her kit to the back of her chair, then wheeled over to the factory door. She could walk, but Mrs. Rodoya had doubted her ability to stand on prosthetics day after day, and Good Union Girls deferred to their supervisor’s judgment.

The girls lined up in pairs at the door, clasping their survival kits in one hand and their partners’ hands in the other. Revna went to the end of the line. She had no hand to grab, no one to whisper that it would be all right. She wasn’t going to the shelter for good citizens, for Protectors of the Union, but to the alternate shelter for secondary citizens and non-workers. She’d sit in the dank cellar and play with her little sister, Lyfa, and try not to see the worry in every line of Mama’s face.

Revna heard a low hum, like an enraged cloud of insects. Elda Weavecraft. Her heart jumped. The primary citizens’ shelter was a five-minute trip, but hers was ten and Mama worked even farther away. Revna wanted nothing more than for Mama’s hand to be the hand that clasped hers now.

Mama would find her in the shelter, she reminded herself. They’d be together there, and surely safer than out on the street with the Elda and their aircraft.

Mrs. Rodoya opened the factory door and counted each pair with a bob of her head as they went through. Then she grabbed the wooden handles of Revna’s chair and began to push without asking. Anger boiled up like an allergic reaction, mixing with Revna’s nerves and making her feel sick. She could get herself to work every morning—she could walk it, for that matter. Her living metal prosthetic legs had been called a work of art by Tammin’s factory doctors. But Mrs. Rodoya didn’t care what Revna or the doctors thought. “Now, now. We want speed over pride, don’t we?” she’d said in early practice raids. A different Revna would have punched her. But this Revna wanted to keep her job. As long as Revna had a job, there was money to set aside and extra rations for Lyfa.

“I’ll take you the first part of the way. But once the routes split I’ll have to look after the other girls. You’ll be on your own,” Mrs. Rodoya said. She’d said this every drill. But now her voice had an edge to it and climbed a little too high as she called out to the rest. “Quickly, now.” The factory girls began to move. Mrs. Rodoya and Revna followed, lurching as the back wheel of Revna’s chair caught on a loose stone at the edge of the road.

The factories of Tammin Reaching spat out legs, carapaces, rifles, helmets, all that was needed for the churning Union war machine. Oil and dirt coated everything—the brick walls, the windows, the streetlamps that never turned on anymore.

Even the propaganda posters developed a coat of soot a few days after the papergirls plastered them to the sides of the factories. Revna rolled past image after image of Grusha the Good Union Girl, her patriotic red uniform already spattered with grease and mud. Don't chat. Gossip won’t help build war machines, said one, showing her scowling with a finger to her lips. Night won’t prevent us from working, said another. Practice makes prepared, declared a third.

Revna found that laughable now. She’d practiced her trip to the shelter so much that she could go there in her sleep. But real life had surprises. Real life had Dragons.

 Cover art by  BILLELIS .

Cover art by BILLELIS.

Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she's caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They're both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women's military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can't fly together, and if they can't find a way to fly well, the enemy's superior firepower will destroy them—if they don't destroy each other first.

We Rule the Night is a powerful alternate-history fantasy about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival despite impossible odds.


Are you more Grace or Fury?

by Tracy Banghart, author of Grace and Fury

One of the things I love most about the title Grace and Fury is that it invites the reader to wonder which sister is “Grace” and which is “Fury.” The irony is that, to me, Serina and Nomi are both. They each have their own unique ways of embodying both grace and fury. Which I think is true for all of us. I think we all have both grace and fury within us. This quiz is a fun way to discover which attribute is ruling your life at the moment!

For me, I’d like to say I’m ruled by grace, because that would make me sound calm and peaceful and lovely, but…yeah. Not so much. First of all, I’m a total klutz. If I tried to don a ballgown and float across the room, I’d trip on the hem and go sprawling. I’m also not the best at keeping the peace. I’m more of the “argue passionately about issues that concern me until I’ve cleared the room” sort. So yeah, I think it’s safe to say I’m currently ruled by fury.

But the beauty of fury is that it’s an active emotion—it begs movement. A release. I’m grateful that there are so many peaceful, non-harmful ways I can express my fury. I can write it out, like I did in Grace and Fury. I can work it out, with yoga or long walks with my dog. I can vote it out, by involving myself in my community’s politics and elections. And I can talk it out, to friends and at peaceful protests.

Maybe, if I write and work and vote and talk enough, I’ll find my grace again.

How about you? Are you ruled by grace or fury? Use the quiz below to find out!


The September 2018 NOVLbox!


What better way to start off the season than with a cozy box filled with books that go so perfectly with the Fall aesthetics? This month, we have the Queen of the Fall aesthetic and dedicated NOVLer curating the box—can you guess who? Well...

The September NOVLbox is curated by ReadForeverMore!

Kath, or better known as ReadForeverMore on bookstagram, has put together a box that's on par with the feeling of stepping on crunchy leaves and smelling fresh pumpkin spice lattes.

What’s a NOVLbox? It’s a care package from one of our favorite authors or content creators (or us). What’s inside? Everything in that ^ GIF and more! To find out about the other prizes, keep an eye on the #NOVLbox hashtag on social media.

How It Works:

  1. Enter HERE for a chance to win.
  2. We’ll select & notify the winners at the end of the month.
  3. We'll ship out the boxes in the following two weeks!

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.


What to Read Based On Your Back-to-School Outfit

The best part about going back to school is all the cute new outfits you get to buy! While you're out shopping for clothes, we recommend picking up some new books to stash in your backpack, too. Here's our suggestions for what to read based on the outfit you plan.

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If you're looking for a fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy, look no further! Hailing from Australia, Erin Gough brings us Amelia Westlake Was Never Here, where two girls who can't stand each other join forces in a grand feminist hoax to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.

It even got us thinking...what would our subversive pseudonym be? And what would yours be?

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I am officially going by Sophie Ryan now. Don't call me anything else.

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Harriet Price is the perfect Rosemead student: wealthy, smart, over-achieving. Will Everhart, on the other hand, is a social-justice warrior with a chip on her shoulder. And the two girls can't stand one another. When a worrying incident with their swimming coach is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly joins together to expose him, pulling provocative pranks and eventually creating an entirely made-up person to help right the many wrongs of their elite institution. But as tensions burn throughout their school—who is Amelia Westlake?—and between the two girls, how long can they keep their secret? And how far will they go to really make a difference?

Award-winning Australian author Erin Gough's Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is the timely story of two girls fighting back against power and privilege—and possibly falling in love while they're at it.

Learn more about Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough >>

Add to your shelf >>

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Cover Reveal: WE CONTAIN MULTITUDES by Sarah Henstra

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Perfect for fans of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and I'll Give You the SunWe Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra is an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through letters they write to one another.

It gave us all the feels—just looking at the cover makes our hearts beat faster. We love it, and we're sure you will too. Here's a sneak peek with the first two letters our heartthrobs Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky wrote to each other.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dear Little JO,*

I guess when you read this letter you’ll be sitting right here looking at what I’m looking at. The front of Ms. Khang’s English classroom with the old-fashioned blackboard and the posters of famous book covers and the Thought of the Day and this new thing, this big wooden box painted in bright colors. I mean you don’t know me because I just drew your name randomly. And if you’re in grade ten this will be your first course with Ms. Khang, which means you don’t know her as a teacher yet either. Pretty weird getting a letter from a total stranger I bet. Or how about getting a letter period, in this day and age.

Khang stands up there taking as much time as possible telling us what this box is for. She’s turning it around and around to show off her paint job, tilting it forward to show the two slots in the top, pointing out the separate combination lock for each lid. All that buildup. After a while we’re all expecting doves to fly out of it or something. And then poor Khang looks all disappointed when we’re disappointed that it turns out to be only a mailbox. Which is the whole problem with buildup. Well you’ll see it for yourself pretty soon I guess.

On the board it says Introduce Yourself. So my name is Adam Kurlansky and this is Grade Twelve Applied English. One of the courses I flunked last year, which now I’m regretting because this assignment is not something I’m all that interested in. A letter every week for the entire semester. *JO stands for Jerkoff in case you were wondering. I’m sticking it here in the middle of the letter instead of at the top because Khang wants us to hold up the paper to show her before we put it in the envelope. To prove we actually filled the minimum one page. If she asks me I guess I’ll just say JO is short for your name, Jonathan.

Don’t take it the wrong way. I figure it’s fair game to call you a little jerkoff even though I don’t know you personally because I was one too, as a sophomore. Only most likely not as little. I was already pretty close to my full height by then: six foot three.

I mean I see you all in the halls with your faces turning red whenever I catch you staring at me. You’re like these arcade gophers popping in and out of holes. People know who I am because of being a bunch of credits behind and not graduating and having to come crawling back for the so-called victory lap. Or not because of that. More likely because of football I guess. Because they decided to let me keep playing football.

Adam Kurlansky

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dear Kurl,

May I call you Kurl? From what I’ve overheard in the halls and absorbed from the general atmosphere of this school, the nickname “Kurl” is used nearly universally in addressing or referring to you, so I assume you’re content enough with it. You don’t know me, of course, but I do know a bit about you by reputation if nothing else. When my older sister, Shayna, started ninth grade, she tore the photos of the football and basketball teams out of the Lincoln Herald and put them up in her room. Then she set out to memorize all the players’ names, not because she was a particular fan of those sports but because she surmised—correctly, I believe—that members of the football and basketball teams would be the key tastemakers in the Abraham Lincoln High School social scene, and back then she was still interested in keeping abreast of that scene. This was prior to Shayna becoming best friends with Bronwyn Otulah-Tierney and entering her Age of Skepticism, as our father, Lyle, calls it.

We haven’t discussed it in so many words at home, but I would say that my sister has moved further in the last year or so, to what I’d call an Age of Nihilism. Sleeping all day, staying out late, greasy hair, plummeting grades, glowering. I wonder if this state of existence rings a bell for you, Kurl, if you’re repeating courses this year? Did you have an Age of Nihilism? What comes after it?

Anyhow. I have a very clear memory of these team pictures. I was twelve years old and would assist Shayna by quizzing her on the players’ names, so I would probably still be able to greet many of those boys by name if I met them in the hall—but of course most of them have graduated by now. You were one of the younger players at the time; I suppose you would have been a sophomore, one of the little jerkoffs you mention in your letter.

I remember your picture in particular because you were one of only two boys who played on both the football and basketball teams. Adam Kurlansky, the photo’s caption read, but Shayna referred to you as Kurl. Hearing my sister say it—there was a kind of reverence in her voice, or at least a deep respect—I immediately sensed the power conferred upon its bearer by a good nickname. I’ve been “Jojo” to Shayna and Lyle on and off since I was a baby, but that was obviously not going to suffice in the context of high school.

I began testing out possible new nicknames for myself. I asked my father to call me “Kirk” from that day forward. Lyle was really generous about it, but after attempting it for a day or two he said it was too strange for him because Hopkirk is his last name, too. When Shayna caught wind of my nickname quest, she informed me that it doesn’t work that way, that one never, ever gives oneself a nickname, that one has to simply be admired and beloved enough for a nickname to magically be conferred upon one by one’s peers. And even back then—even in seventh grade—I knew I would never be cool enough to warrant a nickname. So Jonathan it is, or JO, I suppose. (A confession: I saw your Dear Little JO and, for approximately five seconds before noticing your asterisk and dropping my eyes to the middle of the letter, I did imagine it might a pet name for Jonathan. Nonsensical, of course. Why would you give a nickname to someone you have never even met?)

I just asked Ms. Khang if I could finish this letter at home and deposit it in her mailbox first thing tomorrow morning. She said that although I’m always welcome to write additional and/or supplementary letters in my spare time, I have to turn this one in now to avoid the “perils of lost or reconsidered correspondence,” as she put it. She smiled in a secretive way when she said it, so I suspect she was quoting from one of her favorite eighteenth-century novels. My apologies for the abrupt ending, Kurl.

From Ms. Khang’s list of “Acceptable Salutations” on the blackboard I will choose the one that resonates most closely with my personal philosophy—something I will have to explain in a future letter.

Yours truly,
Jonathan “Kirk” Hopkirk (I know, I just can’t quite pull it off, can I?)

We Contain Multitudes.jpg

Jonathan Hopkirk, a Walt Whitman fan, and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky, a football player, are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment.

With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and familial strife, Jonathan and Kurl must struggle to hold onto their relationship—and each other.

This rare and special novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.

Learn more about We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra >>

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