Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

The book cover shows a young man on the left, holding a soccer ball behind a net and looking at his cell phone, and a young man on the right in a maroon and white hoodie with his hands in his pockets. Between them is an isolated image of two hands clasping. There is a pink and peach-colored bright but cloudy sky in the background, and the title lettering is in teal green.

By Sahana C.

TW: Parental abuse & abandonment, homophobia & homophobic slurs, bullying 

In Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, Julián Luna is determined to make the most of his senior year of high school. He has plans on how he’ll make that happen: spending as much time as possible with his best friends, playing soccer, graduating, getting into UCLA, and, oh – making sure no one finds out that he’s gay. Especially not his father. But despite this secret he’s keeping, he manages to make the most of things, spending time with his tight-knit friend group. Until, of course, one day, just scrolling through Twitter, he sees pictures of a boy. Immediately, there’s a connection, and when they start texting and speaking more, Julián finds himself falling for the boy, Mat. The issue, then? Well, other than the fact that Julián isn’t out, he’s also in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Mat lives in Los Angeles. Despite the distance, the two boys start learning about each other, falling for each other, and hoping for a future together. But time, distance, and unplanned coming-outs get in the way.  

Garza Villa is honest about hardship from the start of the book, even writing in the dedication ““To all the queer brown boys still waiting for their chance to bloom. Quisieron enterrarnos, pero no sabían que éramos semillas.” They want to bury us, but they don’t know that we are seeds. That thread flows through the novel, including candid conversations about machismo in Latinx culture, religion’s intersection with homophobia, and conversations about bullying. And yet, despite the list of trigger warnings at the top of this review, the novel is intentionally not centering trauma in Julián’s life. Every moment of pain is followed by immediate love, support, and care. Garza Villa takes pains to ensure that joy is the central theme around which the rest of the story is built; of course Julián faces hardship, but he is never truly alone in how he responds to those traumatic moments. The idea presented in the dedication, “we are seeds”, is exactly how Julián responds to all the hardships in his life. He was buried deep, and with careful nurture, love, and support from his family and friends, he manages to bloom into something beautiful and loving, breaking the cycle of abuse.  

This book was wonderfully illustrative. I lost myself in Julián’s friend group, found myself falling in love with Mat along with Julián, and waiting with bated breath for college acceptance letters. But most significantly, I was swept up in a celebration of culture, cuisine, friendship, and queer joy. There is real heart here; Garza Villa paints an honest picture of the ways falling in love and doing long distance just as easily as he manages to bring to life all of the different characters that make up Julián’s friend group, who each are so vivacious and full of life without becoming caricatures.  

This book is perfect for any teens looking to find themselves, or adults who know that the blooming never stops. That if we are seeds, we will continue to grow, season after season.

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

Skye Falling by Mia Mackenzie

The book cover shows a cityscape with multicolored homes in the foreground, trees in the middle ground, and a skyline view of tall skyscrapers in the background.  People are in purple silhouette walking along the street, sitting or leaning on their porches, and looking out of windows.  The whole cover is done in shades of blue, purple, pink, and peach.

by Ash B.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming read that is thought-provoking, discussable, and hilarious, look no further than Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie. 

Skye is an elder millennial who is quickly approaching her 40th birthday, and she has no interest in ‘settling down’ or having any deep sort of meaningful human connection. The successful founder of a small travel company, Skye has spent years adventuring around the world in the fleeting company of strangers… which has provided her the perfect opportunity to avoid lasting relationships of any kind.  

In short, Skye has an impressive career but she is a hot mess when it comes to her personal life. 

Her brief returns to her hometown, Philadelphia, usually consist of crashing at her friend’s B&B, dodging her brother’s calls about their chronically ill mother, and planning for upcoming trips she will lead for work. She typically does not spend this time reflecting on the past or dredging up emotions that she has long since buried. 

So, when she finds that the egg she donated over a decade ago has actually developed into a real human child – now a twelve year old girl, to be exact – her initial reaction is to run. Literally. Skye tries to run and hide from this girl, Vicky, who introduces herself as “your egg.” But it turns out Vicky is actually pretty cool… so cool that Skye might want to stick around and try to be responsible for the first time in her life.  

However, this is complicated by the fact that Vicky’s aunt and caretaker is not a big fan of Skye, at least not at first. But, as they get closer, let’s just say the tension between these two women isn’t solely about their different approaches to parenting…  

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, believe me when I say McKenzie is a master of comedic writing. The outrageous situations she puts her characters in, and the figurative language she uses to describe them, is top tier. Not to mention her hilarious one-liners, too! 

This novel isn’t just funny, though – it is emotionally rich and insightful about a range of issues from family trauma and fractured friendships to gentrification and policing. McKenzie creates an engaging balance between humor and tragedy, joy and anger, fear and love. The result is a feel-good, fun book that holds space and respect for serious topics that are part of everyday life. 

This is ultimately what makes Skye Falling one of my favorite 2021 releases, and I believe it is also what makes it a great choice for book club discussions – which is why I included it on the HCLS 2022 Books for Discussion list (which you should take a look at for more reading suggestions). 

While I think Skye Falling can appeal to a variety of readers, I would particularly recommend this title to lovers of Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers. Both novels center queer Black women who put pause on their careers in order to sort out personal relationships, figure out what they are doing with their lives, and eventually begin to process their complicated relationships with their parents. They each have rom-com elements without that being the entire plot, are full of millennial humor (albeit on different ends of the generation), and celebrate friendship and chosen family. I wholeheartedly recommend both! 

Skye Falling is available to borrow from HCLS in print and is one of the many titles included in our Equity Resource Collection.  

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. This time of year, they are especially fond of reading while cuddling with their golden retriever and sipping hot cocoa or tea.