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Needlework by Julia Watts

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This is a young adult novel for teens, but it also is a fine trade novel for adults. Julia Watts just keeps getting better and better and illuminating more and more dimensions of life, and, with this, her fourteenth young adult novel, she continues to make a tremendous contribution especially for rural teens who are struggling with issues of identity. Lambda Literary recommended this as one of “8 Queer Young Adult Books Coming this Fall.”  The protagonist is Kody, a sixteen-year-old rural Eastern Kentucky youth who loves to quilt with Nanny, his grandmother, and is a Dolly Parton wannabe. The book’s title unites the quilting theme with the efforts of Kody and his grandmother to care for his mother who is addicted to opioids. “Julia Watts doesn’t sugarcoat the problems in contemporary Appalachia, but she also writes with big-hearted generosity and love. Kody, the gay sixteen-year-old protagonist, is sensitive, funny, and kind. I wish I’d had this book to read when I was young.” —Carter Sickels. “Watts’s engaging book addresses timely topics like addiction, homophobia, and racism, but her gentle, heartwarming prose makes this book a comfort read. Kody’s sweetly honest narration makes it impossible not to cheer for him. . . . Highly recommended.” School Library Journal. "Watts (Quiver) depicts queer existence in a conservative white Appalachian town with realism and, effectively, hope. Even as Kody experiences harm caused by those closest to him, he never doubts his value, a characterization that proves validating in this poignant exploration of the generational trauma caused by poverty, addiction, and racism, and of the power of being loved for oneself."  Publishers Weekly. The author, Julia Watts, grew up in southeastern Kentucky and lives in Knoxville where she is working on a PhD in children’s and young adult literature at the University of Tennessee.

New York: Three Rooms Press, 2021. 288 pages. Trade paperback.