Once upon a time, so many books I read took place in New York. If I was lucky, maybe I could branch out to London. Then, with the increase of movie and music stars, we branched out into Los Angeles. And of course, there are all of those small town stories set in some lovely rural area that might exist or might be a composite of places the author has been. But do you know what city has been feeling the love, recently?
These three books are all set in Philadelphia, and whether the people are from there or not, there is very much a feeling of place in each book. Not just because the people in them go here or there and you know they’re in a city; there is very much a feeling of that city. Check em’ out.
(Note: all three of these books have a long list of content notes based on a great deal of trauma from childhood and present day but they are all very fun and funny.)
This novel is a trip and a half! Skye is an incredibly messy woman who owns her own business and doesn’t think she needs friends (except her ride or dies, anyway) or family (the one she admits exists, anyway). She doesn’t spend much time in her hometown, mostly just what she needs to crash and recover between her expeditions all over the world. But on this particular visit, she gets multiple rude awakenings and might even end up with a new kind of family—blood and found.
Content notes: mention of death from cancer; reference to child and domestic abuse; toxic family relationships; police violence; restorative justice; checked anti-trans language; unsustainable coping mechanisms for childhood trauma; sex on page; microaggressions; racist activity; excessive drunkenness; reference to attempted sexual assault; mention of double mastectomy; casual reference to suicide; violent outburst; reference to infertility; reference to abortion; reference to in vitro
Rep: Skye is a cis Black queer woman in her thirties who reads as neurodivergent.
This is a similarly messy book about two women from very different walks of life. Emira works as a more-than-babysitter-not-quite-nanny for Alix’s adorable young child, and they have a great relationship. When a racist encounter rattles Emira, the two women go down a path that neither of them expected. Both cutting and hilarious, this book dives into the ways life does and doesn’t work out sometimes. The experience of reading this on audio was one like no other, as the narrator has such an amazing grip on both of the point-of-view characters.
CN: overt racism; microagression; destruction of personal property; discussion of fetishism; discussion of sexual abuse; anxiety; mental health issues; financial insecurity; excessive spending; alcohol use; reference to child and domestic abuse; teenage shenanigans; multilevel marketing scheme; threat of violence; gaslighting
Rep: Emira is a cishet Black woman in her twenties.
Okay, after reading those two, you might want something a little more light hearted, amirite? A Brush With Love is a contemporary romance novel featuring two dental students who have very different views of dentistry and life. Harper has wanted to be an oral surgeon since childhood, and she’s almost there. What she doesn’t need is a man with whom she has incredible chemistry getting in her way of graduating with flying colors and getting her dream residency. Dan, on the other hand, has only just returned to Philly to start dental school at the request of his mother, who is struggling with the practice she’d managed with her superstar dentist husband until his death. The two start on the wrong foot entirely, but become friends and confidantes. But life, expectations, and a boatload of anxiety can get in the way of love.
CN: Severe anxiety, including on-page panic attack; fainting; discussion of dental processes; checked-misogyny and sexism; minor violence; drinking; toxic family relationships; dead parents; discussion of past car accident; subconscious ableism/ resistance to therapy; dental puns; slow burn; “let’s just be friends”; protective Jewish deli owners
Rep: Harper is a cishet white Jewish woman in her mid-twenties with severe anxiety and PTSD. Dan is a cishet biracial man of Lebanese descent in his mid-twenties.
Philadelphia is home to lots of people, like producer, drummer, Oscar winner and author of Music Is History Questlove. I hope to keep seeing their stories in fiction!