If You Still Recognise Me

If you loved Heartstopper and need more feel-good LGBTQ+ romance – If You Still Recognise Me is the one for you!

Elsie has a crush on Ada, the only person in the world who truly understands her. Unfortunately, they’ve never met in real life and Ada lives an ocean away. But Elsie has decided it’s now or never to tell Ada how she feels. That is, until her long-lost best friend Joan walks back into her life.

In a summer of repairing broken connections and building surprising new ones, Elsie realises that she isn’t nearly as alone as she thought. But now she has a choice to make…

Little Tiger

This is the debut UKYA novel by Cynthia So, and they are definitely one to watch! Loved the enthusiasm & passion blended with uncertainty in protagonist, I knew where the story was going but it was *so* satisfying. And So Much +ve rep! I loved the queer people of all ages, the delight of teens sharing a fandom, intergenerational relationships & intricacies of family life & how people show love…& realising what *isn’t* love…it is a must read this Pride Month.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Cynthia a few questions:

If You Still Recognise Me is your debut novel but you had a short story in the PROUD book, edited by Little Tiger, did you already have the idea of IYSRM? They’re very different, do you have more ideas for your phoenix?

I had started to write IYSRM by the time PROUD came out in March 2019, but I don’t think I had the idea for it when I first drafted my short story “The Phoenix’s Fault” back in March 2018. I didn’t really have any ideas for a novel at all back then! I’ve always adored YA contemporary, and I’ve also always loved fantasy, but something about writing a fantasy book is a little more daunting to me. I have trouble writing things longer than a short story, so I needed to push myself past that self-doubt of “I’ll never write a good novel” by starting with something that to me has a breezy, casual vibe, and IYSRM is what resulted. I was very self-indulgent while writing it. I just wanted to write my dream summer queer YA book, and to have as much fun as possible while doing it.

I don’t have more ideas for my phoenix. I think we left her and her humans in a good place. I could definitely write more queer stories in that universe though, based around different creatures in Chinese folklore and myth. The Legend of the White Snake for example!


The background to the comic, so that the fandom would make sense, feels like you have a whole story planned out! Have you written more that wasn’t included?

There were some little details that I included in earlier drafts that didn’t make it into the final version, but otherwise there’s not a lot in my head that isn’t on the page. I think this is a good lesson for any author, that you need just enough detail to suggest something bigger – you don’t need to have it completely fleshed out, which may be a waste of time if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to writing! Coming up with a few specific details goes a long way towards making something seem real.


While you were writing, did you share it with many people or wait until it was finished?

I didn’t share it with anyone while I was writing. I’m an intensely private person! Every author’s different, but for me, to share something with someone before I finish it would be to jinx it, somehow. I feel like I have to be alone with the story, to know that it is, for a time, mine and only mine, to learn to love it properly. The sort of relationship I have with a story changes once I start to share it with others, because I worry so much about what others think. By not sharing it until it’s done, I can hone in on my own vision for the story and honour it to the best of my ability.

And it also gives me the drive and motivation to complete it, because I know that unless I finish it, I’ll never be able to let anybody else read it, and that would be a huge shame after pouring months into trying to write it!


The comic book shop is wonderful, is it based on one that you’ve been to or is it wishful thinking?

It’s not based on any particular comic book shop, but I do love the vibe of any indie bookshop, including comic book shops. Gosh! Comics in Soho is such a lovely, cosy little place, and I also always think fondly of havens like Gay’s the Word. Indie bookshops are truly the best.


Have you had any reaction from teen readers yet? What would you like them to take away from the book?

I don’t think I’ve had any reaction from teen readers yet (that I know of), but there’s lots of things I would like them to take away from the book. Here are a few of those things:
1) I want queer teens who want romantic love to know that they will find that romantic love, even if it takes time, and it may take time. I worry that teens might look at YA romances and feel sad that they don’t have that romance in their lives right now, and believe that that means there’s something inadequate about themselves. Though my book is a YA romance, it also has lots of stories in it about queer people who find love much later on in life, and it’s no less wonderful or beautiful. One day, you will be loved for who you are, by someone who sees you. And you deserve that kind of love. Real love shouldn’t require you to make yourself smaller for it.
2) Coming out doesn’t have to be the end goal. I think when I was a teenager I felt so much angst about not feeling brave enough to come out to people other than a few of my friends. But not coming out to your family doesn’t mean you’re not brave enough. It doesn’t mean you’re ashamed. You can be proud of who you are, without coming out to lots of people.
3) It’s OK to change. It’s OK not to know exactly who you want to be yet. You have time to figure it out.


What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

Just finished Gay Club! by Simon James Green – it’s funny and extremely readable like Simon’s books always are, and the characters are a delight, and there’s such a powerful message at the centre of it. I would recommend to all teens who are part of LGBTQ+ clubs at school, or those would like to start one. It’s also so incredible to me to think about the fact that some teens get to be part of LGBTQ+ clubs at school now, so if you’re an adult and you wish you had that kind of support and community as a teen this book is also totally for you.

I also finished I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston not long ago, and oh my god. This is the queer book of my dreams. It’s all of my fave YA books I read when I was growing up, but QUEER, finally, queer! It’s such a dreamy, exhilarating romance set against the backdrop of a Christian high school between two academic rivals who are utterly obsessed with each other, and the scavenger hunt element is so fun. It’s a fantastically escapist summer read. I would recommend this to everyone who likes John Green, and also anyone growing up in a small town and/or with a religion that makes them feel complicated about their queerness. This book is really uplifting in that regard and full of shining defiance and hope.


What are you working on at the moment?

My second YA contemporary novel with Little Tiger. It’s going to be another queer romance, and it will involve lots of food, and lots of family, and lots of yearning, because those are some of my favourite things to write about. Other than that, I don’t want to say too much – you’ll have to wait and see! 🙂

Thank you so much Cynthia for answering my questions, and writing such a great book, and thanks to Little Tiger for a review copy and facilitating the q&a!

If You Still Recognise Me publishes on the 9th June 2022

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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