A. J. Sass

A. J. Sass  is an author whose narrative interests lie at the intersection of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship. He is the critically acclaimed author of the ALA Rainbow Book List Top 10 titles Ellen Outside the Lines, which was also a Sydney Taylor Honor Book, and Ana on the Edge, as well as the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG (with Nicole Melleby). All three books are Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selections.

A. J. is the author of the upcoming middle grade book Just Shy of Ordinary (Little, Brown, 2024), the picture book Shabbat Is … (Little, Brown, 2024), and a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow (Knopf Books for Young Readers), Allies (DK/Penguin Random House), and On All Other Nights (Abrams, 2024) anthologies.

When he’s not writing, A. J. figure skates and travels as much as possible. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his husband and two cats who act like dogs. 

Find him on his website.

Bibliography

  • Middle Grade
    Just Shy of Ordinary
    A. J. Sass
  • Middle Grade
    CAMP QUILTBAG
    A. J. Sass
  • Middle Grade
    Ellen Outside The Lines
    A. J. Sass
  • Middle Grade
    Ana on the Edge 
    A. J. Sass
     

Reviews

Middle Grade

Just Shy of Ordinary
"Via sensitive depictions of Shai’s skin picking, as well as sincere prose that yields richly developed characters, relationships, and interactions, Sass captures the tension and dread of grappling with a hidden illness during a tumultuous transition."

Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review!

"Shai’s struggles with identity, anxiety, first love, and faith will resonate with middle grade and young adult readers."

School Library Journal

"Sass writes about intersectionality with plainspoken authenticity and normalizes asking for (and accepting) help from loved ones... An empathetic portrayal of multifaceted identities and the challenges of facing change."

Booklist Magazine

"Shai learns more than expected about the importance of acceptance and community. While Sass tackles several heavy subjects in this affecting novel, readers remain hopeful as Shai comes out of each trial a stronger person."

Horn Book Review

CAMP QUILTBAG
“A timely and necessary addition to any elementary or middle school library, especially as LGBTQIA+ children are seeking examples of loving communities who fully embrace every part of them.”

School Library Journal, STARRED Review!

“Via a perceptive dual narrative, Melleby and Sass weave the perspectives of two queer kids drawn together by a need for community.”

Publishers Weekly

“An instructive, affirming pick for rainbow readers and allies … Melleby and Sass write with incredible compassion, crafting a sweet summertime romance while modeling difficult conversations and valuable lessons in inclusivity.”

Booklist

“[Camp QUILTBAG] captures that camp feeling of getting away from home, meeting different people, and growing as a person . . . At its heart, an enjoyable summer camp story.”

Kirkus Reviews

“This engaging, gently affirming novel should be valuable to young readers exploring their own identities or curious about those of others.”

The Horn Book

“An absolute heartwarming delight. It’s a perfect summer read.”

Book Riot

“[A]ll of Sass’ books are must-reads.”

Kveller

Ellen Outside The Lines
"[T]houghtfully deals with gender identity and fluidity at various levels. A heartwarming and inviting book about finding self that hits at the ever-changing (and challenging) world of middle school. Recommended for all middle grade shelves."

School Library Journal, STARRED Review!

"Sass' sophomore novel shines in its nuanced characterizations, subversion of stereotypes, and world that celebrates autism for the joy it brings Ellen when they are happily flapping. A tender, sweet coming-of-age story."

Booklist, STARRED Review!

"The story’s beautiful locales and scavenger hunt puzzles frame a heartwarming story about a transitional period in life, conveyed alongside an affirming, incidental portrayal of Ellen’s experiences."

Publishers Weekly

"Ellen is a satisfyingly well-rounded character with complex relationships who makes mistakes and learns from them while figuring things out about herself, including trying out an adjustment to her—or maybe sometimes their—own pronouns."

The Horn Book

“In a refreshing change of pace from the way neurodivergent people are often treated in pop culture, Ellen is loved and supported at the same time that she is challenged by the people in her life. Ellen Outside the Lines doesn’t shy away from the obstacles experienced by people on the spectrum, while still celebrating the unique perspective that neurodivergence provides.

The Coachella Review

“This book is a real page-turner with incredibly engaging characters, lovingly drawn in all their diversity and quirkiness. Ellen’s new nonbinary classmate, Isa, who challenges Ellen’s tendency to think in black and white, is a highlight. An affirming and healing read for queer autistic readers of all ages!”

Autostraddle

“This middle grade is such an engaging, lovely read.”

Book Riot

Ana on the Edge 
"Sass masterfully balances Ana's passion for competitive figure skating with her journey to coming out. ...sensitive and realistic."

Booklist, STARRED Review!

"Sass has created dynamic, original characters who are believable and fun to follow… You can’t help rooting for Ana."

New York Times Book Review

"Vulnerable and affirming."

Kirkus Reviews

"Sass renders scenes on and off the ice with vivid descriptions, and writes nuanced, layered portrayals of characters."

Publishers Weekly

"The tone of the story remains hopeful as [Ana] works toward a new understanding of herself. The personal connection of the author, himself a figure skater who identifies as nonbinary, to the story is evident within its pages in both the nuances of figure skating and Ana's interrogation of gender."

The Horn Book

“Sass’ moving middle grade novel—described by so many as an instant classic—follows Ana into the incredibly gendered space of athletics and beyond those limitations. Through Ana’s eyes, you’ll fall in love with ice skating. More importantly, you’ll question what it means to win as Ana skates towards friendship, fulfillment, and the magic of becoming the best, most genuine version of yourself.”

Chicago Review of Books