If someone had asked 17-year-old Page Powars what he wanted to do for a living, he wouldn’t have said become a YA author. It wasn’t until he submitted a draft of his college admissions essay to his AP English teacher, Mr. LaPlante—a former Marine whom Powars describes as “very stern and scary”—that the then–high school junior considered writing as a viable career path. Powars remembers LaPlante critiquing his classmates’ drafts, “but all he said about mine was, ‘You should become a writer.’ No one had ever told me that before.”

Growing up, Powars wasn’t much of a reader and instead listened to music, played video games like Kingdom Hearts, and watched animated TV—hobbies he credits with igniting his love of storytelling alongside his music composition background. Powars says it hadn’t occurred to him that young adult books were an option for readers or writers, and that the first YA he remembers reading was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, when he was in high school. He recalls relating to the protagonists because they were dealing with the same problems that Powars, who is transgender, still contends with. “When you’re trans and you’re transitioning, no matter what age you are, you kind of go through puberty again. You have to relearn a lot of things.”

When he finally started querying agents, however, it wasn’t with his transgender-led YA debut, The Borrow a Boyfriend Club (Delacorte). His original manuscript followed a cisgender protagonist, because he says he was “too scared to talk about the transgender experience,” and while he received a lot of interest, “nobody wanted me at the end of the day.”

Despite the disheartening setback, he’s thankful for it now. As with YA, Powars initially didn’t think stories about trans people existed—until he read Mason Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best. “I didn’t know people could write about things like that. Mason and I are good friends now; they’re the blurb on the cover of my debut and we’re doing an event together in January. It’s surreal.”

Powars’s debut stars transgender 16-year-old Noah, who’s determined to “blend in like a normal teenage guy” at his new high school. But when he signs up for the Football and Lamborghini Club, he doesn’t expect it to be a cover for the Borrow a Boyfriend Club, a service that sets students up on dates with participating members. It’s a story about connection, friendship, finding oneself, and, of course, affirming queer romance. And the inspiration behind it all? Fear.

Looking for ways to make his book stand out, Powars drew upon his most prominent worry. “I thought, what would be my worst possible situation? Probably dating,” he recalls. But it was important to Powars that Noah find joy and acceptance, something he himself was still searching for. “My biggest fear when transitioning was that I would never be loved. When I was writing this book, I was creating a model of how I wished my life could be.”

Following his Pitch Wars mentorship with YA authors Sophie Gonzales and Amelia Diane Coombs, Powars began querying The Borrow a Boyfriend Club. It wasn’t until months into his search that he signed with agent Natalie Lakosil (formerly of Irene Goodman Literary, now at Looking Glass Literary), who offered representation the same day as Powars’s top surgery. Lakosil told him she has a trans child, which he said was a deciding factor for him. “I felt more confident knowing that she was in this personally.” The Borrow a Boyfriend Club went to auction soon after.

Powars recalls being frustrated throughout the auction process because he found something to like about each interested party. But when he met with Bria Ragin at Delacorte, who was the last person he spoke with on the final day of the auction, he knew he’d found the perfect fit.

Powars insists that his everyday life hasn’t changed much since the publication of The Borrow a Boyfriend Club. “I’m still just some guy sitting in his living room surrounded by the same video games he’s played since he was nine,” he says. But it’s the interactions he’s had with teen readers that have stood out to him the most. “My signing line at YALLFest was 95% teens. I was so honored that they thought I was even a little bit cool.”

Now a full-time writer, Powars sometimes feels unmoored without a proper schedule. While he can’t recommend working as many hours as he does, he finds comfort in the intentional time and effort it takes to talk with friends. And, of course, he still makes time for his hobbies. “Going back to video games is a healthy way for me to refill my well.”

Of the future, Powars says he just wants to keep writing. His next YA novel, And They Were Roommates, will be published by Roaring Brook in 2025. “I once again thought, what’s the worst situation I could be in? Sharing a room with a cisgender man who doesn’t know I’m trans.”

He’s motivated by the messages he receives from teens about how good it feels to see joyful versions of themselves in his books. “They’re being told both from a government and societal level that they’re not supposed to exist,” he says. “I want to publish more books that make those kids feel seen.”

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