Spotlight on I’ll Take Everything You Have (James Klise), Excerpt Plus Giveaway! ~US Only

Today we’re spotlighting I’ll Take Everything You Have by James Klise!

Read on for more about James, his book, and a giveaway!




Meet James Klise:

James Klise is the author of The Art of Secrets, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Teen Mystery, the Nevada Young Readers Award, and a Booklist Editor’s Choice Award, among other honors. His first book, Love Drugged, was an ALA Stonewall Honor Award winner and Lambda Literary Award finalist. His short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the New Orleans Review, StoryQuarterly, Southern Humanities Review, Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. Mr. Klise earned an MFA from Bennington College. He leads a popular Novel-in-A-Year workshop at StoryStudio in Chicago and, for the past two decades, he has overseen a very busy high school library.

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About the Book: I’ll Take Everything You Have

From an Edgar Award-winning author, this historical noir novel follows the life-changing summer of sixteen-year-old Joe Garbe as he discovers queer community in 1930s Chicago and gets caught up in the city’s crooked underbelly.

In the summer of 1934, Joe Garbe arrives in Chicago with one goal: Earn enough money to get out of debt and save the family farm. Joe’s cousin sets him up with a hotel job, then proposes a sketchy scheme to make a lot more money fast. While running his con, Joe finds himself splitting time between Eddie, a handsome flirt on a delivery truck, and Raymond, a carefree rich kid who shows Joe the eye-opening queer life around every corner of the big city.

Joe’s exposure to the surface of criminal Chicago pulls him into something darker than he could have imagined. When danger closes in—from gangsters, the police, and people he thought were friends—Joe needs to pack up and get lost. But before he can figure out where to go, he has to decide who he wants to be.

I’ll Take Everything You Have is a vivid portrayal of queer coming of age in Depression-era Chicago, and a timeless story of trying to make your future bright when the rest of the world is dead set on keeping it hidden in the dark.

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Chapter One


At LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, the first thing I did when I stepped off the train was count the tracks, nearly a dozen total, all pointing the same direction: back toward home. Loudspeakers blared platform numbers and destination cities, the fuzzy stream of words passing like clouds overhead. A mob jammed the waiting room.

Before I felt licked, my cousin’s cap shot up, waving above the sea of black fedoras and brown trilbies.


“Hurry up, kid. Let’s bust out of this circus and find some fresh air.”

Everything around us looked swell, marble walls and brass ticket counters, nothing like the dumpy brick station we got stuck with downstate. Bernie led me toward the exit, and we passed vendors selling magazines, Lucky Strikes, PayDays. One stand displayed the most colorful flowers I’d ever seen, except on postcards. The long waiting-room benches reminded me of the pews at St. Mark’s, and the idea struck me that the station was like a church, people saying their prayers at each arrival and departure. Even though I was flat broke, the train station made me feel hopeful—first I’d felt that way in a long time.

I guess I was still running my mouth about it later, after we dropped off my suitcase where Bernie was staying. He snapped, “Enough about the station already! You sound like a goddamned hick when you squawk about it.”

More gently, he added, “LaSalle Street isn’t even one of the fancy ones, Joe. You gotta see Union Station, or Grand Central over there on Harrison. I’ll take you sometime, if you’re so bananas about locomotive travel all of a sudden.”

We snaked our way on foot down Clark Street in Towertown. The afternoon sun blazed hot. At this hour, there was no shady side of the street. The entire city seemed to be made of brick and concrete, the apartment blocks and office buildings rising higher and higher toward the cluster of skyscrapers called the Loop.

“Golly,” I exclaimed.

“You’ll get used to it,” Bernie said, but I hoped I wouldn’t.

My father never lived to see such sights. He died in 1918, when a team of horses ran off, dragging a hayrack and my father behind them. He missed seeing everything—not just skyscrapers, but modern automobiles and traffic lights, living room radios and air travel and penicillin. He’d missed Cole Porter and Charlie Chaplin and bubble gum. He’d almost missed seeing me. When they put him in the ground, I was only eight months old.

“Shake a leg, champ!” Bernie hollered. “You want to be late for your very first shift?”

It was the end of June, with 1934 predicted to be the hottest year in American history. After too much sun and no rain, crops had shriveled across the state. That was before swarms of chinch bugs flattened what was left. We all wanted to work, but Mother Nature wouldn’t meet us halfway. The previous winter, we’d heated the house with corn rather than coal. This year we wouldn’t even have corn. My mother had sold my father’s gold watch and his cufflinks; she’d hocked half the furniture. By the time I boarded the train to Chicago, she couldn’t afford tears in her eyes.

Bernie had set me up with a job in the hotel kitchen where he worked. He was nineteen, three years older than me. He’d only been in Chicago a year, but already he seemed to belong. He boasted, “I go anywhere I want. Don’t even glance at street names anymore.”

The area where he stayed was dingy as hell. Trash filled the gutters; every block had broken windows. Grown men in rags lingered everywhere, hands stuffed deep in their pockets, like they’d been waiting years for luck to change. When a breadline jammed the sidewalk, we crossed traffic to the other side.

At Walton Street, we came to a park, a square block of uncut grass and weeds enclosed by a picket fence. The park was surrounded by two churches, a stately old library, a picture house, and an assortment of mansions. The houses had gone to seed, with torn awnings and peeling iron fence posts. In dirty windows, cardboard signs offered rooms for rent.

“Take my advice,” Bernie muttered, “and steer clear of this park.”

“What for?”

“It’s no good, Joe. Not for us. Filled with radicals. Not to mention the place is crawling with pansies.”

My ears perked up. “Repeat that?”

“I mean, this neighborhood. It may be the best we can afford for now, but it’s a pansy paradise or something. Near that fountain over there, you can’t look at a fellow without getting a smile you don’t need.”




Title: I’ll Take Everything You Have

Author: James Klise

Release Date: February 28, 2023

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

ISBN-10: 1616208589

ISBN-13: 9781616208585

Genre: YA LGBTQ+, YA Historical (20th Century USA)

Age Range: Ages 13 to 17





Ten (10) winners will receive a copy of I’ll Take Everything You Have (James Klise) ~US Only
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6 thoughts on “Spotlight on I’ll Take Everything You Have (James Klise), Excerpt Plus Giveaway! ~US Only”

  1. CrabbyCrab says:

    I love the car on the cover!

  2. Cori says:

    WOW looks like the perfect read

  3. Autumn says:

    The face that this is set in 1930s Chicago is awesome.

  4. I love the cover and can’t wait to read this historical fiction novel.

  5. ldittmer says:

    My students would love this book!

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