Queer lit is my favorite category of YA lit. Even as a heterosexual, cisgender woman, I still relate to these characters and am often moved by their stories. I think it’s important for queer readers to be able to find stories that reflect them, but I also think it’s important for all readers to seek out books with characters from backgrounds different from their own, too.
These are some of my recent favorites. There are lots of great older YA novels that feature queer characters—written by authors like Alex Sanchez, Ellen Wittlinger, and David Leviathan—but I wanted to feature books that had been published in 2012 or 2013 (listed in no particular order).
Winger by Andrew Smith
Though Ryan Dean West, the “loser” hero and title character of Winger, is definitely not gay (he spend a lot of time thinking about “hot” girls), his best friend Joey is. But Joey isn’t your stereotypical gay sidekick friend and his character arc isn’t typical. He’s rugby player who’s out, even though it earns him some flack from certain teammates. I highly recommend this book—see my review here.
Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie
Matt is struggling with the death of his brother TJ and living with his strict military father when TJ’s personal effects arrive. While his older brother was serving in the military, he was also in a relationship that Matt and his father knew nothing about, and Matt takes it upon himself to deliver the last letter TJ wrote to his lover, only to discover it was a man, not a woman. This novel features an authentic teen guy voice yet still had me teary throughout. You can read my full review here.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth
Guys, I love this book so much. Cameron’s parents die in a car accident the same day she first kisses a girl, and so she is raised by her born-again Evangelical Christian aunt. When Cam’s aunt discovers she’s kissing girls, she’s sent to a conversion therapy camp. I reviewed this book on my blog here, but also posted a photo essay at The Hub when it was nominated for a Morris Award.
Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
This is a soap-y, drama-filled story with a large cast of characters that is like Downton Abbey for YA. One of those characters is gay. Though this isn’t perhaps the best example of queer YA, I did have a lot of fun reading this book and it was the first time I’d read a historical YA with a queer character (though it figures less into the overall story, Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys also features a gay character). You can read my review here.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
This is going to be released this fall and has been promoted heavily (Featured both at ALA Midwinter in January and BEA last week). I finished it while on a plane, and the flight attendant said, “that must have been good,” because I was all weepy. I told her it was about a girl in Tehran in love with her best friend who considers having sex reassignment surgery because while loving someone of your own sex is illegal and punishable by death, sex reassignment surgery is sanctioned and even funded by the state. She was very intrigued by the story, as was the bartender at the airport bar and the person I sat next to on the plane, who all asked about it. I loved being able to spread the word about this book, because I really loved it. I’ll review it closer to the publication date.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This is just a beautiful love story. Read my review here. Actually, just go read the book.
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Astrid sends love to the passengers of planes flying over her house because she doesn’t know what else to do with it. I haven’t yet reviewed this book because it’s hard to put into words how awesome it is.
The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Ilsa J. Bick
This book had my heart racing. The unreliable narrator and ambiguous ending were fascinating to me. This is different than other queer YA novels because it isn’t about coming out and it isn’t a romance. This is one of two 5 star reviews I’ve given on Goodreads this year and that’s out of over a hundred books (I’ve had lots of 4 star reviews , but only this and Dark Triumph earned 5 from me, because 4 = great read, 5 = mind blown). See my full review here.
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
This is a moving collection of poetry about the hate crime perpetrated against Matthew Shepard in 1998. I reviewed it here.
Drama by Raina Telegemeier
A middle grade graphic novel about a girl with crushes on boys and a musical theater obsession. What’s not to love? It’s nice to see a book suitable for younger readers that deals with coming out. See my review here.
There are some notable novels I haven’t included because I haven’t yet read them, and some that have supporting gay characters even if queer issues aren’t at the forefront of the story, like Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore or Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta.
What are your favorite LGBTQ YA novels?