Read with Pride! 15 YA novels with LGBTQIA characters to check out
As part of Pride celebrations this month, EW has been highlighting the best LGBTQIA representation in pop culture. In addition to a cover story on RuPaul (a.k.a. the First Lady of Drag), a reunion of The L Word cast, and lists of current comic series and upcoming movies and television, we’ve put together a list of young adult novels (both published, and those yet to be, in 2017) that showcase the wealth and diversity of the gender and sexuality spectrum.
Queer representation in the young adult book world has improved in recent years as authors and stories have focused on more than just the coming out process, which while an important milestone, isn’t a defining one. As a result, readers who do identify as LGBTQIA can now pick up a steampunk adventure (with a gay romance) set in Victorian London, a contemporary tale about a gender fluid protagonist finding fame on the internet, and a fantasy novel featuring a lesbian romance. There’s even an upcoming YA novel movie adaptation with a gay romance at its center.
So check out our suggestions of inclusive reads you can pick up to keep celebrating the spirit of Pride for the rest of the year.
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Suddenly becoming a superhero is the least of Danny Tozer’s problems after she sees Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero dies right in front of her — but not before he bequeaths Danny his powers. The pros? Not only can Danny fly, but she now has the body she’s always felt she should have been born with. The cons? Her father, as well as some of her new superheroic colleagues, don’t respect her transformation. Worse yet, Dreadnought’s killer, a cyborg named Utopia is still loose on the streets of New Port City and it’s up to Danny to stop it. Daniels spins a classic coming-of-age superhero tale, but one that also tackles transmisogyny and sexism, as its young hero navigates what she owes the world and what she owes herself. Order it here. (And the soon-to-be-published sequel, Sovereign, here.)
Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Eager to live an “interesting life” and tired of feeling like her identity just comprises of hypotheticals — especially her sexuality — Aki and her best friend, Lori, embark on a trip to Mexico with their church youth group and Aki’s minister father. But once there, the bisexual teen finds herself attracted to, and entering into a relationship with, the slightly older and a little more experienced Christa (who also isn’t out about her pansexuality). Talley doesn’t just explore both girls’ feelings (particularly what it means to fall in love) but also delves into the importance of safe sex, a topic that’s not as widely discussed in young adult fiction. Order it here.
At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
Ozzie started dating Tommy in middle school, but now he’s disappeared and Ozzie seems to be the only one who remembers his now-missing boyfriend. That leads him to his main theory: the universe is shrinking around him, erasing certain people and rearranging history to appear as if they never existed at all. While Ozzie works to get over his loss, he must also face the changes taking place in his life as his parents’ marriage starts to dissolve, his gender-fluid best friend Lua is now a famous rock star, and now his newly-emerging feelings for Cal, the boy he’s paired with for a physics project. Hutchinson creates an inclusive world inhabited by full-fledged characters, each of whom will evoke a range of emotions as Ozzie’s story tackles love, loss, and moving on. Order it here.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
LaCour’s latest novel is a tender and beautiful exploration of grief and the freeing power of truth. When Marin’s best friend, Mabel, visits her during her winter break in New York City, the college freshman must confront the reasons why she suddenly left San Francisco after her beloved grandfather’s death. Filled with poetic prose that waxes lyrical as much as it evokes emotion, LaCour’s book is one worth breaking your heart over. Order it here.
Looking for Group by Rory Harrison
Having kicked cancer into remission, and now suffering from a mild OxyContin addiction, Dylan is eager for any kind of change to his current life. When he decides he wants to go on a real-life “mission” — like those in World of Warcraft — he asks his best friend, Arden (who he met in the game) to join him. But his fellow teen has her own problems to contend with, as her father refuses to accept her gender identity. As the pair hit the road, they must not only work through their burgeoning feelings for one another but what it means to come from two different socioeconomic backgrounds. Harrison weaves together several themes including unhealthy parental-child, online gaming, sexual identity. Order it here.
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager and Zoe More O’Ferrall
Perfect for those looking for a fun and accessible resource on queer historical figures. Thanks to Prager’s extensive research and O’Ferrall’s eye-catching illustrations, readers will discover the many individuals (including Frida Kahlo, Abraham Lincoln, and Alan Turing) and their impact on history — whether their names were celebrated or not. Order it here.
It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura
Sana Kiyohara is grappling with what it means to tell the truth. Not only is her father having an affair (which she knows about), but she has feelings for a fellow poetry lover Jamie Ramirez and neither of their friends approves. There’s also the matter of Caleb, a sweet guy who may want to be more than friends. Sugiura’s gripping debut novel sees the Japanese-American teen navigate not only her new feelings but also the consequences of admitting the truth — both to herself and others. Order it here.
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Caden is the nice boy next door. Dylan is a bad boy. Both are romancing Juliet, a science genius. However there a few small snags. Not only are they’re both highly trained spies working for a secret organization that cultivates secret agents known as Love Interests so they can get access to valuable top secret information, but also whoever Juliet does not choose will die. And making matters trickier, it appears that both boys have fallen for… each other. Dietrich both flips and examines certain stereotypes in regards to gender and sexuality while also serving up some high stakes spy adventures. Order it here.
Perfect Ten by L. Philips
Eager to experience some romance in his life again, Sam agrees to his Wiccan best friend Meg’s offer of performing a love spell. So the unlucky-in-love teen compiles a list of 10 traits for his ideal boyfriend, which he then burns in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th. And just like that he’s left fielding the romantic interests of 3 different guys: suave French exchange student Gus, shy artist Jamie, and mysterious musician Travis. Also throwing his hat in the ring is Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon who may want a second chance at love. Philips’ tale will resonate with readers who are looking for love and a light, breezy summer read. Order it here.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Tash has a lot on her mind. “Unhappy Families” the web series adaptation of Anna Karenina she and her best friend Jack have co-created not only gained thousands of new followers, but they were also nominated for an award. Adding to that is the fact that her older sister is acting erratic, her new crush on a fellow video creator, and her recent coming out as asexual (someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction for any gender). Ormsbee shines a light on an underrepresented side of the sexuality spectrum as she tells the story of Tash’s attempts to navigate her identity, while also focusing on the pros and cons of Internet fame. Order it here.
Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzie Lee
One of EW’s summer must-reads for a reason, this hilarious (and totally swoon-worthy) historical YA follows the adventures of the bisexual Lord Henry Montague (better known as “Monty”), as he and his best friend (and crush) Percy set off on a Grand Tour of Europe with the aim of dropping his younger sister Felicity off to school and experiencing one last vice-filled hurrah (at least for Monty). However, when the young lord’s recklessness turns their trip into a madcap chase involving pirates and highwaymen around Europe, he’s forced to examine himself, and his relationship with Percy. Lee easily nails the historical aspects of the story, while giving it a modern twist in terms of her approach to themes like gender, class, and even sexuality. Order it here.
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
When gender fluid thief Sallot Leon steals a flyer for an audition to be a member of the queen’s assassins they jump at the chance to exact revenge on the nobles that destroyed their home. However, the trial sees them go up against acrobats, apothecaries, and ex-soldiers, and even as Sal begins to compete — winning the heart of court scribe Elise in the process — they won’t be able to be truly happy without surviving the challenges that lay head. Preorder it here.
They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera
Fans of Silvera’s know he’s set on exploring the effects of teenage grief. His third novel (and second this year) is no different. Only this time he transports readers to a dystopian world where two teens (and complete strangers), Mateo Torrez Rufus Emeterio, learn that they’re going to die on the same day. Thanks to an app called Last Friend, they are able to befriend each other and set off one last adventure: living the entire rest of their lives in the last one they have left. Preorder it here.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Walden turns her considerable storytelling and artistic skill toward her own life in this graphic memoir as she recounts the 10 years she spent as a figure skater. Through sparse illustration, and honest writing, she relates how her life of constant lessons and frequent competitions went from offering a safe haven from the everyday stress of schoolwork and family to making her question not only the close-minded world of figure skating but also what she thought she knew. As she changes schools, begins to get into art, and falls in love with her first girlfriend, Walden’s younger self comes closer to discovering who she is — and who she wants to be. Preorder it here.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
McLemore’s highly-awaited third novel — after the Stonewall Honor-winning When the Moon Was Ours — takes readers to La Pradera, the lush estate gardens tended to by the Nomeolvides women. When Estrella Nomeolvides falls for Fel, a mysterious boy who appears without a trace of where came from, she must figure out what it means for her identity, and for her family’s legacy, which sees the people they fall in love with vanish generation after generation. Fans of McLemore’s previous two books will instantly fall in love with magical realism-infused writing and poetic prose. Preorder it here.