Actually, LGBTQ characters have always been present in literature, since the beginning of time (think Shakespeare, Greek mythology), represented either openly (though often misrepresented), or subtly (Hello, Dumbledore)—but rarely do we see them as the main characters. Heteronormativity is still the king in narratives. But recently, since we started having more conversations about gender, more writers are exploring LGBTQ protagonists, particularly in the YA genre—a favorite among readers of all ages. In the last few years especially, the number of LGBTQ-centered YA have gone up–really good ones too! It’s not just a matter of them being represented frequently, but rather, of them being represented truthfully. Because LGBTQ characters are not just limited to “gay best friends,” they deserve to be the star of their own stories—and these books prove as much.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
You’ve probably heard of its movie adaptation, Love, Simon. If you’ve watched it then you’re already familiar with the plot: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a love story that takes place through an email correspondence, and the fateful events that led to Simon’s premature coming out. If you loved the film, get to know Simon more through Becky Albertalli’s poignant debut novel.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This award-winning novel tells the story of twin brothers Jude and Noah, who used to be inseparable. Noah is the more introspective and introverted of the two. And he’s always been in love with the boy next door. Jude, on the other hand, wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years after, he meets an intriguing boy and a mysterious new mentor. Told in two perspectives—The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s—this ingenious storytelling will make you laugh and cry.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Both masters in the YA genre, authors John Green and David Levithan teamed up for this novel about two teens—both named Will Grayson—whose paths become intrinsically connected, which led to both of their lives going in new and unexpected directions, and “the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.”
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
A definite picker-upper, this takes you to some Hollywood glamor through the story of young production designer Emi Price, who is already confident with her identity. She thrives in her career yet remains clueless in romance.When she and her best friend, Charlotte, discovered a mysterious letter, an exciting new adventure began to unravel.
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
Published in 1982, this may not have been the first queer YA, but it is considered as the novel which popularized the genre. To this day, it’s still being reprinted and distributed. It changed the game, because it depicted a happy queer love story instead of a tragic one. It tells the story of Liza Winthrop who connected instantly with Annie Kenyon the first time she laid eyes on her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Soon, they become friends, and eventually deeper relationship developed, though not without life’s fair share of obstacles.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
When this came out in 2003 it was such a game-changer for the way it portrayed a high school community: an LGBTQ utopia, where people are accepting of each other. This is the story of Paul, a sophomore who meets Noah. They’re perfect for each other until he blows it. Though the odds are against him getting Noah back, he’s not about to give up.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
This is a must-read for many reasons. It’s a book about a trans girl, by a trans woman, with a trans girl model on the cover. It centers on Amanda Hardy, the new girl in school. When she meets and falls in love with Grant, she is faced with the dilemma of keeping her secret at the risk of losing her new love and facing judgement from the whole school.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Gavin
If you love The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you’ll most probably love this too. It’s a moving tale of snarky, rebellious, gender-fluid Riley Cavanaugh, who isn’t out yet. Things get complicated with his congressman father running for reelection. He vents through a blog which eventually becomes viral, forcing him to make difficult decisions.
Fan Art by Sarah Tegay
Fan Art is an adorable modern romance about Jamie, a boy who falls in love with his best friend. Though he tries to hide it, the girls in his art class are well aware of his feelings, and they’re determined to help them get together.
Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green
A humorous tale, this read explores the life of Noah Grimes, whose father disappeared years ago; whose mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and whose grandmother is no longer herself. He wants more than anything for life to be normal but there are things he just can’t control—including that time a guy kissed him at a party.
Art by Marian Hukom
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