Top Ten LGBTQ+ YA Novels for All Tastes by Haylee Geisthardt
Diversity of representation is important for a lot of reasons; everyone needs someone they can relate to or that will allow them to learn more about others. As a queer teenager, LGBTQ+ representation is especially important to me. Luckily, if you know where to look in YA lit, you can find characters all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum traversing many genres and having their experiences represented in a lot of ways.
So, if you are interested in LGBTQ+ issues, here’s my reading list for you (in alphabetical order because orders are hard):
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
When closed-off Ari meets quirky, mini-philosopher Dante, the unlikely duo quickly become best friends and make it through a lot together. This is a story of growth, torment, and love that is achingly beautiful and can change your worldview.
This book is beautiful, profound, frustrating at times, and hits issues both inside and outside of LGBTQ+ topics. I seriously can’t recommend this book highly enough—just be prepared to scream in frustration and weep for joy and sorrow.
Pen Oliveira is a Portuguese-Canadian girl struggling to just be who she is. Between a traditional family, a judgmental world, and her own inner demons, Pen’s story is riddled with difficulties common among LGBTQ+ teens. Girl Mans Up is shockingly honest, painfully real, and shows the strife that just being oneself can cause.
I enjoyed this book, and appreciated the way it represented the struggles of opening up about sexuality, the complex world of gender identity, and assumptions people make.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
If you haven’t read this book yet, please, do so immediately.
Noah’s story starts when he and his twin sister Jude are thirteen and nearly inseparable. Woven between, though, is Jude’s perspective— three years later. At sixteen Noah and Jude, separated by tragedy, are very different than before. This book tells an incredible, intriguing story that draws you in and never lets go. It’s one of my favorites ever. It’s a love story, a family story, an exploration of sexuality, a story of friendship and growth, and a philosophical journey. This book will change your life.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase is a regular homeless kid in Boston until he finds out the he’s actually the son of a Norse God. Then he dies. Now from the afterlife, Magnus Chase must become a hero and prevent Ragnarok— you know, the end of the world— from coming.
Rick Riordan’s latest series just goes above and beyond. Magnus Chase has all sorts of underrepresented characters: deaf characters, homeless characters, people of color and different races entirely (including elves and dwarves), genderfluid characters, talking swords and goats, and more! Highly recommend.
When closeted high schooler Simon Spier’s classmate finds his secret emails to another anonymous gay boy at school, Simon must meet his demands to keep his secret safe. This book follows Simon as he struggles with coming out, blackmail, friendship troubles, and uncovering who his mysterious correspondent “Blue” is.
I loved this book and appreciated the acceptance it demonstrated and the way it represented the journey of coming out and being outed. Plus, it was refreshing to read a book with an adorable gay happy ending.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Three words: High Fantasy Heist.
This duology tells the story of a ragtag group of criminals from the streets of Ketterdam on a mission to pull off a major heist. The mission: break into the impenetrable Ice Court, bust-out a hostage, and get rich. The crew: a beautifully diverse set of deeply flawed, multidimensional characters. The story: unforgettable.
I cannot stress enough how incredible these books are. Plus, with at least three canonical LGBTQ+ characters, hints at other sexualities and relationships, and how good they are overall, they’ve earned their spot on this list.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Mental illness. Bullying. Activism. Romance. Friendship. Genderfluidity. Everything. This book follows the genderfluid Riley Cavanaugh through their move a new school and subsequent triumphs and struggles. When Riley starts an anonymous blog at the recommendation of their therapist, though, they never expect it to blow-up— in good and bad ways.
This book is incredible; it does an amazing job of describing genderfluidity, representing many identities, and shattering the gender binary. It really taught me a lot and opened a whole new world for me.
Carson doesn’t want to spend the summer in Montana with his dying alcoholic father. But then he meets and befriends Aisha, a gorgeous girl who was kicked out of her house for being lesbian. When the pair find a box full of Carson’s estranged grandfather’s stuff in the basement, a road-trip adventure ensues.
Full of surprising twists, powerful moments, and cringe-worthy jokes, this book is a funny yet surprisingly profound exploration of sexuality, religion, personal philosophy, and gay history, especially powerful because of its perspective.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Every school has indie kids: the ones who are always the heroes, the chosen ones. This book isn’t about them; it’s about Mikey and his normal friends— older sister Mel, gay best friend Jared, and beautiful Henna. The indie kids may be dying, and there may be mysterious blue lights everywhere, but Mikey and his friends are just trying to finish high school.
LGBTQ+ issues are represented here, but so are mental illness, family issues, eating disorders, and more. This little book is amazing, surprising, hilarious, thoughtful, and important— definitely worth a read!
Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartringer
Rob is excited for a weekend trip to a remote cabin with his boyfriend Liam, Liam’s best friend Mia, and her boyfriend Galen. It’s supposed to be a fun weekend away, but then things go wrong. If the group doesn’t find out what’s the truth and what’s a lie, they’re not going to make it out alive.
This book kept me hooked to the very end. It’s such a unique, gripping, psychological thriller. Plus, the LGBTQ+ representation is refreshingly easy. Of course, nothing ends up the way you expect… this book will shake you to the core.
There you have it! Thanks, and I hope you take something from this list, enjoy a new book, and learn something new!
Haylee Geisthardt is a senior in high school taking an Advanced Placement Literature class. She is passionate about reading, writing, photography, running, the outdoors, and a lot of social issues. In the future, look out for novels with her name on the cover— she hopes to finish up her first novel and try to get it published soon.