Books can be a source of comfort for many readers, but can also be a source of self discovery too. Often, readers will turn to books with LGBT+ representation to learn about themselves, their friends or their family members. It’s reassuring for readers to see a character in a book that they can look to and say “they’re like me”.
LGBT+ representation is getting there in YA books, but there’s still a long way to go to make sure that everyone is represented as well as being represented fairly and correctly. On the blog today I’ve collected 10 books that I think are great starting points if you have yet to read any LGBT+ YA!
What does LGBT+ stand for?
LGBT+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender. The + is a shorter way of collecting the many other sexualities and gender identities, but usually includes Pansexual, Intersex, Queer, Asexual, Nonbinary and Gender Fluid, along with others. Some people use LGBT+ to mean ‘LGBT and other related communities’. It’s really up to you whichever abbreviation you want to use – some may feel more comfortable using LGBTQIAP, or others may prefer to use LGBT.
NOAH CAN’T EVEN
Poor Noah Grimes just can’t catch a break. His dad disappeared years ago, his mum’s tribute act is appalling, and something isn’t right with Gran. Not to mention that school is utter HELL. Noah just wants to be normal, and hopes to achieve that by dating Sophie. But when best friend Harry kisses him at a party, Noah’s plans are derailed and everything in his head begins to crumble…
Noah Can’t Even is a book about first loves, new feelings and tons of awkward moments. It’s the perfect blend of a first relationship building up while also carefully and beautifully showing the fears and internal thoughts and worries that come with early understanding of your own sexuality.
Frances is a study machine with one goal in mind – Cambridge university. Nothing will stand in her way, pushing aside friendships, secrets and her true self to dedicate herself to study. When she meets Aled, who is far more free spirited than her, she’s unafraid to be herself. When the trust between them breaks, Frances is caught between two people – the person she was and the person she’s always wanted to be.
As well as dealing with university and struggling thoughts of the future, Radio Silence also weaves the characters sexualities into the book with care. Frances is bisexual, and this is mentioned often in the book when she talks about her first relationship. Aled, the books other main character, is gay, but also has a touching storyline throughout about his asexuality.
Eric and Morgan were born on the same day, at the same time, at the same place. Every year they spend their birthdays together, but as they get older they begin to drift apart. Eric is expected to get a football scholarship, but deep down he’s having second thoughts about the sport. Morgan feels utterly alone, wrestling with the difficult choice to live as her true self. As both of them struggle, will they be able to find a way to help each other?
Birthday was one of those rare books that made me cry in public! The story is told over six years, with each entry being focused on the teenagers birthdays, and this makes you really appreciate the character growth. Morgan’s transition journey is one that is moving and heart wrenching, but the book is peppered with moments of joy and light.
(Please be aware that Birthday does include scenes of transphobic bullying, self harm and attempted suicide)
Charlie and Nick attend the same school, but have never met until a new seating plan in English has them sitting together. They quickly become firm friends but as the friendship grows there are other feelings under the surface that are building. Charlie thinks he doesn’t have a chance, but life can always be surprising…
Heartstopper is one of those wholesome graphic novels that has happiness at its core. Charlie is openly gay and slowly falling for Nick, who is having his own thoughts about his sexuality. With scenes that will be recognisable to so many when having first thoughts about sexuality and self discovery, this book is perfect for first experiences. There is also a totally cute lesbian couple who pop up from time to time!
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
When Cameron Post is caught making out with the high-school beauty queen, her aunt takes drastic measures to try and ‘correct’ her. Cameron is sent to God’s Promise, a gay conversion therapy camp, where she has to endure constant therapy attempts whilst trying to keep in touch with her true self – even if she’s not quite sure who that is…
Despite this book containing quite drastic scenes as the character is sent to conversion therapy, it is also one of the best books I’ve read. The first half of the book deals with Cameron discovering that she isn’t straight, and spends the other half with her adamantly refusing to let go of that part of her life. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is moving, touching, vividly descriptive and beautiful at times.
(Please be aware that The Miseducation of Cameron Post contains scenes of self harm and homophobia)
SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA
Simon is sixteen and is trying to work out who he is. When an anonymous fellow student posts about coming out on the school secrets page, Simon reaches out and emails him. But when the emails between the two get into the wrong hands, Simon’s life becomes complicated very, very quickly…
This is a book loved by many, so it makes complete sense to include it on this list! Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda – also known as Love, Simon – is a coming of age romance book that also deals with harassment and blackmail, as well as awkwardly sweet first love. The film version is one of the best book adaptations I’ve seen too, so it’s well worth a watch once you’ve read it!
Simon Snow is the Chosen One – it’s a pity that he’s the worst Chosen One the world has ever seen! Most of the time, Simon can’t even get his wand to work, his girlfriend dumped him, and there’s a monster destroying magic across the country – wearing Simon’s face! His roommate and nemesis Baz would be having a field day – if he’d even bothered to turn up to the last year of school…
Carry On is one of those books that I can’t get enough of – guilty pleasure at its finest! It’s got magic, vampires, dragons, and my favourite trope of all – enemies to lovers! Simon and Baz hate each other at the beginning of the book – well, at least they think they hate each other. Featuring oblivious boys and fiery first kisses, this is an enjoyable fantasy read!
I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they try to keep a low profile in a new school. But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
This book is a triumphant explosion of feelings, and is sure to send chills through your body as you read as well as a few tears! The characters are beautifully written, and there are many chapters between Ben and their therapist as they discuss dysphoria, misgendering and anxiety. Plus, the blossoming relationship is so, so sweet.
OUT OF THE BLUE
When angels start falling from the sky, it seems like the world is ending. Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived. As the world goes wild for angels, Jaya’s father uproots the family to Edinburgh intent on catching one alive. But Jaya can’t stand this obsession and, still reeling from her mother’s recent death and the sudden disappearance of her ex-girlfriend, she’s determined to stay out of it. But things quickly change when an angel lands at Jaya’s feet – alive.
This book is an interesting mix of real life and fantasy, and deals with grief, upheaval, and overwhelming responsibilities. Jaya is grieving for both the death of her mother and the disappearance of her ex. Her mind is a jumble of confusion, sadness and self-hatred. She is carrying a lot of blame on her shoulders, and the novel deals with this so beautifully and subtly that it becomes clear that she is looking for support but doesn’t know where to turn. It’s a truly beautiful read.
TRANS MISSION: MY QUEST TO A BEARD
Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition. In this book, Alex shares what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness.
I’ve included a non-fiction book on this list too, as I think this one is a really important resource for trans teenagers. Alex’s book is a memoir of his journey to transition, but the book also includes really helpful resources and advice, as well as information that will help readers understand a lot about transition, whether they’re trans or not.
PROUD is an anthology filled with LGBT+ short stories and artwork, all by ownvoices authors and illustrators. There are stories to make you laugh, to make you cry, to feel hopeful, and to feel a rainbow of emotions. PROUD is a celebration of pride.
If you want a book with lots of stories in, look no further than PROUD. I don’t often read short stories, but this book was a delight to read and enjoy. There is truly something for everyone within the pages of this book, whether it’s one story that speaks volumes to you or a few of them making a difference to your day.
THE BLACK FLAMINGO
This is not about being ready, it’s not even about being fierce or fearless, it’s about being free. Join Michael as he enters the world, with tiny feather eyelashes. Travel from school to college, where he discovers his flock, and comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen. At university, take a seat in the audience and watch him find his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo.
The Black Flamingo is a wonderful verse novel, and one that everyone should read to understand how identity shapes us. It is also a wonderful story of growth and acceptance, both of self acceptance and of the communities that support and uplift Michael throughout the book. A definite must read.
And there you go! A beginners guide to LGBT+ YA! These books are all either standalones or are the start of a series, so you’re able to just dive right in! Have I forgotten a book you think would make a perfect addition to this list? Let me know!