Top 5: LGBTQ+ YA Books

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Finding well developed, well looked after LGBTQ+ representation on television can be somewhat of a struggle – however there’s no shortage of literature including a mixture of LGBTQ+ characters from all different genres. It is rare to find books that don’t center around the sexuality of the main characters, but it is even rarer to find books that deal with the whole coming out arc so elegantly and truthfully.

From angst, heartbreak to cliché and heart-warming: here are just a few of the best.

Quindlen’s debut lesbian novel

1. Her Name In The Sky by Kelly Quindlen

Her Name In The Sky book cover, taken from amazon.co.uk

Seventeen-year-old Hannah wants to spend her senior year of high school going to football games and Mardi Gras parties. She wants to drive along the oak-lined streets of Louisiana’s Garden District and lie on the hot sand of Florida’s beaches. She wants to spend every night making memories with her tight-knit group of friends. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a girl–especially when that girl is her best friend, Baker.

Hannah knows she should like Wally, the kind, earnest boy who asks her to prom. She should cheer on her friend Clay when he asks Baker to be his girlfriend. She should follow the rules of her conservative community–the rules that have been ingrained in her since she was a child.

But Hannah longs to be with Baker, who cooks macaroni and cheese with Hannah late at night, who believes in the magic of books as much as Hannah does, and who challenges Hannah to be the best version of herself. And Baker might want to be with Hannah, too–if both girls can embrace that world-shaking, wondrous possibility.

Quindlen does a simply stunning job of tackling religion and sexuality with a heart-wrenching, epic novel that ignites every possible emotion you have. These characters are hard not to fall in love with throughout this book – but it is easy to be conflicted by them proving just how well written they are.

The ‘poignant coming-of-age’ novel reads as somewhat of a stream of consciousness through the eyes of the protagonist, Hannah. Each character serves as much a purpose as the other – from the ignorance of the priest, the compassion of the sister, the fear of the trapped teenage girl and even the forgiveness of the best friend; no stone is left unturned in Quindlen’s breathtaking novel.

It is raw and quite frankly at times painful to read, but it is honest, truthful and a realistic tribute to the torment of growing up and coming out. While there are parts of the book, primarily the beginning, where the pace could pick up a little quicker, it is absolutely worth sticking with. Her Name In The Sky is a journey of courage, acceptance, self-discovery, and love.

A movie in the works for Albertalli

2. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, taken from amazon.co.uk

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical.

But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated.

Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

It is a refreshing change to see a lgbtq+ book that breaks the generic plot of a dark, heartbreaking coming out, and rather provides a warm, funny and heart-warming story in which the main character is wholeheartedly supported by the people he’s surrounded by.

With realistic characters and plot, Becky Albertalli writes an easy read with lots of fun and adventure. Simon Spier is a wonderful protagonist who, although he isn’t perfect, he is to be admired.

While the identity of mysterious Blue can be relatively easy to guess for some, the author keeps you hanging on her every word. When looking for a contemporary novel with personality, laughter, and love – this is the book (and soon to be film) to read.

First LGBTQ+ YA novel for Gold

3. Being Emily by Rachel Gold

Being Emily book cover, taken from amazon.co.uk

They say that whoever you are it’s okay, you were born that way. Those words don’t comfort Emily, because she was born Christopher and her insides know that her outsides are all wrong.

They say that it gets better, be who are you and it’ll be fine. For Emily, telling her parents who she really is means a therapist who insists Christopher is normal and Emily is sick. Telling her girlfriend means lectures about how God doesn’t make that kind of mistake.

Emily desperately wants high school in her small Minnesota town to get better. She wants to be the woman she knows is inside, but it’s not until a substitute therapist and a girl named Natalie come into her life that she believes she has a chance of actually Being Emily.

Being Emily is a beautifully paced book following the story of a young transgender girl, Emily. Each character is really well developed and has plenty of depth to them, making this an engaging and lovable story.

Like every book, this one comes with its flaws. The chapters from Chris’ (now Emily) girlfriend’s perspective seemed somewhat unnecessary, considering the book is about Emily’s journey. Overall, Emily is a character to love and support – one whose bravery and courage to be herself is second to none.

The novel is compelling and realistic – as well as being educational to those who do not know much about trans-related matters. Gold delivers the story with sensitivity and care, a way in which more authors should approach storylines like this.

New York Times best-seller Levithan at it again

4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing book cover, taken from amazon.co.uk

New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

Levithan has produced potentially one of the most impactful stories in just 196 pages, more than most books achieve in 900 pages. Two Boys Kissing is simply gorgeous – it’s poignant and touching, packed full of emotion.

The narrative of the book is original, and almost certainly unlike most stories out there – but it just adds to the charm of it all.

Levithan depicts the story from three different perspectives – showcasing the struggles of being young, coming out and the general fear of not being accepted by family and friends. The characters portrayed in the book are real, they understand the struggles, they’ve lived them.

Two Boys Kissing is a conscious reminder that for every person ready to strike down everything you are and stand for, there are always going to be people there for you ready to pick up and rebuild the pieces. Levithan’s work is a must-read.

Talley’s debut novel

5. Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves book cover, taken from amazon.co.uk

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. 

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and the fact that they may be falling for one another.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a bold and realistically compelling debut novel. Talley tackled head-on the issues of school desegregation, interracial dating as well as same-sex dating with nothing but grace despite the topics being somewhat touchy for others to talk about, let alone write a novel surrounding.

It follows the story of two girls determined to stand up, be brave and find their voice in a world that tries to silence them.

The novel is mesmerizing, thoughtful and at times hard to stomach. It is a book that will undoubtebly leave readers teary-eyed and be on their minds days, even weeks afterward. It is written with such rawness and authenticity that it is a book it has to be labeled a must-read.

These are just a few of many wonderful LGBTQ+ reads, but there are hundreds of books out there waiting to be read and appreciated.

From angst and heartbreak to cliche and warm, from sci-fi to high school; any genre, any age, any plot – your favourite LGBTQ+ characters are waiting to be found.