11 Wonderfully Diverse YA Novels About LGBTQ+ Characters
As LGBTQIA+ representation becomes more and more prevalent, it's important that it be intersectional. Most LGBT characters in popular culture are white, gay men, and it's high time that more people get their time to shine. The eleven books listed here feature young characters with a wide variety of races, cultural backgrounds, and identities, and tell the stories of trans teens, nonbinary folks, and more. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
11 Wonderfully Diverse YA Novels About LGBTQ+ Characters
Non-Profits That Support the LGBTQIA+ Community
Despite the progress made in recent years, many LGBT+ people still face discrimination, rejection, and even violence. If you want to help combat these issues, consider supporting nonprofit organizations like these:
- The Trevor Project
- Pride At Work
- Family Equality Council
- Human Rights Campaign
- Transgender Law Center
Walking in Your Truth as an LGBT Youth
In the past, young queer and P.O.C. characters haven't always been portrayed in the best light. That is, if they existed at all. In this new era of diverse, inclusive Y.A. books, everyone gets a chance to see themselves reflected on the page. In these powerful stories of growing up, casts of diverse LGBTQ+ young adults get to come of age and find out who they really are. In no particular order, here are some of the best Y.A. books for young readers of all genders and backgrounds.
At #1, we have "Kaleidoscope Song" by Fox Benwell. Neo is a South African girl who loves music and dreams of a career in radio. At age 15, she's also discovering that she likes girls. To Neo's strict parents, both are equally taboo. Neo wants to be true to who she is, but will finding her true voice end up estranging her from her family forever? This raw, often brutal tale of self-discovery brings readers on a deeply emotional journey, and delves into sensitive topics like sexual and physical violence.
For #2, we find Marcy Beller Paul's "Underneath Everything." Mattie's senior year should be a carefree time of exploration and fun. Instead, she's hung up on her ex-best friend Jolene, a beautiful, catastrophic force of nature who continues to turn Mattie's life upside down even in her absence. Mattie struggles to turn over a new leaf in college as her toxic relationship with Jolene continues to haunt her. This intimate story of female friendship will keep you glued to the pages until the very end.
Instead, she's hung up on her ex-best friend Jolene, a beautiful, catastrophic force of nature who continues to turn Mattie's life upside down even in her absence.
Coming in at #3 is "Starworld" by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner. Sam and Zoe are best friends. They're so tied into each other that they've created their own imaginary universe, Starworld. It's a place where past traumas go to die, and judgment doesn't exist. But what will happen when Sam's illicit feelings for her best friend threaten to tear that world apart?
At #4, we have H.A. Swain's "SuperMoon." In this sci-fi story, teenager Uma is one of many Moon soldiers who have relocated from Earth to build a new life. When an Earth-born girl finds her way to the moon colony, Uma is enchanted. She's also in danger: her new friend might have an ulterior motive to infect her with a harmful virus and wipe out life on the colony. But as feelings grow between the two girls, all bets are off.
In the #5 slot is Jeff Garvin's "Symptoms of Being Human." Punk teen Riley identifies as genderfluid. Too bad their conservative town and domineering father aren't ready to hear it. Riley stays in the closet but writes regularly about their life as a non-binary teen on their anonymous blog. But when Riley's identity comes out online, will they be able to handle the backlash? This honest, gripping story is a must-read for gender-nonconforming kids everywhere.
Too bad their conservative town and domineering father aren't ready to hear it.
At #6, we find "The Gallery of Unfinished Girls" by Lauren Karcz. Mercedes has a lot to deal with. Her beloved abuela is in a coma, and she's started to develop romantic feelings for her best friend Victoria. On top of everything, she has artist's block. But when she discovers the world of the Red Mangrove Estate, a magical artist's colony, she finds a way to escape it all. With its strong Latinx protagonist and magical realist sensibility, the story is compelling from start to finish.
For #7, we have "Anger is a Gift" by Mark Oshiro. Six years later, Moss is still struggling to cope with the murder of his father by the Oakland Police. To make matters worse, he and his group of friends are treated like dirt by the same police force responsible for taking his father's life. Featuring a cast of trans, bisexual, and queer characters of color fighting against a racist administration, this powerful debut is unmissable, though readers who tend to avoid depictions of severe violence may want to proceed with caution.
At #8, we get Amanda Giasson and Julie B. Campbell's "Love at First Plight." Megan and Irys are on the run in the medieval world of Qarradune. Megan has sacrificed her freedom for the woman she adores, but will the newly-freed Irys return her love? The quirky split-perspective narration will suck you into this tale from the first page, while the well-drawn female leads will have you coming back for more.
Megan has sacrificed her freedom for the woman she adores, but will the newly-freed Irys return her love?
Coming in at #9 is "Boyfriends with Girlfriends" by Alex Sanchez. Four teens are struggling to figure out their sexuality without falling prey to the confines of labels. For Lance, Sergio, Kimiko, and Allie, the diverse cast of the story, what does it mean to come to terms with bisexuality? And does a penchant for cross-dressing mean that you have to be gay? This heartwarming story asks all the right questions as its four queer protagonists learn to set labels aside and love whoever they like.
For #10, we have Nora Olsen's "Maxine Wore Black." Jayla is a trans girl who's deeply in love with Maxine. But when Maxine's girlfriend Becky meets a gruesome end, Jayla finds herself a suspect in the case, with her forbidden love for her friend growing ever stronger by the day. Olsen's tale is a fresh retelling of Daphne DuMaurier's "Rebecca" with its themes of dark passion and distrust.
At last, at #11, is "Pride Must Be a Place" by Kevin Craig. High school isn't a friendly place for closeted teen Ezra. He faces constant harassment from bullies, and his home life isn't much better. When he and his friends band together to create the first gay-straight alliance the town has ever known, things start to look up. If Ezra can hold on to the hope of a better life, perhaps he can find a way to survive high school after all.