Happy Pride Month! While we’re celebrating the LGBTQ community this month, it’s a great time to pick up a book with representative characters and get a little perspective.
With that idea in mind, our staff came together to create a list featuring some of our favorite books featuring LGBTQ characters. From dramatic to comedic, some Own Voices and some not, these books all have a great story to tell.
ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King
Astrid is falling in love with another girl, but she can’t bring herself to tell anyone. Instead, she whispers her secrets to airplanes flying overhead, sending her message along to their passengers. Still, Astrid’s friends become super curious as her “secret” relationship grows more serious and more obvious. Can she hide the truth from her family or her friends forever? If not, what will she tell them and how? A solid contemporary, this book really packs a punch at the end.
CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell
In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is obsessed with the Simon Snow series. Then, in an excellently meta move, Rowell wrote a Simon Snow book! On top of being magical and a bit of a jinx, Simon also has a great love-hate relationship with his vampire roomie, Bax. As the story plays out, Simon and Bax’s relationship evolves into a stellar gay teen love story filled with monsters, magic, humor, and plenty of kissing.
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith
Sexual revelations in the time of a giant mutant grasshopper plague! Austin Szerba is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but he’s also in love with his best friend, Robby, with whom he accidentally set a plague upon his Iowa town. Even as the world seems to be ending around them and they must race to save humankind, Austin struggles to maintain his sexual attraction to both Shann and Robby in one of the most wonderfully weird books we’ve ever encountered.
IF YOU COULD BE MINE by Sara Farizan
Sahar and Nasrin have been best friends since childhood. They’ve been in love for the past several years. But the two seventeen-year-olds live in Iran, where they would be imprisoned or even executed if anyone found out they were together. When Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her, Sahar is devastated. With dreams of being with Nasrin openly, Sahar pursues a sex change, which is encouraged in their nation if a person in a woman’s body truly identifies as male. Sahar isn’t trans, but is she willing to lie and sacrifice her identity if it means she can be with Nasrin forever in a country where homosexuality is a crime?
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
This book tells the story of siblings that were once close and have grown apart due to events in their life that started when they were young. We go back and forth between the past and present detailing the issues that have strained their relationship over time. But one thing that wasn’t really an issue between them was the fact that Noah was gay. It was nice to see Noah developing a relationship with someone, but also for not to be all of Noah’s story. That’s not to say there weren’t touching or romantic or heartbreaking moments, but Noah’s arc in the book was much more complex and more fulfilling.
SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
Set in the modern day with clever, realistic characters, Simon Vs tells the story of Simon Spier, an in-the-closet gay teen who has been commuting with an anonymous fellow student online. Things seem to be going well between them and Simon is developing some serious feelings for “Blue,” but that’s when another classroom intercepts their emails and starts blackmailing Simon. Now, Simon will have the figure out how to come out on his own terms– if he even has a chance– and starts seeing his high school experience through fresh eyes. This story has heart, humor, and an adorable romance that will leave you cheering!
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by Emily Danforth
When Cameron Post’s parents die in a car crash, she’s secretly relieved about one thing: She’ll never have to come out to them or tell them about the girl she was kissing hours before her accident. But with her parents gone, Cameron is sent to live with her ultra-conservative Aunt Ruth in Montana, where she also meets Coley Taylor, a sassy cowgirl type with whom Cam forms a deep relationship. When their attraction becomes evident, Auth Ruth tries to “correct” these behaviors by sending Cam to a Christian conversion camp. Deep, harrowing, and emotional without getting too preachy, this novel doesn’t allow you to forget the intolerance of others, but makes you stare it in the face instead.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series by Cassandra Clare
The series focuses on a group of young Shadowhunters, warriors born to defend humankind against the paranormal evil forces of the world. It explored a lot of common themes that we experience in the world. One of those themes focuses on Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood as he adjusts to being gay. Throughout the books, we see him working out how he feels about his best friend and parabatai Jace, to developing a relationship with Magnus, someone who Shadowhunters traditionally don’t approve of having relations with, both because of Magnus’ race as well as the fact that he’s male. Reading how their relationship develops through the books has been enlightening and amazing in so many ways, and has become a fan favorite couple ever since.
THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli
While the protagonist of this contemporary romance may not be a member of the LGBTQIA community, her moms and sister most certainly are. The story follows Molly Peskin-Suso, who has had twenty-six unrequited crushes. One day, she meets a girl in the bathroom that would be a perfect match for her sister. But as the two hit it off, Molly worries that she will be left behind. That is, unless one of the two cute boys close by might actually return her feelings this time. This story explores family, friendship, unrequited love, and pure adorable romance.
YOU KNOW ME WELL by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Set during Pride Week, this story follows two gay characters who meet at a bar and become instant friends– after realizing they’ve sat beside each other in class all year and never spoken. Mark’s struggling with his love for his closeted best friend who sometimes seems to reciprocate his feelings. Kate’s terrified to meet the girl she’s been obsessively imagining for weeks. The two team up to give each other the pushes they need. This story has friendship, heartbreak, and romance in a realistic package. And while everyone may not have their happily ever after, they’re all at a better place than when the story began.