Here at Bookish, we know that good representation is not just important—it’s vital. Readers deserve to see themselves in the books that they read. Plus, reading about a diverse range of characters and experiences helps to make us all more accepting and understanding. Last year delivered an incredible crop of young adult books that explored gender, sexual, and romantic identity. Here we’ve rounded up 12 of the buzziest and best-reviewed LGBTQ+ YA books of 2017.
These are our favorites. Tell us about yours in the comments!
Tanner Scott is a single semester away from freedom. Once he graduates he can leave behind the Mormon town of Provo, Utah, and he can once again step out of the closet and be openly bisexual, like he was when his family lived in California. But a massive, impossible-to-ignore crush on Sebastian Brother, a teaching assistant and the local bishop’s son, threatens to derail Tanner’s plans. Christina Lauren crafts a gem of a novel, deftly blending the highs and lows of falling in love for the first time with Sebastian’s struggle to verbalize his own sexuality in the face of his religion’s disapproval. If you’re looking for an exceptional and moving story about coming of age, coming out, and finding acceptance, CLo has you covered.
Readers looking for a stunning blend of magical realism and fairy tales won’t want to miss Wild Beauty. This story transports readers to the La Pradera gardens, which have been carefully tended to for generations by the Nomeolvides women. These five cousins, a group of bisexual and queer Latinas, are blessed with gifts that help the gardens grow. But they’re also cursed to remain there forever and to forgo love, for if they fall in love, the object of their affection will die. Anna-Marie McLemore is a passionate advocate for diversity in young adult literature, a fact reflected in her incredible novel and stated so beautifully for our readers in her essay on fairy tales.
Monty is dreading the moment he’ll become Lord Henry Montague and have to give up his life of drinking, kissing boys and girls alike, and following his impulses. Determined to have one last hurrah, he takes off on a Grand Tour of Europe with his sister Felicity and Percy, his biracial best friend (and secret crush). But a rash decision turns their trip upside down and sends them head-first into danger. Fans of Mackenzi Lee’s fantastic novel will be delighted to know that Felicity—who pushes against gender norms of her time, wants to practice medicine, and is on the aromantic and asexual spectrum—is getting her own book, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy!
In the fall, we named Amy Reed’s The Nowhere Girls a must-read of 2017, and it’s only grown more relevant and important since. After Lucy Moynihan accused three jocks of rape, she and her family were driven out of town. The people of Prescott, Oregon want to keep the story out of sight and out of mind, but three teenage girls refuse to let that happen. Grace Salter (Prescott’s resident new girl), Rosina Suarez (a queer girl from a conservative Mexican family), and Erin Delillo (an autistic girl with a serious Star Trek obsession) form an anonymous group called the Nowhere Girls to fight back against sexism and rape culture in their school and town. The narration is split between the three protagonists and sections titled “Us,” which gives voice to a diverse range of other girls.
In this alternate-present novel, a company called Death-Cast calls people the day before they will die to let them know that they only have 24 hours left to live. The Last Friend app was invented to bring together people who know they’re going to die and don’t want to be alone. This is how Mateo Torrez, a queer Puerto Rican boy, and Rufus Emeterio, a bisexual Cuban-American boy, find each other. They decide to spend their last day on Earth together, and though readers know what the end will bring, they’ll still find themselves moved to tears by this incredible story. Adam Silvera had not one, but two must-read novels hit shelves in 2017 and we’d be remiss if we did not mention that History Is All You Left Me is another one of our favorites.
To say that Tash Zelenka likes Leo Tolstoy is an understatement. Her passion for his work inspired her web series Unhappy Families, a modern retelling of Anna Karenina. Tash carefully grew a small but loyal fanbase, which blows up overnight when a popular vlogger praises her series. Suddenly Tash is flooded with new subscribers and some serious anxiety about how to please all of them. Meanwhile, Tash flirting with a boy named Thom Causer online and wondering when and how to tell him that she’s romantic asexual. Forget Tolstoy, readers will heart Tash by the end of Kathryn Ormsbee’s novel.
In Release by Patrick Ness, which is partially inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, readers will experience a day in the life of a gay 17-year-old named Adam Thorn. It is a difficult day, and one that will change everything. At work, he faces sexual harassment from his superior. He also hangs out with his boyfriend, Linus, and has a confrontation with his father, who is a preacher. All the while, a ghostly presence haunts these pages—the spirit of a girl who was killed. This is a layered and affecting novel, and certainly one of 2017’s best.
Marin is alone in her dorm room in New York City over winter break… or at least, she’s alone for now. Mabel, her bisexual best friend, is coming to visit. Marin isn’t sure how she feels about it—she has a romantic past with Mabel, but she left her behind in California and part of her hoped that what happened would stay there, on the other side of the country. Mabel and Marin will connect in New York, while flashbacks transport Marin back to California. Along the way, Marin just might heal and begin to feel less alone.
Readers, meet Danny Tozer. She is transgender, and was trying to keep that fact to herself. But then something incredible happens: Dreadnought, a superhero, topples from the heavens and perishes—leaving Danny with his powers. Suddenly, along with her new powers, Danny also has the female body she has always dreamed of. But that’s not all that’s on Danny’s mind. She also must stop Utopia, the cyborg who killed Dreadnought, from causing even more death and devastation. We love this book so much, we published an article from author April Daniels.
Do you love graphic memoirs? Then look no further than Tillie Walden’s Spinning, where Walden writes (and draws) about her childhood as a figure skater and the experience of coming out and telling her friends and family that she is a lesbian. Even at age 11, where this book opens, Tillie had known she was interested in girls for more than half of her young life. She was an excellent figure skater, but was deeply unhappy with the skating world she found herself drawn into. Readers will experience all of this with Tillie in this remarkable graphic memoir.
Little & Lion tells the story of a black bisexual Jewish teenager named Suzette who finds herself in a difficult situation. She has developed feelings for two people at once: Rafaela, a pansexual Latina; and Emil, a biracial (Korean and black) boy who is grappling with Ménière’s disease. Not to mention the fact that Suzette’s stepbrother, Lionel, is also interested in Rafaela. Lionel is dealing with difficulties of his own, as he was recently diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. This is a gripping novel that explores topics of sexuality, mental illness, and race.
Riley Redgate’s novel Noteworthy will be music to your ears. In it, Chinese-American Jordan Sun is trying to find her niche at her new high school. She is rejected from the school musical and doesn’t know what to do… until she decides to try out for the male a capella group. Jordan dresses up and rebrands herself as Julian: a high school boy trying out for a spot. She is accepted, and performing the role of Julian makes Jordan reexamine her deeply-held beliefs about gender, discover her own bisexuality, and acknowledge her own privilege as a cis woman.