The 15 Best LGBT YA Books of 2016 (So Far)

The 15 Best LGBT YA Books of 2016 (So Far)

June is Pride Month, an annual celebration for members of the LGBTQ community. There are tons of parades and festivals going on around the country, but we knew you guys would also want to celebrate in proper literary fashion. So we’ve rounded up a list of the best books that have come out this year (from January to June) that feature characters who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and even gender fluid. Explore and celebrate gender, sexuality, and more with these excellent reads.

If you’re craving even more picks, we’d recommend our list of the must-read LGBT YA books of 2014.

Read Me Like a Book

If you’ve ever had a crush on a teacher, raise your hand. Ashleigh Walker is coasting through school. Her parents are too busy arguing with each other to notice, and she can’t muster up enough motivation on her own. That is, until Miss Murray walks into her life. Fresh out of college, Miss Murray is passionate, a force of nature in the classroom. Ashleigh has never met anyone like her or anyone who made her feel so important. Ashleigh ignores her growing feelings until it’s impossible to deny it any longer: She’s in love with Miss Murray. Liz Kessler’s debut young adult novel is not only about coming out, it’s about growing up and discovering the person you want to be.

Highly Illogical Behavior

Not only does John Corey Whaley’s novel give readers a relatable gay protagonist, it also delivers a sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of a character living with mental illness. Sixteen-year-old Solomon left the world behind three years ago and hasn’t regretted it since. Suffering from agoraphobia, he manages his fears by staying inside of his house at all times. He has everything he needs inside those safe and predictable walls. He even has friends now that his former classmate Lisa has started coming around again. She’s gunning for a spot in an elite psychology program and hopes to “fix” Solomon through cognitive behavior therapy. Humoring her, Solomon welcomes her (and her dreamy boyfriend Clark) into his life.

If I Was Your Girl

It’s never easy being the new girl in school; it’s even harder when you feel compelled to keep a secret. Amanda Hardy moved to Atlanta with her mother when she began transitioning from Andrew to Amanda. Finally living her life as the truest version of herself, she’s returned to live with her father in Tennessee. Enrolling in high school is intimidating, and Amanda plans to keep her head down until graduation. But then she meets Grant. Amanda likes him more and more with each passing day. He’s kind, good looking, and honest with her. Still, she wonders what will happen if she’s as open and honest with him about her past and who she used to be. Partially inspired by author Meredith Russo’s own experiences as a trans woman, this novel is ideal for readers who want to read more about trans issues or simply crave a stunning coming-of-age story. Did we mention the model on the cover is trans too? Representation is incredibly important, and we love that this book chose to use a model that reflects the protagonist accurately.

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The Abyss Surrounds Us

Lesbian pirates. Do you need another reason to pick up this book? That alone sent us running to our local indie. But fine, if you need more about the plot: This is the first in Emily Skrutskie’s fantasy series where genetically modified sea creatures called Reckoners have been created by the government to protect their coasts from pirates. Reckoners are controlled by trainers like seventeen-year-old Cas. She’s been training for her entire life to work with these creatures, but her first mission at sea does not end well. Her Reckoner is killed and Cas is taken captive by the pirate Santa Elena. Aboard Santa Elena’s ship, Cas is employed to train a Reckoner that the pirates captured, and that’s where she meets Swift (insert heart eyes here).

Draw the Line

Look! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… an awkward gay teenager just trying to fit in. If Adrian Piper had a superpower it would probably be a gift for being invisible (a useful skill when concealing his sexuality in his small Texas town) or his art (where he expresses himself through his hunky Renaissance-inspired superhero Graphite). Adrian’s content to keep his head down until a fellow gay student is attacked by their school’s star football player. Suddenly, Adrian doesn’t want to fly away to safety. Revealing his secret identity could make him a target, but it might just be worth it if he can give help and hope to other LGBT students. Author Laurent Linn’s illustrations are scattered throughout the novel, making this an ideal read for comics fans.

Run

Agnes Atwood is legally blind, a fact her parents cite as their reason for being so overbearing and overprotective. Their list of rules is endless, and Agnes is about to break every one of them. When her best friend Bo Dickinson shows up in the middle of the night needing a getaway partner, they steal a car and hit the road. Bo has a lot she could be running from: her alcoholic mom, her deadbeat dad, her family’s nasty reputation in their small Kentucky town. Most people assume that she’s just the same as the rest of the Dickinsons, and no one would guess she’s a sober, bisexual virgin. Kody Keplinger splits the narrative, letting Bo steer the story forward, while Agnes’ chapters focus on when they met and how they became friends.

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Under Threat

Franny’s world is rocked when her parents begin receiving death threats. Her parents are doctors who perform legal abortions at the local hospital, and after the anonymous warnings escalate to a bomb threat, they call the police for help. Concerned about her family’s safety, Franny vents to her girlfriend Leah. But Leah feels conflicted on the issue of abortion, and the two find themselves clashing on the topic of a woman’s right to choose. Franny also starts to worry about what Leah’s conservative mom will think of Franny and her family. Then the threats begin to get personal. Someone is calling Franny’s home, someone who knows her name. She’s forced to take a look at the people in her life and realize that the person harassing her family might be someone she knows. Readers who are interested in reading more about a woman’s choice should also pick up Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann—a story told in verse that also includes a romance between two women.

The Great American Whatever

Quinn dreams of working in Hollywood as a screenwriter, but he always imagined his twin sister Annabeth would be there at his side as a director. After Annabeth dies in a car accident, Quinn shuts down completely and abandons his hopes for the future. But his friend Geoff refuses to let him stay cooped up inside and drags Quinn out to a college party in the hopes that Quinn will want to rejoin the world. The plan, surprisingly, works. It’s at the party that Quinn meets Amir. Suddenly he’s looking forward to what might come next in his life and imagining a life that could be filled with love, excitement, and perhaps even movies. Screenwriters and film buffs will love Tim Federle’s part-novel part-screenplay debut.

Symptoms of Being Human

Riley Cavanaugh’s congressman father is campaigning for reelection in a conservative area of California, and Riley gets the sense that this may not be the best time to come out as gender fluid. Classmates certainly don’t understand why Riley chooses to wear gender-neutral clothing and appear androgynous, so why would voters? In search of an outlet to help explore gender, Riley starts an anonymous blog. It quickly becomes a safe space where it’s easy to explain how some days begin with Riley feeling like a girl and others begin with Riley feeling like a boy. Before long, the blog has taken off, with other teens writing in to share their own gender confusion or transitioning experiences. For once, Riley feels connected to a strong community of people. But one rogue commenter who uncovers Riley’s identity threatens to bring the whole thing crashing down. Written in the first person, Jeff Garvin’s novel gives readers an informative and honest look at the life of one gender fluid teen.

Winning

Lara Deloza’s latest introduces readers to four high school girls wrapped up in the competition for Homecoming Queen: Alexandra Miles (aka Regina George, willing to do anything to get the crown), Ivy (an outcast Alexandra plans to make over), Sloane (the one who just might take Alexandra down), and Sam (Alexandra’s best friend who cares more about her new girlfriend than the competition). There’s delicious drama, insane schemes, and relentless ambition galore—making this an ideal beach read. Fans of ensemble casts that feature a lesbian character or couple should also explore Tumbling by Caela Carter and This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.

True Letters from a Fictional Life

James Liddell is the guy every other high school boy wants to be: handsome, star athlete, respectable student. At school, James plays it up and pretends to be that person. He hangs out with his friends and flirts with Theresa, the girl he’s seeing. It’s only when he goes home that he can drop his defenses and let his true colors show. He puts pen to paper, like so many writers before him, and drafts letters to the people in his life. He reveals that he’s gay and not interested in Theresa. He shares the secret crush he harbors, and the other thoughts that he’d never dare say aloud. Readers will see where this is going. The letters are discovered and mailed out to the people in James’ life, and he’s left to face the consequences of everyone seeing the real him for the first time.

The Art of Being Normal

While working at the Gender Identity Development Service, author Lisa Williamson was inspired by the individuals she met who were working to develop their gender identity. Out of their stories and experiences, David Piper and Leo Denton were born. High schooler David is used to people assuming that he’s gay, but he isn’t sure what they’d say if they knew that he wants to be a girl. Then he meets Leo, a new student who used to be a girl and then transitioned. Leo’s secret quickly makes its way around the school yard, and he has to face the judgement that follows. He leans on David for support, and, in turn, David leans on Leo and seeks his advice when he decides to come out to his family.

Shallow Graves

Horror fans will love this one. Breezy isn’t sure which is more unbelievable: the fact that she just killed a man or the fact that she woke up in a grave, one year after she was murdered. Now awake, if perhaps not alive, Breezy realizes that she has the ability to sense when someone around her has committed a murder and she possesses the power to kill them with a single touch. She doesn’t know what she has become, but she’s determined to find out. When a cult leader begins hunting her, Breezy must find friends to help her escape his clutches before it’s too late. Many of the books on this list focus on coming out or exploring sexuality or gender, but Breezy’s bisexuality isn’t a major plot point. It’s simply part of her character. Coming out stories are incredibly important, as are stories that include general representation of LGBTQ characters going about their normal lives (or undead lives, as it were).

Look Both Ways

Alison Cherry’s novel is a must-read for theater fans. Seventeen-year-old Brooklyn Shepard grew up feeling overshadowed by her Broadway-star mother. Even though she’s spending the summer away from home and her family, she can’t help but wonder if the theater camp she’s in only accepted her because her mother called in a favor. As Brooklyn attempts to find her place within the theater community, she connects with her camp roommate Zoe, a talented actress. Zoe supports Brooklyn when no one else does, helping her grow her confidence. By the end of the summer, Brooklyn sees her sexual identity and role in theater in a new light.

We Are the Ants

Henry Denton could save the world, or he could destroy it. Shaun David Hutchinson’s novel tells a contemporary story with a light sci-fi element. You see, Henry possess a big red button gifted to him by aliens. They’re planning on destroying the planet in fewer than 200 days, and Henry can stop the attack if he pushes the button. “If” is the key word here. Henry hasn’t decided yet because he isn’t sure the world deserves to be saved. Save a world where grandmothers suffer from Alzheimer’s, bullies attack you, and boyfriends commit suicide? He doesn’t think it’s worth it. Then he meets Diego Vega, an artist who makes Henry question everything he feels and believes in.

1 COMMENT

  1. Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry should be removed from any LGBTQIA YA list. It markets itself (by cover and description) as a f/f romance, but ends up with a completely heteronormative, bi-erasing ending. The “actually bisexual” character is presented as a pushy sex addict who can’t choose between her boyfriend and the (female) protagonist and claims to be in an open relationship, but then gets dodgy when her boyfriend comes around and she has to be in the same room as both him and the protagonist/female love interest, which seems to suggest she’s also a cheater. The book had a great premise – I’m a theatre person, and loved the idea of a summer stock romance and the storyline about the protagonist finding her true talents amidst a family that expects everyone to love performing was interesting – but it just made me angry in the end and should definitely not be on a list for impressionable LGBTQIA teens to read. They would not see themselves in these characters; they would see negative stereotypes reinforced and the conclusion that “experimenting” teens turn out to be straight in the end.

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