Underrated LGBTQ+ YA Books You Need to Read

There are a lot of LGBTQ+ YA books that we all know and love like all of Adam Silvera’s, Becky Albertalli’s, and David Levithan’s books, but what about these?

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Happy Pride Month!

There are a lot of LGBTQ+ YA books that we all know and love like all of Adam Silvera’s, Becky Albertalli’s, and David Levithan’s books, Aristotles and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamín Alire Sáenz, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, and many other iconic ones. But there’s a lot of others that kind of fall through the cracks and are not talked about as much as they deserve to be talked about. So to celebrate the beginning of pride month, here’s a list of YA books centered around LGBTQ+ themes or featuring main characters within the community!

Sarah Rees Brenan is perhaps better known for co-writing many Shadowhunter novels with Cassandra Clare, but this solo novel deserves just as much attention. It’s witty and it’s heartfelt, and it has some of the most badass and lovable characters ever that you get to see grow up throughout the book.

Synopsis:

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.

It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

 

 

the stars and the blackness book cover
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Wholesome, spiritual, and realistic. This story about queerness and blackness is incredibly beautiful and one that is super important to read. It’s not only about queer subjects but also about family, friendship, inclusion, and on top of that, it’s about criminal justice. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up!

Synopsis:

Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis, USA. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

This book may be the most popular or well know out of this whole list (at least considering that it has a movie adaptation staring Chloë Grace Moretz), but it is still probably not talked about enough. This is a super important book that everyone should read, it does not only portray LGBTQ+ teens, but also teens with disabilities, and many characters of color–including native american characters. But as a warning, this book takes place at a conversion camp and touches a lot of sensitive topics such as abuse and self-harm, so if you’re sensitive to those topics please proceed with caution.

Synopsis:

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Talor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship, one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

 

 

Sorcery of thorns book cover
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While this book doesn’t necessarily center around LGBTQ+ themes as much as the last ones, it does feature a bisexual main character, and it doesn’t get mentioned a lot when talking about LGBTQ+ fantasy. It is also just an amazing fantasy novel with a very creative concept and amazing antihero/morally gray characters.

Synopsis:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Sawkill girls book cover
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This one is one of the most twisted ones out of the bunch. It’s gruesome and ruthless, but nevertheless amazing. All the three main girls are in the LBGTQ+ community, and it also has one of the only main characters on the asexual spectrum that I’ve seen in YA fantasy book, so kudos for that too!

Synopsis:

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: The newbie. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: The pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: The queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives; a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires. Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight…until now.

 

 

the wicker king book cover
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Just like Sawkill Girls, this one is sure to play with your mind. This one definitely has the messiest relationships out of these books, but the character dynamics and the story are so gripping that you just have to keep reading!

Synopsis:

Jack once saved August’s life…now can August save him?

August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team—but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents’ unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has—on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.

August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth

black wings beating book cover
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This is another one with an incredibly creative concept. It has great writing, a very intricate world, sibling relationships, and a bunch of bird puns and references, which is always a bonus. So if you are a fan of birds, what are you waiting for?

Sinopsys:

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer—while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

In this first young-adult fantasy novel in a trilogy, Alex London launches a soaring saga about the memories that haunt us, the histories that hunt us, and the bonds of blood between us.

 

 

are you listening book cover
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On a sunbeam book cover
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These graphic novels are just gorgeous. The art is beautiful, the stories are beautiful, and the element of human connection in both of them is also beautiful. If you are looking for something that is touching but also important and that feels larger-than-life give these graphic novels a try!

Synopsis for Are You Listening:

Bea is on the run. And then, she runs into Lou.

This chance encounter sends them on a journey through West Texas, where strange things follow them wherever they go. The landscape morphs into an unsettling world, a mysterious cat joins them, and they are haunted by a group of threatening men. To stay safe, Bea and Lou must trust each other as they are driven to confront buried truths. The two women share their stories of loss and heartbreak―and a startling revelation about sexual assault―culminating in an exquisite example of human connection.

*trigger warning for mentions of rape*

 

Synopsis for On a Sunbeam:

Two timelines. Second chances. One love.

A ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to piece the past together.

Two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love―only to learn the pain of loss.

With interwoven timelines and stunning art, award-winning graphic novelist Tillie Walden creates an inventive world, breathtaking romance, and an epic quest for love.

Feature images via amazon