I was inspired by the #readproud challenge on twitter in honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month to pick up as many queer YA books as I could in the past few weeks. Especially after the tragedy in Orlando, I think it’s vital to keep sharing LGBTQ+ stories, because there are just so many to hear and tell. Here are a few of the ones I chose to read this month.
True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan
This book reminded me a bit of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – James, the closeted main character, writes letters to family/friends/crushes as catharsis, but then the letters begin to get out, leaving James struggling to face the crossfire. And his struggles are real. Is it best to stay safe, or be brave? Is there a way to be both? I found myself shouting at some of the revelations in the story, and I shed a tear on more than one occasion. This is definitely a coming-out story that hits at the heart of coming-out, told with straightforward honesty, humor, and heart.
Verdict: Buy. This is definitely a book worth keeping.
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
I’m a sucker for those “one magic night” kinds of YA stories, full of adventure and whirlwind romance (and usually illegal activity). Mark and Kate stumble across one another in the midst of San Francisco Pride and end up on one of those magical nights, with the details only slowly revealed throughout the novel. But the real focus of the story is each narrator’s conflict: Mark’s struggle over falling in love with his best friend Ryan and Kate’s anxieties about life after high school and about accidentally pushing away her dream girl, Violet. I couldn’t get enough of You Know Me Well, each page of which drips with emotion and beautiful prose. If you want to read an uplifting LGBTQ+ book, this is a fantastic choice.
Verdict: Buy. Buy ten copies and give nine of them to your friends.
Drag Teen by Jeffery Self
JT is an insecure teen who wants to fly far from his tiny Florida town and be the first in his family to go to college, if only he had the funds. His boyfriend, Seth, convinces him to go on a road trip along with their friend Heather to NYC so that JT can compete in a teenage drag queen scholarship pageant; the story takes off from there. It’s a fun fairytale of a book, all about finding self-love and self-confidence. Some elements of the plot are definitely unrealistic (hence my likening it to a fairytale, truly), so if that bothers you, be aware of that going in, but it’s narrated with honesty and comedic charm and was a genuine joy to read.
Verdict: Borrow. It’s fluffy and sweet – but probably less magical on a second read. (That being said, I did buy mine, and I probably will read it again at some point, so I can’t really talk.)
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
I know I’m late to the party on this one, since More Happy Than Not was published last year. I’ve had it on my shelf for ages – and I hate myself for not reading it earlier. The story begins with Aaron Soto trying to find happiness through his friends and his girlfriend, after his father commits suicide and he himself nearly follows. This novel is hard to categorize because on one hand, it’s really raw contemporary YA, but on the other hand, it’s definitely science fiction. But the intermingling of the two, while explained in the book’s summary (to be brief, in this story’s universe, there’s an institute that makes it possible to undergo memory-alteration), was completely unexpected. Let’s put it this way: halfway through the book I felt like I’d been hit by a freight train. And then I was watching that same train crash in slow motion, and I thought I knew what was coming next, but I most distinctly Did Not Know, and it was like that train then flew into the sun and left me gaping after it.
Verdict: Buy. Even though I only finished More Happy Than Not three hours ago, I immediately want to start at the beginning again.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
I cannot say enough great things about this book. It’s a trans story by a trans author, and it is absolutely incredible. The story alternates between present-day, where Amanda Hardy has moved in with her dad and switched schools, and varying months in the past, explaining the incidents that led up to Amanda’s move. All I wanted throughout the whole book was for Amanda to be happy – and the secondary characters as well. It’s due to Meredith Russo’s superb crafting of her characters that I felt so much for them so quickly. I devoured this story, so I recommend only starting this if you have the time to read it in one sitting.
Verdict: Buy. Absolutely, absolutely buy.
If you’re looking for more great LGBTQ+ recommendations, check out Book Riot’s LGBTQ tag OR see @LGBTQReads on twitter, another one of my go-to places to find book suggestions.