Sometimes you just wanna read LGBTQA #OwnVoices YA that’s set in a world other than our own. Your wish is my command! I’ve got to give a big shout-out to my fellow #DiverseBookBlogger Naz over at Read Diverse Books for providing a great resource that helped so much with this post! Check out his site for great reviews and lists of books by and featuring people of colour and/or LGBTQ+ folks especially. Now here are nine #OwnVoices LGBTQA science fiction and fantasy YA novels for your reading pleasure!
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee isn’t a hard sell: it’s a YA about a Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual teenage superhero! Set in the future in the aftermath of massive radiation, Not Your Sidekick follows Jess—the daughter of superheroes but with no superpowers—taking on an internship with her town’s worst supervillain. The plus side is she gets to work with her long-time crush Abby. However, Jess’s mysterious co-intern never seems be in the same place as Abby… Things get really action-packed when Jess discovers a secret plot bigger than the villains and heroes put together.
Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz is an especially exciting #OwnVoices book, because it’s the only YA with a genderqueer / non-binary character I could find! It’s a dystopian future tale about Kivali, a 15-year-old who’s also maybe part lizard? Kivali is stuck at CropCamp, a government-controlled society. This dystopian world is post-trans is a way that’s terrible for Kivali: everyone has to decide what their (binary) gender is at age 10. In addition to the gender stuff, Kivali’s also got to investigate mysterious disappearances, tough questions from camp director Ms. Mischetti, and kickshaw, this weird, druglike substance distributed to everyone at CropCamp.
The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Moon is the time-travelling adventure tale with a trans protagonist that you didn’t even know you were looking for! It’s about 15-year-old Jack, a presumably cisgender 1980s teen with epilepsy who agrees to participate in an experimental trial for new treatments only to find wake up in a woman’s body in a different time: the 1920s. As Jack/Jacqueline’s adventure continues, s/he becomes more and more caught between two lives and epochs. Gender identity for Jack/Jacqueline becomes increasingly complicated, even as s/he discovers an ability to rewrite history by jumping back and forth in time!
The Marauders’ Island: Hen & Chick by Tristan J Tarwater has great Latinx and queer representation while also being a fun, light-hearted graphic tale about swashbuckling pirates! Azria is the main character, a 16-year-old mage about to take the test to be a legit mage. At the same time, her pirate queen mom is about to return after five years away at sea. When they eventually take off together on the ship Hen & Chick—get it, mother and daughter team?—their goal is to raise Marauders’ Island, a mysterious, dark place sunk under the sea many years ago. You can look forward to lots of POC and LGBTQ+ characters who lead happy lives!
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst was praised by fellow Rioter Danika, who said it was like Frozen but gay and the best parts of Tamora Pierce with twice the queer. This is court fantasy at its best, with politics, betrayal, magic, and romance. Two princesses, Dennaleia and Amaranthine aka Mare, are thrown together because Denna is bethrothed to Mare’s brother. Unconventional Mare is supposed to teach Denna to ride her country’s warhorses. Although they initially dislike each other, eventually they begin to work together to solve the mystery of an assassination and learn to appreciate each other’s strengths, become friends, and then more.
Proxy by Alex London is a fast-paced dystopian story that centres on capitalism at its ugliest. It’s about a gay main character who’s not defined by his sexuality although he is bullied a bit; frankly, that’s the least of his worries since the government and bandits are after him and he’s being punished for crimes that aren’t his. You see, Syd is a “proxy,” a poor orphan forced to atone for the wrongs of Knox, a spoiled rich kid. But Knox isn’t independent from Syd either and they soon realize the only way to beat the system is to actually save each other and run away. You can look forward to complex, authentic characterization that really gets young people.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is another rare find in #OwnVoices YA: a book featuring an ace / asxual main character! As an added bonus, it also has secondary trans representation! It’s also really unique: it’s a very special boarding school, called Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children which is a safe haven for kids like Alice in Wonderland or the ones in the Narnia chronicles who went through the portals to to fantasy-worlds, spent time there, and then have returned to their old lives. All they want is to go back. If you want a coming of age mixed with mystery in a fantasy setting with a diverse cast-racially as well as in terms of gender and sexuality, this is your book.
Dreadnought by April Daniels is, I think, a first in YA: an #OwnVoices superhero story about a trans girl who’s also queer! Danny has just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero, who died right in front of her. Before, her biggest problem was trying to prevent people from finding out she’s trans. Now, her new powers have transformed her body into the girl’s one she always knew it should be. Everyone knows she’s a girl now. Unfortunately she doesn’t have much time to adjust, since the original Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, is still out there and she’s gotta save Utopia and consequently, save the world.
Huntress by Malinda Lo just one of Lo’s fantasy and science fiction YA books featuring lesbian and bi young women. In this lush Taoist and Buddhist influenced fantasy, two very different teen girls go on an epic quest to the land of fairies and fall in love in the process. Kaede is an earthy hunter skilled with tools and weapons and Taisin is a powerful wielder of magic with ties to the celestial realms. It’s up to both girls and their accompanying party to save their people, who have been long suffering: the sun hasn’t shone in years and strange vicious creatures have begun to emerge from the forest. But the journey’s conclusion might tear them apart.