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Gay from the Get-Go: 10 Books Where You Don’t Have to Wait for the Gay

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Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

You know that feeling, when you’re reading a book, and you think to yourself: You know what would make this even better? A WHOLE LOT OF GAY! So you keep reading and hoping. You wait. You wait some more. And then, finally, on page 1,423, it gets gay. And you can’t help wondering why the gay party didn’t start back in chapter one.

I’ve been there, too. And while there’s nothing wrong with a slow burn or a “Surprise! It’s queer!” book, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to slog through 3/4 of a novel before the author decides to inform me that we’re actually reading about queer people. Sometimes I want gay from page one. Gay from the first sentence. Gay from the cover. Undeniably, unapologletically queer from beginning to end.

If that’s what you’re looking for, too, read on! These 10 books are very gay, very fast. I didn’t include any romance because with romance you usually know what you’re getting from the beginning anyway. I have included several non-genre love stories, as well as contemporary fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and fabulism, both YA and adult. We’ve got vampires, we’ve got agender bakers, we’ve got queer aunties, we’ve got time travel, we’ve got pining. So whatever you’re in the mood to read, as long as you’re in a gay mood, you can’t go wrong with any of these fabulous books.

Dead Collections Book Cover

Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman

This is one of the best queer love stories I’ve read in ages. Sol is a trans vampire archivist who’s spent the last five years living in his basement office, hiding from the sun — and his life. When the widow of a famous lesbian TV writer donates her late wife’s papers to the archive, she and Sol form an immediate connection. This book is so queer! Sol is deeply connected to queer and trans culture and community, and it infuses every aspect of his life. It’s a story about fandoms, archives, grief, healing, academia, and so much more.

Cover of Panpocalypse

Panpocalypse by Carley Moore

This is another wonderful book in which the main character’s queer identity is central to the plot from page one. Orpheus is a disabled queer woman raising a kid in 2020 New York City. She bikes around the city searching for connection in the early days of the pandemic, trying to find something to hold onto in a world that is becoming increasingly isolating. There’s a little magic, a little time travel, and a lot of weird, relatable, heartbreaking, joyful moments beautifully rendered.

Cover of Boys Come First

Boys Come First by Aaron Foley

This is a hilarious but heartfelt novel about three Black gay friends in Detroit. Dom, Troy, and Remy are all muddling through life as best they can — going to work, hooking up, dealing with family drama, searching for love, and wondering if they’ll ever find the boyfriends of their dreams. It’s a celebration of friendship among Black gay men and a love letter to Detroit.

The Heartbreak Bakery cover

The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta

In this magical queer romp, an agender baker named Syd attempts to avert disaster when a batch of brownies causes everyone who eats them to break up with their partners. Along with a new friend/crush Harley, Syd adventures all over Austin, seeking out the couples affected and trying to get them back together. This book is full of diverse queer and trans characters, queer joy, and baking magic.

Cover of Stone Fruit by Lee Lai

Stone Fruit by Lee Lai

This gorgeous graphic novel is about queer aunthood, sisterhood, complicated families, and the challenges of loving people as they change. Queer couple Ray and Bron love taking care of their niece, Nessie, but outside of their magical afternoons together, they struggle to connect and communicate. Lai writes about ordinary queer life with so much nuance and care. Reading it felt like reading about people I know and love.

Cover of A World Between

A World Between by Emily Hashimoto

This novel begins in 2004, when college students Leena and Eleanor meet in an elevator. One of the first scenes involves Eleanor pining over the beautiful girl she’s just met during her shift at the college Women’s Center…and it just gets more gay from there. Leena and Eleanor fall in love, break up, graduate, move to new cities, find each other again, become new people. It’s full of references to queer culture, sizzling sapphic sex scenes, and so much coming-of-age angst. I haven’t read Normal People, but this has been described to me more than once as Normal People, but starring queer women of color. It’s definitely an intense read about complicated relationships and messy emotions.

Skye Falling book cover

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie

39-year-old Skye runs a successful travel business that provides a convenient excuse when she wants to run away instead of facing — well, everything: her friends, her family, her past trauma, what she wants. So when 12-year-old Vicky shows up, explaining that she is Skye’s daughter via egg donation, Skye is not prepared for the reckoning that follows. Skye’s narration is snarky and sharp and very funny, but underneath this is a quiet love story with a growing queer family at its center.

Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis book cover

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

A lot of books that are gay from page one are fun and lighthearted, but here’s a serious one. It’s about five gay women who become each other’s family in the 1970s and 1980s during the Uruguayan dictatorship. In the first chapter, they decide to rent a tiny shack in an isolated coastal town. It’s the first time many of them have felt free to be who they are, and the sense of comfort they find with each other there lasts for the rest of their lives. It’s a gorgeous novel about chosen family and the life-saving magic of friendship among queer women.

Felix Ever After cover

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix is a Black trans teenager attending a summer art program, hanging out with his best friend, and dreaming of falling in love. When someone posts old pictures of him in the school lobby, he hatches a complicated plan to get revenge on the person he thinks did it. It doesn’t go as planned. What follows is a complicated, layered story about identity, family, friendship, racism, and transphobia in queer communities, making art, and growing up.

The cover of So This Is Ever After

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens

You can tell this book is super gay from the cover, right? This silly YA fantasy romance is full of pining, queer family, and hilarity. Arek has just completed the quest he was destined for and killed the evil ruler of the kingdom. Unsure what to do next, he accepts the crown, even though all he really wants to do is declare his love for his best friend, Matt, and get on with his life. What he doesn’t know is that, as ruler, he has to get married by his 18th birthday in order to stay alive. So he decides to woo his friends, one by one. His attempts are a series of romantic disasters, all of which just push him closer to Matt. It is exactly as absurd and wonderful as it sounds.

Want to keep the gay book party going? Take a tour through the treasures of our LGBTQ+ archives! Or check out these heartwarming queer YA books like Heartstopper — I can attest to most of them being full-on gay parties.