13 LGBT Books That Will Make You Cry

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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).

Looking for LGBT books that will make you cry? I’ve got you covered! But we’re not talking devastating, heartbreaking tears. We’re talking bittersweet tears, happy tears, and overflowing-with-emotion tears. Sure, there are plenty of LGBT books that will make you cry because horrible, sad, upsetting things happen. And there’s nothing wrong with books like that, stories that delve into queer suffering. We need all the queer books about all the queer experiences there are, both good and bad. But I’m not always up for super intense books, even when I want something emotional. Sometimes what I want is a good, cathartic cry. That’s where these books come in.

This list includes books in a range of genres, with a focus on romance. We’ve got contemporary romance and contemporary fiction, historical fiction, some YA romances in various genres, and a sprinkling of fantasy and sci-fi titles. Most of the non-romance books include romantic subplots, because there’s nothing better than a book that makes you swoon and makes you cry.

I know not all readers are criers, but for me, tears are usually a sign that a book has moved me deeply. All of these books did just that. So get comfortable, and get your tissues ready, because these queer books are going to put you through the wringer. I promise the journey will be worth it.

LGBT Books That Will Make You Cry: Adult Fiction & Historical Fiction

Cover of The Death of Vivek Oji

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

This book opens with the death of the main character — it’s right there in the title. But while this story is heartbreaking in some ways, it’s also a profoundly beautiful meditation on queer friendship, found family, trans joy, and the power of self-expression. Vivek grows up among a close-knit group of friends in Nigeria, and though he’s always felt like he doesn’t fit in anywhere, he finds refugee in the connections he builds with them. The story of his life unfolds through the perspectives of those closest to him — his cousin, his friends, and his mother. It’s easy to weep through a lot of this book, but it’s not a simple tragedy; it’s far more complicated.

Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis book cover

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

I was crying uncontrollably at the end of this novel, but I also felt refreshed, renewed, and hopeful. If that’s not the definition of a cathartic cry, I don’t know what is. The novel follows a group of five queer Uruguayan women as they build a family together amidst political upheaval and a repressive dictatorship. They fall in and out of love, deal with family crisis, weather changing friendships, and, through it all, find solace and comfort in each other’s company.

Cover of Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

This sci-fi novel is part romance, part murder mystery and part space opera. In order to keep peace in the empire after the death of Prince Taam, his widower, Jainan, is pushed into an arranged marriage with Kiem, a happy-go-lucky noble with a reputation for partying. Neither of them is all that interested in marriage, but when the shady circumstances surrounding Taam’s death come to light, they have to work together to stay alive — and keep their respective planets from going to war. It’s a tender romance that deals thoughtfully with past spousal abuse and trauma. You might cry angry, frustrated tears, or tears of relief when the well-earned happily-ever-after finally rolls around.

Cover of The Pull of the Stars

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

This quiet historical novel, set in Dublin during the 1918 fun pandemic, follows Julia, an extremely competent nurse working in the understaffed maternity ward in a busy city hospital. It takes place over a few days that change her life forever. A new volunteer named Birdie joins Julia in her work, and the two form a bond that shapes Julia in unforeseen ways. This is a sad book about death and loss and grief, and it’s messy and graphic and not an easy read. But Donoghue’s touch is so light, and Julia is such a well-drawn character. It’s a story that is worth every tear you’ll cry over it.

Cover of Little Blue Encyclopedia (For Vivian)

Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante

My favorite books are the ones that make me laugh and make me cry, and this is one of the absolute best. It’s such a delightfully fun and quirky story about a trans woman whose best friend, Viv, has just died. Grieving and heartbroken, she decides to write this fictional encyclopedia cataloging the fictional TV show that she and Viv were both obsessed with, Little Blue. It’s a poignant story about grief, trans sisterhood, healing, pop culture, and a whole lot more. If you’re looking for a book that will make you cry, but isn’t actually that sad, you’ll want to pick this up. You’ll see what I mean.

The Thirty Names of Night book cover

The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

Friends, while reading this book, I cried happy tears, angry tears, heartbroken tears, overwhelmed tears, and tears of relief. It’s a gorgeous intergenerational family drama about three generations of queer and trans Syrian American characters seeking home, belonging, connection, and love. Nadir is a trans man living in New York, taking care of his grandmother and mourning the death of his mother. When he stumbles upon the journals of Leila Z., a Syrian bird artist, he soon realizes that her own life is intimately tied to his. It’s a haunting book full of queer and trans joy, mysterious birds, and the hidden stories of queer immigrants.

LGBT Books That Will Make You Cry: Adult Romance

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall cover

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall is a master of comedy, but his books are always so tender and heartfelt. This hilarious romcom is about Rosaline Palmer, a single mum who signs up for a reality baking competition in the hopes that it will shake up her life. She ends up falling in love, of course, but it is a rocky, unexpected journey, full of mistakes and missteps and a lot of painful growth. I giggled through so much of this, but it’s also such an honest portrayal of how hard it can be to figure out what you really want. By the end, I was definitely crying tears of joy.

Riven by Roan Parrish

Riven by Roan Parrish

Have I cried while reading every Roan Parrish romance I’ve ever read? Possibly. If you’re looking for angsty queer romance with characters who truly have to work for their HEAs, she should be on your auto-buy list. This novel is about Theo, a rockstar who loves music but hates being in the spotlight, and Caleb, a talented musician and recovering addict who’s chosen to live a reclusive life in a small town. Theo and Caleb both have a whole lot of emotional knots to untangle. Watching them slowly open up and help each other through it all is definitely tear-inducing.

One Last Stop cover

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Look, I’m not sure if Casey McQuiston is capable of writing a novel that doesn’t make me cry. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what they do next. This sapphic romance stars August, a 23-year-old who’s just moved to New York, and Jane, a beautiful girl she meets on the train, who turns out to be literally displaced from the 1970s. It’s funny and sexy and silly, and it’s an ode to queer found family and a celebration of queer history. It’ll get you right in the feels.

The Charm Offensive book cover

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (9/7)

This book isn’t out until next week, but you’re going to want to preorder it now because it is just that good. Dev is a hopeless romantic a TV producer for a reality dating show. Charlie is a reclusive tech genius, and the show’s newest star. When Dev is tasked with getting shy, awkward Charlie comfortable in front of the cameras…well, it doesn’t go how either of them planned. There is so much playful banter in this, and pining, and general silliness. But it’s also about stigma around mental illness (depression and OCD), and doing the hard work of therapy, and intimacy, and how scary it can be to be vulnerable with someone else. Despite being about a reality dating show, it feels so real.

YA LGBT Books That Will Make You Cry

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Cover

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

This ghostly romance is a feel-good book that will make you cry along the way. Yadriel is a trans teenager who’s determined to prove to his family that he’s a brujo, in the hopes that they’ll finally accept his gender. He sets out to free the ghost of his murdered cousin, but he accidentally summons a different ghost altogether: Julian, a boy from Yadriel’s high school who is determined to figure out what happened to him. Their love story is a beautiful blend of magic and adventure.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them cover

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

This is such a poignant and beautiful love story between two Black teenage girls. After her mother catches her kissing a girl, Audre is sent from Trinidad to live with her dad in the States. There she meets Mabel, the daughter of her dad’s best friend, who’s been dealing with a mysterious illness all summer. As the two girls get closer, they form a deep connection that changes how they see themselves, each other, and the world. It’s a bittersweet book about the fleeting but transformative power of first love.

Cover of Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

I read this book a while ago now, and I’m still amazed at how much complexity Callender packs into it. Felix is a Black trans teenager who’s doing a summer arts program at his NYC high school. He spends his days hanging with his best friend and daydreaming about falling in love. When a fellow student hangs transphobic photos of him in the school lobby, he’s determined to figure out who did and get revenge. But getting revenge turns out to be a lot messier than he anticipated. I’ve rarely cheered so hard for and been so frustrated by a character at the same time. This book is a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s worth every minute, especially the tear-soaked minutes.

Looking for more LGBT books that will make you cry? Check out these emotional gay YA books and this list of 100 Must-Read Books that Make You Cry.