I’m delighted to start this post by saying that it was difficult to choose only 11 LGBTQ books for high schoolers. Back in the Dark Ages when I was a teen it would’ve been a challenge to find 11 half-decent options. However, thanks to some amazing strides in representation in publishing, that’s no longer the case.
Of course, that’s not to say that the work is done. As I shared in a recent list of 25+ LGBTQ books for teens, we’ve got a long way to go. Though queer YA has grown drastically in recent years, this growth isn’t enough to close the huge diversity gaps in traditional publishing.
I’ve said it many times: kids need queer books. All kids need to see themselves and their families valued. Furthermore, all kids need to see people who are different from them as valid and valued. We show what we value in our schools by who we include and exclude in curricula and materials.
Unfortunately, queer books are consistently among the most challenged and banned books in the United States. Worse still, more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in 2022 alone. This is despite the fact that 80% of Americans support laws to protect LGBTQ rights.
Sadly, a hateful and vocal minority is shaping the public conversation, pushing book bans and harmful legislation. However, there are many educators, caregivers, and concerned citizens fighting for equity. We remember that public education is for the public, and that includes queer kids and families.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled this list of LGBTQ books for high schoolers. These are some of the best books to add to classroom and school libraries. Check out my picks and advocate for these books in your schools and communities.
LGBTQ Books Every School Library Should Have
Okay, did I mention how hard it was to choose? Seriously, I originally planned on eight titles. Anyway, here are some of the best LGBTQ books for high schoolers based on one weirdo’s current opinions. (It’s me. I’m the weirdo.)
As many of these books detail the challenges queer teens face, general content warning for homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and other such bigotry.
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn A. Allen, and ND Stevenson
Yes, I know that this is a list of LGBTQ books for high schoolers. Though this series might target a middle grade audience, I’m a firm believer in kids reading for pleasure without being limited by “reading levels” and such. These popular graphic novels chronicle the adventures of five kick-ass girls at summer camp. They challenge gender norms while solving mysteries and fighting monsters. It’s a lovely celebration of friendship and love.
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Oshiro’s “beautiful and brutal debut” features an engaging cast of characters with a wide array of intersectional identities. Main character Moss Jeffries and his friends represent multiple marginalized identities: Black, Latine, disabled, Muslim, asexual, nonbinary, gay, lesbian. Most importantly, though, Oshiro deals honestly with how to navigate and embrace the righteous anger that comes with being othered.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
This title probably needs less introduction, given its meteoric rise to queer classic status, movie adaptation, and spinoff television series. Simon is a relatable teen with a great supporting cast of friends and family. Unfortunately, when Simon’s private correspondence with a boy he likes falls into the wrong hands, he finds himself being blackmailed. He has to help his jerky classmate with his romantic goals or be outed. It’s a story full of teen angst, humor, and heart.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Get ready to cry, rage, and get your detective on. Felix, a trans high schooler, is publicly deadnamed and has old pictures of him posted around his school. Furthermore, the culprit behind the attack makes a fake Instagram account to continue harassing Felix. We get to solve whodunnit along with Felix, while also exploring the complex relationships he has with his peers and family. Ultimately, it’s a story of triumph and self-love that we can all appreciate.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
I am still not over this book, which I read at least a thousand years ago. (It was before the pandemic and that’s been going on forever, right?) Regardless, this book beautifully handles the complexity of being nonbinary in a transphobic, heteronormative world. I wasn’t ready for it to end because I didn’t know if the main character, Riley, was okay. For teens, this book addresses cyber bullying and other such relevant issues in a way that should be helpful as they navigate similar spaces. It’s not necessarily a gentle story, by any means, but it’s a must-read.
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
Listen, Jacqueline Woodson is a national treasure and all of her books should be in every school library. Seriously, the woman writes across audiences and everything from her picture books to adult novels are absolute gold. The House You Pass on the Way is the story of Stagerlee, a biracial girl who maybe likes girls and is trying to figure out where she fits in the world. It’s perfect for the high school years, when teens are finding their true selves.
A story of loss and grief, We Are Okay is a story about dealing with loss and change. Marin is a college freshman who has left her old life behind after the death of her grandfather. However, when her best friend and former love interest Mabel turns up, Marin has to face everything she’s been hiding from. While I haven’t read this one yet, the wide critical and commercial acclaim accompanying this title make it a must for my TBR and for high school libraries.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
I will not apologize for my undying love of the enemies-to-lovers and fake relationships turning into true love tropes. Book Riot contributor Jaigirdar has gifted us with two distinctly different and complex queer protagonists of color. Hani is well-liked and a bit of a doormat, while Ishu is abrasive and driven. In other words, they’re a perfect complement to each other — even if it takes a while for them to realize it. Together, they fight for the space to be who they truly are.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Most likely, fans of YA have heard of this book. However, I am here to tell you about it again because it deserves to be talked about forever and all the time. It is hands down one of the best LGBTQ books for high schoolers. When Liz Lighty doesn’t get the prestigious scholarship she was counting on, she has to find another way to pay for college. Thus, our reluctant heroine is forced into the spotlight, joining the over-the-top town traditions around electing the prom court. Her journey is touching, hilarious, and relatable.
Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye
Alright, so this is one of the sweetest love stories I’ve ever read in my life. Popular athlete Bryson Keller makes a bet with his friends that requires him to date a different person each week. Naturally, the whole thing turns on its head when Kai Sheridan, a shy boy in his theater class, asks him out. There’s some homophobia and tense moments, but overall this book is a cozy, swoonworthy delight. Like the previous entry, it should resonate with teen readers thanks to the high school setting and requisite drama.
The 57 Bus by Dashiki Slater
Based on true events, this book packs quite a punch. It tears your heart in two as it tells the story of a gender-nonconforming teen who is set on fire on a bus. Of course, this act is deemed a hate crime and our sympathy is rightfully directed at the victim. Slater then turns our emotions on their heads by introducing us to the young and thoughtless perpetrator. We watch as a Black boy is villainized and victimized by the justice system for a moment of adolescent impulsivity. The truth is always complex and Slater handles it beautifully. Teenagers can definitely learn a few valuable lessons from this one.
There are many identities and orientations that fall under the LGBTQ umbrella. Consequently, a list of 11 titles can’t be representative of the entire spectrum. We have many lists like this here at Book Riot, so be sure to check out our archives. Here are a few great lists to start with: