LGBTQ books for teens have come a long way in recent years. Here at Book Riot, we often and unapologetically share lists like this one — and for good reason. Thanks to the tireless work of too many people and organizations to name, the world has become a safer place for young people who identify as queer.
In fact, more teens are openly identifying as LGBTQ than ever before. Significantly, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention noted a rise between 2015 and 2019. The percentage of youth aged 15 to 17 who reported being queer increased from 8.3% to 11.7%.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that more teens are queer than ever before. Many factors attribute to this reported increase, including increased awareness, acceptance, and resources for people who are exploring their gender identity and/or sexuality. (More adults in the U.S. are also identifying as queer, with an increase from 4.5% to 5.6% between 2017 and 2021.)
Likewise, the YA publishing industry has become more queer-friendly. Since the first queer young adult book was published in 1969, the number of YA books featuring queer characters has grown from roughly one a year in the 1970s to 50+ titles a year more recently. Even more importantly, the number of queer YA books by queer authors has also increased.
Unfortunately, the rate of increase has yet to close the significant diversity gaps in publishing. There are obviously far more queer teens than there are books for them to see themselves in. Furthermore, there aren’t nearly enough books featuring queer characters of color, disabled queer characters, and other combinations of marginalized identities.
But today, let’s celebrate what we do have: a lot of great LGBTQ books for teens of all interests. As an elder queer, I am constantly astonished by the brilliant options available. (Consequently, I read SO MUCH queer children’s lit and YA.) Back in my day, we used to have trudge uphill both ways to find queer books. When we couldn’t do that, we had to write them by hand on our Etch A Sketches.
Alright, before y’all start making fun of my side part, I’ll stop being such an old. Without further ado, enjoy this plethora of queer YA!
Excellent LGBTQ Books for Teens Who Prefer Fiction
Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles
Needless to say, there are not nearly enough books about bi Black boys. I’m looking forward to reading this newish title about Gio, a teen dealing with the complications of an absent mother and alcoholic father. Exploring the intricacies of both familial and romantic love, this story promises to tug at the heartstrings.
Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve
Excuse me while I bask in the varied and nuanced queer YA coming into the world. Again, as an elder queer I cannot get over the variety of stories we’re starting to see. In this tale, we follow Dean. Dean knows he’s a guy, but everyone in his life sees him as a lesbian. After his theater teacher (who I imagine to be a well-meaning ally) casts him as a “nontraditional Romeo,” Dean quickly realizes he wants to be seen as a guy offstage as well.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
It would not be exaggerating to say this is one of the most beautifully written stories of love of all kinds, Blackness, and queerness that I have ever read. The story centers two lovable teens, Audre and Mabel, telling the entire story in their two distinct voices. Additionally, Petrus does a masterful job of addressing tough topics like incarceration and freedom, illness and death. Plus, if you like audiobooks, this is a great one to listen to as the readers really capture the voices of our two protagonists.
Edie in Between by Laura Sibson
Since I read this book has been compared to a modern-day Practical Magic, I have high hopes for what it entails. Edie is dealing with grief over her mother’s death. Unfortunately, her grief is complicated by the fact that her mother’s ghost is still hanging around. After Edie discovers her mother’s teenage journal, she finds a literal portal into her mother’s young life. Through her journeys into her mother’s past, Edie hopes to find peace and closure.
Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Fans of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe eagerly awaited this sequel to the story of two boys and their journey from best friends to lovers. This story meets up with Ari and Dante in their senior year of high school as they navigate loss, love, and finding their own way in the world.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Dear readers, this book was a delight to read. I love love love the trope of fake relationships turning into true love. Book Riot contributor Jaigirdar breathes new life into that favorite romance trope by giving us distinctly different and complex queer protagonists of color. Hani is well-liked and a bit of a doormat, while Ishu is abrasive and driven. Together, these endearing Bengali girls discover and fight for the space to be who they truly are. Content warning for biphobia.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Obviously, if you’re a fan of YA you’ve probably 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. When Liz Lighty misses out on a prestigious scholarship, she has to find another way to get money for college. Thus, our reluctant heroine is forced into the spotlight, joining the over-the-top town tradition of running for prom queen. Her journey is touching, hilarious, relatable, and heartwarming. Read this book yesterday if you haven’t already.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Next, we have another title that many fans of YA are familiar with. Fortunately, this book definitely lives up to the hype. Felix, a trans high schooler, is publicly deadnamed and has pictures of him before his transition distributed without his permission. Furthermore, the culprit behind the attack makes a fake Instagram account to continue harassing Felix. It’s infuriating and you spend the book rooting for Felix while wanting to punch the people who refuse to accept him. However, it’s ultimately a story of triumph and self-love that we can all appreciate.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
If you love magic and secret societies with some romance and mystery sprinkled throughout, then this is the book for you. After her mother’s death, Bree buries her grief and tries to immerse herself in an early college summer program. Surprisingly, she soon learns the mystery of her mother’s death is tied to an underground society at the very university she attends. Bree discovers her latent abilities as she enters a world of monsters and magic.
Cold: A Novel by Mariko Tamaki
Told in two voices, this story follows two queer kids on different sides of life and death. Todd, though dead, watches as the police investigate his murder. Meanwhile, Georgia can’t stop thinking about the dead boy that she didn’t even know. Georgia knows there’s more to his story than lies people are telling, but can she uncover the truth?
The Kindred by Alechia Dow
Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars was one of my favorite reads of the last year. Consequently, I am very much looking forward to reading her newest release. The Kindred sees commoner Joy and royal Felix linked through mind-pairings — a connection created to save their kingdom from revolution. But when the royal family is assassinated and Felix becomes the next in line for the throne, he finds himself (and Joy) in mortal danger. Considering he’s the main suspect for the murders, he and Joy run away to Earth. Can they save themselves and their kingdom from whoever is really behind the killings?
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
You might think that every book I read couldn’t possibly be as amazing as I say it is, but that’s where you’re wrong. You see, I don’t finish books I don’t like. So, you can trust me when I say that this book is absolutely amazing. Follow Xiomara, a Black Latinx teen with a fighting spirit. Her zealously religious mother doesn’t understand her and tries to tame her at every turn. Her closest friend — her twin brother — is distant and secretive, struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. Everyone wants her to be quiet and invisible, but in her poetry notebook she gets to speak out. It’s a beautiful and empowering read with poignant commentary on gender norms, religion, and family.
Love Somebody by Rachel Roasek
In this new release, fans of authors like Casey McQuiston will find their latest romcom obsession. You want a love triangle? Perfect! Get ready for a popular high school girl and her ex-boyfriend-turned-BFF to both fall in love with the same quiet loner. I haven’t read it yet and I can already feel the angst and longing.
Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas (May 31, 2022)
Likewise, I’m looking forward to this forthcoming tale of #BlackBoyJoy. A pair of queer, Black, BFFs are preparing to start their junior year of high school. Suddenly, everything changes. Linus tells Harrison that he’s moving out of state. Consequently, Harrison decides to plan an amazing final day for the two of them, complete with a bucket list of all the things they’ve been too afraid to do before. Undoubtedly, I’m going to be laughing and crying over this tale of friendship.
Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye
Alright, so I went through a period of the pandemic when I only wanted to read cozy stories. I needed to get lost in a world where people were good and in love. Thankfully, I found this book. When popular athlete and all around great guy Bryson Keller makes a bet with his friends, he commits 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 in the final week of the bet. There’s some homophobia and tense moments, but overall this book will make your heart grow a few sizes.
A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell
The concept of chosen family is very important to queer communities. Thus, readers will appreciate this dark and magical story of allegedly abandoned children who became family. Raised alone in the woods (supposedly for their own safety), the siblings have always only had each other. When her siblings start to go missing, Derry is determined to save them — even as her growing powers threaten to spiral out of control.
Going Viral: A Socially Distant Love Story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc
In a love story for our current era, high schooler Claire is forced to isolate in her New York City home during a global pandemic. As the isolation wears on, Claire misses seeing her friends and especially her girlfriend. When a new girl moves in across the street, Claire pens a love story about a girl who falls in love with a neighbor. Surprisingly, the story goes viral and Claire has to deal with the consequences of everyone taking her fiction as fact.
Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes
High schooler Luis desperately wants to go to prom with his boyfriend. Chiefly due to a decades-ago incident that ended with the death of a gay student, his school is hesitant to allow such things. Somehow, Luis time travels back to the 1980s, where he has the opportunity to save the boy’s life. Full of wicked humor, this new release promises to captivate readers.
Nonfiction LGBTQ Books for Teens
LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel Madrone
If you or your teen are looking for more information and resources, this book is for you. It covers terminology, healthy relationships, dealing with bigotry, and much more. Accordingly, this is book is an indispensable resource for any teen questioning their gender identity and/or sexuality.
A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G. & J.R. Zuckerberg
Similarly, if you’re looking for information but with a bit of flair, this book has you covered. Written by two cartoonists, this illustrated guide explains the basics of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, it is interactive, featuring worksheets and reflective exercises to guide you on your journey.
Continuum by Chella Man
In this personal essay, a Deaf, transgender, genderqueer, Jewish person of color shares his insights from navigating the world carrying multiple marginalized identities. His honesty and resilience will inspire readers who are exploring their own identities.
She/He/They/Me by Robin Ryle
As the title suggests, this book focuses on the complexities and fluidity of gender. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure style read that allows for individual exploration. The author creatively immerses readers in scenarios where the full spectrum of gender identities are presented as valid and possible. This book is great for both teen and adult readers.
The Pride Guide by Jo Langford
Unapologetically, Langford wrote this nonfiction resource specifically for LGBTQ teens. With humor and empathy, the author provides sex education for these kids who are too often overlooked in mainstream sex ed. In addition to all of the expected basics, this book covers issues unique to queer youth. Langford included everything from puberty for trans youth to dating violence in this must-read resource.
Asexual journalist Angela Chen offers much-needed insight and representation for the ace community in this collection of interviews, essays, and memoirs. Chen’s open exploration of her own journey immediately endears her writing to the reader. This is definitely a must-read for adults and teens alike.
Queerfully and Wonderfully Made by Leigh Finke
As a queer Christian, I know that it can be difficult reconciling religion with LGBTQ identities. Thus, I find the very title of this resource promising. The book blurb claims that it will help answer all the tough questions LGBTQ kids might have about Christianity and queerness. Most importantly, it focuses on the message that God made and loves queer kids exactly as they are.