In 2017 I wrote Book Riot’s second round-up of LGBTQ middle grade in response to the first LGBTQ middle grade list in 2016. It was really exciting to see three years ago how much queer and trans content was picking up in books for this age group. Fast forward to 2020 and it’s hard to imagine how I was thrilled at what are now comparatively meager offerings. Here are 15 great LGBTQ middle grade books published in the last couple years.
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake
Sunny is 12 years old and dealing with a lot of stuff, including a recent heart transplant, trying to find a new BFF, and looking for a boy to have her first kiss with. Then she meets Quinn, who seems like she would be the perfect new best friend. But soon Sunny realizes it might be Quinn she wants to kiss, instead of any boy.
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
This magical realist story stars 12-year-old Kingston, who is sure his recently passed away brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. It would be super helpful if he could turn to his best friend Sandy in this time of grief. But right before he died, Khalid told King he should break off his friendship with Sandy because of a rumor that Sandy is gay.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
A Black trans girl named Jam lives in a utopian world. Why is it utopian? The angels have eliminated all monsters. Except that one night, a creature that really looks like a monster emerges from a painting Jam’s mom did. The monster asks Jam to call her Pet.
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
This novel-in-verse is told from the perspective of the two opposites attract 12-year-old girls in a cute romance. Tam is a tomboy athlete and Kate is a femme cheerleader. At first they form an unlikely friendship, which takes an even more unexpected direction.
The Whispers by Greg Howard
Eleven-year-old Riley has a lot of wishes that he hopes the “whispers”—magical forest fairies—will answer. He wishes the bullies would stop picking on him, that his 8th grade crush would like him back, and that his mom would come back home. When the investigation into his mother’s disappearance goes nowhere, he takes matters into his own hands and goes on a trip into the wood to talk to the whispers.
Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles
Rachel is a 13-year-old who should be enjoying her summer. Instead, she’s worrying about her parents arguing about money, working hard taking care of farm animals, and trying to figure out how to deal with her guy best friend Micah’s romantic feelings for her. Rachel doesn’t reciprocate his feelings and doesn’t think she can feel that way about any boy.
Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby
Fig is only in grade 6, but she sometimes has to be the parent instead of a kid with her artist dad who has bipolar disorder. When one of her teachers calls social services, Fig feels even more pressure to pretend like everything is okay. At the same time, she’s dealing with her crush on a girl who works at the library.
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
In 13-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls train to be witches, and all the boys grow up to be shapeshifters. So what does it mean that Aster hasn’t shifted yet, and is fascinated by witchcraft? His conundrum becomes even more heightened when a mysterious dangers threatens the boys—and Aster knows he can use witchcraft to help. A tale about rigid gender roles with subtle trans relevance.
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo (August 2020)
Two young witches are grappling with big life revelations: one has recently learned that she’s intersex and the other is dealing with her father’s abandonment. On top of that tough stuff, they have just accidentally resurrected an entire graveyard’s worth of fighting ancestors. Time for a counter-curse!
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
Rahul Kapoor is about to start middle school and he’s pretty nervous. He’s a gay 7th grader living in a small Midwest town. He decides to take his favorite grandfather’s advice, which is: “Find one thing you’re really good at. And become the BEST at it.” But what if Rahul can’t find anything he’s really good at?
Be My Love by Kit Pearson
It’s the 1950s after World War II and Maisie has always spent summers on Kingfisher Island with her beloved cousin Una. But this summer Una has changed and is wrapped up in an infatuation with a boy. Maisie doesn’t understand her jealousy, and her attempt to get the magic of their friendship back backfires spectacularly. But there’s still a chance for her to find the inner peace her island home has always given her.
Kenzie Kickstarts a Team written by Kit Rosewater and illustrated by Sophie Escabasse
The first book in the Derby Daredevils series is about two 5th graders, Kenzie and Shelly, realizing their dream of becoming roller derby stars! But first they need to recruit three girls to be on a team with them. But uh-oh—one of them happens to be Kenzie’s crush and Kenzie starts wondering if Shelly’s going to find a new BFF!
Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Rivera
This book is the first prose installment in the updated lesbian Nancy Drew read-alike comic series about amateur detective Goldie Vance. Goldie is a valet (and assistant detective) at Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida, which features a whole slew of eccentric characters. Her latest mystery is a diamond-studded swim cap stolen from the movie filming at the hotel.
The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
This novel-in-verse features a trans character who is the protagonist’s best friend. Celi Rivera’s coming of age story features her first period, her first attraction to a boy, and her best friend coming out as genderfluid, then identifying as a boy named Marco. The Black Puerto Rican Mexican perspectives on the book’s issues are a welcome addition to the LGBTQ middle grade canon.
The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
Two siblings get caught up in a political coup. Both are assigned male, and escape and hide themselves as new initiates in The Communion of Blue, a women-only communal society with sacred duties. When they get the opportunity to avenge the wrongs done to their house, one is eager to get back to his old life and the other wants to stay in the life she knows is for her.
Surprised some LGBTQ middle grade books you know weren’t featured on my list? I didn’t repeat any books that are on fellow Rioter’s Rachel’s 2019 list of 9 of the Best LGBTQ Middle Grade Novels for Pride.