If you go by the depiction in mainstream media, you’d think that queer people exist only in isolation, on the periphery of straight people. A straight woman may have a gay best friend—or, if they’re feeling edgy, a lesbian best friend—but in most media, the only reason that queer people seem to come together is to date. Of course, this is far from reality. Queer people often seek each other out for community and friendship, sometimes without even knowing it. It’s not uncommon for us to end up in friendship groups that we only discover are all queer when everyone comes out years later!
These books reject the idea of the token gay person for each friendship group. Instead, they celebrate queer community in all its forms: bi & lesbian best friends, all-queer friend groups, trans community, and more. Although these titles may contain romance, they also include relationships between queer people that aren’t romantic. I’ve separated the list into two categories: The Queer BFF, books with a pair of queer friends; and The Queer Friendship Group, books with more than two queer people in a friend group. I could find a lot more YA books with queer friends than adult books: please let me know on Twitter which adult titles I missed! I think that’s enough preamble. Let’s get into the books!
The Queer BFF
Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert
Suzette was sent away to boarding school when her brother, Lionel, was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Now she’s back, but they no longer have the close relationship they used to. It only gets more complicated when they fall for the same girl. Although the most important relationship here is between Suzette and her (straight) brother, there is still a queer friendship represented: she is bisexual and her best friend is a lesbian. Suzette is also Black and Jewish, and Little & Lion explores the intersections of all these identities, and the microaggressions she deals with.
Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan
This another bi+ main character with a lesbian best friend! Jubilee is a cellist who helps out at her stepmom’s comic shop. She’s trying to take her mind off a big rehearsal by blowing off steam at a comics convention (and helping with the booth). There, she meets a boy cosplaying as Batman and begins a text flirtation. What she doesn’t know is that he is the son of a rival comic book chain—a cut-throat enterprise trying to force indie comic stores out of business. Jubilee and the love interest are both bi+ (attracted to multiple genders, but may not use that label), and Jubilee’s best friend is a Black lesbian named Jayla. I appreciated seeing Jayla’s experience at the comics convention, and how she deals with the racism in that space. Jubilee’s mom is also queer and married to a woman.
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
At the beginning of this story, neither Mark nor Kate have much of a queer friendship group. They’re classmates, but they’ve never spoken. It isn’t until they run into each other at a bar during Pride that they realize they have something in common. In this chance meeting, they become each other’s confidantes: Mark is in love with his best friend, Ryan, and he has no idea if the feeling is mutual. Kate is in love with a girl she’s never seen in person, and she’s terrified to finally meet this mysterious circus traveler dream girl. In the week that follows, their life trajectories change, and this new friendship helps to shape who they become.
When You Get The Chance by Tom Ryan & Robin Stevenson (May 4, 2021)
It’s fitting that all the books in this section pair up: two bi+ main characters with lesbian best friends, and two books about Pride and MLM/WLW solidarity. Mark and Talia are cousins who used to spend summers together in Ontario at the family cottage. Now, though, they have moved to opposite coasts and haven’t seen each other in years. They’re brought together when their grandfather dies. While they’re helping to clean out the cottage, they discover that they’d both rather be at Toronto Pride. Being queer is about all they have in common, but they decide to drive down together, with Mark’s little sister in tow. Hopefully, this road trip will bring them closer together.
The Queer Friendship Group
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
Since this list is dominated by YA, let’s start with an adult title! Passing Strange is fabulist historical fiction set in San Francisco during the 1939 World Fair. There is also an F/F romance, and one of the women, Emily, is a singer in a lesbian bar, which means that this book has a large cast of queer women in a friendship group. Because of the time period, there is a lot of variation in how these women are able to live: some are closeted, some are married to men, and some are openly living with their female partner. There are also discussions of butch/femme dynamics at the time, and of being a queer women in color in this context.
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
In Uruguay in 1977, homosexuality is a crime. It’s in this hostile environment that the five “cantoras” (lesbians, or literally “women who sing”) find each other and carve out a space for themselves. They find a secluded cove, Cabo Polonio, and make it their refuge. Cantoras follows them over five years, as they continue to find their way back to this place. Sometimes they come as couples, sometimes with a lover, and sometimes alone, but over time, this group becomes a family.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom
This is truly one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read. Thom weaves fairytales and her memoir together into a surreal and emotionally powerful narrative. Eventually, she finds herself at the Street of Miracles, where trans femmes establish some stability through sex work. It is this community of trans femmes that form the queer community aspect of this book, and they have to rely on each other for safety. When a trans femme sex worker is murdered, the police force has no interest in seeking justice, and the community forms a vigilante gang to protect themselves.
Homie by Danez Smith
This is a book of poetry, which makes it a bit of a departure for this list, but this is a celebration of friendship, and especially friendship between queer Black people. It’s an impossible book to summarize, but it discusses HIV status, suicide, racism, and community. It’s a love letter to friendship that encompasses the range of people who matter in our lives: those who walk through it briefly, and those who are always by our side. It’s a meditation on death, survival, loss, and friendship.
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
This is the book that inspired this list. Moss’s father was killed by police, which has left him with panic attacks whenever he’s near them. Now, his school is getting increasingly militarized: there is a constant police presence, and they are installing metal detectors. Moss and his friends (and his maybe-boyfriend?) organize a protest to demand a free education. Moss’s friend group is almost all queer and people of color: there is trans, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and asexual representation. There is sometimes an overwhelming amount of characters, but this is exactly what I reach for when I hear “queer friends group”—just be prepared for a gutting read that will leave you with the kind of anger that fuels change. This has only gotten more relevant since its release.
Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen
Codi is lucky enough to have a solid friend group that also happens to be queer. She, Maritza, and JaKory have been friends since they were all in 6th grade, and since then they’ve all come out to each other (Codi is a lesbian, Martiza is bi, JaKory is gay). The only problem is that Maritza and JaKory still see Codi as the person she was all those years ago. She wants to try new things—like going to parties and drinking—but feels hemmed in by their expectations of her. So when she sees two teenage boys kissing and one running away, she decides to talk to the guy left standing alone, and she soon becomes enmeshed in his friendship group—and maybe even finding a girl to crush on there. It’s so exciting that she wants to keep it to herself…but when will Maritza and JaKory find out? And will they forgive her? (Yes, this book has two different queer friendship groups!)
The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta
When Danny moved to Tempest, California, she wasn’t expecting to be pulled into a group of queer witches, but that’s exactly what happened. They’ve lost one of their own—she’s walking around, but there’s no one looking out behind her eyes—and they’re sure that Danny has the ability to find her. This is a surreal, deeply queer book. The point of view shifts between people and time periods, and sometimes is even from the perspective of the ravens or the trees or the entire student body. This is a diverse friend group, including a demisexual character, a nonbinary character, a bisexual character, a main character who identifies as queer, someone with synaesthesia, a character with a limp, and characters of colour. They use the phrase “femme as f***” in conversation. Besides, six queer witches amongst the California redwoods—who could resist?
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
Clearly, queer friendship is Capetta’s wheelhouse! This is sci-fi retelling of the Arthur myth, with a female Arthur. It’s somehow simultaneously dystopian, sci-fi, and fantasy. Our main character, Ari, is pansexual, Merlin is gay, and there is nonbinary and asexual representation. It’s also a queer future: people ask about your pronouns when they meet you! Ari is the new incarnation of Arthur, and is supposed to unite the world(s) against their corporate tyrant. She also has a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers (and back again) arc with Gweneviere!
Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
Euphoria Kids is an urban fantasy following three teenagers: Iris, who is nonbinary; Babs, who is a trans girl; and the as-yet-unnamed boy, who is also trans. They live in a world where magic and queerness are often intertwined—dryads are confused by the concept of gender, faeries can change their gender and appearance at will, and each of the main characters’ magic is tied up with their gender. This is a gentle, comforting fantasy novel, and each of the main characters is otherworldly in some way: Iris was grown from a seed (by her two moms), Babs is made of fire and sometimes turns invisible, and the boy is still discovering his own magic.
The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert
As soon as I finished the first chapter of this book, I took to Goodreads: “This is a murder mystery about a gay speakeasy in 1929, with a plucky bi girl main character whose drag queen best friend is getting framed for murder. Why have I not heard more about this book??” The central queer friendship is between Millie (the main character) and Marion (the drag performer), but Millie’s aunt who is raising her is a lesbian, and the club, of course, is made of queer patrons. If you’re a fan of 1920s mysteries—think Phryne Fisher—and queer YA, you really need to go pick this one up.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Simone is a bi teenager who is keeping her HIV-positive status under wraps after it caused a backlash at her old school. Now, everything seems to be going well: she has two (queer) best friends, she’s beginning to date a cute guy, and she’s directing the school musical—which is a dream come true. This perfect picture is threatened, though, when she starts getting blackmail letters threatening to tell everyone her status if she doesn’t stay away from her love interest. I loved this exploration of bisexuality, though it’s a minor part of the book. Simone has one asexual lesbian best friend and one bi best friend, but she’s not sure if she can really “claim” the label of bisexual. Sure, she has crushes on celebrity women, but that doesn’t count, right? And yes, she liked one girl at her last school, but is that enough to be able to say she’s bi? (Spoiler: yes.)
The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters
Wes is just on the cusp of adulthood, and he is fighting it hard. All he wants to do is slack off at his used bookstore job and hope that his best friend Nico will confess his undying love. Unfortunately, his bookstore job is threatened when a corporate coffee chain wants to buy the property. It’s up to him and his coworkers/friends to band together to save the bookstore. Who can resist a story about queer friends trying to save a bookstore? This includes gay, bi, aro-ace, trans, and nonbinary representation.
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
This is the first book in a series that alternates point of view characters. In this volume, Jess decides to take a coveted paid internship position that happens to be for the town’s supervillain. She’s the only person in her family who hasn’t developed superpowers, so she doesn’t have a lot of options. At least she gets to work with her crush, Abby! Jess is half Chinese, half Vietnamese, and bisexual. Her best friend Bells is Black and trans, and he is the point of view character in the second volume. Their other friend, Emma, gets the third volume, and she’s demiromantic and asexual.
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke A. Allen
Is it even a queer book recommendation list if I don’t include Lumberjanes? This is about a diverse group of kids at a summer camp for “hardcore lady-types,” where they encounter supernatural shenanigans and cryptids. Two of the girls start dating, another is trans, and they eventually become friends with a nonbinary kid from the neighboring camp who uses they/them pronouns. This is a series that’s fundamentally about friendship, especially between very different people: they vary in age, and their personalities don’t always match, but they love each other and support each other, no matter what mess they find themselves in.
Those are my picks for friendship books between queer characters! I’m sure this is not a complete list: it’s mostly made of books that I’ve read and loved that I know fit this category well. Have you read any books that celebrate platonic friendships between queer people that I’ve missed? Feel free to reach out and let me know, especially if it’s an adult title, because I’d love to read even more books with queer friendships!
Also In This Story Stream
- 10 of the Best Manga Friendships
- Friendships in Black and Multicultural Romance
- 8 Epic Friendships in Sci-fi and Fantasy Books
- 5 of the Best Criminal Friendships
- 8 Great Picture Books about Friendship
- 6 of the Best Friendships in YA Fantasy
- 4 of the Best Friendships in Middle Grade Books
- 3 Ways to Start a Two-Person Book Club with a Friend
- Quiz: Which YA Friendship is Most Like Your Own?