This year has been a good year for queer middle grade books. I know I say this all the time, but I am so happy to live in a time where there are more than enough books to populate queer children’s book lists. I grew up without access to queer literature, thus, I’m proud that today’s young readers don’t have to face that issue.
This year has included some big name releases. For example, we got the (re)release of Melissa by Alex Gino. Formerly titled George, this classic queer middle grade book is a triumph, as the title now reflects who the main character truly is. Gino had long lamented their inadvertent deadnaming of their title character, so it’s wonderful they’ve had the opportunity to make it right.
That’s the gift of offering queer representation in children’s literature. It allows kids to see themselves reflected in literature as they’re in crucial stages of identity development. During their tweens, many children feel awkward and isolated, especially if they are navigating questions about their gender identity or sexuality. Books like the ones on this list remind them that they are not alone and their identities are valid and valued.
Read on for some of the best queer middle grade books of 2022 and a few to eagerly anticipate in 2023!
Great Queer Middle Grade Books from 2022
Moonflower by Kacen Callender
I’m sure I don’t have to sell this book if you’ve read anything by Kacen Callender. In this forthcoming middle grade fantasy, Callender delivers yet again. Moon’s depression makes life in the real world incredibly difficult. Luckily, at night Moon can travel to the spirit realm and visit their only friend, Wolf. When the spirit realm is threatened, it’s up to Moon to save it and all its inhabitants.
Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle Lukoff
Next, another author who needs no introduction. I particularly adore Lukoff’s picture books, but he is one of those infuriatingly talented writers who can apparently write anything well. If you, like me, loved Too Bright to See, then you’re in for another treat. Protagonist Annabelle Blake is delighted when a new kid arrives in town. She loves their stories from their previous life — and not just because they’re cute and they smell good. However, when Annabelle’s dad comes out as trans, Annabelle realizes that new things can come with new challenges.
The Trouble with Robots by Michelle Mohrweis
STEM meets identity exploration in this great queer middle grade book written by an actual middle school robotics and engineering teacher. Eighth graders Evelyn and Allie are forced to work together to win a robotics competition. Unfortunately, Evelyn is a perfectionist while new kid Allie has quickly been flagged as a behavior problem. If they are going to win the competition and save the school’s robotics program, they’ll have to learn to work through their differences, while also learning more about themselves.
Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms by Jamar J. Perry
Cameron Battle has been through a lot. After the tragic loss of his parents, he moves in with his grandmother. The Book of Chidani, a family heirloom and his only link to his missing parents, tells of a kingdom that isolated and hid itself to protect the Igbo people. He knows it’s dangerous to read the book that caused his parents’ disappearance, but it calls to Cameron. When Cameron and his best friends open the book, they quickly learn that Chidani is real, because they’re transported to it!
The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby
Joey is angry. It doesn’t matter that she has a loving home with supportive moms and loving siblings. Eleven year old Joey just can’t seem to control her anger. Her angry outbursts often end with people getting hurt, like when she pushes her crush/BFF too hard one day. Finally, one of Joey’s meltdowns ends in her family being evicted from their apartment. After a science class lecture on genetics, Joey wonders if maybe she inherited her anger from the donor her moms used.
Nikhil Out Loud by Maulik Pancholy
I had the absolute privilege of reading Maulik Pancholy’s fantastic queer middle grade book The Best at It in my teacher book club. Now, Pancholy has gifted us with another lovable brown queer kid dealing with life in small town USA. Nikhil is famous for voicing an openly gay cartoon character on a popular kid’s show. He’s used to fame, but not being famous in a conservative community where his classmates’ parents protest his involvement in the school play. Navigating his family’s move to Ohio to care for his sick grandfather, bigotry, and the middle school changes that will mean giving up his animated voice job, Nikhil realizes real life is much harder than television.
An Eighth Grade Gay-Straight Alliance by Daniel Micko
Brooklyn and Sydney grew up together in a dull, surprisingly conservative California town. Unexpectedly, the two get to know one another better and fall in love. Now, they have to stand together to make the community a better place for two queer Muslim girls of color and others like them.
The One Who Loves You the Most by Medina
In this coming-of-age queer middle grade book, 12 year old Gabriela is trying to find their place in the world. It’s hard being an adoptee in a white family. It’s even harder when each day you feel less and less comfortable in your own body. Luckily, a new school year, new queer and trans friends, and a queer social media community combine to help Gabriela find their purpose.
The Insiders by Mark Oshiro
In this magical middle grade debut, Mark Oshiro introduces us to Héctor Muños. Héctor being gay wasn’t a big deal at his middle school in San Francisco, but it doesn’t go over well in his new school in Orangevale. After attempting to hide in the janitor’s closet, Héctor instead finds himself in a magical room with two other kids from different corners of the country. What follows is a heartwarming story of friendship and belonging.
Bonus: Queer Middle Grade Books to Preorder for 2023
Ellie Engle Saves Herself! by Leah Johnson (May 2, 2023)
I am seriously looking forward to Leah Johnson’s middle grade debut. Her award-winning YA novel You Should See Me in a Crown is legitimately one of my favorite books of all time. Johnson introduces us to Ellie, another nerdy Black girl we’re sure to love. Ellie likes going unnoticed, leaving the spotlight to her best friend Abby. Unfortunately, when an earthquake gives Ellie resurrection powers, her time in the shadows is over — whether she likes it or not.
Skating on Mars by Caroline Huntoon (May 30, 2023)
Twelve year old Mars is having a rough time. Their father died recently, and the worst part is they never got to tell him that they’re nonbinary. As if grief and 7th grade woes aren’t enough, Mars soon finds their one place of refuge threatened. After a high school skating champion sees Mars’ skills on the ice, he challenges Mars to skate as a boy so they can compete. Though Mars accepts the challenge, they soon fear that there’s no longer a place for them in the skating world they love so much.
Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom by Nina Varela (February 14, 2023)
As if it isn’t hard enough relocating to the middle of nowhere, Juniper Harvey has also started having strange dreams. When she wakes up to the girl from her dreams holding a sword at her throat, things really start to get out of hand. Suddenly, Juniper finds herself on a quest to find a crown, avoid dangerous pursuers, and to navigate the massive crush she’s developing on her new companion.
For more queer children’s lit recommendations, consider the following Book Riot gems: