Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

14 Summer Queer Books for Your June TBR

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Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

Do you need some summer queer books to brighten up your June TBR? Whether you’re looking for a light and breezy romance, a coming-of-age story, a lush fantasy, or a dark literary novel, we’ve got you covered. Some of these books are delightful and fun, some are bittersweet, and some are straight-up depressing. They’re all queer, and they’re all set in summer. If you’re longing for tank tops, green grass, warm nights, summer flings, and ice cream dates, these books will deliver.

Roll up your sleeves, put on your floppy hat, find a sunny spot, and settle down with one of these summer queer books.

YA Summer Queer Books

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix is a Black, trans, queer teenager attending a summer arts program at his NYC high school. When someone hangs a transphobic exhibit displaying old photos of him in the school lobby, he hatches an elaborate plan for revenge. It doesn’t go as anticipated. Featuring plenty of New York City summer scenes (including Pride!), this is a beautiful, messy, complicated book about falling in love, queer friendship and community, and self-discovery.

Music From Another World by Robin Talley

In the summer of 1977, two teenagers are assigned to be pen pals as part of a school project. Tammy is a closeted lesbian living with her conservative religious family in Orange County. Sharon goes to Catholic school in San Francisco; she’s helping her brother keep his sexuality a secret from their mother, and just discovering punk music. Set against the backdrop of Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign and the gay rights activism of the 1970s, this book is queer coming-of-age story, a celebration of friendship, and a summer romance all rolled into one.

juliet takes a breath gabby rivera book coverJuliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet is a 19-year-old Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx. Trying to figure out how to be a gay feminist, she takes a summer internship with her feminist idol, a white lesbian writer living in Portland. What follows is a summer of self-discovery. Juliet learns that her hero isn’t everything she’d dreamed, but she also finds her people, her voice, and her power. It’s a joyous summer romp of a book.

When We Were MagicWhen We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

Romance, friendship, and magic collide in this novel about a tight-knight group of friends who all have magical powers. When Alexis accidentally uses her magic to murder a boy, her best friends rally around her in the aftermath. The whole book takes place during the last month of high school, and it’s full of lush summer evenings, afternoons at the quarry, and magical adventures in the woods.

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Set on the tiny island of By-the-Sea, this soft, beautiful novel tells the story of two sisters in the summer before their 18th birthday. The women in Georgina’s family have always been gifted with magic, but as her birthday approaches and her twin sister’s magic blossoms, she begins to doubt hers will ever show up. This book is a coming-of-age story filled romance, humor, sadness, quiet magic, and a setting that truly shines. Every page is filled with the scents and sounds of summer by the ocean.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Fun, lighthearted, body-positive, gay summer romance anyone? Abby is 17 and obsessed with fashion when she lands a summer internship at one of her favorite boutiques. She’s looking forward to a summer of hard work, not to mention continuing her quest to find the best burger in L.A. But the summer has more in store for her than fashion and burgers when she falls hard for her co-intern, Jordi.

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

A delightful love story that begins with a meet cute at the Post Office, this book definitely captures summer in New York. Ben and Arthur meet at the Post Office, have a Time trying to find each other again, and then proceed to date with all the tender awkwardness of teenagers. This book delves into so many ordinary (but serious) things that people often stumble over at the beginning of a relationship—it’s a great balance of real issues and summer fun.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Movie-obsessed teenager Emi is spending the summer after graduating high school living  with her best friend, working as a set design intern for a big studio, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. A note in a record at the estate sale of a famous actor leads her to a Hollywood mystery, new friendships, and new romance. It’s a magical, queer, joyride of a book, a love letter to the movies, and brimming with the freedom and possibility of summer.

Late to the PartyLate to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

Filled with summer parties, summer jobs, basement movie marathons, skinny-dipping, and late-night fire pits, this is a quintessential queer coming-of-age story. Codi has had the same two best friends forever, and she loves them, but when she makes a new friend the summer before her senior year, she realizes there’s more to life than the same old routine. This lighthearted story captures the messiness of first loves, new friendships, and old friendships, all while celebrating queerness in its many forms.

Adult Summer Queer Books

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Are you in need of a feel-good summer fantasy? This imaginative, funny, and heartwarming novel will transport you to a land of lush forests, blue seas, sandy beaches, and gardens overflowing with flowers. Linus is a middle-aged man working as a social worker for magical youth. When he’s sent to investigate an orphanage on a remote island that’s home to six unusual and dangerous children (and their guardian), he ends up finding the family he didn’t know he was looking for.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

This is not a happy summer book. Set over the course of one summer weekend, it takes a hard, often painful look at racism in academia, intimacy, queer desire, and grief. Wallace is a queer Black grad student getting his PhD in biochemistry at a university in a small Midwestern town. His father has recently died, and he’s both intensely lonely and carrying a lot of old trauma. Over the course of the weekend, he meets up with his mostly white group of friends, works at the lab, and falls into a strained relationship with one of his classmates.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

In this captivating fantasy, New York City comes alive in the form of five people, each one embodying a different borough. They not only have to get used to their new identity, but find each other and fight off the creeping evil that is trying to bring the whole city down. Set entirely in New York over the course of a week at the end of summer, this is a book in which the setting is as vibrant and alive as the characters.

Call Me By Your Namecall me by your name by Andre Aciman

Heartbreaking and bittersweet, this coming-of-age love story is set against the backdrop of a 1980s Italian summer. As 17-year old Elio falls in messy, complicated love for the first time, you’ll be able to feel the heat on your face and the the cool ocean water on your skin.

Limbo Beirut by Hilal Chouman

If you’re looking for a unique take on the summer read, why not try this thoughtful and haunting novel by Lebanese writer Hilal Chouman? Set in May 2008 (it counts!), the book depicts the violent events that took place in Beirut over the course of a few days. Narrators include a gay artist, a former militia member, a pregnant woman, a struggling novelist, a medical intern, and an engineering student. While not a traditional summer novel, it captures the fear and upheaval of a particular time and place on the edge of an uncertain summer. The characters and the setting come alive in Chouman’s beautiful prose, translated from the Arabic by Anna Ziajka Stanton.

Can’t decide what queer book to read this summer? We’ve got a quiz to help you figure it out.