Read Harder

7 of the Best YA Books by Trans Authors To Read in 2024

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

I write Book Riot’s queer books newsletter, Our Queerest Shelves, so I’m especially excited to give recommendations for the second task in the 2024 Read Harder Challenge: Read a YA book by a trans author.

If you pay any attention to the news at all, you’ll know trans people in the U.S. (and many other countries) are facing increased dangers from recent laws that make it harder to access gender-affirming care as well as to just be included in public spaces. I am finding it difficult to find words to succinctly describe just how terrifying the rollback of trans rights has been in recent years.

That’s why this task asks us to support out trans authors as well as to put ourselves in the shoes of trans teens — the group that is most often being targeted by policies ranging from trans book banning to restricting gender-affirming care to forcibly outing children and teens to their parents.

There’s one thing I want to make very clear about this task: this is about supporting out trans authors. DO NOT OUT PEOPLE. Don’t speculate about people’s gender identity. Don’t message or tag authors asking them to disclose if they’re trans. Don’t try to dig into private information. If an author is not publicly mentioning that they’re trans and/or nonbinary, they aren’t included in this task.

We want to be supporting authors who choose to be out because that choice means being vulnerable to experiencing transphobia in their public lives, on both a professional and private level. Like anyone coming out, it’s a brave decision that can help other queer and trans people feel seen and represented, and it should be celebrated — but no one should ever feel pressured to come out unless they want to. And discussing them as a trans author when they haven’t identified that way would be outing them without their permission.

I also have to mention that trans women and transfem people are still very underrepresented in media in general, and also YA books in particular. Eight years after If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo came out, and seven years after Dreadnought by April Daniels, it’s still rare to find a trans girl main character in YA.

The examples I’ve included today are both by trans authors and about trans main characters, but you could fulfill this task with a YA book by a trans author that is about a cisgender character. This is far from a complete list — for example, since Aiden Thomas (Cemetery Boys, The Sunbearer Trials) is probably the most well-known trans author of YA writing at the moment, I left them off — but it should give you a starting place!

In addition to linking the book titles to their listings, I’ve also linked the author’s name to where they’ve publicly mentioned that they’re trans/nonbinary, which includes bios, interviews, and social media posts.

Oh, and one more thing: we have Read Harder merch! Check it out at Book Riot’s Bonfire shop!

a graphic with the text Red Read Harder Merch! with images of shirts, mugs, hats, and more with the text Read Harder on them

Phew! With that very long introduction out of the way, let’s jump into the books! As always, the first two recommendations are open to everyone, and the rest are for members of the Read Harder Community: the paid newsletter membership. Come join us to participate in this cozy and supportive corner of the internet!

the cover of The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

This bloody YA historical/fantasy/horror book was one of my favorite reads of last year, despite horror not usually being my genre! Silas is a 16-year-old trans autistic guy in a fantasy version of 1883 London. He was born with violet eyes, which means he can see spirits — and that he’s a valued “bride.” When he’s sent to Braxton’s Finishing School and Sanitorium, the misogyny, transphobia, and ableism is torturous enough — then spirits contact him to let him know girls are dying here, and he’ll have to take the school down before he’s next. Silas’s special interest is surgery, so he sees everything through that lens, making for a blood- and viscera-soaked read even outside the actual surgery scenes. I recommend check out the content warnings first, but this is an incredible read, especially as an audiobook.

just happy to be here book cover

Just Happy to Be Here by Naomi Kanakia

Tara just wants to fit in at Ainsley Academy, but as the only trans girl and one of the few students of color there, that’s a challenge. When she applies to join the Sibyls, an exclusive society of girls whose membership comes with a scholarship, Tara finds herself at the middle of a firestorm of controversy around who is allowed into the Sibyls, and whether it should exist at all. This is an often infuriating read, because Tara faces so much transmisogyny in her life, including from “well-meaning” “allies” who steamroll over her to suit their own agendas. She also faces anti-trans legislation that is especially dangerous for her family because of their immigration status. The Sibyls is the one place she feels like she’s seen as herself, not just as “the trans girl.” This one also has a sapphic romance subplot!

Which book will you be reading for this prompt? Let’s trade recommendations in the comments section!

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Check out all the previous 2024 Read Harder posts here!


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