8 Romantic Queer YA Books To Add To Your Reading Shelf Right Away!
YA Queer romances and romantic books have been around for decades but they’ve been hiding in the nooks and alleyways. Authors either self-published or they’d be put out by small presses. It was a struggle to find them and even harder to find one you truly vibe with. In the past few years, the stories on paper that portray our rich inner and outer lives are coming from some of the biggest publishers. It’s exciting to see them displayed tall and proud on shelves across the globe now. We’ve moved away from token queer characters to well-fleshed out ones. Our stories don’t only usually end in tragedy anymore. We have our full-fledged arc with all the feels: angst, humour, joy, belonging, pain, and even happy endings.
There are finally enough options to choose from that you can filter and pick exactly what you’re in the mood for in your reading journey. There’s also a lot more diversity in terms of identities across the spectrum. Whether you wanna cuddle up with a cutesy read, or feel all the queer angst along with a character, or understand the very real struggles we face, and all the love and celebration that bursts through, this list has it all!
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
As stunning as the cover is, the story of young immigrant queer love is even more stunning. The flashing neon sign of the Telegraph club represents a beloved San Francisco lesbian bar from the 1950s. Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu is drawn to it in a decade when it’s not safe for two girls to fall in love, specially not in Chinatown. But little does she know that in a time filled with Red-Scare paranoia, her life will lead to a found family, tender sapphic love, and more.
Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
If you’re anything like me, you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe all those years ago, and recommended it to every single person in your life! I squealed in delight when Sáenz confirmed he’d be writing a sequel! I loved Ari and Dante so much in the first book, and I’m glad I got to witness more of their journey. They try to build a love entirely their own in a time where they’re watching fellow gay men die of AIDS. The friendships and family dynamics are explored well. The secondary characters are well-developed and Ari’s character development is phenomenal. However, was this sequel absolutely needed? No. Am I still really happy to have read it? Yes. You don’t need to read the first book to make sense of this one, but I’d highly recommend it.
The Henna Wars by Abida Jaigirdar
Nishat is a Bangladeshi Muslim lesbian who has just come out to her parents and been met with uncomfortable silence. Amidst this, we meet Flávia, a beautiful biracial teen that seems to consume Nishat’s thoughts. A competition is announced at school and both Nishat and Flávia want to compete with the same idea: henna tattoos. The competition gets nasty and as things get resolved, we learn important things about racism, appropriation, and intersectional identities. It’s a wonderful debut novel and one worth picking up!
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
This is a tender coming-of-age YA novel set largely in winter time. It deals with loss with tenderness and poetry-like prose. It has an element of a sapphic romance, but that’s not the central theme. It’s about leaving home and feeling the loneliness in your gut. It’s also about carrying the love of your friends, family, and even kind strangers with you. This book is extremely character-driven, not a lot happens plot-wise. Read this if you’re looking for a slow, soulful read with hard-hitting lines that almost sneak up on you.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
A queer romance with elements of folklore and magical realism? Hell yes! The prose is so pretty and poetic that you can’t help but gasp sometimes. This heartwarming story is about Miel and Samir. Miel is a Latina girl who has roses growing out of her wrist, and Samir is an Italian Pakistani trans boy who paints the moons and hangs it on trees. This a story of a strange town where four sisters rumoured to be witches live, and the friendship and love that blossoms in it.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
This is a coming-of-age YA verse novel about a Black gay mixed race boy. We follow him through his journey of being a little boy to a gorgeous drag queen, all while in poetry that both soothes and unravels you. It also has an element of a male-male romance that’s not central to the story, but adorable nonetheless. You can’t help but root for Micheal, our half Jamaican, half Greek Cyprian protagonist. His journey empowers you to pay attention to and celebrate your own. The audiobook is phenomenal, do check it out!
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
First things first, how gorgeous is that cover! The novel takes us on a whole ride. We follow Felix’s journey as a trans teen coming to terms with his identity, soon after he gets his top surgery. We get to feel his angst and joy as it settles into his body. The book is set in high school and portrays Felix being bullied by a deeply transphobic person. It also addresses multiple microaggressions that make Felix’s self-acceptance harder. But there’s friendship, support, and celebration that help him get by. And somewhere along the way, Felix also falls in love.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Asexual and biromantic characters are so underrepresented across all genres, and romance is no different. So when you find a book that gets ace rep right and is also a fun read, you hold on to it. It makes your heart melt while also making you laugh. Alice is a Black college student who explores her identity and embarks on a journey of self discovery. The book has angst and conflict based on miscommunication, so pick it up if you’re looking for that!
For more recs, also check out 50 Must Read Gay Romance Novels, 8 Swoonworthy Queer YA Romcoms You’ll Love and our LGBTQ archives.