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Find more A Core Collection of LGBTQ YA Fiction
Libraries doing retrospective collection of LGBTQ materials should consult this core collection of essential YA fiction. (This list first appeared, without annotations, in “More Than a Safe Space: Supporting the LGBTQ Community in the Library and Beyond,” a white paper prepared for Gale Cengage by Booklist.)
Almost Perfect. By Brian Katcher. 2009. Delacorte, $17.99 (9780385736640). Gr. 9–12.
In this candid novel, Logan grapples with his attraction to Sage, a cute new girl at school who is transitioning from male to female. Exploring hormone therapy and the cruel prejudice of family and friends, Katcher delivers an honest take on an oft-overlooked subject.
Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence. Ed. by Marion Dane Bauer. 1994. HarperCollins, $7.99 (9780064405874). Gr. 8–12.
Diverse in tone and setting, these 16 short stories by a stellar group of YA writers cut across color and class lines to incorporate everything from a contemporary, feminist story about a girl’s coming out to a fantasy set in a mythical Amazonian kingdom.
Annie on My Mind. By Nancy Garden. 1982. Square Fish, $10.99 (9780374400118). Gr. 9–12.
Garden’s novel, centered on Annie and Liza’s romance, revealed gradually through Liza’s memories, has all the iconic markers of teen romance, but it’s also truly groundbreaking: this teenage lesbian love story was the first of its kind to have a happy ending.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. By Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 2012. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442408920). Gr. 9–12.
Dante and Aristotle are opposites in almost every way. Nevertheless, the two boys are best friends—almost like two halves making a whole. Sáenz’s lyrical novel examines the bonds of friendship and the uncertainties and saving graces of love.
The Arizona Kid. By Ron Koertge. 1988. Candlewick, $6.99 (9780763626952). Gr. 9–12.
Incorporating serious messages about both AIDS and being gay, Koertge’s wryly humorous novel introduces insecure, height-conscious teen Billy Kennedy and his gay uncle Wes. An intimate portrait of a teenager’s evolving self-confidence flecked with crucial wisdom about “all kinds of love.”
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. By Kirstin Cronn-Mills. 2012. Flux, $9.99 (9780738732510). Gr. 9–12.
Born female, Gabe is cautiously beginning his transition to male. Only his parents and lifelong best friend know—until a girl at school discovers the truth and outs him. Giving a face to this traditionally invisible minority, Cronn-Mills’ story is a model of integrity.
Boy Meets Boy. By David Levithan. 2003. Knopf, $15.95 (9780375824005). Gr. 9–12.
In this large-hearted celebration of romance and human differences, the captain of the high-school football team is a drag queen and the narrator, Paul, is in love with the new boy in school. A wacky, charming, deeply important story.
Deliver Us from Evie. By M. E. Kerr. 1994. HarperCollins, $6.99 (9780064471282). Gr. 7–12.
This landmark novel about 18-year-old Evie Burrman, her Missouri farm family, and her lover, Patty, challenges stereotypes, not only about love, but also about farmers and families, religion and responsibility—about all our definitions of “normal.” Fast-paced, emotional, and endlessly witty.
Double Exposure. By Bridget Birdsall. 2014. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $16.95 (9781629146065). Gr. 7–10.
The only place intersex Alyx feels comfortable with herself is on the basketball court. Yet, as she begins to officially transition to female, a teammate starts digging around in Alyx’s past—and the results are disastrous.
The Great American Whatever. By Tim Federle. 2016. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (9781481404099). Gr. 9–12.
Ever since the unexpected death of his sister, Quinn has sequestered himself inside his increasingly messy bedroom—until, that is, his best friend Geoff persuades him to go to a party and he meets the irresistible Amir. Whimsical, wry, and unfailingly funny.
Hard Love. By Ellen Wittlinger. 1999. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (9780689841545). Gr. 7–12.
Until he met Marisol, a testy, gifted, and talented senior, John believed he was “immune to emotion.” Now John believes their unique, magical, and sometimes awkward friendship is leading to love. But the feeling isn’t mutual; Marisol is a lesbian.
History Is All You Left Me. By Adam Silvera. 2017. Soho Teen, $18.99 (9781616956929). Gr. 9–12.
After his ex-boyfriend Theo drowns, all Griffin has left is their fugitive history together. Weaving together past and present, Silvera’s beautifully realized, character-driven sophomore novel confronts tantalizing questions about lies and honesty, love and loss, and the meaning of life.
I Am J. By Cris Beam. 2011. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316053617). Gr. 9–12.
Though J was born Jennifer, he knows in his being that he is completely male, just born into the wrong body. Can he make his family and friends understand? An artfully woven tale with a standout, multilayered protagonist; readers will root for J.
I’ll Give You the Sun. By Jandy Nelson. 2014. Dial, $17.99 (9780803734968). Gr. 9–12.
In vivid, painterly prose, Nelson tells the intertwining stories of twins Noah and Jude, whose simmering jealousies come to a head when their mother encourages them both to apply to a prestigious art school.
Luna. By Julie Anne Peters. 2004. Little, Brown, $16.95 (0-316-73369-5). Gr. 8–12.
Peters tells two stories in this groundbreaking novel—one about Regan, and the other about Liam, Regan’s transgender brother, who is the son his father expects by day but a young woman, Luna, by night. A must for YA collections.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post. By Emily M. Danforth. 2012. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062020567). Gr. 9–12.
Cam’s experiences at a church camp that promises to “cure” young people of their homosexuality are at the heart of this ambitious, multidimensional coming-of-age novel. Danforth carefully and deliberately fleshes out Cam’s character and vividly depicts the lifelong challenges of asserting one’s identity.
Openly Straight. By Bill Konigsberg. 2013. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545509893). Gr. 9–12.
High-school junior Rafe is sick of being labeled “the gay kid,” so he leaves his Colorado school for a private boys’ academy in New England. This sometimes painful story of self-discovery is also a beautifully written, captivating romance between Rafe and a boy named Ben.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower. By Stephen Chbosky. 1999. Pocket/MTV, $14.99 (9780671027346).
In his letters to a never-identified person, 15-year-old Charlie reveals his innermost thoughts while trying to discover who he is and who he wants to be. Chbosky captures adolescent angst and confusion in all its glory in this extremely popular novel.
Postcards from No Man’s Land. By Aidan Chambers. 2002. Penguin/Speak, $10 (9780142407882). Gr. 9–12.
Winner of the British Carnegie Medal as well the Printz Award, Chambers’ novel combines WWII romance with an edgy, contemporary story about English teen Jacob, who falls in love with a beautiful young woman even as he’s attracted to an openly gay young man.
Rainbow Boys. By Alex Sanchez. 2001. Simon & Schuster, $9.99 (9780689857706). Gr. 9–12.
In this tale of three gay high-school seniors, Jason, Kyle, and Nelson, first-novelist Sanchez demonstrates that coming out is really coming in—entering a circle of support and self-acceptance that may lead to a more universal community of acceptance and tolerance.
Release. By Patrick Ness. 2017. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062403193). Gr. 10–12.
Influenced by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Ness’ introspective latest offers readers a glimpse into a seemingly ordinary day in the life of teenager Adam Thorn. Part character study, part reckoning, this is a painful, magical gem of a novel.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. By Peter Cameron. 2007. Picador, $16 (9780312428167). Gr. 9–12.
Meet James Sveck, a white, middle-class New Yorker who disdains most of the adults in his life—except for the gay man who manages his mother’s art gallery. At turns funny, sad, tender, and sophisticated, this novel will resonate with teens and adults alike.
Weetzie Bat. By Francesca Lia Block. 1989. HarperCollins/Charlotte Zolotow, $8.99 (9780060736255). Gr. 10–12.
The punk-infused fever dream of a narrative follows Weetzie and her best friend, Dirk, as they come of age in a hazy version of 1980s L.A. Spun through with magic realism and navigating hefty social issues, this remains a teen touchstone.
What They Always Tell Us. By Martin Wilson. 2008. Delacorte, $15.99 (9780385735070). Gr. 9–12.
James is a popular, smart senior. Alex, his younger brother, recently swallowed Pine-Sol at a party. Told in chapters alternating between the two brothers, this strong debut blends Alex’s budding feelings for James’ buddy, Nathan, with elements of mystery.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson. By John Green and David Levithan. 2010. Dutton, $17.99 (9780525421580). Gr. 9–12.
On a cold Chicago night, two 16-year-olds—one gay and one not—meet and discover they have one big thing in common: their name. From then on, their lives, friends, and loves intertwine in the staging of one of the funniest high-school musicals ever.
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