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Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Release Date: May 15th 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Emi is queer. Emi is cool with that. What’s not cool? Emi and her girlfriend just broke up for the sixth time. It’s summer in California and Emi, working as a set design intern for a film production company, attends the estate sale of the late Hollywood great Clyde Jones with her best friend, Charlotte, where they find a letter hidden in an old record. Having promised her brother she’ll “do something awesome” over the summer, Emi lets the letter lead her and Charlotte on a quest to find Clyde’s daughter, which in turn leads her to his granddaughter, Ava. Everything Leads to You is complex and rich with detail while still maintaining the quirkiness of real life. And it’s one of the sweetest books you’ll ever read. Seriously, this book is like eating chocolate.
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Release Date: November 4th 2014
“What if who you were inside was the opposite of who you were outside? What if your secret was getting too heavy? What would your story be? Would you have the courage to be you?”
Grayson Sender is 12 years old, living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. She was born in the body of a boy, and when a new student arrives at her school, events arise causing Grayson to question herself, and begin to come to terms with who she is.
Gracefully Grayson is, as far as we know, the first of its kind: middle grade trans lit. Released on November 4th, just in time for the holidays! Gift this book to young people everywhere.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Release Date: February 21st 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Aristotle and Dante are two teenage Mexican-American boys living out a boring summer. Ari is filled with constant anger, and a well of secrets threatening to bring him down. Dante is a philosopher who takes in life with lightness. They meet at the pool one day when Dante teaches Ari to swim. Dante and Ari become friends, and throughout the course of the novel realize their further feelings for each other (though, as in all things, Dante is quicker to accept his sexuality than Ari). This summer, they will discover the secrets of the universe, and it is beautiful to watch.
Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff
Release Date: September 1st 2011
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
A realistic, contemporary novel, set on the streets of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Burning centers around a tender love story between Kid and Scout. The magic of this story is that neither character’s gender is ever revealed, though to us they read as nonbinary or gender non-conforming. This is an excellent book for anyone who is questioning their gender or identifies as nonbinary or trans, or just wants to read a sweet book that doesn’t get bogged down in gender roles.
Just Girls by Rachel Gold
Release Date: September 23rd 2014
Publisher: Bella Books
Ella, a young, bi, trans girl is starting her first year of college. Though she transitioned when she was young and “reads” as a cis woman, she’s from Ohio, one of the many states where you cannot change the sex on your birth certificate. Someone in admissions lets it slip that a freshman girl is trans, and Tucker, a very butch lesbian, also in her first year of college, overhears two other students saying very hateful things. To pull away the heat from whoever this girl is, Tucker “comes out” as trans. Lead in a dual POV between Ella and Tucker, we follow them both on a journey of friendship, trauma, sexism, transphobia, and gaming. This book is a bit more hard-hitting than some of the others on the list, but overall has a very positive outlook to it. (Plus, we’ll be reading it for our January book club!)
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Release Date: September 30th 2014
Lies We Tell Ourselves is author Robin Talley’s debut novel, set in 1959 Virginia where segregation is beginning to end. Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School, where she meets Linda Hairston, daughter of powerful and outspoken white supremacist William Hairston. Sparks fly as each girl discovers, and hides, their feelings for the other.
This book amazed us, and was the cause of much sleep deprivation as we read ahead to find out what happened next. Each girl’s perspective is written with honesty, forcing the reader to empathize with both sides of the story. Topics of racism, sexism, homophobia, and familial abuse are written realistically but not so as to bombard the reader. The romance is adorable and very prominent but does not overtake the characters themselves. And – AND – NO ONE DIES! HALLELUJAH! Basically, this book is perfect. Recommended if you’re looking for a new take on queer YA; also, if you live on planet Earth.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Release Date: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Two Boys Kissing is the story of 7 queer guys today, told from the viewpoint of a group of gay men who died of AIDS in the past. Current-day teens Harry and Craig want to set the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest kiss. Avery and Ryan meet at prom and find themselves at the start of something new. Neil and Peter are figuring out what it means to be together long-term. And Cooper is trying to navigate his life and sexuality with no idea how. Inspired by a male/male couple who broke the record for world’s longest kiss in 2010, this book will make you laugh and cry and give you a whole new perspective on the historical effect of AIDS, and hope for the future.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Release Date: October 8th 2012
This may be one of our favorite trans YA books out there. Gabe, a trans guy, is in his last year of highschool and transitioning from being Elizabeth. As the DJ of a radio station, he is given a perfect opportunity to try out his new identity. Although there is bullying and family troubles that he has to deal with, the whole book remains hopeful and positive. An adorable romance weaves through the story as well, which is so nice to see in a trans YA!
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
Release Date: September 11th 2012
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
It’s the roaring ‘20s, and Garnet Richardson, age 16, is sent to stay with her high-class relatives in Minnesota for the summer. Excited at her first taste of independence, Garnet gets a job at a hat shop and falls head-over-heels for Isabella, a colorful flapper who dances at a local club. Isabella, it turns out, feels the same way, and has no hesitations around kissing girls. Summer dwindles, suspicions grow in Garnet’s cousin, and Garnet must choose between the future her family expects for her and the future she truly wants. Kathleen, who usually cannot bring herself to read romance, loved this book. Silhouette of a Sparrow would make a good gift for young teens, especially those just discovering their queerness.
GayYA.org and its affiliated social media are dedicated to everything LGBTQPIA+ in YA. We want to promote LGBTQPIA+ characters in YA lit, and the awesome authors who are writing them! This booklist was written by Kathleen, Gay YA Social Media Coordinator who’s Really Really Emotional over Fictional Queer Characters, with help from Vee, the Official Overseer & All-Knowing One of Gay YA. Happy Holidays!