8 Middle Grade LGBTQIA+ Romances for Pride and Beyond

These eight titles skillfully explore burgeoning queer relationships, romantic and platonic alike, across genres for the younger set.

June is Pride month, and it's already around the corner! These eight titles skillfully explore burgeoning queer relationships, romantic and platonic alike, across genres for the younger set. 

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow. Dial. ISBN 9780593112939.

Gr 5 Up–A delightful middle grade debut exploring first crushes and family relationships. Dalia is upset to discover that her father has had a girlfriend, Vanessa, for the past six months and is now getting married. Dalia isn't gettng along well with Vanessa's daughter Alexa, so their parents make Alexa take Dalia and her friend Rani on her highly anticipated amusement park road trip. As she realizes the girl she brought as a friend may be more, Dalia finds support and guidance from the last person she ever expected. 

Rick by Alex Gino. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338048100.

 Gr 3-7–Rick Ramsey usually goes along with whatever his best friend Jeff wants to do and seeks approval from him, even though Jeff bullies other students and makes suggestive comments about girls. Rick wishes Jeff and his parents would stop asking him about dating, which he isn't interested in. He finds solace in Grandpa Ray, who loves the same TV show as Rick and helps him step into himself. After befriending Melissa, a young trans girl readers will recognize as the protagonist from George, and attending Rainbow Spectrum club meetings at school, Rick begins to understand more about himself, asexuality, and what true friendship looks like.

One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338181722.

Gr 4–7–In this historical fiction novel set in a small 1970s Southern town, seventh grader Allie Drake moves with her mother to rural North Carolina after her brother's death and her parents' separation. She is taken under the wing of Samantha "Sam" Johnson, a confident, popular, gender nonconforming girl. As the friendship between the two girls grows into something more, their community reacts in ways that surprise Allie, both for better and for worse. The sweetness of the girls' tender feelings for one another contrasts with the fear and secrecy they realize they must live with.

Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781534453432.

Gr 4-6–Pepper Blouse wants to be a celebrated detective like her late mother, and is convinced that sleuthing runs in her blood. Her number one rule is “your loyalty is always to the case,” and she takes this very seriously. From the moment Pepper and her father arrive at her Great Aunt Florence’s home after her sudden death, Pepper begins noticing weird things. On her quest for the truth, Pepper learns secrets about her family that she could never have imagined and grapples with some surprising truths within herself, including her attraction to girls and blossoming crush on classmate Ashley.

Both Can Be True by Jules Machias. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063053892.

 Gr 5-8–In this sweetly affirming debut, eighth grader Daniel feels pulled between his own sensitive, authentic self, and a mold of tough, unfeeling manhood that society, and his family, are pressing him into. Ash feels this tension doubly so as they explore their gender identity. Though Ash’s mother is supportive, their father pressures them to “choose a side” and to prioritize the comfort of other people over their own. When Daniel rescues a lovable, elderly Chihuahua from being euthanized and quickly finds himself in over his head, Ash steps in to help, and the two develop a close friendship with possible romantic feelings. 

[Read More: Pride for Tweens | Great Books]

In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby. Algonquin. ISBN 9781616209070.

Gr 6-8–Eighth grade is proving to be a difficult year for Brie Hutchens as she negotiates crushes, play tryouts, friendships, parental tensions, awakening sexuality, and a need to do better on her schoolwork in her small Catholic middle school. Brie wants to be an actress like the ones she and her mother watch in soap operas every afternoon. When she is caught looking at suggestive pictures of a pretty soap opera star, Brie lies about being chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school's very important May Crowning Ceremony, finding herself crushing on the top candidate Kennedy in the process. Brie’s desire to be really seen and loved for who she is will ring true with many middle school readers.

Spin with Me by Ami Polonsky. Farrar. ISBN 9780374313500.

 Gr 5-7–When Essie moves from Missouri to North Carolina with her father, she’s not particularly thrilled. Things between her parents are strange, and her mom is almost completely out of touch. But when Essie meets Ollie, who is nonbinary, sparks fly and she finds herself settling right into her new life. As the romance between Essie and Ollie blossoms, so do the conversations about gender. Polonsky (Gracefully Grayson) gives life to first love in this novel.

The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater (text) & illus. by Sophie Escabasse. Amulet. ISBN 9781419740794.

 Gr 3-7–Set in the world of roller derby in Austin, fifth-graders Kenzie and Shelley are two derby-obsessed best friends who call themselves the Dynamic Duo. When they find out there will be a city junior league, the Duo sets out to recruit three other girls for their squad. Along the way they meet shy Tomoko, who loves basketball; excitable Jules, who is eager to join; Camila, who is timid and reluctant; and skateboarder Bree, Kenzie's secret crush who she doesn't know how to act around. The cast of characters is diverse in this sweet, sports-centered friendship story; Kenzie’s father is trans, and the subject is discussed openly and frankly but without fanfare.

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