9 YA Novels (and a Picture Book) That Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Stories

Mostly realistic fiction, these recent YA novels (and one picture book) cover first love, found family, and living authentically. Each shines a light on queer & trans stories in both past and present settings, proving that LGBTQIA+ youth have always been here—and are not going anywhere. 

Mostly realistic fiction, these recent YA novels (and one picture book) cover first love, found family, and living authentically. Each shines a light on queer & trans stories in both past and present settings, proving that LGBTQIA+ youth have always been here—and are not going anywhere. 

The King Is Dead by Benjamin Dean. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316519144.
Gr 9 Up–When his father’s tragic death accelerates 17-year-old Prince James’s ascension to the throne, all eyes (and ears) are on the British crown. Racist controversy already surrounds the first Black monarch-to-be, his twin brother Eddie, and the Queen Mother. But James harbors a secret that could make matters worse: he’s gay, too. With mounting pressure to keep up with appearances, James finds refuge in his fledgling secret romance with palace intern Jonathan. One night, Jonathan disappears. James uses all resources at his disposal to help find him—but what if he doesn’t like the truths he uncovers? Middle grade author Dean’s deliciously scandalous YA debut is filled with twists, turns, and social commentary that brilliantly riffs off real-world context. Paparazzi appearances, tabloid articles, and secret notes give off a total thriller Gossip Girl vibe. VERDICT A perfect storm of royal drama and intrigue. Recommended for all teen collections.

Being Ace: An Anthology of Queer, Trans, Femme, and Disabled Stories of Asexual Love and Connection ed. by Madeline Dyer. Page Street. ISBN 9781645679561.
Gr 9 Up–Protagonists across the asexuality spectrum star in this collection of 14 short stories ranging from fantasy to science fiction to contemporary. An enchanted suit of armor poses as a fake fiancé and is bested by a would-be magistrate. A “magical ace” escorts someone through the woods to chat to their dead—and solve a murder mystery. A sex-repulsed monster hunter pushes back against the pressure to lose their virginity to become “full-fledged.” Whatever the story, each individual plot is unique. Mostly unified by coming out experiences, these narratives are ultimately affirming even when situations are difficult. Some stories are more engaging than others, but the breadth of asexual characters explored—by asexual creators, no less—is remarkable. Significantly, one story features a power wheelchair user, providing rare disability representation. VERDICT This compelling collection offers readers so many opportunities to feel seen and connect. A first purchase for all teen collections.

Desert Queen by Jyoti Rajan Gopal. illus. by Svabhu Kohli. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646142620.
PreS-Gr 3–Music flows through a child in the Thar Desert—and yet no one sees him dance. His binary “desert world” makes him choose boy or girl, nothing else. A school performance casts the child as Lord Krishna, and the beautiful costume offers a glimpse of freedom. As tragedy eventually strikes the boy and his family, he turns to drag. Dare he continue to be himself when not all accept him (or her)? Inspired by (and dedicated to) real-life drag performer Queen Harish, Gopal and Kohli’s lyrical collaboration is a visual feast with a powerful message. Within the narrative, the child uses both he and she pronouns, typically referred to with he/him out of drag and she/her in drag. The spreads boast vivid colors and culturally-specific motifs. Back matter includes an author’s note, artist’s note, and additional information about Queen Harish. VERDICT With art as shiny and glittery as the goddess herself, this picture book is nothing short of brilliant. An essential purchase.

All the Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316447324.
Gr 9 Up–While she and her mom live in Citrus Grove (so-called “armpit of Florida”), queer, Indian American Maya’s sophomore year is anything but boring. Maya stands up to the principal, skips class, smokes weed, gets her first kiss, and so much more. All signs point to white senior Juneau, who not only draws Maya into her intoxicating orbit but also invites her to join the Pugilists. The secret activist group’s latest mural project about the overpolicing of Black and brown students starts an all-out war with the administration, catalyzing change in perhaps more ways than intended. Kannan’s latest novel balances reflective, first-person narration with insightful dialogue about power and privilege. With its three-act structure, the multilayered plot speaks to the complexities of life all happening at once—and is impressively wrapped up by the end. The cast is majority-BIPOC. VERDICT A whirlwind of a book—messy, invigorating, and unflinchingly honest. Highly recommended.

Most Ardently: A Pride & Prejudice Remix by Gabe Cole Novoa. Feiwel & Friends. (Remixed Classics: Bk. 9). ISBN 9781250869807.
Gr 8 Up–As the second eldest, the clock is ticking for Oliver Bennet to find a husband. He refuses. Forced into gowns, Oliver is wrongfully assumed to be another Bennet daughter. While dressed in trousers that validate his identity, Oliver visits a gentleman’s club for the first time. An initially tense connection between Oliver and Fitzwilliam Darcy slowly blossoms into something more. With Darcy, will Oliver finally get to kiss a boy as a boy? Novoa’s interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a testament to the power of queer spaces and community. Oliver and Darcy’s push-and-pull relationship is magnetic as they navigate societal challenges in 1800s London. Though Oliver is constantly deadnamed, the narrative itself is respectful. A historical note offers important context about some creative liberties. VERDICT Brimming with wit and chemistry, this queer revision of a much-beloved source text is nothing short of masterful. A must-purchase.

Chasing Pacquiao by Rod Pulido. Viking. ISBN 9780593526736.
Gr 7 Up–There’s a fight every day at “War Zone High,” where homophobic slurs (both in English and Tagalog) and toxic masculinity run rampant. It’s no wonder Bobby keeps his homeschooled boyfriend secret. But, when Bobby is outed by a classmate’s hate speech, he decides to own it rather than deny it. The consequence: Bobby is beaten up and his bike gets stolen. Cue the “Bobby Agbayani Epic Makeover Plan” and getting a job at the boxing gym. As Bobby trains like his hero, Filipino boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, he finally stands up for himself—and his loved ones. Pulido’s heartfelt debut is wonderfully steeped in geek and Filipino culture. Endearing tanaga text messages, comic book references, and calling chapters “rounds” show a keen attention to detail. VERDICT An underdog story with a powerful message about putting heroes on a pedestal, this is for all teen collections.

Teach the Torches to Burn: A Romeo and Juliet Remix by Caleb Roehrig. Feiwel & Friends. (Remixed Classics: Bk. 7). ISBN 9781250828484.
Gr 8 Up–This Romeo and Juliet “remix” breathes new life into the long-standing feud between the Montagues and Capulets. Sixteen-year-old Romeo Montague feels like the only man immune to the “epidemic of girl-madness.” Juliet Capulet wants to marry no one. Sparks fly when Romeo shares a secret, tender moment with another boy at the Capulet’s masquerade party. But Romeo’s unexpected appearance sends the wrong message to the party’s hosts, cuing brawls and a death that ultimately sends Romeo into exile—and his new love interest to the hospital. Is there any hope for a happily ever after? With swoonworthy moments and delightful banter, Roehrig’s retelling retains just enough of the original play’s spirit. Rather than simply gender swap Juliet, the casting freshly and uniquely explores agency and queerness in the 14th-century setting. VERDICT A spectacularly queer, heartwarmingly hopeful take on the star-crossed classic. An essential purchase for all teen collections.

A Warning About Swans by R.M. Romero. Peachtree Teen. ISBN 9781682634837.
Gr 9 Up–At 16, Hilde (the youngest of Odin’s “wish-maidens”) leaves behind the safety and sisterhood of the “vast green wood” for the “great graying world.” She meets Richter, a handsome and ambitious 18-year-old baron. A deal is struck: Richter teaches Hilde to be human; she brings his sapphire-dreams to life. As the pair journeys from Bavaria to Munich in this work set in 1880, Hilde worries that she may never belong—that is, until she meets Franz, a Jewish, nonbinary teen whose skillful portraiture reveals Hilde’s true form. Richter’s jealousy becomes yet another cage. Will Hilde ever truly be free? Romero blends elements of Swan Lake with German history and Norse mythology to weave a wholly original queer fairy tale. The beautifully descriptive free verse is as luxurious as Richter’s jewels, though the pace may be slow for some readers. VERDICT A queer, feminist spin on familiar fairy-tale elements. Highly recommended.

The Queer Girl Is Going to Be Okay by Dale Walls. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646142705.
Gr 8 Up–Life in Houston isn’t all roses for queer seniors Georgia, Edie, and Dawn—but at least they have one another. Georgia wants to be a writer but feels like she is the only one who hasn’t been accepted into college yet. Edie keeps her nonbinary beau a secret from her Southern Baptist family. Dawn channels her woes of dating as a trans girl into a documentary project about queer love that makes it into a student film festival. With everything going on, can the girls savor their last year together before graduation? Walls’s debut is an insightful yet brief look at queer love in its many forms. Some chapters include direct excerpts from the documentary’s monologues, giving voice to identities beyond the racially diverse main trio. While romantic love certainly gets its air time, the exploration of platonic queer love especially shines. VERDICT A winning combination of film, friendship, and queer possibility. Highly recommended.

As You Walk on By by Julian Winters. Viking. ISBN 9780593206508.
Gr 7 Up–Friday dares have been going strong for Theo and his two besties, Jay and Darren, since their freshman year. The latest dare: Theo, now a junior, has to ask his crush Christian to prom. After a failed first attempt, Theo gets a second chance at a party. Things go awry yet again. Surprisingly, Theo finds himself having a heart-to-heart with an unlikely bunch of classmates, including his ex-bestie Aleah. As the conversation flows, Theo learns a lot about what it means to be a true friend—and about himself. Winter skillfully puts Black and brown adolescence under a microscope to uncover insightful expectations about masculinity, sexuality, and gender. The tight plot is mostly focused on the party, allowing for some genuine bonding moments for the fully realized (and infectiously fun) characters. VERDICT Equal parts feel-good and radical honesty, this first purchase will easily appeal to fans of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli.

Alec Chunn is a youth librarian in Portland, Oregon.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing