Born with Magic: 20 LGBTQIA+ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reads

During Pride month and all year long, curl up with these fantastical YA novels that center LGBTQIA+ characters and affirm queer identities.

During Pride month and all year long, curl up with these fantastical YA novels that center LGBTQIA+ characters and affirm queer identities. These immersive stories—many of them #OwnVoices—bring readers into worlds both magical and familiar, and face to face with witches and fae.


Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders. Tor Teen. (Unstoppable: Bk. 1). ISBN 9781250317315.

Gr 9 Up–A space opera with a charming and diverse crew. After rounds of failed IVF, Tina’s mom eagerly accepted a baby alien, with the knowledge that when the rescue beacon activated, her new daughter would go with the Royal Fleet to save the galaxy. When her beacon goes off in a public parking lot, the Compassion soldiers who track her down aren’t there to rescue her, and she and her best friend barely escape into space.

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781547603879.

Gr 9 Up–A “Cinderella” retelling set two centuries after that famous happily ever after. Each year, young women must attend a ball where they are judged and selected by the men of the kingdom. Sophia is a headstrong young woman who just wants to marry her best friend, Erin.

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon. Inkyard. ISBN 9781335212795.

Gr 9 Up–Just as trans witch Wyatt begins to feel comfortable in his new life with his adopted human family and best friend Briar, he is ripped away from the human world and forced to face his traumatic past as the chosen mate of the future king of the fae. This is a complex fantasy debut, rich in nuanced LGBTQIA+ representation and timely social commentary.

Ruinsong by Julia Ember. Farrar. ISBN 9780374313357.

Gr 9 Up–Since childhood, a ruthless queen has trained Cadence to use her magic as a weapon. Against a backdrop of eerily topical politics, Cadence struggles with her conscience and complicity in helping her queen stay in power by intimidating and silencing dissidents, and in a world where magic is based on song, those out of the queen’s favor are often silenced—their vocal cords are severed. It’s a task she’s had since she was taken from her family at six, at the time a matter of survival. But when she’s reunited with childhood friend Remi, Cadence starts to question just how responsible she is for the queen’s campaign of intimidation.

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald. Little, Brown. ISBN 9781368052139.

 Gr 8 Up–Surrounded by a red veil of magic, Occhia is ruled by the “watercrea”: the mysterious immortal who turns blood into the city’s only source of water—blood she gets from citizens who have “omens” appear on their skin, marks which spread rapidly before the person dies. When the watercrea arrests Emanuela at her wedding for an omen she kept secret, Emanuela is not a willing sacrifice. She kills the watercrea and in her escape discovers the truth beyond the ruby veil. Emanuela and Alessandro are both gay, Emanuela’s acerbic wit and ambition a foil for Ale’s soft, romantic nature as they find potential love interests in the villains they face off against.

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska. Sourcebooks/Fire. ISBN 9781728209982.

 Gr 9 Up–Lina Kirk and her brother, Finley, live in Caldella, an island city in danger of being swallowed by the rising inky tide waters. Every year the queen chooses an islander boy to sacrifice to keep the waters calm for another year. When Lina’s brother disappears, it can only mean that he has been chosen to avenge the death and save the island. Lina shoulders several burdens: convincing the queen that the madness of annual sacrifice must stop, confronting evil, and acknowledging her growing attraction to the queen.

Master of One by Jaida Jones & Dani Bennett. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780062941442.

Gr 8 Up–When Rags the thief gets too cocky, one of Queen Ever-Bright’s mages captures him and implants a shard of mirrorglass in his heart. Rags must navigate a multi-trapped, ancient Fae labyrinth for the mage, or die.

Reverie by Ryan La Sala. Sourcebooks/Fire. ISBN 9781492682660.

 Gr 9 Up–La Sala’s debut novel captures the magical, enthralling, and sometimes unsettling feelings that can come when our dreamworlds consume us. The story opens after a strange “accident” that leaves Kane Montgomery nearly dead and with no memories of the previous weeks. Kane quickly discovers, however, that nothing that has happened to him was an accident at all, and that reality is much more complicated than most people could fathom.

Once & Future by Cori McCarthy & Amy Rose Capetta. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316449274.

 Gr 9 Up–An interstellar science fiction/fantasy adventure story that offers readers a futuristic plot-driven “King Arthur” retelling. This epic space adventure features a teen character who must complete all three stages of a cycle: train Arthur, defeat the greatest evil in the universe, and unite all of mankind, in order to break the curse that brings the Arthur legend alive throughout time.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250162748.

Gr 8 Up–The story begins in the present day describing Rosella Oliva’s fifth-generation shoe-making family during their town’s yearly “glimmer”: a time of magical happenings one week every October. This time of year the shoes they craft overtake their wearers resulting in impulsive acts of love and desire.

Cinderella is Dead / Victories Greater Than Death / We Set the Dark on Fire / Hazards of Love

[Read: 10 YA Graphic Novels About the LGBTQIA+ experience | Stellar Panels]

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780062691316.

 Gr 8 Up–In a Latinx-inspired dystopian setting, young women are trained to be paired as sister wives to a single husband. When Dani is paired with Carmen, her school rival, to one of the most powerful men in Medio, she is surprised to find herself falling in love with her former enemy. The queer themes and tough characters make this novel rise above other dystopian offerings.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft. St. Martin’s/Wednesday. ISBN 9781250623638.

 Gr 9 Up–Wren Southerland’s healing abilities make her one of the best surgeons in the country of Danu, but being able to feel another’s pain gives her a compassionate nature at odds with her place in the military. With soldiers going missing along the border and Wren’s compassion bungling a mission (again), she ends up suspended. A letter from Colwick Hall contains a chance to prove herself and earn back her post. Arriving at the snowy, crumbling castle, Wren finds her patient is not a servant, but her country’s worst enemy, Hal Cavendish.

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve. Seven Stories. ISBN 9781609809010.

Gr 9 Up–After the car accident that killed their family, genderqueer 14-year-old Z Chilworth is left a zombie. Becoming undead in the city of Salem, OR, in the 1990s pushes Z into a world of monsters, magic, and prejudice that they had not given much thought to before, despite being a talented witch before their death and rebirth.

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. ISBN 9781534453678.

Gr 9 Up–Faeries secretly live alongside humans, but an outbreak of magical violence threatens the peace. Humans are disappearing and ironborn, half-fae and half-human, are being magically murdered. In Toronto, ironborn Arlo witnesses a murder and is compelled to find answers. When her uncle the High King refuses to seriously investigate, she teams up with two teen fae and one exiled immortal to solve the mysteries.

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780062457820.
Gr 9 Up–Brighton, vlogger and superhero fan, hopes he’ll evince celestial powers on his 18th birthday. His queer, fantasy-loving brother Emil prays they don’t materialize in him. In this Bronx setting, where phoenixes are reborn and hydra and ghosts exist, celestial Spell Walker heroes battle evil alchemist Blood Casters. This magical book includes romance, heartbreak, deceit, shifting loyalties, revenge, power struggles, violence, and complicated origin stories.

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria. Abrams/Amulet. ISBN 9781419731464.

 Gr 10 Up–In the city of Eldra, the Chancellor rules the city by using the prophecies from the elder seers, but Cassa believes fate isn't set in stone for anyone. With her friends, Cassa leads them all into the Citadel to overthrow the corrupt Chancellor and his councilors. Beneath the citadel, secrets linger beyond the catacombs, and the friends who wanted to rid the city of corruption find themselves questioning their own sins as the fate of Eldra hangs in balance.

The Hazards of Love by Stan Stanley. illus. by author. Oni. ISBN 9781620108574.
 Gr 8 Up–Stanley offers a thoughtful spin on the “Be careful what you wish for” trope. Amparo, who is nonbinary, has a crush on their classmate Iolanthe but knows the two would make an unlikely couple—while Amparo gets into fights and is facing suspension for pulling the fire alarm, quiet Iolanthe is devoted to her grades. Stellar, expressive art, featuring angular, dramatic linework, and an engaging narrative with solid nonbinary representation and well-developed characters bring this fantastical story to life.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. ISBN 9781250250469.
Gr 9 Up–Yadriel, whose traditional Latinx family won’t accept that he’s transgender, inadvertently summons the spirit of schoolmate Julian, who demands that Yadriel find out what happened to him. A whodunit with a tender and forbidden love story that will draw readers in as it gradually unfolds to a gratifying conclusion.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536204315.
Gr 9 Up–A sea voyage turns violent for Evelyn, Lady Hasegawa, on her reluctant way to meet her betrothed. Her escape with crew member Florian, along with a mermaid they plan to release, creates as many problems as it solves. Though dark at times, Tokuda-Hall’s lyrical writing balances harsh passages with themes of rescue, retribution, and the healing power of accepting and loving yourself.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780062823946.

Gr 9 Up–Crier is an Automae, made by the King of Rabu to become the perfect successor. Ayla is human, desperate for revenge against the king for her family. But when the two meet, will they set aside their differences for the connection they feel with each other, or will they lead one another to their doom? As the two slowly inch closer to one another, the political climate of this world around them continues to fester. Readers will find themselves immersed in a sapphic story shrouded in political intrigue.

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