4 Middle Grade Novels About LGBTQIA+ Lives Across Time

These four contemporary and historical fiction middle grade titles center LGBTQIA+ characters who fight to live authentically across time, and serve as important reminders that mantras like “protect trans kids” require both words and action.


June is Pride Month and a time for celebration, but it mustn’t be forgotten that the rights and safety of the LGBTQIA+ community are constantly under attack from discriminatory laws and institutions. These four contemporary and historical fiction titles center LGBTQIA+ characters who fight to live authentically across time, and serve as important reminders that mantras like “protect trans kids” 
require both words and action.

Key, Janet. Twelfth. 368p. Little, Brown. May 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316669313. 
Gr 4-8–It’s June 2015 and 12-year-old Maren is not all that excited to be attending the Charlotte Goodman Theater Camp for the summer. However, Maren is soon drawn into a mystery involving a series of clues that may lead to the missing diamond ring of Charlotte “Charlie” Goodman, the famous director who was said to perish in a fire and for whom the camp is named. Maren soon befriends aspiring filmmaker Theo, and together they begin to unravel the mystery, hoping to find the ring to save the camp, which needs funding. The novel deftly tackles serious topics like depression, homophobia, and transphobia. It also is wonderfully inclusive, as Theo is nonbinary and Charlie is gender nonconforming. Key wisely uses Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as the backdrop for her narrative, serving as the camp’s main theater production, the basis for the clues for the mystery, and as the lost film Charlie had been working on before her demise. The story includes flashbacks to Charlie in the 1940s and 1950s, interspersed between Maren’s chapters, which are set in June 2015, only weeks before gay marriage was made legal. End notes feature facts on theater, film, and LGBTQIA+ history as well as information on ways readers can seek help if they are struggling with depression. VERDICT A engrossing mystery with a diverse cast of characters; an insightful exploration of the topics of gender, depression, and sexuality; and a satisfying and comprehensive conclusion. Highly recommended.–­Laura J. Giunta

Leali, Michael. The Civil War of Amos Abernathy. 304p. HarperCollins. May 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063119864. 
Gr 5 Up–A well-written coming-of-age novel that encompasses many valuable topics—discrimination, teen relationships, friendship, the LGBTQIA+ ­community, and underrepresented history into one wonderful story. Amos, who is white, volunteers as a reenactor at the Living History Park along with his best friend, Chloe, who is Black. There they meet Ben, who ­becomes a fast friend to the duo and a burgeoning romanntic interest for Amos. But their relationship faces some challenges, including Ben’s religious family. Amos tells his story from his own point of view interspersed with letters to Albert D.J. ­Cashier, a Civil War soldier who, in the present day, might have identified as a trans man. Amos learns about Albert while he is researching LBGTQIA+ Americans throughout history, seeking representation of people like him from the past and hoping to win the Living History Park’s exhibition competition. Readers will feel the tension as Amos and his friends fight discrimination to bring the project to fruition. Leali’s character ­development is superb. The story begins in the present day, but readers learn of the events of the past year in Amos’s commentary as well as his notes to Albert, which then converge again in the present. While this technique is insightful, the time shifts may prove slightly confusing to some readers. VERDICT Overall, an entertaining and engaging read with diverse characters and subject matter. A necesary addition to all collections seeking heartwarming tales of first crushes, and the importance of centering marginalized ­history.–April Crowder

Machias, Jules. Fight + Flight. 400p. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. May 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063053946. 
Gr 5 Up–Everyone has something going on, and some more than others. Athletic Avery has hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful chronic condition that affects her joints. Sarah has anxiety and experiences panic attacks that she tries to manage by creating art. They both feel as if they are losing control, Avery of her body and Sarah of her mind. The alternating perspectives of these two well-developed characters allow readers realistic glimpses into the teenage mind. Avery is pansexual, has two moms (one who is trans), is going through physical therapy for a shoulder injury that keeps her from riding the bike that she loves, and has a bullied and biracial best friend with ADHD named Mason. Sarah is struggling in her core classes, carries heavy family obligations (having to care for her younger siblings), has an aunt who recently died causing her cousin/best friend to have to move away, and has a gay brother in a Catholic family. Avery and Sarah are brought together by an active shooter drill that the school administration run as if it were real. As a lovely friendship builds, deeper feelings develop and Sarah begins to question her religious upbringing. This is a unique, fast-paced novel with a lot going on and a lot to appreciate. However, it should come with some trigger warnings: chronic and mental illness, school shootings, homophobia, transphobia, racism, bullying, death and loss, to name a few. VERDICT A solid, character-driven choice for libraries that tackles tough topics with skill and nuance.–Claire Covington

Stamper, Phil. Small Town Pride. 272p. ­HarperCollins. May 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063118782. 
Gr 5 Up–In the tiny town of Barton Springs, OH, Jake is the only openly gay kid, a fact he’s mostly comfortable with–even if he’s not sure he loves the huge pride flag his dad hung up. Especially, because the mayor across the street dislikes lawn signs, protests, and anything that threatens the perfect peace she aspires to build in town. As people begin to take sides, Jake questions what “pride” really means, and if he can fit into the small town he loves. When the mayor’s cute son agrees to help try to throw the town’s first pride festival, Jake wonders if he can really trust him, and if pride in this town is possible at all. This is a timely, relevant novel with references to current events that middle grade readers will connect with. Jake and his friends are navigating all the normal middle school triumphs and pitfalls, while planning a pride festival with all the optimism and nerves expected from a group of tweens. Stamper excels at exemplifying the range of support Jake could expect to find, with some of the hypocritical adults undergoing well-crafted character development. Some interactions read like a guide to having tough conversations—but for a book that’s all about empowering tweens, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. VERDICT Middle schoolers will be drawn to this story about a kid trying to find his place, learning to speak up, and understanding what pride really means.–Kristin Brynsvold

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