Picks

Becky Albertalli on the LGBTQ-Themed YA Books to Read Now

If you enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, here’s a good place to start.

Different YA books collaged together
Photo collage courtesy of The Strategist

After YA author Becky Albertalli’s 2016 book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was adapted into the feature film Love, Simonand the film’s success got us thinking about the many LGBTQ-themed YA books that deserve a wider readership. We asked Albertalli to recommend her favorite LGBTQ-themed YA books at the moment — if you enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (or Love, Simon), it’s a good place to start.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Stonewall Book Award winner Little & Lion follows a black, Jewish, bisexual girl named Suzette, who’s back from boarding school and finding her way back into the life she left behind. As a Jewish reader from a blended family, I can’t explain how much it meant to me to see a beautiful, complex, nontraditional family portrayed with so much care and depth. Suzette’s prospective romantic relationships and friendships are treated with the same kind of tenderness and honesty.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Little, Brown

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior follows a white, gay, agoraphobic boy named Solomon, a wannabe psychologist named Lisa, and Lisa’s utter cinnamon roll of a boyfriend, Clark. Whaley manages to strike that perfect balance between hilarious and gut-wrenching, with characters so messy and distinct, they feel like real people. This book is such a gem.

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Speak

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

HTRAMH is hilariously narrated from the perspective of Brandon, a gay, white, Catholic teen who co-runs a popular fandom vlog for a show calledCastaway Planet. This book is so geeky, funny, romantic, and charming, and should immediately be followed up with its companion book, A&B.

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis
CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

This Lambda Literary Award winner and Morris Award finalist follows Pen, a Portuguese-American lesbian gamer who wears her brother’s clothes. Pen grapples with cultural expectations around gender expression, masculinity, and femininity in a way that’s so quietly groundbreaking. Girard leans into the complexity of Pen’s family relationships and friendships — and the sweetness of Pen’s developing romance with her girlfriend.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
HarperCollins

George by Alex Gino

This Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award winner is the only middle-grade book on my list, but it’s a must-read for any age. George follows a white trans girl in elementary school named Melissa who desperately wants to play Charlotte in her class’s production of Charlotte’s Web — but her teacher sees her as a boy. I loved this charming, heartfelt story and its beautifully hopeful resolution.

George by Alex Gino
Scholastic Inc.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Like most of Silvera’s work, this one’s a heartbreaker. We meet Griffin — a white boy with OCD — on the day of his ex-boyfriend Theo’s funeral. The narrative alternates between two time periods — before and after Theo’s death — and it’s such a breathtakingly honest portrait of first love, messy grief, and hard-earned hope.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Soho Teen

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

A speculative-fiction masterpiece: Henry is a white gay boy who gets abducted by aliens fairly regularly. He’s given the option of pressing a button to save the world from ending — but he’s not sure the world is worth saving. This book is unflinchingly, gut-wrenchingly honest, and it asks big questions in a way that cuts deep.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

A National Book Award long-list title and a Stonewall Honor Book, McLemore’s sophomore book is an evocative, exquisitely lyrical work of magical realism. It alternates between the perspectives of Miel, a Latina girl who grows roses from her wrists, and Sam, a Pakistani trans boy who hangs moons all over their town. Their love story took my breath away.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin’s Griffin

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Last Seen Leaving follows Flynn, whose girlfriend has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared — and he’s left looking for answers. I was totally riveted by this perfectly executed mystery — lots of twists and surprises made this unputdownable. Equally compelling: Flynn’s beautifully realized journey toward accepting that he’s gay, and an achingly sweet love story to go with it.

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Feiwel & Friends

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Monty — white, bi, wealthy, and roguish — is the ridiculously charming narrator for this historical romp. He’s sent on a Grand Tour of Europe with his sister Felicity and best friend Percy, and their voices are so compellingly real that it’s hard to believe they’re fictional. This book is so funny, sad, romantic, and heartfelt — no wonder it won a Stonewall Honor.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Katherine Tegen Books

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

I loved living in the head of Abby, a fat, white, pink-haired lesbian who dreams of working in the fashion industry. This book is funny, empowering, and romantic, without downplaying the role of platonic friendships. And to the fat girls who are sidelined in almost every romantic comedy? It’s a love letter. 

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding
Sky Pony

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny is a Chinese-American artist who attends a prestigious Bay Area high school, in a friend group still reeling from a tragedy one year earlier. Danny’s family has some explosive secrets, and Danny has an extra secret of his own — he’s in love with his best friend Harry. Danny’s pining for Harry is palpable, and it’s as heartfelt and tender as Gilbert’s gorgeous storytelling.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Disney-Hyperion

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

This book follows Mara, a white bi girl who has always been close with her twin brother, Owen — but Mara’s whole world is rocked when Owen is accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend. This story couldn’t be more timely, and Blake tells it with so much wisdom and heart. It’s a stunningly good, important book.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
HMH Books for Young Readers

Running With Lions by Julian Winters

I couldn’t get enough of Winters’s funny, charming debut about a soccer team at summer training camp. The team is tight-knit and diverse, with a coach who makes a point of creating an affirming space for LGBTQIAP+ athletes. The romance between goalie Sebastian and his teammate and childhood friend Emir gave me butterflies.

Running With Lions by Julian Winters
Interlude Press

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius is a geeky, clinically depressed, white-Persian biracial, and a hard-core tea drinker — and he’s one of the most irresistible narrators I’ve ever met. Family circumstances prompt Darius’s first trip to Iran, where a new friendship with a boy named Sohrab brings some unexpected feelings to the surface. Khorram’s unbelievably big-hearted debut left me sobbing. I loved it.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Dial Books