After historical romance, my next favorite subgenre of fiction is Young Adult (YA.) It’s still not a genre in which I write (I hear a dear aunt’s voice in my head now, saying “never say never.”) but one in which I know I am going to find a lot of love, familial, platonic and romantic.
It’s also a genre that is wonderfully diverse, which I love. Here are, in no particular order, five recommendations for YA novels with LGBT+ protagonists. As far as I know, all are own voices stories.
1) All the Bad Apples, Moira Fowley-Doyle: We first meet narrator, Deena, after the funeral of her free-spirited and much older sister, at which there was no body. Deena’s family is believed to be cursed, that something horrible will happen on a girl’s seventeenth birthday, that would follow her the rest of her life. Prepare to be swept away by Fowley-Doyle’s compelling voice, and live with the characters as multiple generations of Deena’s family deal with their own curses and choose their own futures. Oh, and Deena likes girls.
2) Let’s Talk About Love, Claire Kann: Alice has her whole summer planned out, but when she comes out to her girlfriend as asexual, that’s only the first of the big changes in Alice’s life. That relationship is over, but life isn’t, and not wanting sex doesn’t mean not wanting love. What better time than a job at the library to keep Alice’s mind on the right track? Well, apart from co-worker Takumi, who very much reminds Alice how nice romance can be. Will he still be into her if he knows the whole truth about what she wants? (spoiler: he is)
3) Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan: modern teenage boyfriends Harry and Craig participate in a kiss-a-thon to set a world record, but the focus is not entirely on them. Narrated by a Greek Chorus of gay men who died in the AIDS epidemic, we also see how the boys’ lives affect other teens, their own families, and the reader’s own heart.
4) History is All You Left Me, Adam Silvera: Oh my heart. Adam Silvera has ripped it out, stomped it flat, put it back in, and made it somehow, if not stronger, more resilient. Here’s how: teenage Griffin was in love with his ex-boyfriend, Theo, even though they broke up so Theo could go to college on the opposite coast. Neither of them counted on Theo falling in love with Jackson. Or Theo dying, in front of Jackson, who has come to NY for the funeral. Who are the only two people who get what it was like to be in love with Theo even though he’s gone? Yeeep. This is raw, beautiful honest grief, with healing and growing up.
5) Pulp, Robin Talley: I said this list was in no particular order (and I am starting to wish I had made this a top ten, but that’s what other posts are form, hm?) but I am going to give this one the title of favorite, because while I don’t know what it’s like to be LGBT in any decade, I do know what it’s like to have the discovery of a genre of fiction change one’s entire life. For me, it was historical romance. For Janet Jones in 1955, and Abby Zimet sixty-two years later, it was lesbian pulp fiction. Ms. Talley is a master at writing twentieth century historical fiction, fully inhabiting both timelines, as Abby delves into what really happened to the mysterious ‘Marian Love” who wrote only one book and then disappeared.
All of these books are standalones, another thing I love about YA, so there is no need to read other books by any of these authors, before diving into these, but oh how quickly those TBRs will grow.