YA literature is known for its quirky characters, fantastical worlds, and dramatic romances, and young adult literature has continued to succeed (arguably the most of any genre) within the realm of diversity. From explorations of racial identity to sexuality, YA readers have been provided a number of challenging and hopeful stories about young characters navigating the struggle and hope found within self-discovery. As Pride month continues, Germ has collected a handful of titles that capture both the wonder of coming out and the heartbreak that accompanies authenticity.
- The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Documenting the experiences of a teenager named Michael, Atta explores the complications of dating, family life, and of course high school as a gay teen. This story breaks down societal norms. Written entirely in poetry, The Black Flamingo offers a harrowing perspective of being queer throughout one’s lifetime and the hardship of finding love amidst constant rejection and ostracization. Both hilarious at times and equally devastating, Dean Atta’s novel invites readers to cry with Michael, enter into the world of college drag, and possibly even discover themselves along the way.
- Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
Similar to the recent Hulu series Love, Victor, Gonzales’ novel hosts a cast of diverse characters and one complicated love story. While much of the plot line focuses on the love-hate relationship between main character Ollie and his crush, Will, it also deals with the complications of illness and family. Gonzales uses flashbacks from the past and memorable characters to make this book a well-deserved addition to any Pride reading list. With nods to Grease,Only Mostly Devastated is certain to win the hearts of readers, help foster empathy, and reimagine what love can look like. F
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
While many YA books seem to stick to the formulaic tradition of focusing queer narratives on stereotypical gay boys, Callender helps explore the experiences of a trans teen and the unique struggles and triumphs that come along with this underrepresented identity and experience. Wildly funny and inventively crass, Felix Ever After is a testament to friendship, family, and first love. Felix’s story is an emotional one, full of lost connections, yet Callender makes certain to keep the story afloat with humor and well-needed moments of levity. One of the most memorable queer reads in recent years. Readers in search of fresh, inventive LGBTQ+ literature need look no further.
- Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June
One of the most talked-about queer novels of the year is none other than Jason June’s Jay’s Gay Agenda. Praised by some of the biggest names in the industry, this “sex-positive” young adult story gives voice to the confusion of entering the world of dating with little to no support. From the title alone, June comments on the stigma surrounding queer relationships and uses Jay to normalize this hormonal, confusing time for so many—a time that often proves even more difficult for those within the LGBTQ+ community. Light-hearted and brimming with hope, Jay’s Gay Agenda appears to be the next Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda.
- One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
While not specifically categorized as YA, Casey McQuiston’s most recent release captures the intensity of young love. Known for their debut, Red, White, and Royal Blue, McQuiston returns for another dramatic love story—one filled with train rides, Brooklyn adventures, and heaps of pancakes covered in the sweetest maple syrup. Surprisingly complex, One Last Stop gives romantic comedies a good name, using well-developed speculative fiction that also allows for representation. McQuiston’s novel bends time and speaks to love crossing decades. Constantly touching and hilariously profane, this novel never fails to entertain, and August and Jane are some of the most memorable characters to hit the page in a long while.
- All Kinds of Other by James Sie
High School Drama? Certainly. Romantic tension? Check. A new beloved LGBTQ+ read? Guaranteed. Sie’s All Kinds of Other deserves a spot on every reader’s shelf, alongside The Perks of Being a Wallflower and If I Was Your Girl. Focusing on travel and fresh starts, Sie tells the story of two teens finding love amidst heartbreak and painful home lives. This novel speaks to the secrets many queer teens have to keep in order to preserve themselves and the lives they hope to hold on to. Beautifully told, All Kinds of Other is an essential read this Pride month. Jules and Jack are certain to win over the hearts of readers of all ages.