In honor of Pride this week, we’re proud to highlight some standout books about LGBT young adults. Here are eight books woven with excitement, bravery, honesty, love, and even a little magic in the search for identity, authenticity, and acceptance.
We the Animals, by Justin Torres
We the Animals had me at the first line, with its stunning lyrical simplicity. The efficiency of Torres’s writing just works to contrast the emotional depth of this slim book. This is the story of three Anglo-Puerto Rican brothers, coming of age in upstate New York. Straddling the line between races, loving and hating their dysfunctional parents, the boys grow up a fierce and loyal pack of three. The crux of the book comes as our narrator, the youngest of the three, begins to realize how very different he has always been from the rest of his family and that he might have to break away to finally become himself. Disclaimer: this book was written for an adult audience and sports some pretty graphic scenes, so I would recommend this as “high YA”, ages 14 and up.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
I know this book came out back when Kurt Cobain was still rockin’, but it wasn’t until recently that I had the chance to read it. Only a few chapters in, I knew Perks of Being a Wallflower was going to be one of those rare books which would have a profound effect on me…and did it ever! Charlie has always kept to the fringes of life, content to observe, but not really engage in the enigma of social interactions. But early in his freshman year his English teacher gives him tricky assignment: to participate in life. Charlie’s voice is perfect: bewildered by high school mores, innocent and wise without making you want to roll your eyes, and completely ignorant of his own talents. Throughout this book Charlie struggles to come to terms with the darkness of his past as well as the shining potential of his future. I dare you not to fall in love with him, not to feel precisely what he feels as he stumbles through his daunting adolescence.
Luna, by Julie Anne Peters
High school sophomore Regan O’Neill has a secret, but it’s not exactly hers to keep. Her older brother, Liam, might seem like the good-looking senior boy at her high school, but only Regan knows that it’s only at night that Liam transforms into the beautiful young woman Luna. When Liam eventually decides to transition fully to become Luna, Regan’s loyalty to her sister comes with new challenges and adds new depth to her own senses of family and identity. Peters’s groundbreaking novel about a transgender teen and the sister who loves her is sure to keep you reaching for the tissues and cheering them on and on.
Going Bovine, by Libba Bray
This is one hell of a wacked-out adventure! Imagine Don Quixote as an apathetic teenage kid who contracts Mad Cow disease and has to go on the road trip of a lifetime to save the entire universe! What, can’t imagine such a thing? Well, thank goodness we have the fabulous Libba Bray to make all our dreams (and bizarre hallucinations) come true. Not only is Going Bovine terribly funny, it is also really, really smart; Bray throws in all sorts of literary allusions, some music theory, and a few really cool scientific thought experiments which layer her book with awesome.
Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger
A lot of things are tough in high school, right? Finding the right clique, playing the right sport, wearing the right brand, having the right look, but what happens when you already know who you are? And for Angela Katz-McNair, who she is is actually a boy named Grady. There is a tremendous amount of tenacity, compassion, and confidence in Wittlinger’s book that makes Grady, his shifting circle of friends, and that universal desire for those picturesque high school moments one of the most compelling, good-humored, and satisfying reads.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth
When Cameron’s parents are killed in a car crash, the first thing she feels is relief that they will never discover she’d just been kissing a girl before the accident. On the trail of the tragedy, Cameron is sent to live with her conservative aunt and grandmother in Miles City, Montana. To fit in, Cam is forced to ignore her attraction to girls and fly below the radar. But all that changes when she develops an intense friendship with the gorgeous Coley, and Cam’s aunt decides to “fix her.” Author Curtis Sittenfeld (American Wife) says of Miseducation, “If Holden Caulfield had been a gay girl from Montana, this is the story he might have told—it’s funny, heartbreaking, and beautifully rendered. Emily Danforth remembers exactly what it’s like to be a teenager, and she has written a new classic.”
Totally Joe, by James Howe
Not unlike David Levithan’s Lover’s Dictionary, this is a story told in alphabetical entries. Joe’s seventh-grade teacher gives the assignment of an alphabiography and so naturally, Joe begins with his best friend, Addie. By the time we reach Zachary, we’ve learned about Joe’s struggles with his sexuality, his family’s reaction to his coming out, and a how he’s handled a homophobic school bully. A very fun, optimistic, and clever story about discovering who you are.
Ash, by Malinda Lo
A beautiful retelling of Cinderella, Ash follows a young woman who’s left in the clutches of her wicked step-mother. To connect with the memories of her own mother, Ash pores over the fairy tales that they used to read together. These stories infuse her dreams with haunting images of the fairies who vow to steal her away, and when Ash meets Sidhean, an enthralling and dangerous fairy, she believes that her misery is about to end. But she didn’t reckon on meeting Kaisa, the King’s royal huntress, or that she would have to choose between fairy tale dreams and true love.