In the last five or so years, books featuring queer main characters have become more mainstream. Queer books are no longer hiding in special sections of the library or bookstore. Now, they’re displayed widely, allowing more readers access. Finding books featuring queer characters is easier than it has been because of the sheer volume of options. We’re reaching a point where there’s space for all kinds of queer books, featuring a wider range of representation for readers.
As a teenager, if there were books featuring queer main characters, it would have changed my life. I knew that I was bisexual in middle school, but it was isolating. Being able to read about queer book with characters like me finding love would have given me confidence. Even if I didn’t act on it at that age, I would have felt like it was something attainable for me. Now, there are so many queer books in the young adult section. Kids (and adults) can find a book to speak to their hearts.
Queer books with adult main characters are also making strides too. They’re not quite as prominent as young adult books are in the mainstream just yet. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist! You may have to look a little harder for them, and they’re mainly in the romance section, but they’re definitely worth the search.
Liz Lighty is Black, smart, and a band geek. She is not a prom queen. But she doesn’t get the scholarship to the only college that’ll get her out of her small Indiana town. When all hope seems lost, she remembers that whoever wins prom queen gets a $10,000 scholarship, exactly the amount she needs. Becoming prom queen isn’t going to be easy, and it only gets harder when Liz falls for her competition.
Randy Kappelhoff’s favorite place to spend his summer is Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. That’s where he met his best friends, gets to perform in the musical and fell for Hudson. Except Hudson is only into straight-acting boys. And he doesn’t really know Randy exists. But this summer Randy rebrands himself as “Del.” He’s buff, masculine, and determined to get Hudson to like him. As he and Hudson get closer, Randy has to decide if it’s worth giving up who he is.
Saoirse doesn’t believe in happy endings. If they exist, then her mother wouldn’t be suffering from early onset dementia. She also doesn’t believe in love at first sight, or being in a relationship. There’s a strong chance that she’s going to suffer from dementia herself, so why start something she may not be able to finish? But then she meets Ruby, who proposes a summer of fun, without true love. During the summer, they’ll have every rom-com montage-worthy date. And everything will end come fall. Except they didn’t plan for the Falling in Love Montage…
Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family struggles to accept his gender, so he’s determined to prove himself as a true brujo. He gets the help of his best friend and cousin, setting out to find the ghost of his dead cousin and set it free. But there’s a big problem. Yadriel summons the ghost of the school’s resident bad boy, Julian instead. And Julian won’t go away. But the longer they spend time together, the more Yadriel isn’t sure he wants to see Julian leave.
Arthur and Ben have very different feelings about this summer. Arthur, who’s only in New York City for the summer, is waiting for his magical, Broadway musical worthy romance. Ben is just trying to survive summer school while nursing a broken heart. After their meet-up in the post office, they each wonder about fate. But then they get separated, and reunited. Then their first date (and second first date, and third) is a disaster. Is fate real, or do you make it yourself?
Rachel and Sana hate each other. Well, Sana doesn’t really hate Rachel. When an encounter ends in disaster, the two girls are forced to work together on Rachel’s senior project. All the forced proximity causes the girls to look at each other in ways they never had before. Will they fall in love despite themselves, or because of who they are?
Jo is a powerhouse showrunner in Hollywood. She’s photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on a red carpet, and suddenly the media says they’re a couple. This jeopardizes Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie. The rumor spreads, only complicating their lives further. But the more time they spend together, the more they realize the rumors might be true.
Josiah wants to be a movie star, as does most of Los Angeles. But his big break may be on the horizon, in the hands of a novelist who goes by the name of Q-Bert. Q-Bert is ready to make his directorial debut, and Josy would be the perfect star. Josy may have a friend crush on Q-Bert, or it could be more. Sometimes being a demisexual can make it harder to figure out. But Josy is willing to do whatever it takes to make his dreams come true.
Lauren is in a predicament. She needs money, but she can’t get the inheritance left to her by her Granny unless she’s married. But finding someone (anyone) to marry isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. Enter Cara, her childhood best friend who she’s recently reconnected with. Cara needs money to pay for grad school. So Lauren comes up with an idea…they should get married! If they fake everyone out, they get the money. But soon fake married and real married feel similar and Lauren freaks out about falling in love with her best friend.
Jordan needs a few things: his favorite author to release another book in the supernatural series he loves and for his book club not to die. He also needs the new employee at his favorite local bookstore to stop making fun of his book choices. When that same employee wants to join his book club, he’s reluctant. But if he wants it to survive, he’s going to need to let him in. What he learns is that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
Dani Brown doesn’t want anything more than a friend-with-benefits. So when former rugby player and current security guard Zaf rescues her during a fire drill, she knows she’s found her next conquest. After a video of the rescue goes viral, Zaf asks Dani to fake date him, and she agrees. But then the fake dating turns into something more real, which is not something Dani planned for.
Abby has an amazing job and a perfect fiance, Marcus. But things start to go awry when Marcus hires Jordan, a professional bridesmaid. When Abby meets Jordan, she can hardly breathe. And Marcus has no idea. With weeks before the wedding, Abby isn’t sure it’s even going to happen.
Younger kids need queer books too! Here are three of my favorite middle grade titles.
Rick by Alex Gino – a middle school boy learns about his identity and the spectrum of identities after joining a LGBTQ+ group at school.
Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk by Greg Howard – a twelve-year-old boy learns there’s no one way to be gay after befriending an eighth grade drag queen.
Star Crossed by Barbara Dee – an eighth grade girl realizes she may be bisexual during her class production of Romeo and Juliet.