Pride Month is a great time to put the focus on queer YA—specifically, some of the incredible intersectional queer books YA has been blessed with, given to us by indigenous authors and authors of color. We’ve got a stack you can read now, and another half dozen you can preorder!
I’ll start by saying this is my favorite book of 2018 and everyone should read it. Danny Cheng’s future is falling victim to the past. His parents have secrets—a taped-up box in his father’s closet, and a file on a powerful family. His friends are approaching the anniversary of a tragedy that shook them to their core. And a future without his best friend, Danny, by his side, seems to be in the cards. The only thing that seems certain is his scholarship to RISD and the blessing of his parents to pursue art. But to get there, he’ll have to reckon with the ghosts of his past, and dissect the ghosts of his family’s history.
Alice, a college student who works at the library & lives with her two best friends, is over dating. After all, her relationship with her girlfriend ended after Alice told her she’s asexual. But when she meets Takumi, and she suddenly can’t stop thinking about him. As their friendship grows, Alice has to determine whether she’s willing to risk what they already have for a chance at a new love.
Moss is in his sophomore year at a high school that treats students like criminals—random locker searches, the instituting of new rules, police presence in the hallways. Not only that, but his father’s murder by the police department and the following negative coverage by the media six years ago left Moss with panic attacks. But Moss and his classmates are resilient, and push back against the administration. When tragedy strikes, Moss has to decide whether to give into his fears or rise up against them.
The most recent winner of the Stonewall Award, Little and Lion follows Suzette as she returns home to LA from her New England boarding school. Her friends, crush, and family are all in LA, including her brother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suzette, who has begun figuring out her sexuality while away at school, finds herself falling for the same girl her brother has his eye on. This was one of the best YA books to come out last year, and it’s a masterclass in intersectionality.
Laila’s creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent for stories, and her stories are where she is able to take risks, creating epic worlds. But after an accident, her teacher is replaced by Nadiya Nazarenko, an unimpressed Pulitzer Prize winner. As Laila begins pushing herself past her limits to try to please Nazarenko, she also finds herself re-navigating her friendships, including the one with Hannah, that is bordering on a relationship. Be sure to also check out Redgate’s Noteworthy,
which features a bisexual lead!
Even after Griffin’s first love, Theo, moved to California for school and started seeing someone else, Griffin always believed they would find a way back to each other. But when Theo dies in a drowning accident, Griffin’s planned future turns on its head—and it seems the only person who truly understands what Griffin is going through is Jackson, the boy Theo was dating at the time of his death. For more intersectional rep, check out Silvera’s other two books, More Happy Than Not
and They Both Die at the End
, and his upcoming book, What If It’s Us
with Becky Albertalli!
Based on the author’s feature-length film of the same name, Fire Song follows Shane, an Anishinaabe teen, who is trying to hold his life together after his younger sister’s suicide. His only real comfort comes from his relationship with David, another teen on the rez, and the possibility of going away to college. When his college funding falls through and his mother withdraws into her grief, Shane is left to navigate his own path and discover what he wants from his future.
Alex is supposed to be the most powerful bruja in generations, but that isn’t what she wants. So at her deathday celebration, she attempts a spell to make her magic vanish—but instead makes her family disappear. Alex must trek down into the underworld of Los Lagos to save them with a mysterious boy named Nova in tow, while trying to hide her powers from her best friend, Rishi. If you don’t yet have this badass bisexual bruja story on your shelves, now is a great time, as companion book Bruja Born
was just released!
Miel is a girl with roses growing out of her wrist, and whispers surrounding her that say she spilled out of a water tower when she was young. Sam is a trans boy who paints moons and hangs them in the trees. The two are best friends, and as strange as everyone considers them, even Sam and Miel stay away from the Bonner girls, rumored to be witches. But the Bonners are convinced Miel’s roses will give them what they desire, and will do whatever they can to make her give them up. If you need more of McLemore’s writing after this (which you will), check out Wild Beauty
and the upcoming Blanca & Roja.
In a world where superpowers are super common, Jessica Tran stumbles upon the perfect internship. Jess has no superpowers, and as it turns out, her internship is working for a supervillain—a fun way to spite her superhero parents. Best of all, she gets to work with Abby, her secret crush….but one day, Jess discovers a plot that could change the world as she knows it.
Be sure to check out Not Your Villain
, a companion novel featuring Jess’s friend Bells as its main character.
The cute, queer sports romance of your dreams, Running With Lions focuses on a soccer team and a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. Sebastian, the star goalie and incoming senior, is heading to summer training camp—where he reunites unexpectedly with his estranged childhood best friend, Emir. Sebastian sets out to regain Emir’s trust, but to his surprise, their reignited connection blossoms into something beyond friendship.
It would be impossible to make a list like this without including a Malinda Lo book, and my favorite is this queer retelling of Cinderella. After the death of her father, Ash is left at the mercy of her stepmother. To comfort herself, she reads fairy tales by the fire and dreams of the day the fairies will take her away. But when she meets Kaisa, a Huntress, she begins desiring a life full of love again. Kaisa teaches her to hunt, and Ash’s grief and solitude blooms into hope. Mystery fans should check out Lo’s A Line in the Dark
One of my favorite debuts to release this year, Darius the Great is Not Okay is the story of geeky Darius, living with clinical depression and not knowing how to connect with his father. The family travels to Iran to say goodbye to his ailing grandfather, and while there, Darius meets Sohrab, who shows him the world in a whole new light. Darius finally has a best friend, one who refers to him as Darioush and makes him feel like the best version of himself. But can Darioush continue if Sohrab isn’t with him?
Rumi and Lea were as close as sisters could be, imagining a future for themselves revolving around their music. But when Lea dies in a car accident, and their mother is left unable to cope, she sends Rumi off to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Rumi is heartbroken, grieving, and feeling abandoned, but her unexpected journey leads her to two “boys next door.” One is Kai, a teen surfer who doesn’t take anything too seriously, the other George, an eighty-year-old man who fell into his grief a long time ago. Rumi has to find her way back to music, and recapture the magic she and her sister were able to compose.
This is a story told in three parts by three different teens in a highly confusing situation: recently dumped Cooper, his best friend Jupiter, and new girl Rae. Coop has always liked Jupiter, though Jupe has really only been into girls, and now Coop finds himself falling for Rae. Jupiter also crushes hard on Rae…but she somehow has a crush on Coop, too? And Rae finds herself liking both Coop and Jupe. As the lines between friendship and romance begin to get blurry, questions of identity form. Stone has written the intersectional teen love triangle that has been missing from YA.
Nathan is trying to find his footing after the end of his relationship with Florence (his best friend, then girlfriend, then ex-girlfriend/best friend) after she cheated on him with another girl. Then in walks Oliver Hernández, his childhood best friend he’s always sort of been into. But Ollie comes complete with a long-distance boyfriend, so a relationship is out of the question. But Florence is set on making sure Nathan finds happiness, even if he’s determined to avoid heartbreak.
Dia, Jules, and Hanna used to be inseparable, making music together and having fun. But that was before Hanna’s drinking took over, before a baby, before heartbreak, before rehab, before there wasn’t a band. But the prize for the Sun City Originals contest this year is fifteen grand. Can the three of them fall back into a beat in time to give the contest a try? Each bandmate gets a point of view, and Jules finds herself in a new relationship with a lovely girl. Barrow writes gorgeous books, and this is one you absolutely should not miss.
Every year, eight girls are chosen to serve the king as Paper Girls. The palace says it is an honor, but Lei, who watched her mother get snatched up by royal guards, knows it’s a nightmare. Then the guards return to her remote village, and this time it’s Lei they’re after. Though eight girls have already been selected, rumors of Lei’s golden eyes drew the interest of the king. As she’s forced through lessons in how to be a royal consort, she falls in love with a fellow Paper Girl. Their romance, and the bubbling of a rebellious plot, threaten to take down the system as it stands.