September 23 marks Bi Visibility Day, aka Bisexual Pride Day, and in its honor, we’re talking about our favorite “bi-proud” YAs. These are books with bisexual main characters and/or love interests, some of which actively use the word on the page, others of which show characters having feelings for or relationships with both guys and girls without making the suggestion that bisexuality is just a stop for them on the way to gaytown. If you’re sick of getting excited about LGBTQ YA only to find them full of biphobia and/or bi erasure, here are some books you can feel proud to buy. (Heh, see what I did there?)
Not Otherwise Specified, by Hannah Moskowitz
Etta is black, bisexual, and in recovery from an eating disorder, and that combination of things doesn’t mesh with being a ballerina living in Nebraska. It certainly doesn’t help her stay friends with her old lesbian besties who consider her tainted. But Etta refuses to be put in anyone’s neat little boxes, and as she finds the right people to surround herself with to help her love who she is, she also discovers they may be her key to getting out of town and finding her best life in the future. Putting this book at the top of the list is a Bi Visibility Day no-brainer; if you’ve ever wanted to feel the literal urge to fist pump from the bi pride in a YA novel, put a copy of this in your cart, plus one for everyone you know.
Far From You, by Tess Sharpe
Mina and Sophie were best friends, even through a car accident that changed their lives. But now Mina’s dead, and Sophie’s determined to find out who killed her. Along for the ride is Mina’s brother, Trevor, who not only wants justice for his sister, but wants Sophie as well. But as the two get closer, Trevor learns Mina and Sophie were more than just BFFs; they were in love. For many YA readers, Sharpe’s debut is the first time they saw the word “bisexual” in a novel. For still others—present company included—it’s the first time we saw an on-page sex scene between two girls in a YA. Whether it was a first for you—or will be—there’s no question this is one of the most important bi YAs the category has to offer.
Coda, by Emma Trevayne
Anthem has a passion for music, but as a conduit for he Corp, most of what he listens to is work, powering the grid through him while shortening his life span. All he has to live for are the twin siblings he takes care of, the girl he’s smitten over, and his friends, including his ex-boyfriend. Sexuality is a non-issue in Trevayne’s dystopian society, but passion for music and rebellion? Is everything.
The Art of Wishing, by Lindsay Ribar
You know the drill—girl finds genie, girl gets three wishes…girl falls for genie, who happens to be in the form of a high school boy, and learns the villain gunning for them both is her new guy’s ex-boyfriend… totally run of the mill, naturally. While I loved the first book in this duology a lot, I managed to like the sequel even better—it’s in The Fourth Wish that Margo and Oliver discuss not only what it means for him and for them that he’s bisexual, but the gender fluidity inherent in his continuously taking the bodies that would be most pleasing to his new masters.
Otherbound, by Corinne Duyvis
If the fact that this debut has a bisexual protagonist doesn’t sell it to you on its own, consider this: 1) it’s a super-rare standalone fantasy, 2) that also has disability and racially diverse representation, and 3) is the closest thing to Sense8 in YA form. Amara is a mute slave girl, charged with protecting a princess. Nolan lives in an entirely different world, but when he blinks, he is transported into seeing through Amara’s eyes. As dangers grow for Amara, and the control dynamic between her and Nolan changes, the two of them will need to work together to keep themselves, and the princess for whom Amara has begun to develop feelings, safe.
Under the Lights, by Dahlia Adler
Actress Vanessa Park may be new to realizing she likes girls, but Brianna Harris, the publicist’s intern sparking that discovery, has been an out-and-proud bi girl for years. While Vanessa works to process what it would mean for her friendships, family, and career to come out, especially with her being Korean American already putting her in a precarious place on the Hollywood food chain, Bri’s experience with bi erasure tie in to her own hesitations about moving forward with someone who’s not ready. As its author, I’m probably a little too biased to tell you if this book’s any good, but there sure is a lot of making out (and then some).
Trust Me, I’m Trouble, by Mary Elizabeth Summer
When you read this book’s predecessor, Trust Me, I’m Lying, you don’t know the main character, teen con artist Julep Dupree, is bisexual; frankly, neither does she. She falls for a guy, things happen, and…well, that’s all I’ll spoil about that. But she also meets Dani, a 19-year-old Russian mob boss who’s back with a vengeance in the sequel, resulting in my personal favorite girl-girl couple in YA this year.
About a Girl, by Sarah McCarry
There’s no missing from that cover that there’s a relationship between girls in this book, the third and final of the Metamorphosis trilogy. But as the book opens, main character Tally actually has feelings for her best friend, Shane, which he seems to reciprocate, resulting in a fan-yourself-level sex scene. The emotional aftermath isn’t quite as fun or romantic, though, and when she sets out on a quest to find her maybe-father, she’s free and clear to fall for the mysterious and alluring Maddy.
Over You, by Amy Reed
Max is the calm, responsible girl to her best friend Sadie’s wild child, but when they go away together for a summer to a farm commune and Sadie gets mono, Max finally gets to emerge from her shadow and be her own person. Newly independent, she finds herself drawn to Dylan, the very same guy who piqued Sadie’s interest before she got sick, and an unusual choice for Max, since she usually prefers girls. I loved this book for being a great novel about toxic friendship, and it’s a great pick if you’re looking for a novel with a bisexual main character that doesn’t revolve around a romantic relationship.
Empress of the World, by Sara Ryan
This was my personal first read with a bisexual main character, and I suspect I’m not alone there. When Nic goes to spend the summer at a program for gifted youth, she certainly doesn’t expect to fall for a girl; after all, she likes guys. But when she falls for the beautiful and talented Battle, she falls hard, and the girls’ mutual and confusing feelings give way to a sweet romance that transcends labels or expectations.
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith
It’s hard to put Smith’s neon-covered apocalyptic opus into a genre, but it’s here for its rare bi male character in YA, caught in the confusion of having feelings for both his best friend, Robby, and his girlfriend, Shann, while also fighting to survive an infestation of human-size praying mantises that have descended upon their Iowa town.
Pantomime, by Laura Lam
Gene is the daughter of a noble family, but she doesn’t feel at all at home in female trappings. Micah’s a runaway, who joins the magical circus of Ellada as an aerialist’s apprentice. As he becomes a bigger star in the show, he also finds himself drawn to two other performers—female aerialist Aenea and male clown Drystan. But Pantomime isn’t about a character who falls in love; it’s about a character’s evolution and understanding of identity. Winner of the 2014 Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction, the story continues with Shadowplay.
Cut Both Ways, by Carrie Mesrobian
Will’s finally had his first kiss, but he didn’t expect it to be with his gay best friend, Angus. Determined to put it behind him, he starts to date Brandy, but it doesn’t stop him from gravitating back to Angus over and over again. The thing is, Brandy’s no beard; he genuinely likes her, too, and he has no idea how to balance them both and make a choice. Though Will doesn’t consider bisexuality or use the word (which is addressed in the author’s note), to the best of my knowledge, this is the first realistic contemporary YA from a major house to be narrated entirely by a male character engaging in sexual activity with both a male and female character, and that’s no small thing.
Adaptation, by Malinda Lo
When birds start flying into planes all over the country, it’s impossible to call that many collisions a coincidence. Then Reese and her crush, David, get in a crash of their own, and when she wakes up a month later, she has no recollection of what she missed. Her life only gets more confusing when she meets the beautiful Amber, and realizes she’s confused about more than just what’s going on outside; apparently her sexuality isn’t quite what she thought it was, either. As she works to solve the mystery of what happened to her during the month she was unconscious, she also must confront her feelings for both David and Amber, an issue which continues in sequel Inheritance.
Love in the Time of Global Warming, by Francesca Lia Block
It’s the end of the world as Pen knows it, and with her family disappeared after natural disasters rock Los Angeles, there’s nothing for her to do but search for what comes next. As she embarks on her Odyssey-mirroring quest, while thinking about her parents, her little brother, and her best girlfriends—one of whom had been on her mind in a new, kissing-related way for a while now—she finds a new band of friends to join her, which includes the alluring and mysterious Hex, taking her sexuality in yet another turn as they fall in love against the backdrop of a world falling apart.