Happy Bi Visibility Week! Bisexual visibility is a tough battle on any ground; more often than not, despite being one of the letters in LGBT, bisexuality gets to be anywhere from “a stepping stone” to discarded in favor of “I don’t like labels.” But in YA literature, authors have been fighting like mad to ensure that main characters who are attracted to more than one gender finally get the spotlight, and this year has been a huge one for bisexual representation. In most of these cases, the word “bisexual” is right there on the page; in others, the rep is glaring even without a label present.
Because the theme here is bi visibility, books that aren’t listed are those in which the main characters can definitely be read as bisexual but actively reject that label after legitimate consideration, such as Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy; Honestly Ben, by Bill Konigsberg; and I Hate Everyone But You, by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin. That said, they’re all great books that, in my opinion, handle that label consideration with sensitivity and acknowledgment and are definitely worth a read as well.
They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera
Arguably the most visibly bi YA of 2017, Silvera’s third novel debuted on the New York Times bestseller list to the surprise of approximately nobody. In it, self-sheltered Mateo and brash, bi foster kid Rufus each learn they’re “deckers”—people who’ve received the call informing them that this will be the day of their death—and find each other through the Last Friend app. As they help each other spend the rest of their final hours in the best ways they know how, each gets a new lease on life, just as it’s coming to an end.
How to Make a Wish, by Ashley Herring Blake
It might be wrong to play bookish favorites, but if you happened to force me at gunpoint (why on earth would you do this?) to name my favorite girl-girl romance with an openly bisexual protagonist, Blake’s sophomore novel would be a major contender. Living with her mother has always meant being subject to a revolving door of relationships and bad decisions, but Grace hits her limit when her mother’s newest of both lands Grace her ex-boyfriend as a housemate. So Eva’s arrival as the new girl in town couldn’t have better timing; the beautiful ballerina makes for the perfect escape. But having just lost her own mother, Eva seeks refuge not just in her new relationship with Grace but in Grace’s mother’s doting arms. Grace knows Eva’s looking in the wrong place for maternal comfort, but she doesn’t know how to tell that to her girlfriend, or what will happen if Eva’s forced to choose between Grace and her mother.
Top Ten, by Katie Cotugno
It is the Best Thing when one of my favorite authors dips into the world of bi YA, and that’s exactly what happened in Cotugno’s fourth book, about a pair of extremely different best friends who have to reassess their relationship when they hook up on graduation night. Gabby and Ryan have avoided their friendship turning into more until now, helped along by the fact that they both had fairly serious girlfriends. But there’s nothing to stop them from getting together romantically now…except the fact that maybe best friends is exactly what they were meant to be. As Gabby struggles to figure out what to do with both of their feelings, she reflects on the top ten moments of their relationship—riffing off a frequent pastime of theirs—to figure out exactly what kind of future is promised by their shared past.
Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren
The romance maven team of Christina Lauren has written YA before, but an exploration of same-sex love between boys in LDS-dominated Provo, Utah, is definitely breaking some new ground for the duo. Tanner was out and proud as bisexual when his family was living in California, but now that they’ve returned to Utah, he’s tiptoeing back into the closet to get through his final year of high school. Or at least that was his plan. Then his writing class gets the recently graduated, newly published prodigy Sebastian Brothers as its TA, and everything goes out the window. But Tanner isn’t the only one who’s thrown; Sebastian has no idea how to fit his feelings for Tanner—and his attraction to men in general—into his otherwise steadfast faith.
Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde
You know those books that just make you smile from ear to ear and then make you want to give them their own dedicated easy-access shelf because you know you’ll want to grab them again whenever you’re in a bad mood? And you know how rare they are with bi protagonists? Thankfully, Jen Wilde has provided this delightful standout, told from alternating perspectives, one of which belongs to an out-and-proud bisexual vlogger who meets and hooks up with her idol—an even more well-known queer-girl vlogger—at a convention.
Noteworthy, by Riley Redgate
Jordan Sun’s tired of going unrecognized for her vocal talent, but year after year, she’s just not proving to be standout enough for a role in the school musical. When an opportunity opens up to prove herself, Jordan has to grab it…even if finally getting recognized requires making herself unrecognizable. Becoming Julian is the only way she can get into the Sharpshooters, the premier a capella group on campus, which happens to be all boys. Disguised as a guy, Jordan begins to view gender, sexuality, and privilege through a new lens, and realizes she’s bi even as she’s falling for another member of the group.
Like Water, by Rebecca Podos
One thing that might not be readily obvious when looking at this list is that Rebecca Podos is bi-ing up YA like nobody else. Not only does this excellent entry feature a protagonist who comes to realize her bisexuality in gloriously angst-free fashion, but Podos is also the literary agent representing two other authors on this list. Her own contribution stars Savannah Espinoza, who was supposed to be among the kids who actually got out of her small town. Then her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s, and everything about Savannah’s plans changed. Now she’s working as a performing mermaid at a water park and hooking up with one of her guy friends to pass the time…until she meets Leigh, and broadens her horizons in ways she never expected.
Our Own Private Universe, by Robin Talley
YA’s most prolific author of queer-girl romance since Julie Anne Peters does a 180 in vibe from her last YA starring a bi character with a delightfully fluffy but groundbreaking coming-of-age story about a girl taking the next step in exploring her bisexuality while on a youth group trip in Mexico. See, Aki knows she’s bisexual, but she feels like to be truly certain, she’d like to try actually being with a girl. Almost immediately upon arriving in Mexico with her father’s church, she meets and falls for Christa, who’s also bi (or possibly pan) and up for having some fun. Aki’s got a lot to learn about getting physical with a girl and coming out, but Christa makes it worth it and then some.
Echo After Echo, by Amy Rose Capetta
If you’re not already familiar with Amy Rose Capetta, her upcoming bi romance is the perfect time to get acquainted, because she’s about to spend the next couple of years queering up your shelves with a vengeance. In this romantic mystery, Zara wins the role of a lifetime playing Echo at the infamous Aurelia Theatre, but the whole experience turns out to be far more than she bargained for when a crew member is found dead. Figuring out whether there’s been foul play is extremely challenging when it seems like the very theater itself is steeped in secrets, and it doesn’t help that the director is a man of unmatched intensity, who demands all of Zara’s attention…something she can’t truly give, since lighting assistant Eliza has attracted most of hers.
Little & Lion, by Brandy Colbert
If intersectional representation is your jam (and whose isn’t it??), Colbert’s sophomore novel is a master class. Suzette’s brain is in a million different places when she returns to California from her New England boarding school. There’s her beloved stepbrother, Lionel, who’s recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. There’s her crush, Emil, to whom she finds herself increasingly attracted. There’s her new crush, Rafaela, who’s just starting something up with Lionel. And there’s her boarding school roommate, the first girl she’d ever been with. Now that she’s back, Suzette has to figure out where she stands—where she wants to stand—with all of them, and how to rectify the wrongs of the present so she can go ahead with her future.
Wild Beauty, by Anna-Marie McLemore
As McLemore’s predictably gorgeous third novel opens, the Nomeolvides girl cousins are just discovering a major problem: they’re all in love with the same girl. And in this case, jealousy and competition are the least of their concerns; it pales in comparison to the fear that their family curse of death befalling anyone they adore romantically will kill her. When they do a ritual to preserve her safety, they’re stunned when a boy appears—a boy they can only assume was once the paramour of a prior generation’s Nomeolvides woman, returned to them in exchange for their sacrifices. A boy who has no idea where he came from. A boy who’s stealing Estrella’s heart, even as she worries she’s stealing an ancestor’s lost love.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee
One of the most straight-up fun books ever to hit the New York Times bestseller list, Lee’s sophomore novel combines great bisexual rep and the always fun road trip and best friends-to-lovers tropes and sets it all in 18th-century Europe. Monty is the very definition of a rapscallion, getting himself into trouble at every turn. His grand tour of the continent is his last chance to turn himself around in his father’s eyes, but it wouldn’t please daddy dearest at all if he knew Monty’s travel buddy, his best friend Percy, was the true object of his affections. But all of that falls to the wayside as the two of them (plus Monty’s awesome little sister, Felicity) get into next-level trouble.
The Cursed Queen, by Sarah Fine
Fine’s high fantasy series is a pink-purple-and-blue rainbow marvel, featuring two different bisexual main characters. In this second book, warrior Ansa is harboring serious feelings for Thyra, the daughter of her chieftain and her closest friend. But when Ansa finds herself cursed with powers of fire and ice she can’t control, her deadly secret will force her to hide a piece of herself from the woman she loves, just as Thyra is becoming the ruler of their people.
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The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic, by F.T. Lukens
Bridger’s new job isn’t exactly the conventional sort; working for an intermediary between the human world and its myths puts him into contact with a whole bunch of creatures who aren’t supposed to be real. But a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do to afford college, and Bridger’s already got enough on his plate as he comes to terms with his ginormous crush on his neighbor, Leo, and parsing his bisexuality. For those who’ve been desperate for more light fantasy with a romance between boys a la Carry On, this one’s a natural pick.
The Seafarer’s Kiss, by Julia Ember
Bisexual The Little Mermaid with a fat protagonist, a genderfluid Loki, and a girl-girl romance. Do you really need to hear any more? Well, okay, if you must have some context: In Ersel’s world, mermaids’ value is determined by their breeding capabilities, which in turn is how they’re chosen for mating. But although Ersel has long expected to end up with her best friend, she’s not sure that having children is even what she wants. It’s during a much-needed escape to human shores that Ersel comes upon shield-maiden Ragna and is immediately smitten. But when she makes a deal with trickster-god Loki to exchange her mermaid’s voice for legs and is effectively turned into a monster, Ersel’s chance at an alternate path to happiness seems impossible. To get her happily ever after with the girl of her dreams, Ersel will have to outwit Loki and escape her patriarchal mersociety. Just another day under the sea!
For even more bi representation in this year’s YA main characters and love interests past and present, check out Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman; We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour; 27 Hours by Tristina Wright; That Inevitable Victorian Thing, by E.K. Johnston; Looking for Group, by Rory Harrison; History is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera; Grrrls on the Side, by Carrie Pack; In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan; and Not Your Villain, by C.B. Lee!