The best thing about writing these posts is every year is seeing how consistently they grow. And I don’t just mean that in number; LGBTQIAP YAs have grown in every direction in the past couple of years. Where it used to be a struggle to find books that weren’t entirely centered on coming out, now you can find them in every genre. Where it used to be like searching for a needle in a haystack to find queer characters outside of contemp, now you can find queer superheroes and royals and brujas. Where intersectionality used to be an impossible find, now it’s…a fairly difficult find. Okay, we’re not totally there yet, but the strides forward are huge, and the quality has made a pretty notable jump, too; you couldn’t spin around in a YA section last fall without bumping into a starred-reviewed romance between two girls, something that happened approximately never before that. And a book with two lesbian POVs spending more than half of 2016 on the NYT bestseller list and a romance between a queer Latina girl and trans Desi boy getting longlisted for the National Book Award? Yeah, that was pretty good. Can it get even better? Here are 23* opportunities to find out!
See all 2017 previews here.
The Cursed Queen, by Sarah Fine (January 3)
Ansa is a warrior, one of many among the Krigere people…at least until their ranks are decimated by a storm created by a Kupari witch, taking their chieftain with them. Now Ansa watches as Thyra, the girl she loves, takes the leadership position, and steers them in the only way she can: to live among Thyra’s family, who betrayed them once and have since conquered another land. But not everyone is ready to except Thyra’s new position, and as new battle plans arise, the questions of who can be trusted and who has everyone’s best interests at heart become harder and harder to untangle. But the biggest mystery of all is what happened to Ansa on the day of that storm, and why she seems to have inherited the very same powers that took her people down. This is a great companion to last year’s The Impostor Queen (which also features a bisexual heroine, that one featuring a male love interest), and a badass addition to the very tiny world of f/f YA epic fantasy.
History is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera (January 17)
Griffin loved Theo, but he wasn’t his boyfriend anymore when Theo drowned. That honor went to Jackson, and now Jackson is the only person who understands what Griffin’s going through. What he’s missing. Who he’s grieving. How deeply he’s hurting. And as Griffin experiences increasingly flaring OCD, the importance of having something concrete only grows. But both Griffin and Jackson need to figure out their respective futures now that the guy each thought was potentially his endgame is gone, and they can’t do that while dwelling in the past. Silvera already authored one of my favorite LGBTQA YAs of all time, More Happy Than Not, and he just may have upped his game in this hopeful heartbreaker of a nonlinear character journey.
The You I’ve Never Known, by Ellen Hopkins (January 24)
YA’s queen of verse about tough subjects returns with a novel about Ariel, a girl abandoned by her mother who has been living an essentially transient lifestyle with her father, constantly picking up and leaving behind everything she knows. But this time it has been a whole year, and moving again would mean leaving behind Monica, the best friend who has become something more. As Ariel manages life with her abusive father and the possibility of leaving her first shot at love and exploring her sexuality, her story intersects with that of Maya, also 17, and taking measures to escape her own harmful parent.
Dreadnought, by April Daniels (January 24)
If Danny thought watching superhero Dreadnought die was scary enough, she had no idea what she was in for when she took up his mantle, at least inasmuch as a minor is permitted to do. But picking up where Dreadnought left off does come with one huge perk: she finally has the body she’s always dreamed of; no one could possibly look at her and see a boy now. As she gets used to both her new body and new responsibilities, she also has to deal with those struggling to respect her transformation, including everyone from her father to at least one of her new colleagues. But there are more pressing, immediate problems at hand, because Dreadnought’s killer is still at large, and Danny could very well be her next victim. A clever and creative debut that explores transmisogyny, sexism, and the power/responsibility dichotomy, and, best of all, continues with a sequel just six months later.
Our Own Private Universe, by Robin Talley (January 31)
Talley’s the most prolific author of mainstream queer-girl YA right now, and bless her for it; her newest is coming less than six months after her awesome As I Descended, and marks a return to her contemporary roots with a coming-of-age story YA has desperately been needing. Aki knows there’s more to life than she’s living, especially since she’s well aware she’s bisexual, but has yet to actually get with a girl. Then she meets Christa, a member of another church on the same rebuilding mission in Mexico, and sparks immediately fly. But Aki doesn’t actually know how to get with a girl, or how to parse her feelings. She’s not above learning, though, and if you’ve ever wished queer girls had a book like Judy Blume’s Forever to cover the ins, the outs, and the safety, get ready to finally get your wish in this honest and lovely interracial YA romance.
At the Edge of the Universe, by Shaun David Hutchinson (February 7)
The worst part about losing Tommy isn’t just that Ozzie has lost his great love; it’s that no one even remembers he existed. The universe is shrinking, and it took Tommy with it, and now even his own mother doesn’t remember him. But Ozzie can’t stop searching, even when it lands him with a new therapist every week or so, alienates his friends, and puts a huge barrier between him and Calvin, his new lab partner and the first guy to crack into his heart since Tommy disappeared. As the world continues to close in around him, Ozzie becomes harder pressed to move forward, even when doing so might require his biggest leap of faith yet. Hutchinson is deep in his “light at the end of a long, dark tunnel” thematic element here, which feels all too necessary for our current times and shows why he remains one of gay YA’s most relevant and prolific authors.
We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour (February 14)
Marin isn’t okay. Her mother drowned when she was a kid, and now the grandfather who raised her is gone. It’s winter break, her roommate is away, and Marin is completely alone. But Mabel, the best friend-turned-more she left behind when she moved from the west coast to the east, won’t let her vanish without a fight. When Mabel shows up to visit and reconnect with her one-time BFF, Marin is forced to confront what happened in her grandfather’s last days, the fact that she’s pushed everyone away, and whether she’ll be able to handle life after loss. This was a deceptively quick but beautiful read that had me crying like a baby once it all settled in, highlighting just how terrifying it is to love people whose loss could destroy you. Another favorite from one of my instabuy authors.
10 Things I Can See From Here, by Carrie Mac (February 28)
Anxiety has plagued Maeve for as long as she can remember, and it’s only heightened when her mom (i.e., the only one who Gets It) leaves for six months, forcing Maeve to relocate to Vancouver to live with her dad. But while the move brings its own stresses and new things to be anxious about, it also brings Salix, the superchill girl who helps get her through everything from her dad’s shaky sobriety to her stepmother’s pregnancy. Salix embodies the fearlessness Maeve would kill to possess, and the romance that blossoms between them may not “cure” Maeve, but it sure does help make the move worth it. Definitely a welcome addition to the all-too-small list of queer-girl YAs about mental health.
A Good Idea, by Cristina Moracho (February 28)
Even after she left town, Fin still planned to spend her immediate future with Betty, two best friends taking on NYU together. But then Betty drowns, and though her boyfriend, Calder, confesses to the crime, his confession being thrown out means no one has to pay. Fin can’t stand the injustice, and she returns to her Maine hometown of Williston for one last summer to get to the bottom of what really happened to Betty. It’s there that she meets Serena, the only person who seems to care as much as she does about Betty’s demise, and in her Fin finds not only a partner in her quest for the truth, but an irresistible attraction that quickly turns into an intense romance. But how well do they really know each other? Hell, in this town, in this noir, how much does anyone really know anyone? How well did Fin even really know Betty?
Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde (March 14)
One of my absolute favorite subgenres is LGBTQ fandom books, and Wilde’s dual-POV contemporary is an utterly delightful addition. Charlie, Taylor, and Jamie are best friends headed to SupaCon for the first time, where vlogger Charlie is surprised to find she’s far more well known than she anticipated, even with her first movie coming out. On the downside, this means a lot of attendees are focused on her breakup with her costar, but that pales in comparison to learning whose attention she’s holding: Alyssa Huntington, the superstar vlogger she has been crushing on for ages. Charlie and Alyssa are both out and proud and afreakingdorable, and both Charlie and Taylor meeting strong, successful artists who share their marginalizations (Charlie is a bi woman of color, and Taylor is autistic) makes for some very real empowerment.
Honestly Ben, by Bill Konigsberg (March 28)
Those who read and loved Konigsburg’s Openly Straight will recognize protagonist Ben Carver here as Rafe’s failed love interest, but he stands well on his own (as does the book) as an introverted, insular guy raised to quietly please, who’s starting to explore what made him that way and whether it’s really who he wants to be. What helps break him out of his shell is finding a new romance in Hannah, a great girl who says what’s on her mind and encourages him to do the same. Unfortunately, what’s on his mind a lot lately is Rafe, and the fact that although Ben knows his sexuality hasn’t changed, his feelings for Rafe haven’t really either. All he can do is be honest, with Hannah, with his family, with his friends, with Rafe, and, most importantly, with himself. While “gay for you” is a well-known trope in adult romance, we really haven’t seen much in YA, but I really like the way Konigsburg handles Ben’s thought process here. Potential labels aren’t ignored; they’re considered and discarded by Ben for not feeling like they truly fit. And while that may change later, YA is about right now, and so, rightfully, is Ben.
Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman (March 28)
Frances has her eyes on the prize, and nothing will get in the way of her admission to a top university. But when she learns her schoolmate Aled is the voice behind her favorite podcast, the incredible friendship and collaboration that sparks between them feels like the first real thing in her life in a long time. But Aled is also the brother of Carys, the girl Frances used to know (and like) until she disappeared, for reasons only Frances knows. And when Frances royally screws up and blows Aled’s anonymity, her only goal in the world becomes to make things right for everyone. There are so many reasons to love this book, which I suspect will feel like coming home to anyone who has ever been afraid to show their weird, but the one that’s going to make it stand out forever is the presence of a major on-page demisexual character.
Get it Together, Delilah, by Erin Gough (April 4)
I rushed to buy this book (published in Australia as The Flywheel) before I knew it was coming to the U.S., so I’m so glad to see it making its way across the Pacific. This sweet and charming romance centers around 17-year-old Delilah, who drops out of high school in response to love gone wrong and ends up forced into the position of caring for her father’s café while he’s traveling. While having a huge job at her age is chaos, the best part of the day is when she sees Rosa, the dancer across the street. But even when Rosa returns her interest, things remain complicated, as Del may be out to her family but Rosa is nowhere near ready for that.
Meg & Linus, by Hanna Nowinski (April 18)
Fans of the BFF dual-POV dynamic in last year’s You Know Me Well would do well to check out Nowinski’s debut, which alternates between the perspectives of passionate, anxious, chubby gay nerd Linus, who has a desperate crush on barista Danny, and his similarly nerdy and theater-loving best friend, Meg, recently dumped by her long-term girlfriend. Linus’s fear of approaching Danny makes for the perfect distraction project for Meg, and Linus has his own secrets to keep when Meg’s ex starts contact him, fearing she made a mistake. Cuteness abounds as the BFFs trip over themselves trying to make the best choices to keep the other one happy.
Looking for Group, by Rory Harrison (April 25)
Dylan may be in remission, but his anxiety and dependence on painkillers didn’t automatically disappear along with his cancer, and recovery didn’t magically improve his relationship with his neglectful mother, either. The one thing Dylan’s been able to depend on is gaming, so what better way to escape from his life for a while than with a quest? And of course, he can’t complete the quest alone, which leads him to pick up Arden, who’s also struggling at home, thanks to her absent mother and transphobic father. As Dylan and Arden cross the country, the journey to the sea becomes a quest for all the things they’ve failed to find at home but warmly embrace in each other. Harrison manages to mesh gaming and road tripping into a warm, hopeful love story with a friendship that inspires the knowledge there are people out there to fill all your missing pieces.
How to Make a Wish, by Ashley Herring Blake (May 2)
Grace just wants some semblance of permanence in her life, and that’s something she knows she’ll never be able to expect from her mother, Maggie, especially when Maggie moves them in with Grace’s ex. But then she meets Eva, new to town and living with Grace’s best friend, and grieving the loss of her own mother. Eva too needs something to hold onto, and as chemistry flares between the two girls, they may have finally found what they were looking for. But romance enough isn’t quite enough for Eva, who knows what it is to have a loving, dependable mother in a way Grace never has. And when Maggie seems to offer that to her, Grace doesn’t know how to make Eva understand that Maggie’s nothing but false promises, especially when she seems to do a better job mothering Grace’s new girlfriend than she ever did with Grace. And if there’s one person Grace is sick of fighting for control over her own happiness, it’s her mother. This is a gorgeous and moving novel of love, connection, romance, mother-daughter relationships, and the way pain inextricably links them all.
Noteworthy, by Riley Redgate (May 2)
When Jordan learns it’s her vocal range that has been keeping her from getting roles at her performing arts high school, it’s impossible to resist trying her hand at open auditions for the most prestigious all-boys’ a capella group in the school. But she doesn’t expect to fall deeply in love with the experience of being in the Sharpshooters, or for the guys to feel like the family she’s desperately been seeking as financial issues tear her real one apart 3,000 miles away. The closer she gets with the others, the worse her lies feel, especially when they get entangled with her figuring out her bisexuality. But with a life-changing competition on the horizon, she can’t afford to lose the Sharps, and they can’t afford to lose her, either. Fans of Redgate’s Seven Ways We Lie won’t be remotely surprised to see how much she handles here, from feminism and toxic masculinity to intersectionality and gender identity, or how entertainingly she does it.
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, by Misa Sugiura (May 9)
Sana’s got a whole lot of secrets, and they’re starting to pile up into more than she can handle. So when her family moves to California and she develops a crush on the beautiful Jamie, she wonders if maybe it’s not time to start letting them go…at least the one that reveals she likes girls. But life is getting increasingly complicated, and with her friends not liking Jamie’s, Jamie’s friends not liking her, a guy very much liking her, and her dad’s affair threatening to bust out of its own secret zone, Sana’s maybe got enough on her plate. How much room is there for her own honest happiness in a world that seems destined to keep her from having any? This is one of my most anticipated books in the history of ever, not least because it’s an ultra, ultra rare f/f YA with an interracial romance that involves no white girls. Is it May yet??
Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy (May 9)
Ramona has always been able to see her entire future with clarity: stay in Eulogy with her sister, Hattie, forever; go straight from high school to working full time as a waitress; and end up with a nice, cute girl. That’s what happens when you live in a part of Mississippi that never quite recovered from Katrina, where everyone in your family struggles to make ends meet, you’ve been out as a lesbian since freshman year of high school, and your sister gets knocked up by a guy who’s so clearly not a long-term prospect, no matter how much he’s hanging around now. But when her childhood friend Freddie returns to town just as Ramona’s dealing with the tail end of a summer romance that may or may not be over, he’s exactly the companionship she needs. Now she’s swimming again, and learning it might give her a future she’d never thought possible—and speaking of things she never thought possible, how on earth does she find herself having feelings for Freddie she has never had for a guy in her entire life? Murphy does a beautiful job depicting small-town southern life without ever denigrating it, and of flipping the “gay for you” trope and all the identity considerations that come with it on its head, in this touching, nuanced book about cracking through the glass cages we force ourselves into.
Love Interest, by Cale Dietrich (May 16)
In the secret teen spy group the Love Interests, Caden is a Nice, the kind of guy you get close to and tell all your secrets to because you know you can trust the boy next door. Dylan is a Bad, and, well, we’ve all seen the powers of persuasion those guys can have, even when you should know better. Each one has a responsibility to lure in a girl important to their agency’s investigation, and it’s a fight to the death in the truest sense: whoever she doesn’t pick as her life partner bites the bullet. But what if neither one wants the prize at hand? What if they’re too preoccupied…wanting each other? Basically, this is the cutest premise ever, guaranteed to be the most charming spy novel YA has ever seen.
Perfect 10, by L. Philips (June 6)
I know what you’re wondering: can any book possibly be as cute as this one looks? And I am delighted to report that yes, in fact, this book is afreakingdorable, and the best part is that it does it without predictability or sappiness. In fact, my favorite part of this debut about a guy who’s finally looking for love a couple of years after his way-too-intense first love fell apart (who then finds a whole lot of options after his Wiccan BFF talks him into a love spell) is how realistically it explores being a teen who knows he’s not ready for a happily ever after. Even better, it’s a great exploration specifically of being a queer teen who actually has options, and the challenge of monogamy when you’ve never really had guys to choose from before. Buy it for the adorable cover; read it over and over again for the realness.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy, by Kathryn Ormsbee (June 6)
Tash is used to her corner of the internet being a quiet one, until her web series blows up thanks to a superstar blogger and she suddenly becomes a viral sensation. She’s cool with most of the things that come with stardom, including the tens of thousands of fans who now regularly tune into her Anna Karenina–themed series…and the cyber-flirting she’s got goin’ on with a guy who’s nominated for the same prestigious award she is. But while the work of her heart is out there in the world, the fact that she’s a romantic asexual isn’t. In the midst of figuring out how to handle all her newfound fame, how does Tash go about revealing the rest of herself to the people (or at least the one person) who matter? I’m pretty sure my entire corner of the internet squealed aloud the day this book was announced with the word “asexual” right there in the blurb, which just might be a first for YA from a mainstream publisher. But is the book as awesome as the milestone? Sources say “Oh God yes I can’t believe you haven’t read it get yourself a copy RIGHT NOW,” so, probably!
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee (June 20)
If anyone can make historical fiction a delightful queer adventure, it’s Mackenzi Lee, and if you want a book that’ll have you grinning like a fool the whole way through, look no further than her sophomore novel about a privileged and troublesome boy named Monty who can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble or in a decent boarding school. Thankfully, his European tour is the perfect opportunity for a little freedom and mischief, and the additions of his ambitious and brilliant little sister, Felicity, and his best friend, Percy, don’t do much to keep him in check. Or do they? Because there is one thing that would calm Monty’s wandering, er, eye: for Percy to return his illicit affections. But yet another poor choice of Monty’s soon has the trio scrambling across the continent, and when a secret Percy has been keeping comes to light, it calls everything into question for all of them.
*You can also find queer main characters in the sequels to Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas; The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie; Assassins: Discord by Erica Cameron; and And I Darken by Kiersten White—more on those soon!