How wild is it that there are so many queer novels coming in May and June that they need their own huge post? Can you imagine a better way to spend Pride Month? Gah, it’s so good. Anyway, let’s break it down.
May is the obvious standout for trans representation for this year, with major trans/nonbinary characters in at least five books (including one nonfiction). Genre-wise, these months are dominated by contemporary and fantasy, but what else is new when it comes to YA? Friendship reigns supreme this season, whether it’s among questing friends, pairs who’ve turned romantic, pairs who haven’t, or pairs who never expected to connect at all. So pull up a buddy and a corner of the rainbow carpet and grab a fabulous read or twelve!
For even more rainbow titles, make sure you’re checking out our fantasy, sequel, and anthology posts, where you’ll find books like Kingsbane, by Claire Legrand (May 21); Not Your Backup, by C.B. Lee (June 4); Rise, by Ellen Goodlett (June 11); and Hungry Hearts, edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman (June 11), which contains queer stories by well-known faves Sara Farizan and Anna-Marie McLemore! And be sure to read our roundup of queer titles coming this January through April.
Her Royal Highness, by Rachel Hawkins (May 7)
Hawkins’s wild rumpus, Royals (retitled Prince Charming for the paperback), introduced us to Flora, a spoiled lesbian princess. No, like, literal princess. And she also happens to be Millie’s new roommate at her new school in Scotland, the one she applied to in desperation after she caught her sort-of girlfriend with someone else. What starts off as a rocky roommateship turns into something more, and before Millie knows it, she and Flora are actually friends…and actually hooking up. Being swept off her feet by a princess is definitely some kind of fairy tale, but is a happily ever after too good to be true?
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (May 7)
Freddy’s got her dream girl in Laura Dean, or at least she does on the surface. The thing is, Laura Dean is kind of awful as a girlfriend, and it’s making Freddy miserable. But how can she turn away a girl who’s so perfect on paper, and who keeps coming back for more? When her best friend introduces her to a medium who says “break up with her,” Freddy knows she’s receiving a message she should heed. But what if the problem with her relationship—with all her relationships—is Freddy herself?
Deposing Nathan, by Zack Smedley (May 7)
I didn’t know what this book would be before cracking it open, and it exceeded all expectations. The heart of the book is, per the title, a deposition that aims to find the truth behind a fight between Nate and his best friend, Cam, that left Nate with a stab wound to his abdomen. But what unfolds around it is the history of how two boys became fast friends and cracked each other’s hearts wide open. How they helped each other realize that their respective sexualities weren’t quite as fixed as they thought. (Bi in both cases, by the way; this is not one of those books where their previous relationships with girls are disavowed.) It explores how the expectations and behavior of others factor into our seeing beautiful things as ugly, and into the ways in which the brutality that tears us apart isn’t always as obvious as a stab wound.
Keep This to Yourself, by Tom Ryan (May 7)
Contemporary thrillers are a great love of mine, so I’m particularly excited that Ryan, who has already published a bunch in Canada, is bringing his talents over the border with this American debut. To say I devoured this book would be an understatement. It stars eighteen-year-old gay teen Mac, whose world is turned upside down when he discovers a note left for him by one of his best friends, Connor…a year after Connor was murdered by the notorious Catalog Killer, who ravaged their previously sleepy town. Confident that the note is enough to get the unsolved case reopened, Mac is furious when the cops don’t see it that way. When he takes matters into his own hands, he finds one of the victim’s cousins is every bit as eager as he is to investigate, but the rabbit hole they fall down comes with twists, turns, secrets, betrayal, and regret. (And kissing. Did I mention said cousin is hot and gay?) Whenever you think you’ve figured something out, be prepared to be proven wrong on the very next page.
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, by Tanya Boteju (May 7)
Nima Kumara-Clark is kinda just Done. Her mother’s gone, being in love with a straight girl is brutal, and her world just feels too small…until a local festival introduces her to the other side of town, and its thriving drag scene. Suddenly, Nima’s finding a whole new love of life among drag queens, potential romances, and allies she never expected. Free of the limits and expectations that used to bind her, now she can be anyone she wants, if she can just let herself heal from the old wounds that threaten to drag her down. Even if the title hadn’t already sold me on this debut, the premise definitely does, and I suspect I’m not alone!
Carmilla, by Kim Turrisi (May 7)
If you spend any time on YouTube, there’s a solid chance this novelization needs no introduction, but it’s gonna get one anyway. Danny is brand-new to college, and she immediately clicks with her roommate, Betty, which changes not one iota when she reveals she’s gay. But poof: just as quickly as they met, Betty’s gone, replaced by a Sapphic player named Carmilla who takes all of Danny’s food and only stores carefully labeled soy milk in their fridge. Only…it’s not soy milk. Why does Danny’s new roommate have a package of blood? And where did Betty go, anyway? When she learns Betty isn’t the first girl to disappear, and that those who’ve come back do so as weird shadows of themselves, who suffer from dark dreams that Danny herself shares, she gets more and more suspicious. She starts to suspect Carmilla’s got something to do with it all…and she’s got some other feelings when it comes to Carmilla, too.
How it Feels to Float, by Helena Fox (May 7)
Everything about this book sounds designed to shatter my heart into a thousand pieces, and I am (mostly) ready for it. Biz’s mind is a complicated place, one in which the fact that she still sees her father, who died when she was seven, is both a blessing and a curse. Certainly, she can’t tell anyone, just like she doesn’t tell anyone about her harmful thoughts or about kissing Grace or about her interest in the new boy. But when the comfort she’s taken is ripped away from her, Biz is left to wrestle with whether she can continue floating, or whether it’s time to let herself sink.
Castle of Lies, by Kiersi Burkhart (May 7)
In a battle for queerest YA fantasy cast of all time, this one is up there. There’s vengeful Thelia, who, having lost the only person she ever had romantic and even remotely sexual feelings for, is scheming to take the throne away from the cousin who betrayed her. There’s her other cousin, the mildly depraved Parsifal, who’s Thelia’s closest confidant and also happens to be into her…and various others of various genders. And there’s nonbinary elf warrior Sapphire, who’s their only hope for escape from the castle when it’s overrun by an elven army. There isn’t a whole lot of room for these conflicting minds and powers to get what they want, but if they can find a way, it might lead to the happiest ever after.
The Lost Coast, by Amy Rose Capetta (May 14)
Honestly, we don’t even deserve Amy Rose Capetta, who’s on queer book number four in a year and a half. But we’ve got her, and not even two months after her coauthored Once & Future hits, she’ll be back with this dreamy, atmospheric queer witch fantasy, set amid the California redwoods. When Danny gets in a little over her head at home, her single mom moves the two of them to Tempest, California, right in the heart of the Lost Coast. It’s there that Danny meets fellow new kid Sebastian…and soon after finds him dead. But she also meets the Grays, a circle of witch best friends, all every bit as queer as she is (identities within the group include nonbinary, queer, gray ace, and bisexual “with a pretty strong lean toward masculine folks”), and all missing Imogen, a fellow Gray more powerful than the rest of them who has disappeared. The Grays become convinced Danny possesses the magic they need to find Imogen, but as she begins to fall for Imogen’s ex, she has to wonder not only whether she’s capable of doing what they ask, but whether she really wants to.
Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard, by Alex Bertie (May 14)
One of the few nonfiction titles in the YA lineup this year, British social media star Bertie’s memoir-slash-guide is a welcome addition to the trans YA canon. Having documented his transition for hundreds of thousand of YouTube subscribers, including discussion of mental health issues, surgery, and getting into the dating game, now he’s putting it in writing. Readers will learn all about his battle with the healthcare system, changing his name, starting on testosterone, getting top surgery, and how realizing he was transgender wasn’t a lone “lightbulb” moment. This is a guide that’s actually for trans teens, and one every library and high school should keep handy.
Last Bus to Everland, by Sophie Cameron (May 14)
The Out of the Blue author returns to bless us with yet more queer YA, this time starring two boys whose lives are forever changed by their meeting. Brody is struggling to connect with anyone in his life when he meets art student Nico, who takes him to a “knockoff Narnia” called Everland that opens at a specific day and time each week for Nico and his misfit friends. In Everland, Brody finally feels like he’s found his people; it’s an antidote to everything he’s struggling with in the real world. But when he has to choose between leaving Earth to stay in Everland for good or never being able to return to it, what will he choose?
We Contain Multitudes, by Sarah Henstra (May 14)
Partnership for an English project turns into a meet-cute when Kurl and Jonathan are paired up for an assignment that turns them into pen pals. As the two exchange letters, a friendship and then a tentative romance begin to blossom from their correspondence. It should be a sweet, happy time, but between homophobia, trouble at home, bullying, and secrets, holding on to the magic they’ve found may be too big a challenge to face, even if they face it together.
I Wish You All the Best, by Mason Deaver (May 14)
Major milestones in publishing are always worth noting, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the first contemporary with a nonbinary lead by a nonbinary author to be released by a major publisher. When Ben de Backer’s parents throw them out for coming out as nonbinary, they’re forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah. After the disaster of the first coming out, Ben isn’t going to repeat their mistake; determined to lie low at their new school, they only come out to Hannah, her husband, and the therapist they’re now seeing for their anxiety. But then there’s Nathan, who notices Ben no matter how much they try to stay unnoticed. And there are feelings, feelings that seem to be edging beyond the bounds of friendship. And little by little, Ben has to acknowledge there’s a whole wide world out there beyond the cruelty their parents have shown them, and so much happiness awaiting them, if only they can embrace it.
Birthday, by Meredith Russo (May 21)
The Stonewall Award–winning queen of trans girl YA is back with a sophomore novel that once again has a romance between a trans girl and cis boy at its heart. Here, that girl and boy are Morgan and Eric, who were born in the same hospital on the same day and have continued to play a crucial role in each other’s lives. It opens on their shared thirteenth birthday and continues over the course of six years of their tumultuous friendship-slash-romance, their breakups and makeups, their questions and changes, and everything else that builds toward determining whether or not they are each other’s futures.
Going Off Script, by Jen Wilde (May 21)
It’s one of my most fervent YA wishes that Jen Wilde return with another awesomely adorable and wildly fun queer book every year. This one stars Bex, a superfan of TV’s Silver Falls who’s psyched when she lands an internship on the show. The internship isn’t quite as fun as she imagined, forcing Bex to take matters into her own hands and draft a script. But when she shows it to the head writer, only to have him turn around and not only steal it but straightwash it, it’s time to make a splash…with the help of her crush, no less.
Hold My Hand, by Michael Barakiva (May 21)
Yes, yes this is a companion to the very, very cute One Man Guy, though it does stand alone, and it explores the effect of cheating on relationships. When Ethan cheats on Alek with his ex—and immediately understands he made a mistake and ruined the best thing he’s ever had—Ethan has to decide whether he can forgive and forget. Can there be trust and a future after a breakup brought on by cheating? Ethan and Alek are about to find out.
Missing, Presumed Dead, by Emma Berquist (May 21)
Hellloooo, bisexual urban fantasy! Lexi can tell how and when someone will die just by touching them, and it’s ruining her life. How can she possibly be with anyone when a mere touch foretells the thing she least wants to know about them? But when she meets Jane, who’s already dead, that becomes a nonissue. The only problem is that Jane’s only around to find out who killed her, and once she solves that mystery, she’ll be off to the afterlife. How can Lexi help the girl of her dreams when success means losing her forever?
Amelia Westlake Was Never Here, by Erin Gough (May 21)
This Aussie import by the author of Get it Together, Delilah! combines so many of my favorite things: a private school setting, an agenda of justice, and a romance its two leads never saw coming. Harriet Price is a dream student, in sharp contrast to justice-seeking troublemaker Will Everheart. But the two girls are at their best-worst when they find themselves teaming up to expose the coverup of their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior, creating a fake student named Amelia Westlake as cover for the havoc they wreak in the name of truth and justice. Eventually, the truth must come out; how long can Harriet and Will put that off, and what will they manage to squeeze in before then? Perhaps a little romance?
The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel, by Moe Bonneau (May 21)
There’s no love lost between Lucy and Eve, best friends until Eve got hot and popular and left Lu behind. Lu doesn’t need Eve anymore; she’s happy with the life she has planned out, the friends she has, and her college-bound future. Then a chance reconnection throws them back into each other’s lives, throwing Lu for a loop, and before she knows it, they’re thick as thieves again. But things feel different, and the chemistry between them has Lu forgetting all about her old crush and wondering whether there’s something other than friendship between them.
Brave Face, by Shaun David Hutchinson (May 21)
Hutchinson is already a staple of queer YA, including a novel releasing just three months before this one. But this shows a whole new side to the writer: a memoir that recounts his battle with depression and how it nearly brought him to take his own life. His story is composed of a million little moments that led him to where he is today, and is a reminder that some of our greatest struggles can be pieces of what later become our greatest triumphs.
Practically Ever After, by Isabel Bandeira (May 21)
The third book of the Ever After companion series stars Grace, a girl who has got it all: great friends, acceptance to her first-choice school, and the perfect girlfriend, Leia. And why shouldn’t her life be perfect? Lord knows she’s spent plenty of time working out how to get it that way. But as high school comes to a close, things start to fall apart, from school projects to her soon-to-be long-distance relationship. As someone who calculates every decision, Grace knows the “right” choice is to break up with Leia, but what happens when your heart just won’t follow your head?
The Wise and the Wicked, by Rebecca Podos (May 28)
Podos is two for two when it comes to making me fall in love with her books, including her Lambda-winning Like Water. This third is her first genre departure, leaving contemporary behind for a contemporary fantasy story that’s no fairy tale for Ruby. She grew up with the lore of how the women in her family once possessed the power to keep death at bay, till they were run out of their native Russia by men who sought to destroy them. She might think it were make believe, if not for the fact that a little magic still runs through their veins, just enough to show each woman in her line a coming-of-age vision of who they’ll be when they die. Then Ruby’s great-aunt dies in a way that doesn’t match her vision at all—and Ruby realizes that if her end isn’t as predictable as she believed, maybe her life doesn’t have to be either.
Switchback, by Danika Stone (May 28)
This isn’t Stone’s first venture into the bookish rainbow—her All the Feels had the first bi boy love interest I’d ever seen in YA—but it is her first with an aroace lead. That would be Vale, who, along with best friend Ash, is dreading an overnight school hiking trip. It turns out far worse than either could have imagined after a storm separates them from their classmates in the Canadian wilderness. They’ll have to use all their wits to survive the treacherous weather and wildlife and make it home.
These Witches Don’t Burn, by Isabel Sterling (May 28)
It has been glorious to see witches coming back to queer YA, and this debut full of elemental magic and romance and heartbreak is such a fun, romantic, high-stakes take. Hannah is fresh off a terrible breakup with Veronica, made all the more brutal by the fact that they’re elemental witches in the very same coven. But her romantic torture is pushed to the back burner when the remnants of a blood ritual are discovered at an end-of-year bonfire, signaling the terrible threat of a Blood Witch. Her coven may not believe that’s what’s going on, but Hannah sets out to prove it, even if it means relying on Veronica to help her. Then again, if being on the case means meeting sweet girls like new-in-town Morgan, maybe this won’t be so bad. Can Hannah and Veronica find the Blood Witch and save the coven while putting their feelings behind them for good? Or is disaster inescapable?
If It Makes You Happy, by Claire Kann (June 4)
Do Kann’s books get the best cover models or what?? This one portrays Winnie, spending the perfect last summer before college working at her grandma’s 50’s-themed diner. Then she’s named Misty Haven’s Summer Queen, and she is not psyched; she doesn’t need the whole matchmaking mess that comes with it when she’s perfectly happy in her queerplatonic relationship. The whole thing is a whirlwind of photoshoots and engagements Winnie has no interest in, especially considering the attendant fatphobia and racism. But the biggest surprise of all may be her Summer King, an unwelcome intrusion into her ordered world who makes her feel romantic attraction for the first time. It’s going to be a major summer of learning and growth for Winnie, but it still has the potential to be the best summer yet in very unexpected ways.
Wild and Crooked, by Leah Thomas (June 4)
Bless queer friendship novels, for they are far too rare and very special. You may know Thomas from her debut, Morris Award finalist Because You’ll Never Meet Me (which was also queer, by the way), and you’ll definitely want to get to know her newest, about a pansexual boy and a lesbian girl who form a deep bond of friendship amid their struggles. Kalyn feels like her life will forever be defined by the murder her father committed back in his own teen years; she even has to attend her small-town school under a pseudonym to hide their connection. The pseudonym allows her to make friends with Gus, similarly sick of being defined by something out of his control—in his case, cerebral palsy. And then there’s the fact that he’s the son of a guy murdered by Kalyn’s dad. When the truth about their fathers comes to light, and the events that took place come into question, their friendship is put to the ultimate test.
An Impossible Distance to Fall, by Miriam McNamara (June 4)
When the stock market crashed in 1929, it took Birdie’s whole life with it. A year later, she’s still struggling with the collapse of her father’s bank and his subsequent disappearance, and she’s determined to find him. She finally gets a clue when she sees a picture of the Jenny biplane that vanished with him on a leaflet advertising a barnstorming circus. She heads to Coney Island to get some answers, and promptly falls in love with the majestic spectacle of it all, from stuntmen to lady pilots, and especially with pilot June. When signs point to her father having moved on to Chicago, Birdie decides to hitch a ride with the circus. But while the circus folk might be the best thing that’s ever happened to her, a privileged girl who doesn’t understand how things work in the real world might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to them.
Like a Love Story, by Abdi Nazemian (June 4)
I adored Nazemian’s YA debut, The Authentics, which delivered a great gay secondary character in the narrator’s brother. His newest, set in 1989 New York City amid the AIDS crisis, has gay characters front and center. There’s Reza, an Iranian boy who just moved with his mother to the city to live with his new stepfather and stepbrother, and is terrified of anyone finding out he’s gay. There’s Art, the only out-and-proud gay kid at his new school. And there’s Judy, who dates new boy Reza with no idea he’s gay like the AIDS-activist uncle she worships…and that the fact that he’s getting closer with Art means more than she thinks. Now he’s got to find a way to tell her the truth without breaking her heart, in a world that isn’t friendly to that truth.
All Eyes On Us, by Kit Frick (June 4)
Frick’s sophomore maintains the mean girl thriller vibe of her first novel, See All the Stars, but wins with its lesbian lead. Rosalie is deeply devoted to her girlfriend, even though her fundamentalist Christian parents would never approve. To stay that way, she needs to do a little cheating, engaging in a fake relationship with decidedly male Carter. Carter’s doing some cheating too, seeing Rosalie behind his own girlfriend, Amanda’s, back. Rosalie’s done way too much time in conversion therapy for her parents to find out the truth, even if being in this sham of a relationship is eating her alive. So when both Amanda and Rosalie receive texts from someone who wants to help them take down Carter, Rosalie will need to work with her to find out who knows way too much, and shut them down for good.
The Confusion of Laurel Graham, by Adrienne Kisner (June 4)
Is there anything better than when the author of a queer YA debut returns the next year with another one, and you just know they’re gonna be filling your shelves with rainbows for years? I was overjoyed to learn that Kisner, author of the awesomely titled Dear Rachel Maddow, is returning with another queer girl book in 2019, this one about a girl who aspires to become a world-renowned nature photographer. Step one in Laurel’s plan (which includes crushing her fellow nature reserve volunteer, Risa) is to win a contest with Fauna magazine, a contest her grandmother placed in years ago. Her grandmother is her favorite partner in crime, and together, they make a fabulous bird discovery. But then gran is hit by a car, falling into a coma, and everything in Laurel’s world starts to fall apart.
Tell Me How You Really Feel, by Aminah Mae Safi (June 11)
Let’s all take a pause while we mentally wallpaper our homes in that cover. Okay, now, take another one while I tell you that yes, this book is every bit as good as it looks and then some. Sana is the perfect girl—smart, well-achieving (including an early acceptance to Princeton), athletic (a cheerleader!), and…uncertain. All she wants is to make sure her path toward becoming a doctor is the right one. She decides the best way to do that is to apply to a fellowship in India she doesn’t tell a soul about. Then there’s Rachel, a type-A scholarship student who needs to make the perfect film so she can win scholarship money for NYU film school. Too bad absolutely nothing on Earth meets her standards, including the gorgeous, peppy cheerleader who pretended to ask her out years earlier and earned her ire forever. When a literal crash landing has them working together on Rachel’s final attempt, the two realize they have a lot to learn about each other and the ways they view themselves.
The Grief Keeper, by Alexandra Villasante (June 11)
Marisol dreams of being an American; from everything she’s seen on TV, it seems like paradise. Getting there illegally was never her plan, but when her brother is killed and it looks like her sister is going to be next, Marisol doesn’t have a choice, especially since falling for Liliana is what put her brother in jeopardy in the first place. But Marisol is caught at the border, rendering her asylum request all but pointless…until she’s offered an opportunity to stay in the U.S. All she has to do is become a grief keeper, someone who takes another’s grief into her own body to save a life. It’s tough and risky and guarantees unbearable pain, but saving Gabi’s life is worth everything to Marisol. Even if it means putting her heart on the line.
Something Like Gravity, by Amber Smith (June 18)
The author of the lesbian-led The Last to Let Go is back with another queer YA, this one revolving around a cis girl and trans boy who come together through a near-fatal car accident. Maia and Chris can’t seem to get along since their inauspicious first meeting, but unless they want to have a miserable summer, they’ll have to learn, since they are currently neighbors. And while things may keep backfiring between them, they also can’t seem to stay away from each other. With Chris still processing the aftermath of his assault, and Maia grieving the loss of her sister, both have a lot of work to do on their own hearts before they can let anyone in. But those hearts want what they want, and what they want right now is a love they never expected.
All of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Keil (June 18)
This book sounds so cool I don’t want to say too much, but here goes: Xochi is a seventeen-year-old bisexual girl living on the run in post-punk San Francisco, who becomes a governess for a wealthy rockstar family after meeting their tween daughter, Pallas, at Golden Gate Park. Living with the band in their Victorian mansion is chill yet glamorous, and it’s the perfect new home for Xochi. Then she and Pallas accidentally summon a pair of ancient creatures through a Pagan ritual gone wrong, whose whole M.O. is to avenge the wrongs of Xochi’s childhood. Now memories of her abandonment and betrayal are everywhere, and no one in her life, past or present, is safe.
Technically, You Started It, by Lana Wood Johnson (June 25)
Haley is just going about her life (and questioning where she fits on the ace spectrum) when she gets a text from Martin Nathaniel Munroe II. But there are two people by that name, and the one Haley thinks she’s texting with isn’t the right one; the one she hates is. But the texts are going swimmingly, and the pair is clicking in a way neither of them is used to. But Haley’s still got the wrong guy, made worse by the fact that Martin doesn’t know it. If they can’t figure out the right story fast, their ending is going to be an epic disaster. (And yes, those are bi colors on the cover—Martin rocks the purple, pink, and blue, in spirit if not literally!)