Finding LGBTQIA books that weren’t about coming out used to be like finding a needle in a haystack, especially when I was a teen. YA books were all about either how awful it was to come out, or an idealistic representation that didn’t live up to real life. Nowadays, LGBTQIA books extend beyond that experience, and while coming out narratives are still important, it’s nice to see books that extend the experience beyond that.
We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour
This quietly beautiful book is easily one of my favorites of this year. It’s not lengthy, but it packs the powerful emotional punch of a book twice its size. When Marin left her California home behind for college in New York, she left everyone she knew behind, too. But now it’s winter break, and she’s alone in her dorm, waiting. Waiting for her old best friend, Mabel, to come visit. But Mabel’s arrival brings memories Marin would rather not confront, like why exactly she changed coasts for college—and why she left everyone behind.
History is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera
If you read Silvera’s debut, More Happy than Not, you know how heart-wrenching it was. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you don’t feel like crying), History lives up to Silvera’s reputation. Told in nonlinear form, Silvera’s sophomore book draws an incredible picture of a relationship between two boys, and the implosion that comes when one of them dies. Although Griffin and Theo were broken up when Theo dies in a drowning accident, Griffin still feels the loss like a gaping hole. To make matters worse, the only person who understands is Theo’s current boyfriend, Jackson. And while Griffin is able to open up to Jackson, the secrets he’s keeping may just pull him under, too.
The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie
Lesbian pirates. Do I really need to say more? (Okay, yes, I do.) If Pacific Rim met Pirates of the Caribbean, it would become Skrutskie’s debut. Cassandra “Cas” Leung has been practicing all her life to become a Reckoner trainer, in charge of raising the monsters that roam the pirate-filled sea. But on her first mission with her Reckoner, Bao, she’s scooped up by notorious pirate Santa Elena, who wants to use Bao against her enemies. Cas is thrown in with the rest of the pirate crew—including Swift, a girl whose bite may be as bad as Bao’s. In order to survive, she’ll have to use her wits, because she knows she can’t trust a pirate, even one as cute as Swift…
Love In The Time of Global Warming, by Francesca Lia Block
I read this a few years ago for The Gay YA and was struck by the gorgeous and unique premise and prose. A riff on Homer’s Odyssey, Love in the Time of Global Warming follows Penelope, or Pen. When a devastating earthquake rips through Los Angeles and tears Pen’s family away from her, she sets out through the deserted city with only a copy of the Odyssey as her guide. Picked up by a stranger in a van who promises to help with her journey, Pen meets Hex, a trans guy also bound for Las Vegas, the new city of the dead. This book is a gorgeous, unique dystopian twist on a classic with really lovely representation.
27 Hours, by Tristina Wright
Ensemble books, when done well, are one of my favorite genres. Wright’s debut features a unique ensemble cast and LGBTQ characters across the spectrum. Set on a colonized moon, 27 Hours follows a cast of teens as they race to keep gargoyles from destroying their home. Rumor Mora has spent his life fearing the hellhounds that roam the moon. Jude has spent his life hoping people won’t hurt the monsters he’s come to understand. Nyx Llorca knows the moon speaks to her through vibrations, and that she’s in love with her best friend, Dahlia. Braedan Tennant just wants to get out from under his military mother’s shadow. Together, the four teens will try to stop the war between the colonies and gargoyles–and fall in love along the way. This is an action-packed sci-fi that’s absolutely bursting with rep not often seen (Nyx is Deaf, and Braedan is asexual), with a cast that’s memorable and fun.
Brooklyn Burning, by Steve Brezenoff
This is a gorgeous, unique contemporary more people should read. Sixteen-year-old Kid spends their summers at Fish’s Bar in Brooklyn, painting, drumming, and hanging out. There they meet Scout, a musician they’re instantly drawn to. But Kid is wary of love since losing Felix, their boyfriend, the previous summer. In narration that flashes between previous summers and the present, readers follow Kid as they fall in love with Scout and deal with their own role in a warehouse fire that happened the previous summer. Brezenoff never genders either Kid or Scout, referring to the latter simply as “you.” This is a gorgeous, compelling read for anyone still trying to figure out their own labels.