The past year brought YA some phenomenal LGBTQ titles, and this year, authors both debut and veteran are set to up the ante. The LGBTQ YAs of 2015 include far more romances between girls than we’ve seen in the past, more ever-elusive Happily Ever Afters, multiple realistic contemporaries featuring intersex main characters, and a character who self-identifies as genderqueer. Here are just some of the LGBTQ YAs on our radar for the coming year.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
There are some fantastic LGBT YAs out there, but none I’ve read have made me glow from the inside the way Simon does. The story of an epistolary romance between two boys who attend the same school but whose identities are mysteries to each other is funny, charming, clever, and heart-meltingly sweet, while also containing a sharp underlying point of obliterating the idea of certain characteristics as a default.
Anything Could Happen, by Will Walton
If ever there were a story to which many a queer kid could relate, it’s that of falling in love with one’s straight best friend. Set those friends in the south, give the straight kid two gay dads, and add a girl falling for the gay boy, and you have a bunch of reasons to come out, a bunch of reasons not to, a whole lot of potential for pain…and Walton’s highly anticipated debut.
Not Otherwise Specified, by Hannah Moskowitz
Etta’s sick of being too bi for her gay friends, too healthy to qualify as anorexic but too anorexic to qualify as healthy, and too far from the traditional ballerina look to be taken seriously as a dancer. So when she finally connects with a friend—straight, white, Christian Bianca—in her eating disorder support group and discovers the perfect way out of the town she doesn’t fit into, her path seems clear. But it’s hard to rid yourself of your troubles when the key to doing so may be the most troubled of all.
More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera
This excellent, compelling, creative debut may revolve around a not-yet-realistic memory-erasing procedure, but it hits a lot of hard truths. Aaron Soto is simultaneously managing the death of his father, a short-term separation from his girlfriend, and the difficulty of sharing a one-bedroom apartment with his brother and mother, when a boy from another local Bronx projects enters his life in a major way. Thomas is thoughtful, free-spirited, and everything Aaron needs in his life right now…except, perhaps, the thing that matters most.
Under the Lights, by Dahlia Adler
(Okay, yes, this is my book, but look at that cover; I can’t exactly leave it out, can I?) Teen actress Vanessa Park is flailing. Her best friend’s at college, her worst enemy’s joining the cast of her show, her relationship with a boy band member is going nowhere, and her Korean parents’ distaste for her life choices grows by the day. The only bright spot is Brianna, her fun, feisty publicist’s intern who isn’t at all shy about her attraction to her new client. Vanessa can’t hide that the feeling is mutual, but with her Hollywood future already hanging by a thread, the choice to come out under the spotlight could be the last she makes of her career. (This is a companion to Behind the Scenes, but can be read as a standalone.)
Unspeakable, by Abbie Rushton
Megan hasn’t spoken a word in months; everything she wants to say is locked inside her head, slowly torturing her following a traumatic experience. But then she meets talkative new girl Jasmine, and suddenly Megan is desperate to speak again. As their friendship evolves and Megan grows closer to opening up, she has to decide whether she’s ready to speak again, even if it means losing everything else.
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, by Shaun David Hutchinson
The author of fml and The Deathday Letter returns this year with his first (but not last—he has another coming in 2016) LGBT YA novel, about two boys recovering from brutal hardships who fall for each other in a hospital. Andrew is grieving the death of his family when he meets Rusty, in the ER with severe burns incurred as a result of homophobic bullying, and the two must traverse a tricky path to find their way to happiness together.
None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio
Things are going pretty smoothly for Kristin Lattimer, until she and her boyfriend have sex for the first time. When she goes to the doctor to check out why she’s in so much pain, she learns she is in fact intersex—she presents as a girl, and also has male chromosomes and parts. Krissy’s discovery rocks her life, her relationships, and her understanding of her own body and identity, and is handled by debut novelist Gregorio with care, research, humor, and major readability.
About a Girl, by Sarah McCarry
The final book in McCarry’s Metamorphoses trilogy centers follows Tally, an aspiring astronomer with questions about her past and the mother who gave her up. While searching for answers, she finds and falls for beautiful Maddy, and discovers the truth about her life and her family in the process. McCarry is known for her lush prose and mythological themes; ease the wait for its July release by picking up the first two in the trilogy: All Our Pretty Songs and Dirty Wings.
Just Girls, by Rachel Gold
Okay, this one’s a cheat because it in fact came out in 2014, but since there’s a deficiency of 2015 YAs with transgender main characters, I decided to sneak it in. The rumor in Jess Tucker’s college dorm is that one of the girls is transgender. Since no one has come out as the transgender girl, Tucker takes it upon herself to assume the identity. After all, she’s already out as a lesbian; she can take the heat. But Ella Ramsey knows Tucker’s lying, because she’s the trans girl. Just Girls is a story of friendship, feminism, and looking beyond the binary.
Bleeding Earth, by Kaitlin Ward
Much as LGBTQ YA has grown in recent years, there’s still an unfortunate dearth of it outside the contemporary genre. That’s where Ward’s debut is a very welcome addition, the story of two girlfriends fighting for survival in a chaotic world where blood has covered the streets.