Our Most Highly Anticipated LGBTQA YA of 2018

Somewheeeeeere under the rainbow you’ll find that 2018 is bringing lots of beautiful new rainbow books! On the rise from January through June this year are explicit asexual and pansexual representation, romances between bisexual female main characters and genderqueer love interests, and rep of non-white queer guys. Glaringly absent? Transgender main characters in novels, which makes nabbing the anthologies All Out and Meet Cute (which features a trans story by If I Was Your Girl author Meredith Russo) all the more important.

For even more gay and bi POVs, don’t miss The True Queen by Sarah Fine and Chainbreaker by Tara Sim, which you can read more about in the upcoming post on our most anticipated sequels; The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk, highlighted among our most anticipated debuts; The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman, and All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson, which will be featured among our most anticipated contemporary YAs; and The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan, which will be highlighted among our most anticipated indies!

See all 2018 previews here.

Before I Let Go, by Marieke Nijkamp (January 2)
Fresh off one of the bestselling queer YAs of all time, Nijkamp returns with similarly powerful but deceptively quieter sophomore novel. Corey’s been keeping her distance from Lost Creek, Alaska, but she’s finally keeping her promise to come back and visit her best friend, Kyra. But Kyra doesn’t live to see Corey return, and now Corey only has a few days to figure out what happened and why everyone from her hometown is acting so strangely accepting of Kyra’s death. It doesn’t help to be grieving a friendship that was already fraught with the complication of Kyra’s unrequited feelings. Not only does this novel show Corey’s exploration of where she stands on the aromantic and asexual spectra, but it’s also a fantastic middle finger at the idea of using others’ disability as your inspiration.

King Geordi the Great, by Gene Gant (January 9)
Geordi knows his parents mean well, but there’s nothing okay about being outed by them before he’s ready. What’s more: it led his best friend, Toff, to confess that he’s got feelings for him. Geordi doesn’t share those feelings, but he knows better than anyone what a tough home life Toff has, so how can he let him hurt any more? Playing boyfriend really takes its toll when their relationship moves further than Geordi’s prepared for, but he doesn’t know how to extricate himself from the lie, especially without hurting Toff when his best friend needs him most.

Let’s Talk About Love, by Claire Kann (January 23)
Let’s take a moment to obsess over that gloriously joyful and asexual cover, shall we? Okay, now we can move onto the glorious and (biromantic) asexual book! Alice is a 19-year-old college student who’s out and proud…as bi, anyway. As ace? Not so much. She already lost her last girlfriend over her asexuality, and she isn’t interested in going through that again. Or at least she wasn’t until she met Takumi, who’s absolutely adorable and has wormed his way into the heart she’d been trying so hard to close off. Now she has to decide if it’s worth putting herself out herself out there again.

Reign of the Fallen, by Sarah Glenn Marsh (January 23)
I loved Marsh’s lyrical and atmospheric debut, but you know what it didn’t have? A bisexual necromancer. Thankfully, she’s remedied that with her sophomore YA, which stars Odessa, a master necromancer who serves the kingdom of Karthia’s ruling Dead. But even when she raises them by summoning their souls from the Deadlands, they do not walk among Karthia like the living; rather, they must stay fully covered to avoid turning into violent, dangerous Shades. When the Shades start to increase in number, Odessa suspects something’s rotten in the state of Karthia. Who’s uncovering the Dead, and can she find them before the necromancers take all the blame for the city’s destruction?

The Dangerous Art of Blending In, by Angelo Surmelis (January 30)
Evan’s weighed down by two secrets he can’t share with anyone. One is that his strict Orthodox Greek mother physically abuses him—something at least his father, who’s too conflict-averse to step in, knows. The other is that he’s gay and in love with his best friend, Henry, and that’s something no one can find out. But when Henry reciprocates his attraction, Evan sees what his life could be if they were out in the open. Not to mention that loving and being loved by Henry helps him see he’s worth so much more than his mother’s sharp criticism would suggest. But can Evan have the life he dreams of without losing the only family he’s got? And can you read this powerful debut without drowning in your own tears? (Fair warning: I could not. But it was worth it.)

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, by Shaun David Hutchinson (February 6)
Elena Mendoza’s been different since she came into the world via virgin birth, but lately it’s gone to the next level. Suddenly, she has healing powers, is surrounded by miracles, and can’t explain, well, any of it. Is the apocalypse upon them? Is Elena the only one who can fix it? If you’re a loyal Hutchinson devotee (and if you’re reading a post on LGBTQA YA, how can you not be?), you know making choices and hitting turning points at the end of the world has been the standout theme of his work over the past few years. That said, it’ll be great to see what turns this familiar thread takes with his first female main character, and first bisexual lead at that.

The Last to Let Go, by Amber Smith (February 6)
Smith burst onto the YA scene with an instant New York Times bestseller with The Way I Used to Be, and she’s back with another complex and nuanced contemporary, this time with a lesbian protagonist. Brooke’s eye is on the future, until her mother is arrested for killing her abusive father, and it becomes impossible to focus on anything but the present. Now it’s just Brooke, Callie, and Aaron, left to pick up the pieces and somehow survive a life that’s drastically changed forever. That doesn’t make it easy to connect with other people, particularly at a new school; it’s especially challenging to explore her sexuality, though she’s quietly been into girls for years. But even as she keeps everyone at arm’s length, she’s falling for her new friend Dani, and it’s time she learn to deal with the past and let someone in.

Snowsisters, by Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick (February 15)
Soph and Tess come from different worldsSoph goes to private school in Manhattan, while Tess goes to public school in New Hampshire and lives on a dairy farmbut when they both attend the same weeklong writing conference and are assigned to be roommates, the collision of their worlds teaches them more than how to craft a perfect sentence.

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Kick-Ass Queer Teens, by Saundra Mitchell (February 27)
Remember when it used to be almost impossible to find queer lit on teen shelves? Well, now there’s a book that itself is entirely stories by so, so many faves, including Malinda Lo, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tess Sharpe, Alex Sanchez, Sara Farizan, Tessa Gratton, Natalie C. Parker, and even yours truly. With stories spanning genres, the rainbow, the globe, and the last millennium, there’s something for everyone in this gloriously queer collection, and you get some new to YA voices, including Tehlor Kay Mejia (whose queer YA fantasy, When We Set the Dark on Fire, releases in January 2019) and picture book author of How to Find a Fox Nilah Magruder.

People Like Us, by Dana M. Mele (February 27)
“I really want a queer YA Mean Girls,” I said. “Just wait until you read Dana Mele’s debut,” they said. Dear readers…this book is a pacing whirlwind of mystery, questionable narration, boarding school shenanigans, betrayal up the wazoo, and, yes, queer girls, including bisexual narrator Kay, who’s in love with her (taken, lesbian) best friend, Brie. Kay and her friends are engaging in one of their favorite rituals at their boarding school when they stumble upon the body of a dead classmate they barely recognize. But while Jessica may not have been familiar to them, apparently they were familiar to her—immediately after her death, Kay receives an email from Jessica threatening to expose Kay’s past if she doesn’t follow a series of instructions meant to destroy them all. Kay enlists help from a girl she barely knows to help her unlock each new set, but Nola has her own demands for both assisting and keeping her mouth shut. Truly, no one at Bates Academy can be trusted. But the bigger question is, can any of them survive it?

The Unbinding of Mary Reade, by Miriam McNamara (March 6)
Bi pirates!! Now that I have your attention, this book is about bi pirates!! Specifically, it’s about Mary Reade, to whom life and family have not been kind, and love has not come genuinely. She finds a welcome change of scenery as a hired sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, disguised as a boy, but when it’s attacked by pirates, she’s shocked to find there’s a place for girls on ships after all. Stunned by the vision of a girl pirate, Mary turns traitor against her ship and joins the aggressors, finally getting the shot at a free life she’s always wanted. But there’s one more thing on the ship she wants, and it’s the most dangerous yet: the captain’s mistress.

Inkmistress, by Audrey Coulthurst (March 6)
If you’ve been thinking that bi YA needs more demigods and dragons, you are absolutely right, and who better to bring them to you than the author who last brought you queer princesses? Said demigod is Asra, who’s blessed (or cursed?) with the power to dictate the future by writing it with her blood as the ink, a power that goes terribly awry when she uses it to help Ina, the girl she loves, find her manifest—the animal whose shape she’ll be able to take as part of her passage into adulthood.When Ina’s family and village are destroyed and the king provides no assistance, Ina—having no idea Asra was behind the tragedy—directs all her ire in his direction…ire that takes on a whole lot more power when she manifests as a vicious dragon. Asra is forced to go to extensive lengths to stop the girl she once loved from executing her revenge, and when she obtains help to do it, she’ll find her affection going in an unexpected direction, and that her own legacy will prove to be the most terrifying thing of all.

Boomerang, by Helene Dunbar (March 6)
When he left town five years ago, he was Michael Sterling. Now he’s back, he’s Sean Woodhouse, and all he wants is to collect his promised inheritance and use it to save Trip, the boy he got entangled with while he was gone. But returning means learning everything he’s missed and who everyone’s become while thinking he was kidnapped. It means seeing that maybe the people he left behind aren’t quite who he thought they were, and neither is the life he’s been living ever since. Dunbar’s already crafted some of the more beautiful YA I’ve read in the touching These Gentle Wounds, and I anxiously await reading her first bisexual boy-led work.

Fire Song, by Adam Garnet Jones (March 13)
Shane’s grieving the loss of his sister, Destiny, who died by suicide, but he can’t seem to find anyone to grieve with him. His mother’s pulled away, his girlfriend’s more interested in her own issues, and…well, there’s David, but their relationship is a secret. Shane doesn’t want it to stay that way; he’s desperate to get off the rez and move to Toronto for a different and better life. But David won’t follow, and it’s unlikely their relationship will survive the distance. Indigenous queer lit is incredibly rare in YA, which makes this one by a Cree author about as highly anticipated as a book can get for me.

Miles Away From You, by A.B. Rutledge (March 20)
Vivian’s been in a coma for a year and a half, and Miles is finally tired of fighting her parents about the care of the daughter whose true gender and name they never acknowledged anyway. When his moms buy him a ticket to Iceland to help him get away from the pain of his decision, he’s both nervous and excited to get away, though Vivian’s never far behind; the entire story, even the parts where he admits to hoping he hooks up with other people, is told in letters to her. Even in Iceland, though, Miles can’t really get away, thanks to Vivian’s celebrity on the internet and the book deal that followed. The only person who doesn’t seem to hate him is Oskar, the concierge at his hotel, whom he suspects his mother hired to babysit him. Together, they refocus the journey on honoring Vivian, and helping Miles learn to let go.

The Summer of Jordi Perez, by Amy Spalding (April 3)
Queer YA has been making huge strides in past years, but one thing we still rarely get is the light stuff. Thankfully, romcom veteran Spalding is bringing her talents over to the rainbow side with this delightful read about a fat lesbian fashion blogger named Abby, who lands a dream fashion internship and falls for Jordi, one of her new co-interns. The problem is, Jordi’s also her competition: only one of them can win a coveted job at the end of the summer. It’s just one weird thing in a summer full of them, but when Abby starts to worry that Jordi cares more about her art than about her, it might just be her tipping point. Will Abby get to call the shots in her own story?

Lizzie, by Dawn Ius (April 10)
I don’t even know where to begin with my excitement for this one. I mean, it’s lesbian Lizzie Borden. But before she became known for eighty-one notorious whacks of the axe, she was just a 17-year-old girl who’d never been kissed, working at her strict parents’ B&B, suffering from a condition that makes her black out. Lizzie’s thirsting for freedom and excitement, so new maid Bridget is exactly the breath of fresh air Lizzie’s been dying for. But when their friendship turns romantic and Lizzie’s parents won’t have it, it seems to dial up Lizzie’s condition to 11, making her unable to be responsible for any of her actions. Based on popular theories about the original Lizzie, this retelling promises to be a fascinating one, crafted by the same author who modernized King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn for Anne & Henry.

Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli (April 24)
Admit it: you were sold on this one the second you saw “by Becky Albertalli.” And, let’s be real, you should be. Between Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is one of the most wonderful gay YA romances of all time, and The Upside of Unrequited, which is the queerest-casted allocishet romance that ever was, Albertalli’s been a reliable go-to for wonderfully written, hilarious, romantic, and real books that give happy endings to those who haven’t always been able to find them. This time, Simon’s best friend, Leah, is at the center, and despite seeing the reception of Simon’s coming out, she still hasn’t quite figured out how to tell everyone beyond her mom that she’s bisexual; it’s hard enough being the least privileged member of her clique, insecure in her skills, and, now, watching her friend group fracture. And of course, just to make things trickier, she’s falling for someone she never expected.

White Rabbit, by Caleb Roehrig (April 24)
When an author debuts with your favorite gay thriller ever, naturally you hope and pray that their next one lives up. Well, I haven’t read this one yet, but by literally every account I’ve seen by those who have, Roehrig’s sophomore is every bit as successful at twists, turns, and general greatness. Rufus and Sebastian are definitely Done with a capital D, so Rufus has no idea why his ex suddenly wants to talk. But it’s only the beginning of a terrible night…one that includes them finding Rufus’s sister standing over her own boyfriend’s dead body, bloody knife in hand. April swears she didn’t do it, but there’s obviously more to the story, and unfortunately, Sebastian’s the only one can help him find it.

Ship It, by Britta Lundin (May 1)
Fandom’s been a really fun setting for YA in the past few years, and this debut for fans of Geekerella, All the Feels, and How to Repair a Mechanical Heart takes it on something fierce. It stars Claire, a Demon Heart fangirl who meets its star, Forest, at Comic-Con. It should be an awesome moment for her, but his negative reaction to her shipping his character with another male one pisses her off. Unfortunately for Forest, his homophobic response to her Q&A question goes viral, and now the show has a serious PR problem. The producers’ solution? Hiring Claire to join the cast for the remainder of the publicity tour. It’s definitely a notable experience, and not just because she’s hanging out with celebrities. In fact, the most interesting person she spends time with is Tess, a fanartist who turns Claire’s focus onto her own sexuality.

Girl Made of Stars, by Ashley Herring Blake (May 15)
Blake’s How to Make a Wish is one of my favorite girl-girl YA romances of all time, and yet I still think she’s outdone herself with her newest, about a bi girl named Mara whose heart is torn into two when her beloved twin brother is accused of rape by her close friend, Hannah. There’s also a third piece of her heart gone awry, trying to figure out where she stands with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. There are no simple choices in this beautifully written, careful, nuanced book and no sidestepping the issues of consent and victim-blaming as Mara, Charlie, and Hannah try to navigate the tricky waters of their shifting relationships while they all seek justice and validation in their own ways.

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants, by Florence Gonsalves (May 15)
Danny’s freshman year at Harvard wasn’t kind to her. She’s failing, she’s losing her BFF, and she’s generally becoming unmoored. The one thing that draws her is a girl she met in eating disorder rehab, a connection that makes her feel like she’s finally getting back on her feet. But a tragic event blows that all apart, and it will take all the strength Danny possesses to pick up the pieces if she wants a future.

Nothing Happened, by Molly Booth (May 15)
There are a whole bunch of points of view in Booth’s supercute Much Ado About Nothing-retelling sophomore, but the ones that’ll really make you squee are those between Hana and Claudia, two longtime members of Camp Dogberry (lifetime members, in Hana’s case, since it’s owned by her parents) who’ve spent the whole year falling for each other via text message and are finally being reunited. But not everyone is Team Haudia (Team Clauna?); John, who’s utterly lacking a gaydar and thought he’d be the one landing Claudia this summer, doesn’t mind starting a rumor that Hana’s back with her ex-boyfriend if it allows him to think he’s still got a shot. And Claudia might just be insecure enough to believe it…

Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro (May 22)
If The Hate U Give and Dear Martin had a gay baby to be single-mothered by Juliet Takes a Breath, you’d have Oshiro’s hard-hitting, angry-making, tear-jerking, incredibly important debut. Moss generally prefers to go under the radar these days; the aftermath of his father’s murder by the Oakland Police Department six years earlier has given him a panic disorder that makes crowds, attention, and the sight of the cops all tough to handle. But meeting Javier helps him feel a little bolder these days, and when the Oakland PD starts taking over his school, instituting metal detectors and “random” locker searches to the detriment of his fellow students, his activism kicks in. Then things go further than he ever expected, and Moss doesn’t know how to handle it. If he doesn’t want anxiety to take over his life again, he’ll have to channel his anger into something productive, no matter what it may cost.

The Brightsiders, by Jen Wilde (May 22)
Bless Jen Wilde, who last year gave us one of YA’s most delightful bisexual romances in Queens of Geek and has returned to do it all over again while also bestowing upon us the most bisexual book cover that has ever existed in the history of the universe. When Emmy’s partying gets out of control one night, it throws everything in her life into upheaval, including her relationship with her girlfriend, Jessie. Thankfully, her bandmates, Ryan and Alfie, are always there for her, and her friends have a brilliant plan to sweep her away from everything and get her out of the spotlight and away from the temptation of alcohol. But she didn’t count on the temptation of Alfie, or where their casual hookup would lead.

Social Intercourse, by Greg Howard (June 5)
Beck’s by no means psyched to see his dad dating star quarterback Jaxon’s mom. For one thing, wasn’t she a lesbian? But more importantly, Jaxon used to bully Beck—pretty low-hanging fruit when it comes to an out-and-proud gay kid in South Carolina. Jaxon isn’t exactly thrilled about it either; he’d like to see his moms get back together. Whether they want to or not, the two boys will have to work together if they wanna split their parents up, and their conservative town’s first ever Rainbow Prom is just the place to do it. But in true Parent Trap style, nothing goes quite as planned.

Dear Rachel Maddow, by Adrienne Kisner (June 5)
Rachel Maddow is Brynn’s guiding light, a fact that was cemented not just by watching her show daily, but by the fact that when she wrote to Ms. Maddow for a school project, the TV host actually responded. Now writing to her has become how Brynn dealswith her breakup with Sarah, with her brother’s death, with her academic struggles, and with her overly passive parents. She doesn’t send the letters, but just writing them helps her cope. Then the time comes for her to take action, even though it puts her personal life at risk, and the time for dealing with things quietly and at the comfort of her own desk is over. It’s time for her to imagine Rachel Maddow’s advice, and, for once, run with it.

Sometime After Midnight, by L. Philips (June 12)
The author of one last year’s cutest gay romances returns with a new one that combines Cinderella, social media, and #AlexFromTarget. Nate and Cameron hit it off fast and furious at a club one night, but when Nate learns that Cameron’s father is responsible for destroying his own father’s life, he takes off, leaving Cameron with nothing put a picture of his Sharpie-decorated Chucks. Cameron is determined to find the guy who piqued his interest, and his sister is equally determined to use her own social media following to find him. She posts the photo on Instagram, and immediately, the internet is swept up in the romantic whirlwind fairytale. But finding Nate is only step one; reconciling what separated them to begin with is a whole other #issue.

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