Happy LGBTQAP preview day! I love to talk trends in this space, but first, can we all take a gander at the sheer volume? This season has double the rainbow content of previous seasons, and we are here for every single word of it. Upcoming releases include graphic novels, vibrant fantasies, friendship stories, examinations of homophobia, romantic comedies, and so much more. Thankfully, we’re looking at much more trans rep this season than the almost nothing we had in 2018, as both main characters and love interests, binary and nonbinary. There’s also an increase in aromantic representation, more titles exploring drag culture than ever before, multiple titles featuring zombies, and a couple of collaborations that promise to be complete and total dream teams. In fact, there’s so much that we had to split the preview into two sections: This one covers books releasing between January and April, and there’ll be a second (even longer) post that’s strictly May and June releases coming tomorrow, so keep an eye out!
For even more rainbow love, make sure you check out the upcoming Sequels post for Firestarter, by Tara Sim (January 15); Song of the Dead, by Sarah Glenn Marsh (January 22); Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution, by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (March 5); Ruse, by Cindy Pon (March 12); and King of Fools, by Amanda Foody (April 30); as well as short stories by Kekla Magoon, Justina Ireland, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Jay Coles in the anthology Black Enough, edited by Ibi Zoboi (January 8)!
Our Year of Maybe, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 15)
Back with yet another beautifully crafted dual-POV YA, Solomon in her sophomore introduces us to best friends Sophie and Peter, who have the kind of friendship many only dream about. They can rely on each other for everything, and that includes a kidney, the ultimate gift Sophie gives Peter just before senior year. Sophie’s happy to do it, especially since not only is Peter her best friend, but she’s also in love with him. Peter now has a new chance at life, and he’s not sure he wants Sophie to consume quite as much of it as she always has, especially when he meets the extremely cute Chase in class and sparks fly. Sophie doesn’t even know Peter’s bisexual (although he is out to his family), which makes it all the more freeing for him when he meets Chase’s friends-slash-band and suddenly has a whole queer crew. But where does that leave Sophie and their friendship? And how much of Peter can really belong to someone else when a piece of Sophie is literally inside him?
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, by Sabina Khan (January 29)
I always get particularly excited for “reliqueer” (that’s religious + queer) YA, and this book about a Bengali Muslim teen who’s caught between the white girl she loves who’s tired of being a secret and the family who can’t ever know about her is exactly the kind of story YA needs in spades. Finding a girlfriend isn’t Rukhsana’s problem; she and Ariana have been happily dating in secret for six months. But Ariana doesn’t understand why Rukhsana can’t come out to her family as she has, and even Ariana’s mother is starting to grow impatient (and Islamophobic) about it. Then the secret comes out in the worst possible way, and soon, Rukhsana and her family are on their way to Bangladesh, where things only get harder and more restrictive for her. When she finds her grandmother’s diary, she learns there’s more to her mother and grandmother’s upbringing than she ever imagined, and that fighting for her heart is a battle she can’t afford to lose.
Death Prefers Blondes, by Caleb Roehrig (January 29)
If you’ve been dreaming of the perfect queer read for fans of the Ocean’s 11 franchise—or, even better, Ocean’s 8—prepare to feel blessed by Roehrig’s third thriller. This one centers around bisexual heiress Margo, aka Miss Anthropy, aka the head of a thieving ring of drag queens who’ve all got their own private reasons for needing influxes of cash. Also in the gang (and given POV’s) are Margo’s stubborn best friend, Axel; handsome dancer Leif; sweet and tough orphan Davon—and, much to Axel’s chagrin, Axel’s little brother, Joaquin, who’s drawing the eye of another one of the queens. With their acrobatic skills, technological connections, and stellar talents for disguise, the quintet seems unbeatable…until they knock off a dangerous target who hates to lose and has a team of violent minions at his disposal. They’re running for their lives when an even bigger mystery falls into Margo’s lap, one that places a target on her chest too big to ignore.
The Cerulean, by Amy Ewing (January 29)
Hello, and welcome to a fantasy series based out of a Sapphic Utopia. Sounds perfect, right? Not so much to Sera, who seems to be the only Cerulean who doesn’t feel an attraction to girls like she’s supposed to. When she’s chosen to be her people’s latest sacrifice, necessary to help them find a new planet, she doesn’t die. She lands, still alive, on Kaolin, where she meets twins Leo and Agnes, the latter of whom has the inverse of Sera’s problem: she’s a lesbian in a homophobic society. When the twins discover blue-haired, silver-skinned Sera while searching for additions to their father’s freak show, they each bond with her in their own way. But when Sera learns some dangerous secrets, she realizes she must return home before everyone on Cerulean suffers.
Bloom, by Kevin Panetta (ill. by Savanna Ganucheau) (January 29)
Ari loved working at the family bakery as a kid, but now that he’s graduating high school, all he wants is to move away to the city to be with his band. Then his bakery replacement, Hector, arrives, and bam, he’s messing with Ari’s plans and his heart, with his dream of having the very job Ari’s dying to leave behind. As they spend more time together, feelings blossom out of control against the fragrant backdrop of the bakery—but is there really a future for them when part of Ari’s heart is in the city?
The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, by Shaun David Hutchinson (February 19)
I don’t know how Hutchinson has kept up his pace of a queer book a year for so long, but I am so, so glad and grateful that he has. Death and the mysteries of life have been at the heart of most of his latest work, and as you may guess from this glorious title, that continues with his newest. It stars Dino, whose life is all about death—that’s just how it goes when your parents own a funeral home. But he didn’t expect the dead to suddenly include his former best friend, July, or for July to return as a zombie. Now that she’s back, they have a chance to figure out both what the heck is going on and why their friendship fell apart.
Immoral Code, by Lillian Clark (February 19)
Heist books are always in demand, and this one’s got it all: hacking and other cyber-criminality, an excellent cast that includes a great moral balance presented in a nuanced way, a little revenge for some lousy fathering, and, yes, aroace representation. Reese is among a cast of five who decide to commit the ultimate heist when one of their own, Bellamy, is denied financial aid for her dream school because of her father’s obscene wealth…even though none of it is going to her tuition. It’s Nari who comes up with the plan, brilliant hacker that she is, but each has a role to play in skimming a little off the top of all of Bells’ father’s financial transactions. What really makes this book shine is the moral compass of the character in perhaps the most precarious position: Nari’s boyfriend. This is one of those debuts that lands the author squarely on the “I’m down for whatever you write next” list.
The Afterward, by E.K. Johnston (February 19)
Johnston might be YA’s most prolific genre-jumper, and she’s at it again with the gay epic fantasy of your dreams. The Afterward should be set in a golden age; that’s what was supposed to come after the godsgem cured the king of Cadrium. But it’s not much of one for apprentice knight Kalanthe Ironheart, who needs money more than she needs a heroic reputation, and is headed into an unwanted marriage in order to get it. And it isn’t one for thief Olsa Rhetsdaughter, either, who can no longer pull off her old tricks now that she’s too famous to hide in the shadows. They both want independence, and they both want love. (Yes, with each other. Yay for the gay!) But when it turns out the godsgem isn’t quite done with its task yet, their future is anything but set in stone.
The Music of What Happens, by Bill Konigsberg (February 26)
Max may be doomed to spending his summer working, but when he gets an offer to drop the job he’s dreading in favor of working on his classmate Jordan’s ailing mother’s food truck, he immediately takes the opportunity to help out the grieving family in need. Max and Jordan might be polar opposites—the social jock and the emo boy who hates sports, respectively—but with Max feeling buried by the memory of his sexual assault at a frat party and Jordan struggling to keep things together while his mother continues to fade, the boys find that leaning on each other might finally be the salvation they both need.
We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia (February 26)
Dani Vargas has a secret: she isn’t from the side of the wall her papers claim she is. But no one can know that if she’s to fulfill the dream her parents set for her. The Garcia family would never accept her as the Primera, the wife on equal footing, of their son Mateo if they knew the truth. And certainly Segunda Carmen, Dani’s greatest rival from the school that bred them for their wifely roles, would never let her forget it. When Dani’s secret is threatened, she has no choice but to accept a position as a spy in the Garcia house, a dangerous and compromising role. But her heart yearns to help those suffering under the boots of the wealthy, and what begins as a reluctant task begins to spark in her heart. And so do feelings for Carmen, who may or may not be trustworthy. Rife with both political relevance and girls kissing, Mejia’s debut is sure to make its mark, both for those who fell in love with her writing through her stories in All Out and Toil & Trouble and those reading her for the first time.
The Fever King, by Victoria Lee (March 1)
Noam Álvaro is the lone survivor of a wild magic that killed his family and turned him into a technopath, able to control technology. When that lands him the opportunity to join the magical elite of Carolinia, one of the nations that evolved out of the former United States, he knows he has to take it; he’s the Jewish son of undocumented immigrants, and both the safety and the power to potentially forge an easier path for immigrants fleeing viral magic outbreaks are things he can’t say no to. He’s finally going to learn the science behind the magic, and when he does, he’ll be able to use it against the government for the greater good—that is, if his feelings for Dara, the cruel but brutally hot son of the minister, don’t get in the way.
The Last 8, by Laura Pohl (March 5)
What do aliens and aromantic representation both have in common? They’re both in this utterly epic sci-fi debut, starring a bisexual aromantic girl named Clover who’s witness to a wild apocalypse caused by aliens with ray guns, and learns after six months of surviving completely on her own that there are seven others who’ve lived through it, too. When she makes her way to their stronghold, she expects to find a team in shape to fight back; instead, she finds an apathetic crew who’d rather eat snacks and play video games. But Clover didn’t survive an alien invasion just to wither away, and it’s up to her to convince them that they didn’t, either—but the more research they do, the more they uncover that they really, really wish they hadn’t.
Out of Salem, by Hal Schrieve (March 5)
So many major points for this one right at the offset: a fourteen-year-old protag—which is all too rare in queer YA—who happens to be genderqueer and using they/them pronouns, which is one of the only things rarer. Oh, and what you don’t get from the blurb is that there’s another queer narrator, Aysel, who’s fat and Turkish and a lesbian and oh, yes, also a werewolf. (Now that is how you dual-POV.) When Z’s entire family was killed in a car accident, they were the only one to come back. Now they’re trying to maintain a normal existence as an undead, but with their body falling apart, that’s easier said than done, even with a new guardian. In a world where they’re becoming increasingly undesirable to be around and Aysel is fearing for her life amid major werewolf discrimination and suspicious murders, the two form a deep friendship that may be the only thing that can save them both.
You Asked for Perfect, by Laura Silverman (March 5)
Silverman’s sophomore beautifully captures the struggles of academic pressure and trying to do it all, which, for bisexual Ariel Stone, means maintaining the GPA that’ll keep him valedictorian (even while he’s struggling in AP Calc BC), being violin first chair (even if that requires learning a brand-new, difficult piece out of nowhere), being there for his best friend (who suddenly needs his violin skills as well for her own dreams of the future) (and yes, by the way, she is a lesbian), and observing Jewish traditions of Shabbat dinner and holidays with his family (including his similarly overachieving little sister). But it’s while struggling to get his math grade up that he finds the most desirable distraction of all: Amir, a classmate who’s never quite seemed to warm up to him but suddenly makes Ariel feel, uh, quite warm all over. Amir turns out to be the best thing Ariel never knew he needed, but he might be the one commitment that takes Ariel’s stress level over the top.
Squad, by Mariah MacCarthy (March 12)
Jenna is a cheerleader with a fabulous life and the closest friendship anyone could imagine…until without warning, it’s over, and everything falls apart. Who is she without Raejean? It’s getting harder and harder to know, especially when she’s getting iced out and even her squad performance takes a tumble. Now she has to figure out who she is and what she can love on her own. With the help of her brother and his quirky friends, Jenna discovers she’s open to a lot more than she thought, including LARPing, falling for trans guy James, and examining the fact that maybe her feelings for her best friend weren’t 100% platonic.
Kiss Number 8, by Colleen AF Venable (March 12)
Amanda keeps trying to understand the big deal about kissing, but she’s seven in and still not getting the magic. Number 8, though…number 8 is terrible in its own way, because it was with a girl (her best friend). Now Amanda finally gets why so many people love making out, but she sure wishes she didn’t. There’s no telling her family about this, and Catholic school isn’t exactly the most rainbow flag-waving environment. Oh, and her dad’s got his own secret, one that could destroy her family completely.
The Weight of the Stars, by K. Ancrum (March 19)
I’d like to take a pause here and declare that if you have not yet read Ancrum’s achingly beautiful and torturous The Wicker King, please stop what you’re doing and immediately read and let it destroy you. (Yes, it’s also queer.) Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let her re-destroy you in her newest, a soft and gorgeous near-future romance about a butch girl named Ryann whose life is a constant struggle (including the loss of her parents, her brother’s selective mutism after the accident, and the baby he brought home for them to raise in their small trailer), and Alexandria, the extremely tough new girl whose life is defined by events that happened before she was born. When Ryann’s teacher asks her to befriend Alexandria, sharing that she’s the infamous uninaut baby—conceived by an astronaut just before her one-way mission into space—Ryann has to say yes. With her own love for space, fostered by her mother’s work for NASA, she’s the only one who can understand Alexandria’s passion. Plus, Ryann has something of a history of bringing kids with tough backgrounds into the fold, and her found family of friends is up for the task. But Ryann has no idea what she’s truly in for when she agrees to help Alexandria work on receiving messages from her mother, or how far she’ll go to make her new friend happy.
Small Town Hearts, by Lillie Vale (March 19)
With the future on the horizon, life is about to change in a major way for Babe Vogel. Her best friends are going to college, her ex-girlfriend is back in Oar’s Rest and wreaking havoc on Babe’s heart, and suddenly there’s Levi, who’s spending way too much time at the coffee shop where Babe works…and in her thoughts. Living in a beach town, she knows the number one rule is that you never fall for a summer tourist who’s only going to leave you behind before the leaves even start changing. But what happens when the heart won’t stop wanting what it wants?
Once & Future, by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (March 26)
Is there nothing this pair can’t do? In addition to their own fabulous books, now they’ve teamed up for a brand-new genderbending sci-fi series that turns Camelot on its butt, with King Arthur finding his analog reincarnated in immigrant Ari. After she crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a sword from a stone in the tradition of her ancestor, she meets Merlin, who has aged backward into a teenager and needs Ari to help bring down the oppressive government regime. No biggie!
The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman (April 2)
Bisexual Violet Saunders has no idea what she’s getting into when her mother relocates them from Ossining to Four Paths, a town she’s shocked to learn contains her family’s roots. As members of the founding families, the Saunders have powers that make a difference to the future of a town decimated by the Gray, a monster that awaits those who venture too far and from which few have emerged alive. One person who has survived, though not with all limbs intact, is Harper, the daughter of another founding family. And Harper wants revenge, specifically on the founding family member who left her behind. She wants to see Justin go down for leaving her to die, and the perfect opportunity may have just arisen. But when Violet unknowingly unleashes the monster, the three have no choice but to work together or risk losing everyone they love.
A Place for Wolves, by Kosoko Jackson (April 2)
Breaking into a YA with a historical thriller set in Kosovo during the war in the late nineties is a way to make a splash, especially when you center two boys (including a Black lead) falling in love. James ended up in Kosovo thanks to his parents being sent there by USAID, and now he fears the only way he’ll leave is in a body bag. But at least he has his boyfriend, Tomas, and the two do their best to make it to the embassy amid the violence. The book shifts between their current journey and the letters James wrote to his older sister, Anna, in America before the war broke out, which reveal the backstory of his relationship and the increasingly tense and violent atmosphere in the months leading up to war. This book sounds like nothing I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it with a box of tissues nearby.
The Princess and the Fangirl, by Ashley Poston (April 2)
If you loved Geekerella as much as I did, join me in being thrilled by the prospect of revisiting Poston’s world of Starfield fandom in this companion. Imogen Lovelace is desperate to keep her fave, Princess Amara, from being fridged out of her favorite franchise. Unfortunately, Jessica Stone, the actress behind Amara, isn’t dreading the impending death nearly as much. Jess’s done with fandom, done with expectations, and done with Excelsicon…after this year. But at the convention, Imogen gets mistaken for Jess, and it doesn’t lead to anything good between them. Then an important script leaks, and when Jess becomes the main suspect, the two girls will have to switch places to figure out who’s really behind it. Fandom romances are extremely my jam, and if there’s anyone I trust to nail it twice, it’s Poston.
The Red Scrolls of Magic, by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu (April 9)
Malec is back! And they’re on vacation, or at least they’re supposed to be. But what was supposed to be a glorious trip around Europe turns, in Paris, into something very, very dark. When an old friend tells them about the Crimson Hand, a demon-worshipping cult that is hellbent on destruction, it rings an unfortunate bell…because Magnus happens to have started the Crimson Hand as a joke. But they’ve turned it from farce into something very real, and now Magnus and Alex have to find and stop their leader before it’s too late. With demons on their tails and no way of knowing whom they can trust, this vacation has decidedly lost its relaxation element—and when secrets between them come to light, it may lose its romance, too.
Love & Other Curses, by Michael Thomas Ford (April 9)
The Suicide Notes author is back with a gay YA about an out aspiring drag queen named Sam who’s part of a cursed family: anyone they fall in love with before they turn seventeen dies. Sam’s determined not to fall prey to the curse, which probably isn’t an issue, since there’s no one on the horizon and he’s never actually been kissed. Then Tom Swift comes to town for the summer, and before he knows it, Sam’s got a crush…one that can’t be reciprocated, because trans boy Tom is straight. As life gets more and more complicated for Sam and the curse seems to be going ahead with or without a romance, the strings holding their confusing friendship together just might snap, if Sam doesn’t snap first.
The Meaning of Birds, by Jaye Robin Brown (April 16)
Wanna get punched in the gut real fast? Try to keep your heart from breaking after approximately one chapter of Brown’s third novel, about a girl named Jess whose anger issues flare when the one person who calmed them is taken from her. Alternating between the now, when Jess’s girlfriend Vivi has just passed away after a sudden illness, and the before, when Vivi first waltzed into Jess’s life with her love for birds and her support for Jess’s artistic talent, this is a book that tugs readers in all directions. Jess is trying to get a grip on her temper, but it’ll take getting sent to disciplinary school to find a surprising way back to herself.
Starworld, by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner (April 16)
Take one author who’s already big in queer YA fantasy but has never published contemporary, and one who specializes in wrenching, brilliant contemps about friends and family but has never published one with a queer lead, and what do you get? Frankly, the best of all worlds. This is a beautiful collaboration about two girls who find the most unlikely escape in each other and the virtual world they create through their texts. But Sam is still figuring out her sexuality (and leaning toward lesbian), while Zoe is straight and has no idea Sam isn’t. Coming from such different worlds, they never seemed to make sense as friends, and when Sam develops romantic feelings Zoe can’t reciprocate, it might spell the end of everything they’ve had.
How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom, by S.J. Goslee (April 23)
It’s only junior year, but Nolan’s already given up on finding romantic happiness in high school; Pine Valley is just not the place where gay boys find their happily ever after. But his sister refuses to let Nolan’s cynicism reign, and when she nabs him a junior-senior prom ticket, he has no choice but to play along. Is love in the cards for him after all? After the romantic, bro-tastic hilarity of Goslee’s debut, Whatever., I can’t wait to find out.
Hot Dog Girl, by Jennifer Dugan (April 30)
God, that cover. Every time I look at it I want to die of laughter, and yes, the book is every bit as charming and funny. It stars Elouise Parker, aka Lou, as the titular hot dog girl—the girl with the delightful position of dressing up as a dancing hot dog at Magic Castle Playland. The park also employs Nick, the pirate on whom Lou is hopelessly (seeing as he already has a girlfriend) crushing, and Seeley, Lou’s best friend, who’s decidedly uninterested in Lou’s efforts to find a replacement for the girl who broke her heart just a few months earlier. It’s the most special place in the world to Lou, so the announcement that it’s the park’s last season sends her into a tailspin. Can she save the park and get the guy? Or will her terrible methods of creating the perfect summer blow up in her face, while also proving she still has a lot to learn about what people (including her) really want?
Belly Up, by Eva Darrows (April 30)
It’s quite a time for Serendipity “Sara” Rodriguez. She’s being moved to a new school, away from her best friend. She’s questioning her sexuality. She’s constantly struggling with her biracial identity. Oh, and she got pregnant at a party by a guy whose last name and number she didn’t get, and must decide on her own what she’s gonna do about it. Luckily, she finds the perfect new group of friends at school, friends who also ID as queer and help her feel comfortable in her own skin—including extremely cute demisexual Romani boy Leaf, who feeds her and falls for her and confuses the path she’s chosen for herself. Complicated? A little bit. Warmhearted and affirming? Definitely. This book is billed as Juno meets Gilmore Girls and it definitely fits, if those books were set in a world where everyone was familiar with or at least open to Tumblr discourse on gender and sexuality, and if they actually had transgender and asexual secondary characters.