It’s here! It’s here! The LGBTQAP July–December preview is here! This is one of the most unusual seasons of queer YA we’ve seen, I think, in that in over twenty titles, almost none is your usual “boy meets boy” or “girl meets girl.” (And the one that is happens to be between boys who never get that kind of page time.) While I do miss my contemporary romances, readers will celebrate the incredible rise of queer SFF coming to shelves over the next six months, and how much more asexual rep we’re seeing from major publishers. (Also, if there has been a character from a major publishing house who’s aroace on the page prior to this season, I haven’t seen it!) And, finally, a marked rise in intersectionality: from multiple Muslim sci-fis to Jewish and Asian fantasies to romantic comedy between two boys of color, one of whom is hard of hearing…it’s almost like we’re getting somewhere.
See all 2018 previews here.
Get even more queer rep in Bright We Burn, by Kiersten White (July 10); Ruin of Stars, by Linsey Miller (August 28); The Rising Gold, by Ava Jae (October 2); Zenith Dream, by F.T. Lukens (October 11); and Runebreaker, by Alex Kahler (November 27), all of which you’ll find in our upcoming sequel preview, and in a number of upcoming anthologies, which will be covered in their own preview as well!
Hullmetal Girls, by Emily Skrutskie (July 17)
First she delivered lesbian sea pirates in a brilliant slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romantic duology. Now she’s back with an aromantic asexual girl named Aisha who gives her body over to become a partially robotic weapon (aka, a Scela) in order to bring in the money her little siblings need to keep her sister out of dangerous dye work and her brother able to receive the best meds possible for his disease. Becoming a Scela is a dangerous procedure most don’t survive, and at the end of it, Aisha’s matched up with three others with whom she’ll need to not only serve but also share thoughts and emotions. (One is a trans girl, another a pan cis boy.) Working together so closely brings them closer together, but it also takes its toll, especially when Aisha learns a perspective-changing secret about the aunt who’s caring for her siblings.
The Dark Beneath the Ice, by Amelinda Bérubé (August 7)
To be honest, I’ve never even seen Black Swan, but if you tell me there are shades of it in a book, I am allll over it; the combo of creepiness, queerness, and competition is just too fabulous to ignore. So I’m incredibly psyched for this debut that promises to be a mashup of that movie and Paranormal Activity, about a girl named Marianne who has quit dance and keeps losing pieces of her life ever since. Not to mention all the bizarre and unsettling things happening around her, like mirrors breaking and the river calling to her. Is she slowly going insane? Or is there something otherworldly in the works? The only person she can turn to for help is Ron, the new girl at school and the daughter of a local psychic. But when their first attempt at an exorcism doesn’t go as planned, all hell breaks loose and threatens to tear them apart.
Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram (August 28)
I’m so excited to be able to include this book, not just because it’s great on so many levels but because it’s so rare that we get books depicting a character’s earliest stages of questioning. This debut isn’t about sexuality at all; Darius has so many things to figure out first. Like where and how he fits in his family, including a disinterested father, Persian mother, and sister who was taught fluent Farsi while he was not. Like how he’s going to adjust to a summer of his family living with the grandparents in Iran he’s never met in person. Like how to embrace having his first true best friend—the sweet, fun, and loyal Sohrab—and how to keep up the feeling of being platonically loved when he moves back to the States and leaves Sohrab behind. But his sexuality is there, a fact about him just like his love of Star Trek and his depression, and by the time you reach the end of the book, you’ll wish more than anything you could hold his hand while he deals with it all.
Summer Bird Blue, by Akemi Dawn Bowman (September 11)
The Morris Award finalist is back with a contemporary novel about a mixed-race teen on the ace spectrum named Rumi whose heart is shattered by the untimely death of her little sister, Lea. Unable to process her grief while also taking care of Rumi, Rumi’s mother sends her to live with her aunt in Hawaii. The island may be beautiful, but all Rumi feels is absence—of her sister, of the music they used to write together, and of the mother who sent her away. But there are new friends to be made in her new home, and they may be the key to finding her way back to herself and moving forward even if her heart can’t quite move on.
The Navigator’s Touch, by Julia Ember (September 13)
The sequel to one of my favorite f/f YA fantasies has finally arrived! Ragna and Ersel return, and this time, the story is from shield-maiden Ragna’s point of view. After losing everything, she’s determined to get revenge, but knows she’s short on the resources needed to get it. With the aid of the magical maps on her skin, she traverses the Northern Sea to Frisia to ask for help, but is rejected by those who underestimate her strength and power. In order to prove herself, she embarks on a mission she may not survive, and will have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice for the scraps of her past and home.
Kens, by Raziel Reid (September 18)
Cult classic Heathers goes all-male in this parody novel by the author of When Everything Feels Like the Movies. Ken Hilton rules Willows High with a perfectly manicured iron fist and his secondary Kens, Ken Roberts and Ken Carson, at his side. A kid like Tommy Rawlins can only dream of competing…or so he thinks. Then he gets a shot at actually becoming a Ken, but with new guy Blaine also drawing his interest, what’s a boy to do? Will Blaine rescue him from a life of Kendom and help him destroy Ken Hilton once and for all? Or is Tommy just a fashion victim in more ways than one?
Strange Grace, by Tessa Gratton (September 18)
Some villages have beautiful fairy tales of their founding. This one’s began with a witch and a devil, and requires a young man be sacrificed to the Devil’s Forest at the rise of the Slaughter Moon. Well, the moon has risen, and the forest is ready to claim the saintly Rhun. But there are parts to be played by witch Mairwen and outcast Arthur, too, and it’s on the three of them to get rid of the devil for good. But nothing is as it seems in this town, and what they discover will stun them, change everything, and show just how deep and powerful their love for one another can be.
Black Wings Beating, by Alex London (September 25)
All hail the return of queer SFF fave London and his return to YA! The opening of this new trilogy introduces twins Kylee and Brysen, both of whom were raised on the art of falconry, though only Brysen has any interest in continuing now that their abusive father is dead. But Kylee is the one with the real talent, a magical gift that pushes Brysen to be his best, too. When war comes to their home, they have no choice but to work together on the most dangerous quest imaginable: hunting down the Ghost Eagle, the very creature who killed their father and so many before him. Where Kylee is aiming to keep Brysen safe, he has the boy he loves in mind. Together, can they do what no one else has been able to? Or will they succumb to the dangers that surround them on all sides?
For a Muse of Fire, by Heidi Heilig (September 25)
Pan-tasy alert! (I’m sorry, I had to. You know I had to.) Heilig wrote one of YA fantasy’s loveliest secondary queer characters in her debut duology, and in her new cleverly crafted trilogy, the queer girl takes center stage. (Also, in what’s ironically rare for pan rep in YA, the central romance is between a cis pan girl and cis boy.) (Oh, and secondary characters include a trans girl character, a cis bi girl, and a trans nonbinary god who uses they/them pronouns.) Jetta is a puppeteer of sorts, one who seems to perform magic with her family’s shadow plays…because performing magic is exactly what she’s doing. She can see the souls of the newly dead and bind them to puppets with her blood. But with colonizers having taken over, she must keep this power a secret, using it only to guarantee her family a chance to perform for the emperor. Supposedly, he has access to a spring that might cure Jetta of an ailment she doesn’t quite understand. But their journey to the spring comes with its own highs and lows that will rock Jetta’s world, mind, and heart.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, by Mackenzi Lee (October 2)
You already met and fell in love with Felicity when you knew her as Monty’s sister in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, but now, the aroace aspiring doctor is getting a book of her own. She’s returned to England determined to enroll in medical school, but the very fact of her gender keeps her barred from the one thing she wants most in the world. Then an opportunity to meet a doctor she idolizes opens up, and Felicity has to take it. Only problem? It’s in Germany, and she doesn’t have the funds to get there. When a solution presents itself in the form of a mysterious young woman who says she’ll pay their way as long as Felicity permits her to join her on the trip disguised as a maid, Felicity goes against her better judgment and accepts the deal. But when she finds out exactly who she has smuggled along, it’s the beginning of yet another border-hopping quest that I for one can’t wait for.
The Spy With the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke (October 2)
You don’t need to have read Locke’s YA debut to pick up this second book in the world of magic red balloons and time travel, but you won’t be sorry if you do. This is the one that really flies over the rainbow, alternating perspectives between the Klein siblings: bisexual Ilse and demisexual Wolf, who’s in love with his best friend, Max. Both siblings have magic running through their blood, a secret that’s just been uncovered by the American government. Now they’ve been blackmailed into serving, and while Ilse helps the US develop the atomic bomb, Wolf works to sabotage the Germans’ nuclear project. Then his plane is shot down, landing him in dire straits that can only be fixed with Ilse’s help. But Ilse is surrounded by her own danger, and if her letters to Wolf are discovered, she’s sure to be charged with treason.
Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legrand (October 2)
Legrand only just released the New York Times-bestselling Furyborn, and she’s already back with this terrifying read, perfect for Halloween month. Marion, Val, and Zoey are the Sawkill Girls, each wildly different but all living on Sawkill Rock, an island where girls have been disappearing since well before they were born. Marion is the newest, having just moved with her family after her father dies to work in Val’s home. Val and Zoey aren’t friends, to say the least, but Zoey’s got plenty of other stuff on her mind, including the fact that one of her closest friends is one of the disappeared. The three of them may be an unlikely trio, but someone’s gotta fight the monster who’s ruining their lives, and it might as well be a group of kickass girls.
What if it’s Us?, by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (October 9)
Helllooo, authorial dream team! Bestie bestsellers Albertalli and Silvera worked together on this dual-perspective romance between two boys living in New York City, and their voices are unmistakable in their characters—and not just because Arthur is a white, Jewish kid from Georgia and Ben is a Puerto Rican New York native. The contrast of hopefulness and cynicism, exuberance and caution is exactly what you’d expect and hope for from a pair of which one is known for making hearts explode with joy and the other for shattering them beyond repair. What results is a beautiful romance built on learning how to communicate, appreciating what you each bring to the table, and learning how to compromise on your differences, all resulting from the world’s most adorable meet-cute. And oh, you better believe there are Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen references. So many. So many.
Odd One Out, by Nic Stone (October 9)
The New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin returns with the love triangle of my dreams in her sophomore novel about the complex relationships among three teens. Coop needs his best friend, Jupiter, to be there for him through a heartbreak, but Jupiter’s focus is on new girl Rae. As for Rae, well, she’s maybe interested in…both of them? Trust Nic Stone to treat a story of friendship, identity, and discovery with the utmost care and depth, and trust me that I need this book like burning.
Blanca & Roja, by Anna-Marie McLemore (October 9)
It’s wild to think that McLemore only started publishing a few years ago, as her stunning magical realism romances have come to feel like a staple of queer YA. This newest puts a twist on an old favorite, queering up “Snow White and Rose Red” and mashing it with a little Swan Lake for a story about two sisters who are the ultimate rivals: their family’s bind to the swans in the woods means their ultimate destiny is for one to remain a girl and the other to become a swan forever. Then two local boys get pulled in (though one isn’t in fact a boy—hooray for the rise of genderqueer love interests in 2018 YA), and suddenly everything is upside-down and what the future will hold for each of the four remains to be seen. It sounds incredible, but let’s be real: I’d read McLemore’s grocery list, and it’d probably make me cry.
Beneath the Citadel, by Destiny Soria (October 9)
If fantasies about groups of friends who embark on quests together are your jam like they are mine, Soria’s sophomore is gonna be right up your alley. It starts right in the thick of Cassa, Evander, Newt, and Alys’s mission, just as they’re being sentenced to their deaths for treason, so yeah, be prepared to be hooked from the start. As the crew aims to figure out how to survive, who to trust, and whether the council that’s made all their lives a living hell can truly be destroyed, they’ll have incredibly tough choices to make, including ones that may tear them apart forever and risk the lives of the few remaining people they love. Also lovely is that of the four teens, smart-mouthed and overly bold Cassa is the only one who’s both allo- and heterosexual; be prepared for some heart flutters as deep, quiet, brave Newt and charming on-page bi boy Evander discover and explore their feelings for each other, and revel in the fact that tough but cautious Alys plainly states she’s asexual in some very rare labeling for YA fantasy.
This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, by Kheryn Callender (October 30)
After the beauty that was Callender’s middle grade book, Hurricane Child, I had to read their next book ASAP, and oh my lord is it incredibly freaking cute and has realistic sex on the page. This second-chance romance brings Oliver James back to Nathan just as the latter is being crushed by the weight of his feelings for his ex-girlfriend and best friend, Florence. Yeah, Florence cheated on him with another girl, but that doesn’t make the feelings shut off. But it doesn’t seem like his feelings for Oliver James have really shut off either, even though those definitely should; if Ollie didn’t like Nathan kissing him back when they were friends the first time around, he’s certainly not gonna like it now that he’s got a boyfriend back home. But what if Ollie’s worth the potential heartbreak? What if, after everything, they’re just kind of an epic love story?
The Brilliant Death, by Amy Rose Capetta (October 30)
If you haven’t yet read Capetta’s last queer YA, Echo After Echo, you are missing one of the most artful, gorgeous, romantic books in the LGBTQIAP YA canon. But this isn’t another mystery-shrouded contemporary. (Not that I’d be complaining about that, but if there’s one thing Capetta’s got, it’s range.) This is an Italian-inspired fantasy starring a demi-girl named Teodora who possesses the power to turn enemies into objects, something no one would ever believe was real, since no one even believes in the existence of stregas, or magic users. But with Teo’s father at death’s door after a political assassination attempt, it takes another strega journeying with her to save her father’s life. See, Teo must travel as a boy, and Cielo, a genderfluid strega who shifts effortlessly between male and female, is the only person who can help her. But Cielo teaches her some things about who she really is inside, too. Between uncovering truths about her identity and quietly falling for Cielo, Teo’s got her hands full. And then there’s that whole “deadly mission of grave importance that grows increasingly more threatening” thing to contend with…
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), by L.C. Rosen (October 30)
I love this book so much, especially for all the ways it made me think “I cannot believe this got published as YA.” Jack is proud of his sexuality and the fact that he likes to have fun; so what if it inspires some rumors? He does insist on privacy when he agrees to write a sex advice column for his best friend, publishing it under the pseudonym Jack of Hearts. But there’s someone who knows exactly who he is, and that someone is blackmailing him in the creepiest of fashions, threatening not just him but his friends. Interspersed with Jack trying to get to the bottom of the mystery is the column itself, in which he dispels advice that’s helpful, kind, supportive, and blunt on everything from “how to” to “I don’t want to.” This is among the best sex ed I’ve seen in YA fiction, while never failing to feel authentic, and it tackles the issue of gay fetishization in a way I’ve never seen.
Girls of Paper and Fire, by Natasha Ngan (November 6)
If high-stakes queer fantasy featuring romance between girls is your jam, get ready for the book of your dreams. In a caste system where the fully human Paper class is the lowest, Lei may not love her life, but she certainly has no plans to leave her father, especially after they already had to suffer through her mother’s kidnapping and possible murder. But she isn’t given a choice when the royal guards arrive, demanding the beautiful, golden-eyed Lei come to the palace to serve the king as a Paper Girl, i.e., a royal concubine. There, she lives with other girls who’ve been selected for the “prestigious honor” of sleeping with the king, and as she trains with them in the arts of fashion, people pleasing, and feminine wiles, she finds one prickly girl intrigues her far more than the Demon King ever could. But the dangers that would befall them both if anyone should find out are beyond imagination, especially if anyone finds out what her paramour is really doing at the palace…
This is What it Feels Like, by Rebecca Barrow (November 6)
Once upon a time, Hanna, Dia, and Jules were a kickass band and best friends, too. Then Dia got hit with the one-two punch of tragedy and a huge life change, and Hanna’s drinking problem was just too much to deal with. Jules sided with Dia and cut Hanna out of her life, and now that her ex is also out of the picture, life could get a little lonely…at least until she meets her new coworker, Autumn, and suddenly understands the meaning of love at first sight. Thankfully, the attraction is mutual. It kicks off something potentially awesome just as Jules and Dia pull Hanna back into their fold, with the dream of their band’s reunion scoring a contest win that could change their lives. If your taste in contemporary leans toward explorations of complex girls, friendships, and life choices, with cute romances that by no stretch define the characters in them, Barrow’s an author you need to start reading yesterday.
Pulp, by Robin Talley (November 13)
What would a year of YA even be without a queer entry by Robin Talley? The prolific genre-jumper is back with a dual-timeline contemp-historical hybrid about two queer teen girls: Janet, who’s eighteen in 1955 and forced to keep her romance with her best friend a secret during a time heavy on political paranoia, and Abby, who’s nursing a broken heart and doing a project on 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Abby is utterly absorbed by the work she reads, especially that of a certain author who wrote under the name of Marian Love, and she’s making it her mission to uncover the author’s real identity and meet her. Their worlds and stories collide in this wonderfully ambitious and incredibly creative exploration of queer literary history.
Outrun the Wind, by Elizabeth Tammi (November 27)
Greek mythology has been the inspiration for some of YA’s best queer lit, but no one has tackled Atalanta until now. Kahina is a Huntress of Artemis, which means she’s forbidden to fall in love. But when she breaks the other rule of living as a Huntress by disobeying Artemis herself in order to save Atalanta, she falls in serious danger of breaking the love rule, too. Trying to earn her way back into Artemis’s good graces, Kahina embarks on a mission in Arkadia, the kingdom where Atalanta just happens to be the daughter of the king. Helping Atalanta avoid marriage turns into the infamous suitor race of legend, and it’s all fun and games(-ish) until someone shows up who changes all the stakes.
The Disasters, by M.K. England (December 18)
Rare is the sci-fi that captures my heart, but England’s debut is just. So. Much. Fun. Nax and fellow would-be classmates Rion, Case, and Zee have all been rejected by the Ellis Station Academy, despite their brains and talents. But the rejection turns out to be the thing that saves their lives when a terrorist group attacks, and the plot thickens tenfold when they learn it was an inside job. No one else knows the truth, though, which leads to the four of them being hunted down to stop them from sharing it. But they’re determined to get the word out, and with a little help and a lot of brains, speed, and daring, this superqueer group just might save the day.