June is Pride Month, where members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community remember the history surrounding the first Pride, continue fighting for equality and recognition, and celebrate their identities. There are numerous ways to support LGBTQ+ people and organizations year-round, but one especially great way to learn more about different identities is through reading. Below are five young adult books of different genres that I personally recommend that feature LGBTQ+ main characters. Find your next favorite book and support these amazing authors this Pride Month!
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (contemporary)
Quick Synopsis: When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they are kicked out of the house and forced to move in with their older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas. Ben just wants to survive senior year at their new high school under the radar, but then they meet Nathan Allan, and their friendship begins to grow into something more—allowing Ben to feel like happiness and hope may come from the disaster with their parents.
Why I Love It: This is one of the most real books I have ever read. Ben and Nathan are both fleshed-out characters with dreams and human flaws, and the build-up of their relationship feels like real high schoolers falling in love. Hannah and Thomas are both extremely supportive of Ben and always work to be their best for them, even when they mess up along the way; especially after seeing how terribly Ben was treated by their parents, seeing Hannah and Thomas’s love is especially affirming. This book is full of characters you’ll want to be friends with, characters you’ll wish were real, and characters you’ll take with you after you close the book.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (science fiction)
Quick Synopsis: Two years after the Ilori invaded Earth, humans must live under Ilori control to avoid death, and music, books, and art have all become illegal. Ellie, a human who runs an illegal underground library, and M0Rr1S, an Ilori with a secret love for human music, must unexpectedly team up in a desperate attempt to save humanity from total destruction.
Why I Love It: Ellie and M0Rr1S are both characters I was attached to immediately. The chapters alternate between their perspectives, which allows you to really get to know both of them. Ellie describes herself as being demi-asexual, so she doesn’t find herself romantically attracted to anyone until after forming an emotional connection. Once she makes that connection with M0Rr1S and their relationship takes off, their interactions—and M0Rr1S’s protectiveness over her—become even more beautiful. There are raw portrayals of humanity and love from beginning to end, and this book is one you’ll remember long after you finish reading.
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (fantasy)
Quick Synopsis: In a reimagining of the Cinderella story that takes place 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, Sophia—a girl who would rather marry her childhood friend, Erin, than any of the suitors at the king’s ball—and Constance—the last known descendent of Cinderella and her stepsisters—team up to overthrow the tyrannical king and the unjust systems he put into place after Cinderella’s death.
Why I Love It: This book combines fairy tale reimaginings with thriller twists and the dismantling of oppressive systems. Sophia and Constance are both fantastic characters who fight for what they want and for what is right, and they will stop at nothing to make sure truths are revealed and justice is served. Moreover, they will do anything for each other and to ensure the other person stays safe. This book is perfect for anyone who loves the Cinderella story but wants to see a darker imagining of what happened after “happily ever after.”
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (magical realism)
Quick Synopsis: Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family has problems accepting Yadriel’s gender, so he is determined to prove himself as a real brujo. While trying to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin, Yadriel summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, the school’s bad boy, instead. As they try to figure out how Julian died, Yadriel and Julian grow closer, and Yadriel begins to realize that he may not want Julian to leave.
Why I Love It: Yadriel and Julian have such distinct and different personalities, but their differences make their relationship even stronger. Even when they are just getting to know each other and they are afraid of really getting close, their chemistry is palpable and they’re extremely protective of each other. Also, Yadriel has so many friends who fight for him and stand up for him, even when some members of his family are unable—or unwilling—to respect his identity. Lastly, I really appreciate the constant theme that traditions don’t need to be upheld just because they’re traditions. Doing something that hurts someone “for the sake of tradition,” without willingness to examine said tradition, is intentional harm. This is a fantastic book filled with love, affirmation, and validation.
Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (contemporary)
Quick Synopsis: Raffy is a talented crafter/cosplayer with a sizable online following who wants to prove (to himself, his fans, and his art-elitist mother) that his craft creations are worthy of praise and artistic attention. To do so, he enters Controverse, a cosplay convention in Boston. But to win, he’ll have to team up with Luca—his ex-boyfriend who he hasn’t spoken to in months, and who was once supposed to be his cosplay partner.
Why I Love It: Be Dazzled is an extremely fun book filled with cosplay conventions, intricate crafting descriptions, confidence, so many puns, iconic gay character references, and a second-chance romance. The whole book has chaotic energy, and yes, that is HIGH praise. This book will make you laugh out loud, roll your eyes, and cry—sometimes all within the same scene. For as fun and high-energy as this book is, though, I also really appreciate that the book isn’t always happy—some of the lows in life are shown as well. Raffy has high-strung anxiety; his mother is unaccepting of his cosplay creations and would rather destroy his “low art” than let him create at all; Luca isn’t initially out as bisexual, which leads to fears of outing and anxiety about how his relationship with Raffy can be presented in public. However, nothing is powerful enough to keep Luca and Raffy apart, and their reconnection at the cosplay connection is such an amazing scene between two characters you won’t be able to help loving.
Hopefully you enjoy these books, as well as several of the other amazing books featuring LGBTQ+ characters that are out there. Reading books like these is a great way to learn about LGBTQ+ identities and support LGBTQ+ creatives year-round. Happy reading!