The Harry Potter series showed bookworms worldwide that we’re never too old for some wondrous YA magic. But won’t someone think of the queer girls? In the past, lesbians in lit were relegated to tropes like “supportive best friend without a love life of her own” or even worse, “tragic tale meant to teach the straight readers a lesson.” No more – thanks to a few brave authors who paved the way, modern YA boasts rainbow representation aplenty. Here are 10 gay AF young adult novels in order of release (some aren’t out yet but are available for preorder). I’ve included Amazon links, but feel free to hit up your fave feminist bookshop – and if these reads leave you feeling inspired, why not write your own?
This is the OG. First published in 1982, Nancy Garden’s romance follows the incredibly sweet adventure of two girls in love. Aspiring singer and public schoolkid Annie suspected she was gay, and when she meets Liza – an MIT hopeful and private school senior who wonders why she doesn’t like boys – they quickly become a secret item. Though the book is a bit dated at times, it’s still a wonderful read with all the highs and lows of romance.
This book won the American Library Association’s Stonewall Award, so you know it’s good. Suzette (“Little”) is home from boarding school and settling back in with her blended family. Problem is, Suzette’s stepbrother Lionel (“Lion”) is battling mental illness, and Suzette is struggling with feelings for the roommate-turned-girlfriend she left behind. Little & Lion isn’t a light read, but it takes an in-depth look at queerness, bipolar disorder, and nontraditional families. For more of Colbert’s fab writing, preorder “The Revolution of Birdie Randolph” – full of queer AF characters and a climactic scene at Pride!
Julie Murphy won our hearts with the body-positive, Dolly-celebratory “Dumplin’.” But before the kickass Netflix adaptation, she wrote this wistful tale of a tall Southern girl with blue hair. Ramona loves crawfish, swimming, and girls – but when she develops feelings for a childhood friend, she starts questioning whether “lesbian” is her preferred label. Oh, and her sister just got knocked up, meaning Ramona’s the breadwinner of her growing family. Celebrating love and fluidity, “Ramona Blue” is a must-read for the queer girl in all of us.
Do you like queer heroines? Do you like drag queens who execute high-stakes heists while performing martial arts and wielding weapons in fierce shoes? “Death Prefers Blondes” is all this and more. At its center is Margo Manning, a bisexual socialite by day who robs museums and mansions with her buddies by night. While her comrades need the money, heiress Margo underwrites her housekeeper’s underground immigrant hospital – until they get caught. “Death Prefers Blondes” actually puts a bi girl at the center of the action – only she can make the decisions that change everything.
What to do when you’re a teenage lesbian with strict Muslim parents? Rukhsana Ali can’t come out for a few more months; after that, she can go to college and kiss her girl Ariana in public. Plans go awry with Rukhsana’s mother catches her with Ariana (all of our adolescent nightmares combined, am I right?). Luckily, she finds surprising allies and companionship from the most unlikely source of all. Powerful and touching, this is not only gay AF but important AF to understand the plight of many Muslim teens.
This one’s for the fantasy fangirls. This debut has a plot as dramatic as its title: in the not-too-distant future, the girls at the exclusive Medio School are trained to do one of two things – run a man’s household or raise his kids. Top student Daniela joins a resistance group but finds herself in forbidden love with her top rival, Carmen. A Latinx lesbian-driven dystopian thriller, “We Set the Dark on Fire” is feminist as all get-out and has plenty of fighting and kissing.
Angie is fat and likes girls, and apologizes for neither – why should she? And in the forthcoming sequel to “Fat Angie” (which also won the Stonewall Award), she’s going on a trip. After her beloved girlfriend moves away, Angie hits the road with a letter from her late sister, with a list of places to visit once her sister returned from Iraq. What will she find? Angie picks up old childhood friend Jamboree and a cadre of outsiders, and they set out together in an RV. “Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution” is plenty gay but doesn’t make the story about Angie’s sexuality. She’s here, she’s queer, and you can just get used to it.
Think “Heavenly Creatures” without the murder. Sam dreams of being an aerospace engineer but in the meantime has to deal with an ill mother and, well, high school. Meanwhile, Zoe’s popular but has a mom who’s sick in a whole different way. What to do but create Starworld, their own private universe maintained entirely through text message. You can see where this is going – friendship turns into something way more. Can Sam, Zoe and Starworld handle it? This book will take you back to your very first gay crush – and forward into a world of imagination.
Say it with me: Queer. Witches. (“Bitches” is optional.) Amy Rose Capetta has freaking excellent lesbian stories: “Echo After Echo” combined theatrical intrigue wita h murder mystery, and “The Brilliant Death” featured shapeshifting and patriarchy-smashing. In “The Lost Coast,” Danny moves to Tempest, California and falls in with the Grays, a queer-as-hell coven! But the Grays have ulterior motives: they want Danny to bring back their leader, who disappeared one night in the woods. “The Lost Coast” is both spooky in all the right places and gay throughout!
Editor’s note: The author is too humble to include her own fab YA queer novel, so we’re adding it in!
“Satellite” is set in Chicago and LA’s biggest gayborhoods and stars a scrappy redhead named Harmony who’s new to town and fighting her attraction to the school’s biggest player – the smoky-voiced and commitment-phobic Elke – while picking apart her romantic past with her (gulp) stepsibling. There’s ballet and classic rock and Rocky Horror cosplay along with first girl-girl kisses and a big honking family secret, plus angst galore.
Happy reading, lesbians!