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The 10 Best LGBT YA Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

The 10 Best LGBT YA Books You Should Have Read Already By Now!

Being a young adult is a tumultuous experience. The late teens and early twenties are confusing years. We are trying to figure out who we are, who we are not, who our friends are and where we belong. For the LGBT community, there is the added layer of coming to terms with their identity, dealing with discrimination and the challenge of coming out. These are some of the most painful yet beautiful years of life. 

We have curated the ten best LGBT YA books for you that capture the essence of being a queer young adult. These books deal have characters that are gay, asexual, bisexual, lesbian, transgender and more! It always helps to read about people going through something similar to you.

Stories are powerful; they give us strength and courage to face life’s obstacles head-on! The spectrum of characters in these books represents many from the LGBT community. If you are wondering if it gets any better, it does! Most of these novels are written by authors who identify as queer. So, you can be sure that the stories and characters are nuanced and original. 

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While these books focus on the age group of 17 to 22, readers of any age will enjoy them. We are all always figuring out our life, aren’t we? The process begins at around 17 but never stops throughout our life. Plus, these books are fun!

They have football team captains, witches, theatre artists, waitresses, and cabaret performers, to name a few. The characters from these books are those you would want to hang out with or be friends with. They are relatable and real. Whether you identify with the LGBT community, are an ally, or are just exploring this genre, these books are a great place to start!

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Don't have time to read them all? Why not try listening to them? Audible is a great platform for listening to audiobooks because it offers a wide selection of books, including bestsellers and exclusive content. With Audible, you can listen to your favorite books on-the-go, whether you're commuting, working out, or doing household chores.

The Audible app also has features like adjustable narration speed, a sleep timer, and the ability to create bookmarks, making it easy to customize your listening experience. Additionally, Audible offers a membership program that gives members access to a certain number of audiobooks per month, making it a cost-effective option for avid listeners. 

A great resource for people who want to maximize their time and make the most out of their daily activities. Try a free 30-day trial from Audible today, and you'll get access to a selection of Audible Originals and audiobooks, along with a credit to purchase any title in their premium selection, regardless of price (including many of the books on this list!) 

For ebook lovers, we also recommend Scribd, basically the Netflix for Books and the best and most convenient subscription for online reading. While they have a catalog comprising over half a million books including from many bestselling authors, for some of the books on this list, you'll still have to purchase individually - either as a paperback or eBook to load on your Kindle - due to publishing house restrictions. 

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Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee

Theo Mori is an out-and-proud gay teen, but it’s not as easy as he makes it look. His conservative Asian family considers him a disappointment. He cannot wait to leave Vermont and move far away for college. Until then, his job at the family’s Asian American café and soccer are his world. On the other hand, Gabi Moreno hates soccer. He is only playing it to hide his love for dance.

His Puerto Rican family has made it nearly impossible for him to come out of the closet. Unlike Theo, Gabi loves working at his family’s café and hopes to take it over from his parents one day.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that Theo hates Gabi. Not only is he from his family’s rival restaurant, but Gabi also sucks at soccer!

The dislike is mutual; Gabi is not a fan of Theo either. Things change when a new fusion restaurant comes up in their neighborhood. The flashy new place poses a threat to both restaurants. The boys agree to work together to offset their losses and secure their dreams. However, falling in love was never part of the plan.

Café Con Lychee is an apt depiction of being a queer teen in America. It has a range of emotions and situations that LGBT teens tend to face in real life. What’s more! Both protagonists are people of color. The author, Emery Lee, does a beautiful job of addressing racism and homophobia. 

This novel is a light-hearted, enemies-to-lovers trope that will make you swoon! 

Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee - Best LGBT YA Books

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Nothing Burns As Bright As You by Ashly Woodfolk

In Nothing Burns As Bright As You, Ashley Woodfolk captures the devastating effect of an all-consuming love on a young adult. And she does this within a queer relationship! The story is told to us in first person by the unnamed narrator. She refers to her love interest as “you”.

Through her non-linear narrative, we follow the roller coaster ride of a co-dependent relationship. We understand their relationship will end in flames at the novel’s beginning. Each chapter begins x days before the disastrous end to give us a sense of a countdown. The narrator and “you” start as friends, but as the intensity of their feelings escalates, they get romantically and sexually involved.

Their relationship becomes worrisome for some adults because it consumes both of them. But the girls are too rebellious to stop. They realize that they are toxic to each other but cannot stop. As in any abusive relationship, the lovers share some super sweet moments that make up for the bad times.

The book is written in verse, apt to describe the grandiose romanticism of our narrator. Woodfolk uses her writing prowess to portray the nuances of an unhealthy relationship.

We can see the narrator’s thoughts and feelings and what makes it so hard for her to leave. The book also touches upon racism mildly. The poignant language in the book brings the characters to life. If lyrical love stories are your thing, this book is a must-read!

Nothing Burns As Bright As You by Ashly Woodfolk - Best LGBT YA Books

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I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

It’s not easy being queer in a conservative school. Ask Chloe Green. Since her moms relocated her to Alabama from Southern California, Chloe has been struggling. Her competition with her academic rival, Shara Wheeler, kept her on her toes.

As a high school senior, she is the closest to victory she has ever been! Chloe and Shara are tied up for the position of high school valedictorian, and Chloe is determined to beat Shara until Shara kisses her during the prom weekend and disappears!

She leaves behind a series of clues for Shara, Rory (the boy next door) and Smith (Shara’s quarterback boyfriend) to decipher. The unlikely trio has nothing in common except that Shara kissed them.

They end up following Shara’s clues into unexpected places. All the sleuthing would be worth it to bring Shara back and beat her to the position of Valedictorian, wouldn’t it? But the hunt turns out to reveal more than Shara’s elusive whereabouts. Chloe learns that there is more to the small town than she thought. And maybe, there’s more to Shara as well.

Casey McQuiston does an impeccable job of queer representation in this novel. She captures the essence of queerness by giving us a lot of queer characters. They are all at different points in their journey and have different notions of being queer.

The friendship that develops between Shara, Rory and Smith is a delight to read too! McQuiston’s witty writing gives the book a light-hearted tone even while it deals with homophobia. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a warm, fuzzy read with much queer positivity.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston - Best LGBT YA Books

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The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson

At the start of this novel, we are introduced to the protagonist, Louisa. She has just ended an abusive relationship. Her ex’s sexual advances never made her feel desire or intimacy. He did not always respect her boundaries and has been sexually coercive. Now she has to spend the last summer before going to college scooping ice cream next to him.

Thankfully, her former best friend, King, is back in the Canadian Prairie. Their relationship gives Lou a safe space to explore intimacy. Though unsure if she will ever want sex, she enjoys kissing and making out with King. Just when she thinks she has enough on her plate, her father gets out of prison.

Something she thought would never happen. With her mother away on a trip, Louisa has a lot to deal with this summer. She realizes she can no longer ignore her father; he is everywhere she goes.

The author, Jen Fergusson, shows us the daily life of a bisexual person of color in a Canadian Prairie. There is aggression, sexual harassment and racism hurled at BIPOC characters. Fergusson also captures the life of indigenous communities through minute details. Louisa talks about their connection to their land and their animals.

Her family still speaks their native language at home and practices their signature beadwork. We hear the story from Louisa’s point of view. Fergusson does not shy away from uncomfortable topics like abusive relationships and the omnipresent threat that queer people face. The Summer of Bitter and Sweet is a remarkable coming-of-age story you don’t want to miss!

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson - Best LGBT YA Books

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Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall

Corrine is a 17-year-old bisexual woman whose girlfriend, Maggie, suddenly dies in a car crash. Both the girls were closeted, so no one knew about their relationship. Corrine was sure she loved Maggie but was too scared to come out. Now, after Maggie’s death, she regrets it. No one knew about their relationship, and now she has no one to talk to about her grief except for her brother, Dylan. He was the only one who knew about them.

The anger and grief that often ensue after a sudden death is apparent in their interactions. Dylan introduces Corrine to Elissa, Maggie’s ex-girlfriend, in the hope that she can help Corrine process her grief. Elissa is the only person who understands what Corrine is going through.

Corrine quickly leans on her for support. The comfort that she finds with Elissa slowly turns into chemistry. Can Corrine and Elissa have a relationship built solely on their love for each other? Or is it just a bonding caused by shared grief?

The author, Nita Tyndall, takes up two heavy subjects- queerness and death and brings them together seamlessly. We hear the story from Corrine’s point of view. The timeline is not linear. The messy present is punctured with glimpses of the beautiful moments between Corrine and Maggie.

The story also deals with family issues. Corrine’s parents are divorced, and her mother is struggling with alcoholism. She blames her father for bailing out and leaving her to deal with the mess. This book is a heart-wrenching, melancholic contemporary novel. If realistic fiction dealing with heavy subjects is your go-to genre, Who I Was With Her is for you.

Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall - Best LGBT YA Books

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The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson

This is a queer-centered historical fiction novel that is set in pre-war Germany. Hilde is an 18-year-old former orphan in 1930s Berlin. She goes out into the world to find a home and make a living. On a desperate job hunt, she walks into Café Lila, where she is offered a waitress job. She grabs it. Café Lila is a cabaret replete with intriguing characters. She is in awe of their mesmerizing singing voices.

After her first shift, Rosa, who also works at the café, offers her a place to stay. Hilde eventually finds a home in the people of the café. They love her, and she loves them back. But it is not easy. She needs to perform to keep her spot at the café, but the stage fright is crippling!

Her growing feelings for Rosa are getting out of control! Outside the café, Berlin is about to be taken over by Hitler. When their club is targeted, they need to ensure their safety. The book is a painful depiction of the effects of totalitarian rule on those who do not conform to their ideologies.

The author, Kip Wilson, paints a vivid picture of what it meant to be queer in Nazi Germany. Instances of police brutality and hate crimes are difficult to read. Written in verse, this novel is as stunning as it is devastating. 

Our protagonist, Hilde, is figuring out her place in the world just as her world turns upside down. On the one hand, it is a story of personal growth, while on the other, it is a story of political turmoil. If you liked the movie Cabaret, we are sure you will love Girl in Berlin.

The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson - Best LGBT YA Books

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She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott

Molly Parker is starting at Pitt University. She is incredibly shy and awkward around everyone except her mother. She is also in love with the gorgeous Cora. There’s just one problem; she hasn’t spoken to Cora yet. Enter Alex Blackwood. Alex is the exact opposite of Molly.

She is an extrovert, easy going and, well, a player. She is trying to make up with her ex-girlfriend, Natalie. Alex’s unmatched way with women is what Molly desperately needs!

Alex thinks helping Molly land her dream girl will prove to Natalie that she is not a selfish flirt. So, she agrees to help Molly approach and flirt with Cora. You guessed it right! In the process, they only end up falling for each other. This is a cute, sapphic love story based on the good old best friends to lovers trope. The authors let the romance brew and simmer for a long time.

The slow burn is worth the wait because the chemistry is off the charts when it finally happens. The characters are interesting on their own. They are nuanced and have significant backstories. The main characters are consistent and complement each other in every way possible. It has a lot of sweetness and laugh-out-loud moments.

It will also bring you close to tears on many occasions! The authors capture the lifecycle of a relationship with their exquisite prose. We can see two friends starting to develop feelings, dating and eventually realizing they have something great. We see their connection. If you binge on rom-com, She Gets the Girl should be on your list!

She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott - Best LGBT YA Books

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Milo and Marcos at the End of the World by Kevin Christopher Snipes

Milo Connolly is a 17-year-old living in a small town in Florida. He is from a very religious family and goes to church regularly. There’s one thing his parents don’t know about him- he is gay. He has been putting up a solid act so far.

Three years into high school, he is confident he can pass for the quiet, well-behaved, church-going boy everyone thinks he is for one more year. But fate has different plans for him. Marcos Price walks back into his life after three years. This forces Milo to confront the feelings that have re-awakened in him. Feelings that he had hidden from himself and his parents.

Coming out to his ultra-religious family is out of the question for him. There seems to be another problem. Since Marcos’ arrival, strange things seem to be happening around the sleepy Florida town. Sinkholes, hailstorms, blackouts and the like.

The closer Milo and Marcos get, the more frequent the disasters. Mother Nature appears to be rebelling against their love. Is their love worth risking the end of the world?

Kevin Christopher Snipes writes about the painful and layered process of coming out, especially in religious communities. The guilt and fear are raw and jump off the page. Marcos is an atheist with religious parents, while Milo is racked with religious guilt.

Their relationship is messy and real. We see how people from different backgrounds deal with their queerness. Milo and Marcos do not always agree on how they deal with being gay. But neither is right or wrong. The book is written in first person from Milo’s point of view. His frantic yet funny narration makes this novel a pleasure to read. 

Milo and Marcos at the End of the World by Kevin Christopher Snipes - Best LGBT YA Books

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Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa

Eleanor has had a tough couple of years with her mom being sick, losing her ex and being ostracised by her friends. The last thing she believes in right now is magic or witchcraft. A handwritten guide to tarot cards arrives at her doorstep, portending that magic is about to enter her life. Cynical Eleanor quickly dismisses the sign, but only days later, a real-life witch, Pix, shows up at her doorstep.

Eleanor lets Pix open up a whole new world for her with her Pagan practices and a coven of witches. Unintentionally she also threatens to open her heart again. But Eleanor is determined not to reveal her complicated past to Pix. Will she let her history haunt her now when she has another chance at love?

Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches is a sweet sapphic love story. The main character is strong despite everything that she has gone through. She turns to marijuana to cope with the demons from her past. She is not perfect, but she is doing the best she can. The narrative is in the present, with a few flashbacks that tell us what Eleanor has been through.

The book also focuses on the impact of traumatic experiences and relationships on mental health, especially for the queer community, where it is not always easy to recognize an unhealthy relationship. The author also does not make witches these fantastical out-of-the-world beings; they are humans with flaws. This magical novel is not too long and is perfect for a weekend read!

Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa - Best LGBT YA Books

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Act Cool by Tobly McSmith

August Greene has just moved from a small Pennsylvania town to New York to pursue his acting career. He has landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts, but there is one problem. His family is extremely religious and struggles to accept that he is transgender. They think that their daughter is just confused. To live with his aunt in New York, he has to promise not to transition.

August is ready to do whatever it takes to make it big in show business. He promises to pause his transition and be the daughter they want him to be. This becomes the problem; he puts on so many masks that he forgets who he is. Can he shed his multiple fake personalities and find his way back? With the amazing family, he finds in the theatre world, he just might.

August is a very real character with flaws. For instance, early success gets straight to his head, and he takes the prestigious position at the university for granted. But we can empathize with him as someone who came to the big city and veered off course. His relationship with his aunt evolves into something precious.

There is a lot of emphasis on found family in this book. The book shines a light on the theatre and acting community in New York. August’s theatre group is funny and seems like a blast to hang out with. Act Cool is the story of a trans man’s self-discovery. It is not always pleasant to read, but it is a story that deserves to be told.

Act Cool by Tobly McSmith - Best LGBT YA Books

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