A Queer Reading Corner: Some of the Best LGBTQ+ Centric Young Adult Books
‘Booktok’. This is a word you may have heard before, especially if you’re equal parts avid social media user and avid reader, like me. This label belongs to a community of young people who gather on the app TikTok to discuss all things literature. The short videos made by these creators showcase book recommendations, storyline discourse, and reviews a-plenty.
So how does this relate to the queer young adult genre, you may be wondering. Well, where there is a group of young people discussing their favourite things, there is typically a plethora of queer identities to go with it. While browsing the content made by this eccentric community, I had an idea. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the best young adult books with LGBTQ+ representation for you to peruse.
So relax, have a cup of tea, and sit in this queer reading corner with me to find the next addition to your bookshelf.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
If you’re looking for a fantasy setting, this is a must read. Carry On follows Simon Snow, a glorified teenager who falls into the ‘chosen one’ trope, but is struggling to fit that title as he should.
The setting, an academy of magic, is filled to the brim with interesting characters, magic and secrets to be unravelled. What really makes this book stand out is its characters, and carefully crafted backstories.
In fact, one of the most beloved characters from this novel is originally framed as a villain. This antagonistic figure captured fans’ hearts due to the way he’s written.
The relationships in this book are what make it so special. From friendships, to family, to an explosive romance that captures your heart immediately.
Rainbow Rowell’s modern setting is like Harry Potter with an upgrade, and her take on magic is a joy to read.
This book also has two corresponding sequels, Wayward Son, and Any Way The Wind Blows. So if this book catches your eye, you’ll have plenty more content to enjoy afterwards.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Graphic novels are taking the book reading community by storm in recent years, especially when it comes to the Young Adult genre.
Heartstopper, a novel produced by Alice Oseman, follows Nick and Charlie through their blossoming relationship, and the discovery and acceptance of their sexual orientations. The best word to describe these novels is ‘sweet.’
The art style, writing, and storyline all fit together wonderfully to make something that is wholesome and meaningful. Although it can be enjoyed by adults (I’m proof of this!), this graphic novel is clearly crafted for teenagers.
The inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender identities is something queer youth will greatly benefit from.
If I had seen myself represented so nicely as a teenager, it would have brought me to tears.
This novel, and it’s corresponding sequels, is definitely a recommendation, for all ages. And if this isn’t convincing enough, the novels are currently being made into a Netflix series, due for release in 2022.
They both die at the end by Adam Silvera
The title for this one speaks for itself. It isn’t often that a book makes me cry, but this one managed it.
This novel, written by Adam Silvera, has incredible world building backed by an interesting concept that could have been ripped straight from a black mirror episode. It also manages to keep its characters so insanely relatable and likeable throughout.
This book is set in a dystopian world, in which humans are told they are going to die, on the day it will happen.
Silvera’s story follows Mateo and Rufus, two teenagers whose lives collide after they both receive a call from Death-Cast, the company responsible for telling people they will die that day.
Readers are taken on an emotional journey as they fall in love with characters whose fates were sealed in the very first chapter. If you want to feel your heart burst whilst also being torn apart, then this book is for you.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Although being a slightly more mature addition to this list, The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a must read for younger members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially queer women and those identifying as bisexual.
This beautifully written novel details the life of Hollywood starlet Evelyn, as she navigates fame through the eyes of an immigrant woman, and discovers her sexuality in a society that shuns it.
Not only does this book highlight beautiful romances, but it’s constant themes of glamour, identity, and found family make for an incredibly emotional read. One chapter, you will find yourself laughing with joy, only to have your heart ripped out in the next.
This book is truly one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature I’ve read in a long time.
The protagonists’ life is flawed and messy, but the compelling and complex characters, alongside story beats I never would have seen coming, makes it a page-turner for sure. If you want a more mature read from this list, this book is perfect.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Rory Powers Wilder Girls is a book full of mystery, body horror, and complex female relationships. The story follows main character Hetty, a student attending Raxter School for Girls.
However, there is a mysterious illness which has left both attendees and faculty quarantined and confused for years. This piece of writing is both scary and comforting in the same breath. The characters are young, still clinging onto hope and shining with determination.
This viewpoint of such a horrifying concept is what makes this a page turner.
The character of Hetty is an interesting perspective to read from. This is because she navigates both a life threatening plague, and her platonic and romantic relationships with the girls around her.
If you’re a fan of horror and suspense, this book is a must read. Not often do you find a queer, horror encoded piece of literature that keeps you on the edge of your seat quite like this.
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston & Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
Now although these books are different in a lot of ways, and both are individually unique and fun to read, I felt it fitting to write about them side by side.
Both Red, White and Royal Blue, written by Casey McQuiston, and Her Royal Highness, by Rachel Hawkins, showcase queer identities through the lense of UK monarchy.
McQuistons book follows the ‘enemies to lovers’-esque relationship of Alex and Henry. Alex is the son of the President of the USA, whilst Henry is the grandson of the Queen of England.
It’s a typical story of falling for someone whilst discovering your own complex identity, but told from the perspective of two young people with thousands of eyes on them at all times.
Her Royal Highness, however, only has one character who is in the public eye, Flora, a Princess of Scotland.
The protagonist of this book is nerdy, geode loving, American Millie Quint. Quint got into a private boarding school in Scotland through a scholarship, and finds a whirlwind romance whilst there.
The royals in both of these books go through similar struggles, which is why I grouped them together. However, both pieces of writing are captivating in their own light. I feel that after reading one, you’ll be reaching for the other to find more of the same magic that a royal, queer, love story can bring.
Now, whilst this is a great list of books to read, it in no way fully showcases the diverse range of queer books available in this genre right now. If you read these all and still find you’re desperate for more, I recommend turning to ‘Booktok’. The community has a hundred more suggestions at their fingertips. And if you want to recommend your favourite unmentioned queer book below, feel free to comment. I may include it in a sequel to this article!
All featured books can be found on Amazon or the online website for Waterstones: