Happy Pride Month, my friends!
It’s June, which means that Pride celebrations are in full swing – there are rainbows, commercial collaborations, and booklists everywhere you turn. In February, I shared a list of picture books popular in our library that celebrate gay families, and I was so moved by your responses. Thank you – I read each comment, message, and email, and it was so special to receive them. Many of you requested a resource list for our favorite middle grade and young adult titles too – so here we are!
I’ve noticed that in many libraries, LGBTQ+ books make their way front and center during Pride month, and then get buried in the back, on a “mature content” shelf, or behind the circulation desk the other 11 months of the year (if you’re an educator, you’ve probably noticed the same thing titles deemed relevant to Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.). Our readers deserve more. Readers both in- and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community don’t just need a safe place to explore and learn during the month of June. Students love and deserve books that reflect the real world around them every month; our most sensitive, vulnerable readers need to know that we see and support them every day. And young readers with little to no exposure to the LGBTQ community can’t learn, question, normalize, and celebrate if they see books with LGBTQ characters as part of a niche ‘holiday’ display.
Students that need LGBTQ+ books the most often won’t or can’t directly ask for them. It’s not a student’s job to make their schools inclusive, welcoming, and safe. If you’re a teacher or librarian, that critical job is on your shoulders.
Signs from True Colors United and a simple Pride flag make a statement in our library all year long (I bought our flag from Amazon, but I’m sure there are better sources – if you know of one, please share!). The signs hang in the library windows, so students pass them as they walk in. The flag hangs behind the circulation desk. Young readers that don’t understand or need them don’t even notice their presence; but for students desperately searching for a safe space, they make all the difference.
Back to the books! All of these middle grade titles are either in our library already, have been requested by young readers, or are on our current book order. In other words: they are middle grade approved! These books (and the picture books from February’s post) are in heavy rotation on our displays all year long. The young adult list is a little more complicated – because our young adult readers are only in grades 7-8, our YA section is limited. We own many of these, but some are too mature for our collection. I have personally read all of the titles on this list, and can give them the thumbs up.
For more titles (including a TON that I haven’t had the chance to read myself yet!), check out some great resource lists at the bottom of this post.
Middle Grade fiction
- Totally Joe; The Misfits series (James Howe) – Grades 4-8, ages 9-13
Meet Joe Bunch. Lovable misfit and celebrity wannabe from Paintbrush Falls, New York. Like his longtime best friends Addie, Skeezie, and Bobby, Joe’s been called names all his life. So when he’s given the assignment to write his alphabiography — the story of his life from A to Z — Joe has his doubts. This whole thing could be serious ammunition for bullying if it falls into the wrong hands. But Joe discovers there’s more to the assignment — and his life — than meets the eye. Especially when he gets to the letter C, which stands for Colin Briggs, the coolest guy in the seventh grade (seriously) — and Joe’s secret boyfriend. By the time Joe gets to the letter Z, he’s pretty much bared his soul about everything. And Joe’s okay with that because he likes who he is. He’s Totally Joe, and that’s the best thing for him to be. Here is an exuberant, funny, totally original story of one boy’s coming out — and coming-of-age.
- Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (Ashley Herring Blake) – Grades 3-7, ages 8-12
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing. Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
- Star-Crossed (Barbara Dee) – Grades 4-8, ages 9-13
Twelve-year-old Mattie is thrilled when she learns the eighth grade play will be Romeo and Juliet. In particular, she can’t wait to share the stage with Gemma Braithwaite, who has been cast as Juliet. Gemma is brilliant, pretty—and British!—and Mattie starts to see her as more than just a friend. But Mattie has also had an on/off crush on her classmate Elijah since, well, forever. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things offstage are beginning to resemble their own Shakespearean drama: the cast is fighting, and the boy playing Romeo may not be up to the challenge of the role. And due to a last-minute emergency, Mattie is asked to step up and take over the leading role—opposite Gemma’s Juliet—just as Mattie’s secret crush starts to become not-so-secret in her group of friends.
- Alan Cole is Not a Coward (Eric Bell) – Grades 3-7, ages 8-12
Alan Cole can’t stand up to his cruel brother, Nathan. He can’t escape the wrath of his demanding father, who thinks he’s about as exceptional as a goldfish. And—scariest of all—he can’t let the cute boy across the cafeteria know he has a crush on him. But when Nathan discovers Alan’s secret, his older brother announces a high-stakes round of Cole vs. Cole. Each brother must complete seven nearly impossible tasks; whoever finishes the most wins the game. If Alan doesn’t want to be outed to all of Evergreen Middle School, he’s got to become the most well-known kid in school, get his first kiss, and stand up to Dad. Alan’s determined to prove—to Nathan, to the world, to himself—that this goldfish can learn to swim. May the best Cole win.
- The Pants Project (Cat Clarke) – Grades 4-9, ages 9-13
Okay, here goes. My name is Liv (not Olivia). I’m not technically a girl. I’m transgender. Which is a bit like being a Transformer, only not quite as cool because I probably won’t get to save the world one day. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts. Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy―it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.
- George (Alex Gino) – Grades 3-7, ages 8-12
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
- Felix Yz (Lisa Bunker) – Grades 5-9, ages 10-14
When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead. This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?
- Drum Roll, Please (Lisa Jenn Bigelow) – Grades 3-7, ages 8-12
Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse. Now she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods. But this summer brings a lot of big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself unexpectedly falling for another girl at camp. To top it all off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?
- One True Way (Shannon Hitchcock) – Grades 4-7, ages 9-12
Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.
- Misadventures of the Family Fletcher; Family Fletcher series (Dana Alison Levy) – Grades 4-7, ages 9-12)
The start of the school year is not going as the Fletcher brothers hoped. Each boy finds his plans for success veering off in unexpected and sometimes diastrous directions. And at home, their miserable new neighbor complains about everything. As the year continues, the boys learn the hard and often hilarious lesson that sometimes what you least expect is what you come to care about the most.
- The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street; Vanderbeekers series (Karina Yan Glaser) – Grades 2-5, ages 7-10
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.
- Lily and Dunkin (Donna Gephart) – Grades 5 and up, ages 10 and up
Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade. Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.
- Better Nate than Ever; Nate series (Tim Federle*) – Grades 5 and up, ages 10 and up
Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. Tim Federle’s “hilarious and heartwarming debut novel” (Publishers Weekly) is full of broken curfews, second chances, and the adventure of growing up—because sometimes you have to get four hundred miles from your backyard to finally feel at home.
*Tim Federle has been accused of sexual misconduct. You can read more about the allegations here.
- The Boy in the Dress (David Walliams) – Grades 4 and up, ages 9 and up
Everybody needs friends, especially a boy in a dress! Dennis’ life is boring and lonely. His mother left two years ago, his truck driver father is depressed, his brother is a bully and, worst of all, ‘no hugging’ is one of their household rules. But one thing Dennis does have is soccer. He’s the leading scorer on his team. Oh, and did we mention his secret passion for fashion? When Dennis’ friend Lisa discovers his stash of Vogue magazines, she convinces him to vamp it up and wear a dress to school. But in class, his hilarious hijinks as ‘Denise’ are brought to a screeching halt when the headmaster discovers his secret and delivers the worst punishment of all: Dennis is expelled from school and therefore forbidden to play in the soccer Final Cup! Can the team win the most important game of the year without their star player? And, more importantly, will Dennis gain the love and respect of his friends and family, even in a dress?
- Drama (Reina Telgemeier) – Grades 5-9, ages 10-14
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department’s stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!
- Princess Princess Ever After (Katie O’Neill) – Grades 4-7, ages 9-12
When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.
- The Sword of Summer; Magnus Chase series (Rick Riordan) – Grades 3-7, ages 9-12
Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows-a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .
- Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Modern Retelling of Little Women (Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo) – Grades 3-7, ages 9-12
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are having a really tough year: Not only is their father overseas with the military and their working overtime to make ends meet, but each girl is struggling with her own unique problems. Whether it’s school woes, health issues, boy troubles, or simply feeling lost, the March sisters all need the same thing: support from each other. By coming together–and sharing lots of laughs and tears–these four young women find the courage to discover who they truly are as individuals…and as a family.
- The Best Man (Richard Peck) – Grades 4-7, ages 9-12
Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer,; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth—Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school. But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn’t see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he’s the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story.
- Hurricane Child (Kheryn Callender) – Grades 3-7, ages 8-12
Caroline Murphy is a Hurricane Child. Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. She’s hated and bullied by everyone in her small school on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, a spirit only she can see won’t stop following her, and — worst of all — Caroline’s mother left home one day and never came back. But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline’s first and only friend — and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush. Now, Caroline must find the strength to confront her feelings for Kalinda, brave the spirit stalking her through the islands, and face the reason her mother abandoned her. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother — before Caroline loses her forever.
Young Adult fiction
- Ramona Blue (Julie Murphy) – Grades 9 and up, ages 14 and up
Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.
- The Prince and the Dressmaker (Jen Wang) – Grades 7 and up, ages 12 and up
Paris, at the dawn of the modern age: Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion! Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend?
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe (Benjamin Alire Sáenz) – Grades 7-9, ages 12 and up
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
- The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (Benjamin Alire Sáenz) – Grades 7-12, ages 12 and up
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
- The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) (Amy Spalding) – Grades 6 and up, ages 12 and up
Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship. But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosse playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is. Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?
- Odd One Out (Nic Stone) – Grades 10 and up, ages 14 and up
Courtney Cooper and Jupiter Charity-Sanchez (Coop and Jupe!) have been next-door neighbors and best friends since they were seven years old. She’s his partner in crime and other half. But lately, Coop can’t ignore the fact that he might want something more than friendship from Jupiter. When Rae Chin moves to town, she can’t believe how lucky she is to find Coop and Jupe. Being the new kid is usually synonymous with “pariah,” but around these two, she finally feels like she belongs. She’s so grateful she wants to kiss him . . . and her. Jupiter has always liked girls. But when Coop starts daing Rae, Jupe realizes that the only girl she ever really imagined by his side was her. One story. Three sides. No easy answers.
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue; Montague Siblings series (Mackenzi Lee) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda (Becky Albertalli) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
- Leah on the Offbeat (Becky Albertalli) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon. So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
- If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?
- Empress of the World (Sara Ryan) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Nicola Lancaster is spending her summer at the Siegel Institute, a hothouse of smart, intense teenagers. She soon falls in with Katrina (Manic Computer Chick), Isaac (Nice-Guy-Despite-Himself), Kevin (Inarticulate Composer) . . . and Battle, a beautiful blond dancer. The two become friends–and then, startlingly, more than friends. What do you do when you think you’re attracted to guys, and then you meet a girl who steals your heart?
- My Brother’s Husband (Gengoroh Tagame) – Written for adults, I would suggest for ages 13 and up
Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki, father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji. Mike is on a quest to explore Ryoji’s past, and the family reluctantly but dutifully takes him in. What follows is an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.
- Check, Please! Book #1: Hockey, Check, Please! series (Ngozi Ukazu) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jack―his very attractive but moody captain.
- The Great American Whatever (Tim Federle*) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before the car accident that changed everything. Enter: Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—okay, a hot guy—and falls, hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.
*Tim Federle has been accused of sexual misconduct. You can read more about the allegations here.
- Girl Mans Up (M-E Girard) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
- Highly Illogical Behavior (John Corey Whaley) – Grades 7 and up, ages 12 and up
Sixteen-year-old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn’t left his house in 3 years. Ambitious Lisa is desperate to get into a top-tier psychology program. And so when Lisa learns about Solomon, she decides to befriend him, cure him, and then write about it for her college application. To earn Solomon’s trust, she introduces him to her boyfriend Clark, and starts to reveal her own secrets. But what started as an experiment leads to a real friendship, with all three growing close. But when the truth comes out, what erupts could destroy them all. Funny and heartwarming, Highly Illogical Behavior is a fascinating exploration of what makes us tick, and how the connections between us may be the most important things of all.
- Little & Lion (Brandy Colbert) – Grades 9 and up, ages 14 and up
When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she’s isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (as well as her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support. But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.
- What if It’s Us (Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli) – Grades 9 and up, ages 14 and up
ARTHUR is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. BEN thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.vBut when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ? Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated. Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited. But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs? What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough? What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is? What if it’s us?
- They Both Die at the End (Adam Silvera) – Grades 9 and up, ages 14 and up
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.
- Girl Made of Stars (Ashley Herring Blake) – Grades 8 and up, ages 13 and up
Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Emily M. Danforth) – Ages 16 and up
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both. Then Coley Talor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship, one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.
- Darius the Great is Not Okay (Adib Khorram) – Grades 7 and up, ages 12 and up
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
- Here to Stay (Sara Farizan) – Grades 7 and up, ages 12 and up
What happens when a kid who’s flown under the radar for most of high school gets pulled off the bench to make the winning basket in a varsity playoff game? If his name is Bijan Majidi, life is suddenly high fives in the hallways and invitations to exclusive parties—along with an anonymous photo sent by a school cyberbully that makes Bijan look like a terrorist. The administration says they’ll find and punish the culprit. Bijan wants to pretend it never happened. He’s not ashamed of his Middle Eastern heritage; he just doesn’t want to be a poster child for Islamophobia. Lots of classmates rally around Bijan. Others make it clear they don’t want him or anybody who looks like him at their school. But it’s not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends.
- Dear Rachel Maddow: A Novel (Mary Cosola) – Grades 8 and up, ages 13 and up
Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow. She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out. Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?
- People Like Us (Dana Mele) – Grades 7-9, ages 12 and up
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
- Anger is a Gift (Mark Oshiro) – Grades 9 and up, ages 14 and upMoss Jeffries is many things―considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd. But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else―someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night. And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck. Moss can’t even escape at school―he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. That was even before the new regulations―it seems sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals. Something will have to change―but who will listen to a group of teens? When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
- Quiver: A Novel (Julia Watts) – Ages 16 and up
Libby is the oldest child of six, going on seven, in a family that adheres to the “quiverfull” lifestyle: strict evangelical Christians who believe that they should have as many children as God allows because children are like arrows in the quiver of “God’s righteous warriors.” Meanwhile, her new neighbor, Zo is a gender fluid teen whose feminist, socialist, vegetarian family recently relocated from the city in search of a less stressful life. Zo and hir family are as far to the left ideologically as Libby’s family is to the right, and yet Libby and Zo, who are the same age, feel a connection that leads them to friendship―a friendship that seems doomed from the start because of their families’ differences.
- Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir (Maggie Thrash) – Grades 9 and up, ages 13 and up
Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.
- The Realm of Possibility (David Levithan) – Grades 7 and up, ages 12 and up
Enter The Realm of Possibility and meet a boy whose girlfriend is in love with Holden Caulfield; a girl who loves the boy who wears all black; a boy with the perfect body; and a girl who writes love songs for a girl she can’t have. These are just a few of the captivating characters readers will get to know in this intensely heartfelt new novel about those ever-changing moments of love and heartbreak that go hand-in-hand with high school. David Levithan plumbs the depths of teenage emotion to create an amazing array of voices that readers won’t forget. So, enter their lives and prepare to welcome the realm of possibility open to us all. Love, joy, and these stories will linger.
Resource lists for more LGBTQ reads:
- Middle Grade Books by LGBTQReads
- Great LGBTQ Inclusive Picture & Middle Grade Books by Welcoming Schools
- LGBTQ Books for Middle Grade Readers by Book Riot
- 30 Essential LGBT+ Books for YA Readers by AbeBooks
- 2017 Rainbow List, 2018 Rainbow List, 2019 Rainbow List
- True Colors: LGBTQ Books Starring Mighty Girls for Kids, Teens, & Parents by A Mighty Girl