Hello, dear readers, and today I bring to you a list I have compiled of books written by queer authors about queer individuals or relationships that mirror their own life experience. In order to most accurately and honestly represent LGBTQ+ content in literature, I believe that the work being written by an author who identifies on a personal level with the experience is important. I might do a longer post on my thoughts later, but for now, enjoy this compilation of books I have personally read and enjoyed. As an added bonus and/or requirement for this list, none of the queer characters die.
Titles that are hyperlinked have a full review on my blog. Check ’em out!
*May be updated as I find more books.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: ★★★★★
Super sweet story of two Mexican-American boys finding friendship in each other. Told in the POV of a boy named Ari and set in the 1980s. Both boys have amazing, supportive parents and the writing of this novel is absolutely beautiful. A must-read in my opinion.
Proxy and Guardian by Alex London: ★★★★★
Dystopian/Sci-fi novel with a black, gay protagonist set sometime in the distant future. In this world, poorer people are essentially “whipping boys” for their wealthy counterparts in order to avoid being in debt for their entire life. Syd, an orphan, is sentenced to death when his “Patron” (read: rich kid who doesn’t care for others) is responsible for a car crash that killed a girl, only 2 years before he would’ve been free from the debt he accumulated for being an orphan. With the help of his patron, Knox, and a strong-willed, defender-of-the-oppressed, wealthy teen, Marie, Syd flees the city he was raised in and discovers he is the key to dismantling the corrupt system that divides the classes.
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson: ★★★★
Gay protagonist, Henry, has been regularly abducted by aliens since the age of 13 which has earned himself the nickname “Space Boy” and results in horrific bullying. His boyfriend, Jesse, committed suicide a year previously, his grandmother is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, his mother’s job is killing her, and his older brother is expecting a child he can’t take care of. Henry doesn’t see much of a world worth saving and when the aliens offer him a choice– press a red button to save the world, or witness the mass destruction of every living being in 144 days– he takes some time to think about it. New kid, Diego, is dedicated to convincing Henry that good still exists.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan: ★★★
Set in what may be the most liberal town in the world, this novel showcases way more queer characters than straight ones, and is a light story and a quick read. It reads like a general stereotypical YA romance novel with the bonus of all the main characters being gay. As a story it is admittedly a little weak and didn’t make much of an impression; however, I would recommend the novel for folks tired of reading about gays being tortured by their sexuality, facing homophobia, or getting killed off. In addition to this novel, Levithan has written a plethora of light-hearted gay-centric books, so I would recommend checking him out if you haven’t already.
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Gardner: ★★★★
Published in 1982, this novel changed the world of queer fiction. The protagonist, Liza, is the student body president of her senior class and charged with leading the fundraising campaign to save her school. Meanwhile, she’s falling in love with a girl from public school and struggling to maintain her image. Very sweet book about two lovers finding their place in the world, and suitable for readers of all ages. It’s a great read to connect with older members of the queer community and understand from a historical perspective what obstacles they faced.
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour:★★★★
This story revolves around Emi, a biracial lesbian teen whose dream is to design sets for major productions. At the beginning of the novel, Emi and her best friend Charlotte discover a real life mystery that leads them to the unknown granddaughter of a now-dead famous western actor. It is a cute and sweet story. Emi’s reactions to her crush on Ava are super gay and at the time I read it, I related so much to her character. Great read for young wlw, but there isn’t a lot of depth so more advanced readers might look for something different. It holds a special place in my heart, though, for being the first wlw novel I ever read.
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King*: ★★★½
This novel focuses on a young girl struggling with her attraction to girls, and the expectations on her from society and her own family. While dealing with the troubles of high school in a small town, tension with her mom and sister, she stumbles into a secret relationship with another girl and tries to navigate it while living in freedom from labels and judgement. Some people critique it for not discussing bisexuality explicitly, but I think the protagonist’s arch of finding herself makes up for it. Cute and well done!
Far from You by Tess Sharpe*: ★★★★
Murder mystery that I just live for. The protagonist is bi but closeted and trying to solve the murder of her girlfriend with the help of her girlfriend’s brother in an attempt to clear her own name as well as find the truth. The story jumps a lot in timelines but it works well and shows the relationship between Sophie and Mina as well as Sophie’s struggle with drug addiction and recovery. Probably fine for teenage readers but it does deal with murder, violence, and drugs, so a warning is needed for more sensitive audiences.
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan:
Basic YA high school drama with the added excitement of the protagonist being a lesbian of color. I personally didn’t get that interested in it, but it does have characters of color and a happy ending between the protagonist and another girl. Sweet and dramatic, plus a pretty quick read.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: ★★★★★
Recently turned into a movie, this novel is about a lesbian protagonist growing up in the late 80s/90s and although it focuses on her struggles being closeted and religious pressure, and her eventual sending off to a conversion camp, the writing is so unique and relatable that it’s not nearly as sad as one would think. Cameron has such a tired teen voice and it pulls the story through so well. This book is an absolute gem and I would recommend it to anyone. Story-wise it’s rough at points but beautifully written and kind of comedic. I’m definitely biased because this book is my favorite of all time.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu: ★★★★★
In this novel, the protagonist is a Sri-Lankan lesbian married to a gay men to appease their more conservative parents. She has to face her fears of being found out and also the possibility of living freely when she returns home to visit her parents and finds out her ex girlfriend is getting married. The book is more focused on her relationship with her mother and her balance of her sexuality and culture rather than on a wlw relationship and it’s just so gorgeous and beautiful. Because of the age of the protagonist and the situations she deals with, this book is more suited for older audiences, but there is no content too explicit or “mature” for younger audiences, just a potential difference of interests.
You Know Me Well, a collaboration between Nina LaCour and David Levithan ★★★★
LaCour’s chapters revolve around her lesbian character, Kate, and Kate’s relationships with a girl she’s falling for, and her long time best friend. Levithan’s character, Mark, is a gay boy who is trapped in the unfortunate situation of unrequited love for his best friend. This story is set during Pride and display really lovely non-sexualized queer relationships and many, many wlw and mlm characters. The writing is so lovely and the strong friendship Mark and Kate have is very sweet and refreshing. It’s a novel everyone should pick up!
*Note: Authors with an asterisk do not have their sexuality/identity available for public viewing. I include them in this list because they identify as the gender as the protagonist, which limits the possible issue of fetishizing or misrepresenting a queer individual. I don’t want to make any assumptions, so it is entirely possible that these authors are on the queer spectrum but have decided not to mention it explicitly.