It’s Pride Month! Books Featuring LGBTQ Teens
By Kasey Short
In celebration of Pride Month, I have complied a reading list of engaging books written for teens with LGBTQIA+ characters who represent diverse identities, sexualities, experiences, and families.
All students benefit from reading about diverse people, families and relationships and gaining insight into experiences that may be similar or different from their own. LGBTQIA+ students benefit from reading about characters they can relate to and seeing their lives reflected and honored in these stories.
12 Young Adult Books with LGBTQIA+ Themes
📕 This novel is a perfect mix of fantasy and reality for middle graders. It tells the story of Hector who is navigating starting at a new school where he is relentlessly bullied for being gay and different. When he runs away from a bully into the janitor’s closet, he finds himself in a magical room that changes based on his needs. In this magical room, he meets two other kids who are also in need of a safe space, and they quickly become friends that support each other. This story shows LGBTQIA+ teens that they belong and bring tremendous value to their communities. It encourages all readers to be true to themselves.
📕 This novel tells the story of Ana, a 12-year-old nonbinary figure skater navigating her identity while experiencing the pressure of being an athlete. Ana knows she does not like frilly dresses, but when she meets Hayden, a transgender boy, it opens her mind to the possibility. The novel shows insight into Ana’s thoughts and feelings as she questions her gender, comes out to family and friends, first learns the word nonbinary, and tries various pronouns to decide what feels right. It shows young readers that it is not necessary to have everything figured out and it is okay to ask questions and take time to discover what is right for themselves.
📕 This book alternates between two perspectives. Ash, who is discovering how to be gender fluid after being bullied by peers and pressured by their father to choose one gender, and Daniel, who is emotionally sensitive and pressured by his family to hide his emotions. They bond over a journey to save an adorable dog, Chewbarka, who is scheduled to be euthanized at the vet, and begin to have romantic feelings for each other. The author does an amazing job showing Ash’s conflicting feelings and challenges while navigating life as a nonbinary youth, the impact of toxic masculinity, and the strength that comes from feeling and showing your emotions.
📕 This book, filled with romance and current teen issues, tells the story of Liz, a high school girl from a small town who dreams of playing in a famous orchestra one day. To achieve her dreams, she enters her school prom queen competition in hopes of winning the scholarship money that is awarded to the winner. In the process she meets and falls for Mack, a new girl at school. Liz and Mack’s relationship is complicated by the fact that Liz is not out to her school community and coming out could ruin her chances of winning the scholarship money she needs.
📕 This book tells Bea’s story of coping with her parent’s divorce, her father marrying his boyfriend, gaining a stepsister, and navigating her anxiety with the help of a therapist. There are so many great things about this book, but one of my favorites is how it normalizes her father’s gay relationship, how happy and fulfilled he is in his relationship, and how that happiness positively impacts his daughter. There is an instance in the book where a family member is homophobic, and it shows the reality of our current society while also demonstrating that the characters’ love and happiness are not dependent on the acceptance of small-minded people.
📕 This story is set on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, and tells the story Caroline who was born during a hurricane and therefore considered unlucky. She is dealing with her mother abandoning her, a spirit following her around the island, and being ostracized by her peers. Then she finds a true friend in a new girl from Barbados, Kalinda, and realizes she has a crush on her. As Caroline is figuring out how to navigate her romantic feelings for Kalinda, they set off on a journey together to find her mother.
📕 This book tells the story of George, a 10-year-old who everyone thinks is a boy but who knows that she is a girl, Melissa. Her feelings come to the surface when she realizes that she wants to play the part of Charlotte in her school’s performance of “Charlotte’s Web.” The book shows Melissa’s internal struggle to come out to her mom and gain acceptance for who she is. The book explains the term transgender in words that could easily be understood by an upper elementary school student and uses female pronouns throughout the story.
📕 This book tells the story of Rick who is just starting middle school, has a toxic friendship, and is beginning to question his sexual identity. He has a difficult time naming how he feels and communicating his feelings with his family and friends. Rick decides to join the Rainbow Spectrum club at school where he makes new friends, including Melissa (the character from Alex Gino’s book George). The book addresses a wide range of gender identities and sexualities in a way that would be easy for a middle school student to understand. The book concludes with the reader filled with hope for Rick as he begins to feel comfortable in his own skin.
📕 This book tells the story of Mattie, an eighth grader, who is navigating middle school friendships, crushes, and her bisexual identity as her grade performs “Romeo and Juliet.” She begins the novel having a crush on Elijah, a boy in her grade. Then she is cast to play Romeo opposite classmate Gemma as Juliet and finds herself increasingly attracted to her. This attraction leads Gemma to explore her bisexuality and normalize her feelings. The book shows readers an example of someone discovering they are attracted to both boys and girls in middle school.
📕 This graphic novel fairy-tale is set in 19th century France and tells the story of Prince Sebastian who is hiding a secret life where he wears dresses and presents himself as a woman. The only person who knows his secret is his dressmaker, Frances, who is a teenager working to advance her career. The book explores gender fluidity, the importance of being true to yourself, and following your dreams.
📕 This book tells the story of Rahul, a gay first-generation Indian American boy who is discovering where he fits in his small town. His grandfather gives him the advice to “Find one thing you’re really good at. And become the best at it.” He focuses on this advice and feels that if he can find that one thing, his problems will disappear. As Rahul learns to be himself, the reader learns the value of loving yourself exactly how you are.
📕 In this book sixth grader Silas uses his book report on Glen Burke, the first openly gay professional baseball player, as a starting point for him to come out. Silas tells his best friend that he has gay but has a difficult time coming out to his baseball teammates. This book shows readers that there is no one way to come out, there is a place for everyone on the team, and there is great value in being true to yourself.
Additional Resources on MiddleWeb
Kasey Short (@shortisweet3) loves to share ideas from her classroom and writes frequently for MiddleWeb. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is currently an eighth grade ELA teacher and English Department chair at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School.