Pride Month is underway, the sun has finally graced the sky – and you know what that means? Well, I don’t know if you’re the same, but we’re itching for a good rom-com read to match this gorgeous approach of summer. And why not give your support to the queer community this June? These ten swoon-worthy LGBT YA books are packed with queer love, familial, platonic and romantic alike, and there’s something in this list for everyone. And as we all know, Pride doesn’t stop at Pride Month, so keep promoting and championing these amazing books year-round, and hopefully you’ll encourage more queer representation in YA books for years to come!
1. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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.
Read if you love: the film Moonlight
We’re starting off with a pretty famous one, but Ari & Dante so masterfully compacts the essence of summer into its pages that we can’t help it. This isn’t a busy or dramatic book, and there’s no unnecessary plot twists – it’s just two complex Mexican-American boys becoming friends, dealing with the quiet perils of life, and falling in love. Ever heard of those films where people complain that nothing happens, but you don’t understand how anyone could hate them because of the emotions and peace they pack into a relatively uneventful film? That’s Ari & Dante down to a tee.
2. You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz is going to attend the uber-elite Pennington College and get out of Campbell, Indiana, forever. But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen.
There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington. The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Our favourite part: the strength of Liz as a character!
Yes, You Should See Me In A Crown has a super-cool romcom premise. And a title inspired by a very scary Billie Eilish song! But this coming-of-age story has a soft, melty centre that will warm even the iciest of hearts. This isn’t just a soulless summer read to rot your teeth – Liz knows the world doesn’t want her to succeed on account of her not being straight or white, and sometimes her own insecurities don’t want her to succeed either. But the way she pushes on through it all to shine is a quality we hope every reader takes and puts into their own life. Plus. . . that romance! Was the word ‘yearning’ made to describe the way we felt whenever Liz and Mack were together?
3. Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
What we love: Nick’s adorable dog Nellie!
Alice Oseman’s webcomic has been adapted into a fantastic graphic novel. If you’re a graphic novel newbie, you might not expect the characters of Nick and Charlie to be as vivid as they are, but their quirks pop off the page. Oseman highlights their embarrassment or flusters through their vivid facial expressions and the storyboard-style appearance of flowers and hearts in romantic moments. You’ll fall in love with Nick, Charlie, plus their chaotic friends and families – just as they fall in love with each other.
4. Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
Darcy Phillips can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee, and (mostly) uses her power for good. She also does not appreciate being blackmailed. However, when pretentious Alexander Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.
Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and her best friend she’s definitely-not-in-love-with will never speak to her again. Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?
Read if you love: Simon vs the Homosapiens’ Agenda
Hello, rom-com plot! A lighter Simon vs the Homosapiens’ Agenda (there’s no outing in this one!), Perfect on Paper has a gorgeous romance to boot. Darcy is definitely a complex character, but that’s what makes her so real – we don’t have angelic protagonists in real life, so why should we in our rom-com books? She lies to her friends, makes bad decisions, and causes utter chaos. . . but she still gets her happy ending, which is exactly what we need to hear when we’re messy teenagers who don’t quite have it all figured out yet.
And what we love most about Perfect on Paper is its refreshing approach to bisexuality. Gonzales takes care to emphasise how the gender of the person Darcy’s currently dating doesn’t stop her being bisexual – and that’s a message we want everyone to remember this Pride Month.
5. One Last Stop by Casey McQuinston [suitable for 18+]
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on her commuting train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
Read if you love: literally any cheesy romcom, plus the film Pride.
Yes, this is New Adult, not Young Adult, but One Last Stop is too good to leave off. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard of Red, White and Royal Blue, the adored debut of Casey McQuinston. We’re thrilled to report that her sophomore novel, One Last Stop, is just as bright, funny, and sexy. Featuring a stellar cast of queer roommates, the vibes of New York baked into the page like a chocolate-and-peanut-butter bagel (don’t ask), and best of all, a romance for the ages, you’ll shoot through the book like you’re on the Q-Train and enjoy every minute.
McQuinston builds the world of August’s New York with exquisite care and affection, from the magical atmosphere of Billy’s Diner to the bustling, filthy madness of a commute on public transport. And the attention given to queer history in Jane’s backstory is perfect to remember the forebearers of Pride Month and keep their memories alive, just as August does for Jane.
6. Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve
Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?
Our favourite part: Dean’s amazing group of queer friends.
Between Perfect and Real is a little bit painful, a lot of fun, and even more packed with heart. Sometimes we love contemporary rom-coms that make us giggle and grin, but every so often it’s great to remember the lived-in experiences of the queer community and how that changes the way they walk through the world.
Dean’s transness permeates every aspect of this fantastic book, from the way he approaches his teacher’s unconventional casting of him as Romeo (even though he isn’t out yet), to his difficult relationship with his mother, to the overspill of love and support and hope he gets when he embraces his trans support group. Not only is Between Perfect and Real an amazing read, but it’s a great learning experience for what it means to be a queer teenager, and all the subtle perils and pleasures that come with it.
7. I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
What we love: the attention to familial love!
This lovely slow-burner will rip your heart out and put it back together, and that’s its greatest strength. I Wish You All The Best understands how the consequences of the opening scene where Ben comes out as nonbinary will impact them in every way. There’s no glossing over complex queer emotions or exaggerating them to stereotype – just a wonderful, considered story that rings true to a lot of readers. And that consideration is why we feel it when Ben starts to open themselves up to the people around them in the latter half of the book – we feel joyous when they accept Nathan’s crush on them, we feel relief when their sister accepts them into her life.
I Wish You All The Best is the perfect evidence why it’s so important to champion queer books written by queer writers – because only people who have lived those complex experiences can put the true, realistic nuances of those experiences on page as expertly as Deaver has.
8. Loveless by Alice Oseman
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day. As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever. Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
Our favourite part: the way Oseman embeds the experiences of asexuals through every part of the book!
Yes, this is the second Alice Oseman book on here, but who are we to hold back when the British Queen of YA writes so many amazing books? Contrary to the name, Loveless is packed with all sorts of love, from Pip and Rooney’s bickering romance to Georgia’s platonic affair with the members of the LGBT society who welcome her and her asexuality with open arms. This is another book full of the silly little asexual experiences that readers might not understand about asexuality until they read Loveless, and you come away with a nuanced picture of a sexuality so often misunderstood. And, as if to disprove the main myth of asexuality in a beautifully refreshing change, the book ends with the conclusion that Georgia has fallen in love and found a soulmate. . . just not with who you’d expect.
9. Late To The Party by Kelly Quindlen
Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined. She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world. So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia. The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
Read if you love: the film Booksmart
Raise your hands – who else had a teenage mid-life crisis when they realised their life wasn’t like the movies? Codi does in Late To The Party, and boy, are the consequences fun. Braiding more depth into the coattails of Superbad and Booksmart, both of which have similar premises, Late To The Party understands what it’s like to be young and alive and truly socially anxious about it all. It’s proudly intersectional, with a cast packed with POC and LGBT+ representation that goes far beyond the superficial. And best of all, it promises to all the late bloomers out there that no matter what you might think, it’s not too late, you’ve not passed your best, and you can still feel as infinite as Codi.
10. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people. In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Read if you love: I’ll Give You The Sun
We fell in love with this beautiful, lyrical book from the very first page. Clap When You Land is written in prose, but the unique style only adds to the ethereal quality of the story. This is one of those books where a character is incidentally queer, without it being their main source of development. Yes, queer people want to read books about their sexuality, but they also want to read books about all of the other things that can happen in a life – bereavement and family secrets and race and searching for a better future.
Acevedo weaves each of those themes into the prose of Clap When You Land with pared-back eloquence that we truly admire. Even though this isn’t a traditional book, you’ll shut the final page feeling shaken to the core and full with emotions you can’t begin to name.