Books with Inspiring Gay Characters
By Lauren Dooley, Emma Holbrook and Alyssa Miles
Gay romance has always been a subject to be approached with sensitivity and respect as the list of books mispresenting the importance of a gay person (or in this case, character) embracing their sexuality and revealing it to the world has either been misunderstood or overshadowed. Luckily, in this day and age, there is a vast selection of spectacular books documenting a character’s beautiful journey of self-love, embracing one’s identity and exploring the dangerous yet magical world of sexuality. All of the books included on our list are some of our favourite reads in numerous fictional genres for people of all ages!
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (YA fantasy)
This YA fantasy follows Yadriel’s life as it is derailed when he releases a spirit into his world. Trying to prove himself to his traditional family, he releases the ghost of his cousin’s murderer, Julian Diaz. The problem: Julian has no intention of returning to the world of the dead until he can right some wrongs. Determined to rid his life of this ghost, Yadriel agrees to help Julian so he can release him back to the underworld. However, the two begin to grow closer and it becomes more difficult to say goodbye.
This paranormal tale took the YA community by storm. Cemetery Boys received many book nominations, including the Bram Stoker Award and the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel and Best First Novel, respectively. The romance within this story follows a transgender boy trying to prove his gender while falling in love with another boy. The representation within this story is both beautiful and positive.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Contemporary)
Starting a new year in high school can be daunting. For Charlie, he is returning to school without his best friend and completely alone. While struggling with losing his best friend to suicide along with dealing with his own mental health issues, Charlie begins to write a series of letters detailing his everyday school life. Puberty and love are tough things to navigate, never mind when you have other issues you are trying to face.
This poignant, coming-of-age tale is beautiful and tragic in equal measure. The writing style is unique as it is primarily in a letter format. Charlie is such a lovable character and painfully realistic. The struggles he faces daily are experienced by teenagers globally and not discussed enough. His best friend Patrick comes out as gay in this story and he is a great tribute to the dramatics of teen love. He is unapologetically himself in a world that is not always kind to him due to his sexuality.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (Historical Romance)
Based in 1989, this story takes a close-up perspective into queer history and what it meant to come to terms with your sexuality in the middle of the AIDS crisis. The story follows Reza, Judy and Art. Reza has just moved to New York City and knows that he likes boys, but all he knows about gay men is what he sees in the media of people dying of AIDS, so he keeps his true self hidden by dating Judy. She wants to find true love and is an aspiring fashion designer who spends all her free time with her best friend, Art. Art is a photographer and an openly gay man, which causes constant bullying from his peers and a strained relationship with his parents. After Reza and Judy start dating, Reza feels drawn to Art and desperately fights his attraction because he doesn’t want to disappoint his family and is worried his sexuality means he will die of AIDS.
This book navigates friendship, fear, acceptance, and love all at a pivotal point in a young person’s life and an unsettling time in history. It is a story about courage and accepting yourself even when fear weighs you down.
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Mythology Retelling)
Most are familiar with The Iliad by Homer. The Song of Achilles takes The Iliad and retells the story of Achilles and his friendship, and eventual romance, with Patroclus. On the outside the two couldn’t be any different, but they are drawn together at a young age and forge an inseparable bond. The story depicts how Achilles and Patroclus grew up together and eventually are drawn to war after Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped.
Miller’s take on historical fiction has crafted a story so engaging you truly feel as if you are right alongside the characters in Ancient Greece. This story is a heart-wrenching love story you won’t be able to put down. The strength, sacrifice and raw emotion of the characters is what truly makes this retelling so special.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (YA)
Call Me by Your Name by Andrew Aciman (Romance)
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Fiction)
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman (Graphic Novel)