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LGBTQIA+ Pride in YA Literature

By Emma Rogers, Camryn Vodden, Holly Allwright and Ekta Rajagopalan


As children reach adolescence, the world around them becomes even more daunting, particularly if they’re feeling confused about their identity and sexuality. Literature is the perfect way to educate young adults about the diverse world we live in, and these books will surely help them feel less alone.

 

Something To Be Proud Of by Anna Zoe Quirke

 

Something To Be Proud Of is the debut novel from writer and librarian Anna Zoe Quirke and is the most recent publication on this list! The story follows Imogen Quinn, a bisexual girl with dreams of becoming a comedian. She enlists the help of the captain of the football team, Ollie Armstrong, to put on a pride festival and tackle the injustices at their school. Not only does this book feature themes of pride, but it also looks at the importance of friendship and fighting for what’s right.

 

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

 

The Art of Being Normal was all over bookstagram upon its release in 2015 and was also the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Readers. Our protagonist, David Piper, is an outsider at school, hiding a huge secret: he wants to be a girl. Enter Leo Denton, the new boy at school who wants nothing more than to be invisible. After standing up for David, an unlikely friendship forms, but what will happen when David’s secret isn’t so secret anymore?

 

It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura

 

It’s Not Like It’s A Secret won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, the 2018 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults and sits in the 2018 Rainbow Book List. The book traces the secrets that the protagonist, Sana Kiyohara, must carry with her, from feeling lonely, her father’s infidelity and her romantic feelings towards her best friend. Moving to California and leaving her old life behind, Sana feels it is time for honesty and to face her feelings directly. Misa Sugiura explores feelings of sexuality, change and the aftermath of truth.

 

If We Were Us by K. L. Walther

 

If We Were Us goes out of its way to break down stereotypical tropes and put a realistic twist on young romance. Centring on twins Charlie and Nick, as well as their two friends, Sage and Luke, the early plotline indicates that Charlie and Sage are meant to be. With whispers of a romantic relationship fuelled by the pressure of their peers and family, Charlie and Sage are anxious about the reactions of those around them and worried about their future. When Charlie realises he has more than platonic feelings towards the new student Luke, and Sage’s feelings towards Nick increase the more time they spend together, the pair must now work together to understand their new feelings and face the uncertainty of the future.

 

Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

 

Becky Albertalli is a legendary voice in the world of queer YA novels with past books such as Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of the Unrequited, and her latest novel is no different. Published in 2022, this queer rom-com follows hopelessly heterosexual Imogen Scott, a fierce ally with two queer besties. When she visits one of her best friends, Lili, at her college campus, she discovers that Lili has told all her new friends that she and Imogen used to date. The novel follows Imogen’s journey of self-discovery as she attempts to play the part of Lili’s queer ex whilst simultaneously grappling with questions surrounding her true sexuality. Maybe she’s not as straight as she thought she was.

 

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

 

Another recent release, Jas Hammonds’ We Deserve Monuments, discusses racial tensions, generational trauma and queer existence within the conservative locale of southern USA. Hammonds describes their novel as "Gilmore Girls, but make it black and gay”. This book has an excellent blend of dark mystery, slow-burn romance, female friendships and political discussions. It imparts crucial messages of inequality but also joy to a younger audience, ultimately creating a sense of hope for the queer future. A must-read for teens today!

 

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

 

Dean Atta’s debut novel, The Black Flamingo, published in 2019, is also a Stonewall Book Award Winner. Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London but has never felt completely Greek-Cypriot or Jamaican enough. As he gets older and enters university, he starts to learn who he is and where he fits in. At university, he discovers the Drag Society, and the Black Flamingo is born. Told with raw honesty and insight, this book is about the power of embracing your uniqueness.

 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

 

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. The Heartstopper series is an LGBTQIA+ graphic novel about life, love and everything in between. It’s also a Netflix series, with season three coming in October. Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they've never met until they're made to sit together one day. They quickly become friends, and Charlie starts falling hard for Nick, though he doesn’t think he has a chance. However, Nick is more interested in Charlie than either one of them imagined – love truly works in surprising ways. The series, which contains five volumes, is about all the small stories in Nick and Charlie’s lives, which together make up something larger: love.

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