Gay YA: romance for LGBTQ+ teens

Seira Wilson on June 23, 2020

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One of the trends I've noticed in publishing in recent years has been the rise of LGBTQ+ romance and rom-com novels for teens. It's refreshing to see LGBTQ+ characters navigate first love, first heartbreak, and the awkwardness of high school dating, leading to relationships as funny, angst-filled, and fraught as any other. Tina Turner famously asked: "What's love got to do with it?" Well, Tina, the answer to that is: everything...

Camp by L. C. Rosen

What better summer read than L.C. Rosen's queer romance, Camp? This delightful romantic comedy takes place at Camp Outland—emphasis on out—where protagonist Randy Kapplehoff happily spends his summers. He's made friends there, lives for the big camp musical, and of course there's a love interest: handsome Hudson Aaronson-Lim. The only problem? Hudson is into guys who act straight, which is definitely not Randy. In an attempt to win Hudson over, Randy tries to reinvent himself, but if you have to change who you are for someone, how authentic is your relationship? A valid question whether you're queer or straight, age 17 or 37...

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Adiba Jaigirdar's debut novel pits Nishat and Flávia against each other when both teens choose henna art as their business for a school competition.  Nishat already had feelings for charismatic Flávia, but being honest about them doesn't seem like a great idea after Nishat's parents' traumatic reactions when she told them she's a lesbian. Flávia is sending all the right signals, but is she being genuine or manipulating Nishat in order to win the competition? Complex issues of homophobia and racism are carefully threaded into the challenges of romantic uncertainty, and all are handled with authenticity and care. A smart, fast-paced novel from an exciting new voice in young adult fiction.

Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

A retro rom-com for anyone who loved Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before, with a boy meets boy twist. Kai Sheridan is gay, but he's chosen to stay firmly in the closet until he goes off to college. But Kai's resolve is tested when the hottest senior, Bryson Keller, accepts a three-month dare to date anyone who asks, for a single school week at a time. Two months into the dare, Kai shocks himself when he asks to be Bryson’s date-of-the-week, but that’s nothing compared to how he feels when Bryson accepts. Lovable characters and a quirky plot make this a fun, entertaining summer read.

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith

Tobly McSmith brings a fresh voice to LGBTQ+ fiction with a coming-of-age novel about a transgender teen navigating the choppy waters of first love at a new high school where no one knows his past. Pony is just trying to get through his senior year as a regular guy, nothing more than the new kid at school. But he didn't factor in beautiful, popular cheerleader Georgia who catches his eye on the first day. There’s definitely something between Pony and Georgia, but she doesn't know he's trans and the fear of exposure is always lurking in the background. Pony faces hard decisions that every trans person contends with, but Stay Gold is a story for all of us—when we're falling in love, is there such a thing as the "right" time to share the important truths about ourselves, and how do we find the courage to let ourselves be who we want in the face of outside expectations?

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

Until now, 17-year-old Codi Teller has spent her high school years in the company of her two best friends, watching movies, and playing it safe instead of attending parties with the straight kids. As the end of the year draws near, Maritza and JaKory decide to throw caution to the wind and crash a local party, but Cori just can't bring herself to go along. She ends up there anyway, and discovers two boys kissing in secret. A new friendship is formed with one of the boys after he swears Cori to secrecy but, as we've seen many times before, the faithful friends get dropped for the shiny new ones. Cori experiences her first crush, but as the summer progresses things take a turn, and it's the old friends Cori needs the most. A summer read that speaks to anyone who's been a wallflower, or struggled to find their way in friendships, love, and life.

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