15 Contemporary Queer YA Books Everyone Should Read (for Pride Month and Beyond)

Books Lists young adult
15 Contemporary Queer YA Books Everyone Should Read (for Pride Month and Beyond)

Summertime is here, and what better way to hit your summer reading goals than to pick up some amazing queer YA? Let’s be real for a second, this list could have been 100 books long (and it’s a blessing, as only a decade ago it would have been much tougher to put together a list such as this!) But then you’d be spending more time reading this list and less time reading these amazing books. 

With contemporary romance, witchy graphic novels, multigenerational stories, secret identity fantasies, and monsters that supposedly don’t exist, these 15 queer titles are among the brightest of the already sparkling shelves of the world of YA. (But if you want more fantasy oriented recs, don’t worry—we’ve got that too.)


Ander and Santi were Here cover queer YA

Ander and Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa

In Jonny Garza Villa’s heartfelt queer novel Ander and Santi Were Here, Ander is taking a gap year before heading to art school, and their family is hoping to keep them focused on preparing for college. So they “fire” them from working at the family taquería, which Ander is decidedly unhappy about…until they meet the new waiter.

Ander and Santi immediately feel a pull toward each other, and the energy between them inspires both Ander’s artwork and Santi’s sense of belonging. But all of that might be shattered when ICE agents come for Santi. This beautiful lyrical sophomore novel is definitely one to read when you have tissues around. 


Imogen Obviously cover queer YA

Imogen Obviously by Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli writes books with an overflowing amount of heart, and Imogen is a look at the ways identity can shift.

Imogen Scott is an Ally. So when she goes to visit her friend Lili at her college campus, and Lili admits that she’s told her friends that she and Imogen used to date, Imogen is fine to go along with it, despite her clear heterosexuality. And the feelings that she’s developing for Tessa, Lili’s best friend, definitely aren’t making her wonder if her sexuality is actually what she thought it was all along. 


Things We Couldn't Say cover queer YA

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles

Jay Coles’ spectacular Things We Couldn’t Say is high on the list of “queer books more people should read”. Gio was just starting to feel like his life was together, but all that has shifted now that the birth mother who left their family when he was 9 has walked back into their lives.

He’s not sure if he’s willing to open himself back up to her, or even if he can ever forgive her. And it’s complicating things for him elsewhere too, because he’s been getting closer to the new guy on the basketball team but can’t figure out if he wants it to grow into something new. 


Felix Ever After cover queer YA

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

The ever-fantastic Kacen Callender’s Felix Ever After is an absolute treat of a book. Felix is asking a lot of questions–why does everyone else find love so easily? is a happily-ever-after actually waiting for him? Why is this anonymous person sending him transphobic messages and also posting his deadname?

That last one inspires a revenge plan, which turns into catfishing, which turns into a love triangle…but also might just change the way Felix sees himself. 


The Lesbianas Guide to Catholic School cover queer YA

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Sonora Reyes’s debut belongs on everyone’s YA shelves, so if you don’t have it yet now’s the time to go get it, I will wait….

Yami is starting over at a new school, where yes she is one of only a few Mexican kids, but also she’s away from her ex-best friend that outed her at her old school. And her plan to stay under the gaydar quickly starts falling apart due to the persistent cuteness of Bo, the only openly queer girl at school. 


The Summer of Everything cover queer YA

The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters

Julian Winters’s books are the literary equivalent of spending time with a friend you know you’re completely happy & safe with, and The Summer of Everything is my personal favorite.

Wesley works at Once Upon a Page, a local bookstore that might lose its location to a coffee shop franchise. He’s also secretly crushing on his best friend Nico, and panicking about the impending Fall season when he’ll head off to college. 


Mooncakes cover queer YA

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

I’m not being dramatic when I say that I would cover my car in Wendy Xu artwork if I understood logistically and compensatorily how to do that so it shouldn’t shock anyone that Mooncakes is on this list.

A queer graphic novel that’s equivalent to a sparkling cup of homemade hot cocoa, it follows young witch Nova and a nonbinary werewolf (and Nova’s childhood crush) Tam in their magical New England town. 


This Poison Heart cover queer YA

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

In Kaylynn Baron’s This Poison Heart, Bri just inherited a dilapidated estate in rural New York, one that is home to an apothecary and a garden filled with deadly botanicals.

She also has the power to grow plants from a tiny seed to full bloom with just a touch of her finger, a handy power to have when people start knocking on her door asking for elixirs. But dark secrets linger about the community as well as about the house itself. 


Only This Beautiful Moment cover queer YA

Only This Beautiful Moment by Abdi Nazemian

Three generations tell their stories in what is definitively Abdi Nazemian’s best book to date (and they are all astoundingly good, so that’s saying something).

In Only This Beautiful Moment, out gay teen Moud lives in 2019 LA, but he’s heading to Tehran with his father after learning his grandfather is dying. His father, Saeed, tells his story from 1978 when he was sent from Tehran to America after his parents learned of his involvement in the revolution. And grandfather Bobby’s story follows him in the late 1930s as his mother pushes him into an MGM studio contract. 


Venom & Vow cover queer YA

Venom & Vow by Anna-Marie McLemore and Elliott McLemore

To be clear, I could have made this entire list just books by Anna-Marie McLemore and been happy with the final product. But I have a special place in my heart for their most recent release, Venom & Vow, which McLemore co-wrote with their spouse, Elliott.

Cade McKenna is a transgender prince that spends much of his time doubling for his brother. Valencia Palafox spends much of her time attending the future queen of Eliana. Boy assassin Gael spends his time plotting to destroy Patrick McKenna, Cade’s brother. What Cade doesn’t realize is that Gael and Valencia are the same person, and they don’t know that every time they think they are fighting Patrick, it’s actually Cade. 


Summer Bird Blue cover queer YA

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

After a car accident claims the life of Rumi’s sister, Lea, she and her mother are overwhelmed by grief, the latter to the point that she sends Rumi to live with her aunt in Hawaii temporarily.

Miles and miles from home, and without the music that she and her sister would create together, Rumi finds new friendships in neighbors–80-year-old George, who is still grieving his own loss, and teen surfer Kai. 


Cheer Up cover queer YA

Cheer Up! Love and Pom Poms by Crystal Frasier and Val Wise

An antisocial lesbian and a people-pleaser trans girl walk into a cheer squad….

Annie is joining the cheer squad to round out her college applications, while BeeBee is trying to keep her parents satisfied with her grades & social life in order to keep them supportive of her transition. As the two former friends find themselves growing closer once more, they also discover a new set of feelings toward each other. 


We Deserve Monuments cover queer YA

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

Last year’s instant queer YA classic—and what I consider one of the best debuts of the last decade—follows Avery Anderson, a teen who recently moved with her mother to the home of Mama Letty, her terminally ill grandmother.

As her mother and grandmother do not get along, and will not explain why to Avery, she looks outside her home for companionship, finding it in the next-door neighbor, Simone, and in Jade, who belongs to a prominent family in the town. As Avery and Simone begin to fall into a romance, the secrets lurking beneath their town and in her family, both begin to come to the surface. 


Pet cover queer YA

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

What a blessing it is to live in the same time period as Akwaeke Emezi, and get to experience the thrill of discovery at each new spectacular piece of art they put into the world.

One of those thrilling pieces is Pet, which follows trans girl Jam in the city of Lucille, where all children are taught that the monsters are gone. But something is lurking in Jam’s best friend Redemption’s house, and it’s up to Jam and Pet, a creature that emerged from one of her mother’s paintings that has come to hunt a monster. 


Going Bicoastal cover queer YA

Going Bicoastal by Dahlia Adler

If you love queer books and hate making decisions ,then do I have a book for you! Natalya’s parents are splitting up, and she has to decide who she’s going to stay with. Mom’s heading to LA, where Natalya would be able to partake in an internship and meet an unexpected love interest. Dad’s staying in New York, where romance might be blooming with the girl Natalya’s been crushing on from afar.

Luckily, the reader gets to watch both of these journeys in alternating chapters, and they’re both a joy to follow. (I’ll full disclosure here that Adler is a friend and has been a co-blogger at three separate sites—including this one!—but I’ll also say that this is her best book so far and one of my favorite books of the year and neither of those things should be discounted)


Momstrous cover queer YA

Bonus Pre-order Recommendation: Monstrous by Jessica Lewis

Jessica Lewis is quickly becoming my number one most-recommended author in YA fiction and for good reason. Monstrous follows Latavia as she moves in with her aunt and then is offered as a sacrifice to a giant snake. You might think, wow that escalated quickly, and you’d be right, but the giant snake also knew something was up, as all sacrifices must be willing. So instead of Latavia getting eaten, she’s going to team up with the snake to dismantle the town’s deadly secrets. 

And a Bonus,  Bonus Quick Extra Credit List Just In Case You Still Need More Queer YA Reads: 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour; Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger; Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram; She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott & Alyson Derrick; Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas; Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything by Justine Pucella Winans’ Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo’ The Feeling of Falling in Love by Mason Deaver

Rachel Strolle is a teen librarian and the communications director for YALLFest and YALLWEST. Her book roundups have been featured in Buzzfeed, Reader’s Digest, and Bitch Magazine. 

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