Just in time for Pride Month, we’ve compiled a list of some of the amazing LGBTQ young adult books 2021 has to offer. Many are out already, and some are headed to bookshelves later this year!
Prepare your reading lists!
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Johnson’s debut book about a young, awkward Black girl who ends up running for prom queen and falling for her competitor garnered attention after being selected as the first-ever YA pick by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. It’s a fun and funny story that celebrates Black girlhood in all its glory. This book club pick that’s guaranteed to get everyone talking is also noted as a Teacher’s Pick on Amazon and received a Stonewall Book Honor.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
The celebrated author of graphic-memoir-turned-Broadway-musical Fun Home returns with her hotly anticipated fourth book, a comic chronicle of her lifelong pursuit of physical fitness and how that obsession with exercise—”the sweat, the endorphins, the gear, the togs, the next new thing!”—became a way to shuffle off (or at least temporarily forget about) the mortal coil.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Fifteen and pregnant, Vern frees herself from the cultish compound in which she’d been raised to strike out on her own in the deep, dark woods. She gives birth to two boys—named Howling and Feral—and together these three must survive and thrive, finding moments of gentleness amidst the tempestuousness of nature. Solomon’s fantastic, ferocious third novel reimagines The Call of the Wild as an allegory about the complexities of Black motherhood, of queer womanhood, of bodily liberation and self-reliance.
Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
Yes, echoes of Demi Lovato’s 2015 bop resound throughout these sweet and sultry pages, but Adler’s novel offers a wonderfully queer spin on another August-becomes-September anthem: Grease‘s “Summer Nights.” Larissa had spent her summer vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where she met and fell for the enrapturing Jasmine; returning to school in New York, and to her hopelessly devoted crush on a hot football hunk, Chase, she’s more than a little surprised to find Jasmine there lighting up the hallways. When Chase finally asks her out, Larissa’s dreams of dating the perfect boy are ripped at the seams.
Jay’s Gay Agenda
There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all his friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.
Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones . . . because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.
I’ll Be The One by Lyla Lee
For a feel-good, queer girl read, check out this light-hearted debut by author Lyla Lee. It centers around Skye Shin, an overweight, bisexual, Korean teen who dreams of being a K-Pop dancer and won’t let anyone dash her dreams. This sweet, uplifting tale is featured in the 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 Titles.
Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer
An outgrowth from John Paul Brammer’s advice column of the same name, Hola Papi is part words of wisdom, part raucous memoir careening through the misadventures of queer youth. Taken together, that adds up to a warm, witty compendium of hard-won life lessons, ripped directly from the annals of Brammer’s own experiences as a biracial gay man.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
Two children whose mother has tragically passed are sent to live with their somewhat aloof uncle…no this isn’t a gothic novel a la Henry James, but a laugh-out-loud heartwarmer from the author of Lily and the Octopus. A formerly famous gay sitcom star residing in Palm Springs takes in his sister’s young son and daughter in the wake of her death, upending his sense of his own life and legacy. Fans of Tell the Wolves I’m Home will be similarly stirred by Rowley’s latest, a touching tale of grief and family.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
To say that Casey McQuiston’s latest novel is so electrifyingly fun and swoon-worthy that you’ll miss your subway stop while reading it is probably a little on the nose, but whatever. This follow-up to the smash hit Red, White, and Royal Blue follows sardonic loner August Landry, a twenty-three-year-old Louisianan who has just moved to Brooklyn. Self-sufficient but cagey, she’s disarmed by a tall butch named Jane she sees on her daily commute, whose alluring aesthetic is squarely 1970s punk. That’s because Jane is literally displaced in time, stuck forty-five years in the future. Together, these two lost souls try to untangle this temporal mystery—and fall in love in the process. One Last Stop is a heart-thawing ode to the impossible magic of New York, and will even leave you feeling somehow wistful for the MTA (yes, really).
The Queer Bible ed. by Jack Guinness
One of the defining and most heartening traits of the LGBTQ community is our commitment to paying it forward while, of course, paying homage to those that came before, to the cultural warriors—the writers, singers, filmmakers, and performers—who fought for a better world with their art. This compendium celebrates queer icons past and present, featuring Elton John on Divine, Joseph Cassara on Pedro Almodóvar, Graham Norton on Armistead Maupin, and many more.