The books recommended below were published within the last several years. Suggested grade level for all titles is 7 and up (YA) unless otherwise indicated, but the individual reader is the real criterion.
Girl from Mars by Tamara Bach, trans. by Shelley Tanaka (Groundwood)
Miriam befriends Laura, then sorts through a (mutual) attraction and wonders what it means to love another girl. This nuanced portrait of small-town ennui takes a fresh approach to self-awakening. 180 pages.
David Inside Out by Lee Bantle (Holt/Ottaviano)
David begins a furtive sexual relationship with his teammate Sean. Sean’s denials of his homosexuality make David question whether their relationship will ever evolve. A refreshing contribution to the “coming out” genre. 184 pages.
Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff (Carolrhoda Lab)
Tossed out by a narrow-minded father, narrator Kid finds an alternate family—and falls hard for junkie Felix—while living on the streets. This story of friendship, loss, and love is also a tender tribute to all LGBTQ youth. 202 pages.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton)
There are two Will Graysons: one is risk-averse and straight; the other is gay, lonely, and depressed. An online romance involving the first Will’s best friend leads to an encounter between the nominal doppelgangers. 313 pages.
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner (Dial)
Devastated by her best friend Julia’s death, Cass struggles to mend fences with nemesis (and love interest) Heather, star of a play Julia had been writing. Cass is both unique and relatable; her grief is portrayed with respect. 263 pages.
Ash by Malinda Lo (Little)
Ash lives in a society in which magic is beginning to be regarded as superstition. She first meets a handsome fairy, then forms an unlikely friendship—and falls in love—with the king’s huntress. 265 pages.
Huntress by Malinda Lo (Little)
In this prequel to Ash, Taisin and Kaede travel with the prince to the Fairy Queen’s palace. Feelings grow between the young women, even as they face supernatural dangers that pick off members of their party. 373 pages.
Love Is the Higher Law by David Levithan (Knopf)
Three teens describe living in New York City after 9/11. At first loosely acquainted, the teens becomes closer as they learn to cope. Levithan portrays distinct individuals dealing with grief and uncertainty in different ways. 167 pages.
Sprout by Dale Peck (Bloomsbury)
“Sprout” Bradford’s class assignment, “Quit Whining! or, Holden Caulfield Could Learn a Few Things from Huck Finn,” catches the eye of a state essay-contest coach, forcing Sprout to explore his secrets—like being gay. 277 pages.
Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters (Knopf)
After she starts dating tough-girl Reeve, Johanna’s dream-come-true turns into a nightmare of violence. The complexity of Johanna’s and Reeve’s personalities creates a deeply human story of abuse and redemption. 296 pages.
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp (Candlewick)
Traveling to visit his dying brother, Jamie writes letters. These are interspersed with missives written to him. Gradually Jamie’s troubled history emerges: time on the streets, punctuated by drugs, sex, and crime. 244 pages.
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger (Dial)
For an eleventh-grade writing assignment, T.C., Augie, and Alé recount their freshman year shenanigans, friendships, and heartaches. Kluger has a fine touch with characterization and his teens have strong, distinct voices. 403 pages.
Skim written by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood)
This graphic novel charts a season of change in the life of misfit Kim in an artfully true-to-life jumble of dialogue, internal narration, and diary entries. Dark space and perspective infuse the delicate-lined art with meaning. 143 pages.
I Am J by Cris Beam (Little)
Transgendered J’s mother assumes he’s a lesbian, his father doesn’t know how to talk to him, and he’s in love with his best friend, Melissa. J’s frustrations and desires are strongly conveyed in this story of self-discovery. 339 pages.
Stick by Andrew Smith (Feiwel)
Thirteen-year-old Stick’s father beats him and his older brother Bosten. After Dad finds out Bosten is gay, both boys, separately, run away. The violence is intense, but so is the deep loyalty between the brothers. 292 pages.
Kiss by Jacqueline Wilson (Roaring Brook)
Ninth-grader Sylvie’s best friend, Carl, seems to be growing away from her. Carl’s homosexuality is breezily portrayed, allowing Sylvie to let go of her crush on him while growing even closer to her best friend. Grade level: 6–8. 248 pages.
What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson (Delacorte)
Brothers James and Alex want to leave Tuscaloosa. The catalyst is James’s friend Nathen, who sees Alex’s potential as a runner. Alex and Nathen become friends, then boyfriends, in a tender exploration of first love. 295 pages.