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Recommended books and articles for Pride Month

Throughout the month of June, we’ve been celebrating Pride Month by highlighting Horn Book articles on queer lives, experiences, and literature. Some brand-new additions to our LGBTQIA+ content from previous years:

Browse the tags Pride Month and LGBTQIA+ for lots more. Of course, we can’t celebrate anything around here without also recommending great books, so we’ve updated our LGBTQIA+ booklist. The following books were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites!

Preschool and Primary

Austrian, J. J.  Worm Loves Worm
32 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-238633-5

Illustrated by Mike Curato. When Worm and Worm decide to marry, their animal friends offer “that’s how it’s always been done”–type advice, some ridiculous (“You’ll need to get rings”); characters appear against white backdrops, which distills the story’s abiding humor. Readers will be won over long before this higher-order message book gently broaches its love-is-love concept (“which one of you is the bride?”).

red_crayonstory

Hall, Michael  Red: A Crayon’s Story
40 pp.     Greenwillow     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-225207-4

Crayon Red is labeled red, but he colors blue, which creates frustration for the other crayons and thus Red himself. Red struggles until new friend Berry asks him to make a blue ocean. Once he lets go of his label, everything turns around, including the other crayons’ minds. Smart design and sharp details keep the story effective and amusing. [Note from Kitty Flynn: This book isn’t specifically about gender identity, but its affirming message of looking beyond labels and assumptions is a good way to introduce the topic to young children.]

Walton, Jessica  Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship
32 pp.     Bloomsbury     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-68119-210-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-68119-211-6

Illustrated by Dougal MacPherson. A teddy bear previously gendered a boy by human Erroll nervously announces that she’s not Thomas but instead a girl teddy named Tilly. Luckily, Erroll provides unconditional support, and they can quickly go back to their tea parties and playground adventures. Soft ink and colored-pencil illustrations match the gentle tone of this simply stated and warmhearted gender-identity narrative.

Williams, Vera B.  Home at Last
40 pp.     Greenwillow      2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-134973-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-134974-4

Illustrated by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka. Foster child Lester finally has a real family in Daddy Albert, Daddy Rich, and their dog Wincka. But sleeping alone makes Lester anxious. While the text takes its time in developing and solving this crisis, the pleasures of familyhood dot the narrative and provide texture. In their watercolors, Williams and Raschka engage the matter-of-fact intimacy of the boy with his gay dads.

 

Intermediate and Middle School

Clarke, Cat  The Pants Project
267 pp.    Sourcebooks Jabberwocky     2017
Trade 978-1-4926-3809-4

At eleven-year-old Liv’s new school, boys can wear pants, but “girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.” And while narrator Liv might “look like a girl…on the inside, I’m a boy.” Strong-willed, introspective Liv is a likable and relatable protagonist navigating friendships, identity, and relationships at home with his two supportive moms. A touching novel on a timely subject.

Federle, Tim  Better Nate Than Ever
279 pp.     Simon    2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-4689-2

Dreaming of Broadway stardom, thirteen-year-old Nate Foster runs away from his dull Pennsylvania town to the Big Apple, and to a casting call for a new musical. Tailor-made for fans of Glee, Federle’s debut novel combines humor with an insider’s perspective on the theater, an enthusiastic portrait of New York, and a genuine affection for lovable misfit Nate. Look for sequel Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Gino, Alex  George
198 pp.     Scholastic     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-81254-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-81258-0

Ten-year-old George is, outwardly, a boy. But inside, she’s a girl, and that disconnect is becoming impossible to endure. There are setbacks, but with the help of a few allies, particularly best friend Kelly, George prevails. Gino can employ a heavy hand, but the heart of this novel is George’s achingly poignant struggle to be herself, and that heart beats strong and true.

hennessey_other boyHennessey, M. G.  The Other Boy
234 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-242766-3

Illustrated by Sfé R. Monster. Twelve-year-old trans boy Shane has been living in “stealth mode” since transferring to a new school. On the baseball team with his best friend, Shane’s biggest challenge is convincing his father to allow him to start testosterone — until a rumor about his gender starts circulating. With excerpts from Shane’s graphic novel interspersed throughout, this hopeful story is somewhat hampered by flat and stereotypical secondary characters.

gephart_lily and dunkin

Gephart, Donna  Lily and Dunkin
341 pp.     Delacorte     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-553-53674-4
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-553-53675-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-53676-8

Eighth graders Lily Jo and Dunkin both dislike their birth names (Timothy and Norbert, respectively) and struggle with the ways they feel their bodies betray them: for trans Lily because others assume she is a boy, and for bipolar Dunkin because he needs mood stabilizing and antipsychotic medication. While their tentative friendship is repeatedly tried by bullies, Gephart delivers an optimistic novel full of hope and heart.

Peck, Richard  The Best Man
232 pp.     Dial     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-3839-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-698-18973-7

Wanting grownups to emulate, Archer Magill applauds his uncle Paul; that Paul turns out to be gay is not a crisis. Uncle Paul’s life and romance don’t overwhelm Archer’s dramas involving teachers, friends, enemies, and a dying grandfather, all of which roll along with brio and feeling. We’re not done needing books like this; comic and matter-of-fact, Peck’s latest steps out to lead the way.

Polonsky, Ami  Gracefully Grayson
247 pp.     Hyperion     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-8527-7

Sixth grader Grayson daydreams about being a girl, despite being seen by everyone as male. Grayson keeps people at a distance until Amelia moves to town. After landing the (female) lead in a play, Grayson fights for the right to present her truest self to others — both on and off stage. Polonsky captures her protagonist’s loneliness, then courage, in an immediate and intimate narrative.

 

High School

Albertalli, Becky  Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
309 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-234867-8

Sixteen-year-old Simon loves emailing Blue, an anonymous boy from school. But when another student sees the correspondence, the blossoming romance is threatened. Set in Georgia, this realistic coming-out story features a cast of unique, believable characters. Simon’s humorous narrative alternates with his emails with Blue as Simon wonders, “Don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default?”

Albertalli, Becky  The Up Side of Unrequited
340 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-234870-8

When introverted Molly’s self-confident twin Cassie starts dating the “fucking adorable” girl of her dreams, Molly worries she’s losing her sister. Enter a crush: Molly’s sweet, unapologetically uncool coworker Reid. With a matter-of-factly multiracial family (Molly, Cassie, and one of their mothers are white; their other mother, younger brother, and beloved cousin are not), this perceptive dramedy tackles substantial themes with warmth and subtlety.

 

Beam, Cris  I Am J
339 pp.     Little     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-05361-7

“When J was a really little kid, he had been surprised whenever anyone thought he was a girl.” Now 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 personal frustrations and desires are strongly conveyed in this affecting story of self-discovery.

block_love-in-the-time-of-global-warming

Block, Francesca  Lia Love in the Time of Global Warming
229 pp.     Holt     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9627-9

In this Odyssey-inspired story, after the devastating Earth Shaker, Penelope sets out into the brutal Los Angeles landscape in search of her family. She meets an intriguing boy named Hex who joins her on her journey. Block’s imagery is remarkable in this sophisticated melding of post-apocalyptic setting, re-imagined classic, and her signature magical realism.

Bow, Erin  The Scorpion Rules
368 pp.     McElderry     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-4271-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-4273-2

Prisoners of Peace series. Pan Polar Confederacy princess Greta and the world’s other royal children are held hostage: if a leader goes to war, his or her child is killed; if that child survives to eighteen, he or she is released. There’s a welcome spin on the damsel-in-distress-falls-for-rebellious-boy trope–Greta’s love interest is Da-Xia, Daughter of Heaven, rather than insurrectionary hostage Elián. A smart, compelling Hunger Games read-alike.

Cherry, Alison  Look Both Ways
296 pp.      Delacorte      2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-553-51186-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-51188-8

Brooklyn is determined to succeed at her prestigious summer theater apprenticeship, but soon her time and energy are focused on her roommate Zoe, her first same-sex crush. Zoe is the ingénue of the program and has a boyfriend, which leaves Brooklyn struggling to manage her jealousy on both counts. An authentic portrayal of questioning sexuality and setting off on a new path.

Clark, Kristin Elizabeth  Freakboy
435 pp.     Farrar     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-32472-8

High school wrestler Brendan likes girls “too much, / and not in / the same / way / everyone / else / does.” Brendan’s story weaves together with his girlfriend Vanessa’s and that of transgender woman Angel in three-part verse-harmony. Each individual has a unique personality all his or her own in this sincere, profound rendering of sexuality, queerness, and identity.

cooper_vanishedCooper, E. E.  Vanished
310 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-229390-9

When her bestie Beth — with whom she had a secret romance — runs away, Kalah is devastated. Then rumors about Beth begin flying, and the third member of their trio, Brit, also disappears; Kalah gradually realizes the pieces don’t add up. The mystery and the question of how Kalah will react are compelling. Characters’ ethnic diversity and bisexuality are integrated lightly and matter-of-factly.

Davis, Tanita S.  Happy Families
234 pp.     Knopf     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-86966-2
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-96966-9

Twins Ysabel and Justin’s lives are complicated since their father came out as transgender; they struggle to come to terms with what the change means for their family. Alternating narration, nuanced emotions, and Davis’s idealistic (though admirably so) treatment of the subject make this a worthwhile contribution to LGBTQ literature. An appended resource on proper transgender terminology adds additional value.

devine_look pastDevine, Eric  Look Past
288 pp.     Running/Teens     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-7624-5921-6
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7624-6122-6

After his friend Mary is horrifically murdered, transgender boy Avery begins investigating what happened and receives disturbing anonymous messages threatening him: present as female or be the next to die. Although most characters remain underdeveloped, it’s refreshing to see Avery’s friends and family supporting his gender identity. The religious fanaticism and details of Mary’s murder are unsettling aspects of this mystery.

Downham, Jenny  Unbecoming
378 pp.     Scholastic     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-90717-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-90732-3

Seventeen-year-old Katie didn’t know she had a grandmother until the hospital called, asking her mum to pick up Mary, who’s suffering from dementia. As Katie helps care for Mary, she uncovers a web of family secrets and struggles with her own: Katie is pretty certain she’s gay. A limited third-person perspective follows Katie’s and Mary’s stories, constructing and contrasting two fully rounded characters.

duyvis_otherboundDuyvis, Corinne  Otherbound
392 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-0928-9

Whenever seventeen-year-old Nolan closes his eyes, he’s transported into the body of Amara, a mute slave girl on an alien world who acts as decoy against would-be assassins of a princess. After years of being a helpless witness, Nolan suddenly becomes a player in the action. Duyvis keeps tensions high in both Nolan’s Arizona and Amara’s Dunelands. A humdinger of an adventure.

Federle, Tim  The Great American Whatever
278 pp.     Simon     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-0409-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-0411-2

After his sister’s fatal car crash and his father’s subsequent departure, sixteen-year-old Quinn’s screenwriting ambitions are on hold and his social life has evaporated. When best friend Geoff drags him to a party, Quinn meets college-guy Amir and reemerges from his shell as they develop a mutual attraction. The entire cast is well rounded in Federle’s humorous, heartbreaking, and heartwarming YA debut.

George, Madeleine  The Difference Between You and Me
263 pp.     Viking     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-01128-5

Out lesbian Jesse is so head-over-heels in love with closeted bisexual Emily, student council vice president, that she agrees to keep their relationship a secret. But Esther, a teenage political activist, awakens a true political spirit in Jesse. The narrative alternates among all three girls’ points of view. The characters’ political lives make this contribution to LGBTQ teen literature memorable.

Goode, Laura  Sister Mischief
367 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4640-0

Seventeen-year-old Esme, a.k.a. MC Ferocious, is part of an all-female hip-hop group called Sister Mischief. The novel begins with Esme’s coming out as a lesbian, then follows the ensuing drama as she develops a crush on a group member. The snappy dialogue smacks of trying too hard, but vibrant characterization brings the idiosyncratic subculture to life.

Girard, M-E  Girl Mans Up
377 pp.     HarperTeen     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-240417-6
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-240419-0

Pen (short for Penelope) is a girl whose gender expression doesn’t fit into conventional categories. Her struggle for self-definition plays out in three braided plot lines: tensions rise between her and her traditional Portuguese-immigrant parents; a longtime male friend turns cruel; she starts dating a female classmate. Girard offers an impressively nuanced drama about the desire to be recognized for who you are.

Green, John and Levithan, David  Will Grayson, Will Grayson
313 pp.     Dutton     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-525-42158-0

The premise of this entertaining collaboration is simple: 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. The quirky premise and epic spin on interpersonal drama more than compensate for some narrative unevenness.

heppermann_ask me how i got hereHeppermann, Christine  Ask Me How I Got Here
229 pp.     Greenwillow     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-238795-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-245405-8

Catholic-school sophomore Addie loves running cross-country, writing poetry, and having sex with her boyfriend. Then Addie gets pregnant. Her choice to have an abortion, although significant, is just one of many in her larger coming-of-age story. Addie muses on morality, religion, and sexuality; her observations are thought-provoking, wry, and bitingly smart. Addie easily outshines the “issues” in this remarkable verse novel.

 

Horner, Emily  A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
263 pp.     Dial     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-3420-3

Seventeen-year-old Cass is devastated by her best friend Julia’s death. Cass takes off on a cross-country bike trip; later, back home, she struggles to mend fences with her nemesis (and love interest) Heather, star of a play Julia had been writing. Cass is both unique and very relatable. Horner manages to treat the grieving process with respect while maintaining a positive tone.

The Summer Prince Johnson, Alaya Dawn  The Summer Prince
295 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-41779-2

Four hundred years after nuclear war devastated the world, the Brazilian city of Palmares Três thrives as an isolationist matriarchy. In precise prose Johnson evokes an utterly foreign setting complete with technologies that push at the limits of what it means to be human. The relationships that delineate the social landscape are intriguingly unconventional and startling in their intensity.

Keyser, Amber J.  Pointe, Claw
278 pp.     Carolrhoda Lab     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4677-7591-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5124-3431-6

Childhood best friends until they were caught experimenting sexually and traumatically separated, Dawn and Jessie reconnect just as they begin to experience parallel dissociative episodes: Dawn in animalistic fugue states, ballet dancer Jessie taken over by an experimental, visceral choreography. Assured, immediate prose relates the freedom the girls discover in dissociation and the profound belonging they find in one another; ultimately, they’re led to another wrenching parting.

Ask the PassengersKing, A. S.  Ask the Passengers
295 pp.     Little     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-19468-6

Astrid would be the quintessential Q-for-Questioning girl in her high school’s LGBTQ support group if her small-town school had such a thing — and the gay question is only one of many weighing her down. She sends her questions to the passengers in planes she sees overhead; each time, readers get a glimpse of a passenger’s own struggle with Astrid’s question. A furiously smart and funny coming-out-and-of-age novel.

Kokie, E. M.  Radical
437 pp.     Candlewick     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6962-1

Bex does not consider herself a survivalist. She’s “about the prep, not the politics or racist bullshit”; a “realist who plans to survive” whatever disaster occurs. But when closeted lesbian Bex meets Lucy and they start a relationship, Bex’s world becomes infinitely more complicated. Readers are sure to be drawn in by Bex’s unusual perspective and her heart-wrenching, timely story.

Konigsberg, Bill  Openly Straight
328 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-50989-3

Rafe is sick of being the poster child for all things gay at his uber-liberal Colorado high school, so when he gets into a Massachusetts boarding school for his junior year, he decides to reboot himself as “openly straight.” Konigsberg slyly demonstrates how thoroughly assumptions of straightness are embedded in everyday interactions. For a thought-provoking take on the coming-out story, look no further. Look for sequel Honestly Ben.

LaCour, Nina and Levithan, David  You Know Me Well
250 pp.     St. Martin’s Griffin     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-09864-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-250-09866-5

It’s San Francisco Pride Week, and high school seniors (and co-narrators) Mark and Kate each have much to figure out about themselves, including how out-and-proud they want to be. When they meet at a gay club, they quickly become close and nudge each other toward bravery, romantic and otherwise. This novel features funny and introspective teens with big decisions to make.

Lee, Mackenzi  The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
512 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen      2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-238280-1
Ebook ISBN  978-0-06-238282-5

Eighteen-year-old Monty is determined to retrieve an alchemical panacea and cure his lifelong best friend Percy (with whom Monty is hopelessly in love) of his epilepsy. Mayhem, adventure, and a swoon-worthy emotional roller coaster of a romance ensue. A genre tribute, satire, and exemplar in one: trope-filled in the most gleeful way.

Levithan, David  Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story
202 pp.     Dutton     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-525-42884-8

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Tiny Cooper — friend to one Will, love interest of the other — directs a musical about his life. Now, that musical is its own book, written as theater dialogue with stage directions from the self-aware protagonist. Perhaps of most interest to Will Grayson fans, this story of coming out, love, and friendship also stands on its own.

Linn, Laurent  Draw the Line
520 pp.      McElderry     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-5280-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-5282-3

High school junior Adrian’s a self-loathing closeted teen stuck in small-town Texas. His only reprieve from the world of football and beer is drawing his anonymously published webcomic about an openly gay superhero, Graphite. (Episodes of the comic, illustrated by Linn, are interspersed throughout.) Despite Adrian’s bitter and sardonic narration, this is a story of love triumphing over hate and art defeating bigotry.

lo_adaptationLo, Malinda  Adaptation
389 pp.     Little     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-19796-0

When birds start intentionally crashing into airplanes, Reese is stranded at the airport. Later, after crashing a rental car, she wakes to discover mysterious repairs to her extensive injuries. The novel, set in a just-future United States, is absolutely compelling, and a sharp twist at the climax makes everything that happened an even more satisfying puzzle to unravel. Look for sequel Inheritance.

lo_ashLo, Malinda  Ash
265 pp.     Little     2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-04009-9

Ash lives in a pseudo-historical Celtic society in which magic is just starting to be regarded as superstition. She first meets Sidhean, a handsome, seductive fairy, then forms an unlikely friendship — and falls in love — with the king’s huntress, Kaisa. The juxtaposition of Kaisa and Sidhean as Ash’s suitors invites readers to consider the nature of fictional and folkloric constructs of romantic ideals. Look for prequel Huntress.

Logan, Kenneth  True Letters from a Fictional Life
326 pp.     HarperTeen     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-238025-8

James puts up a front of happiness for his friends and family, but he secretly records his confusion and anxiety in letters he never sends. While he’d like to fall for his “sort-of girlfriend,” his true feelings are for best friend Hawken. Logan uses an easy-to-root-for character and his coming-out process to explore varied and complex forms of bullying and peer pressure.

McLemore, Anna-Marie  When the Moon Was Ours
273 pp.     St. Martin’s Griffin/Dunne     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-05866-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4668-7324-7

In an unnamed town in what could be the American Southwest or Latin America, seven young adults stand out from the otherwise vanilla residents. Each has a secret, but each also has knowledge about someone else’s. This work of magical realism provides a thoughtful examination of gender, guilt, fear, and forgiveness, weaving together cultural traditions from Pakistan, Latin America, and the U.S. in unexpected ways.

mesrobian_cuts-both-waysMesrobian, Carrie  Cut Both Ways
344 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-234988-0

As his dad’s addiction gets out of hand, Will starts fooling around with his male best friend Angus (even though Will is “not gay”) and, at the same time, begins a relationship with female sophomore Brandy. The rounded, well-developed characters and their stories are captivating, but readers should be prepared for a mature tale of sex, obsession, and emotional turmoil.

Moore, Perry  Hero
428 pp.     Hyperion     2007
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-0195-6

More than he dreads coming out to his father, Thom fears revealing his superhuman healing powers. As Thom trains for hero duty he uncovers family secrets. Readers will appreciate the satire that provides moments of relief in an often dark narrative. Filled with inexorable villains and disillusioned heroes, the book spans isolation and romance for a larger-than-life coming of age.

Moskowitz, Hannah  Gone, Gone, Gone
254 pp.     Simon Pulse     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-5312-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4424-0753-4

Craig is “unavailable” because he’s hung up on his first boyfriend, who was institutionalized after his father died on 9/11. Lio is a survivor of childhood leukemia that killed his twin brother. Craig and Lio are powerfully drawn to each other, but can they overcome past hurts and move on? First-person narratives alternate in this raw, immediate love story set outside DC during the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks.

Moskowitz, Hannah  A History of Glitter and Blood
274 pp.     Chronicle     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-2942-6

The arrival of creatures called tightropers in ancient fairy city Ferrum escalates tension between fairies and gnomes into out-and-out war. Beckan, a fairy girl, strikes uneasy alliances with gnome prince Tier, his fiancée Rig, and tightroper boy Piccolo. Reminiscent of Holly Black and Laini Taylor, this gritty fantasy/war story is also an exploration of love in many forms and creating a family of choice.

moskowitz_not-otherwise-specifiedMoskowitz, Hannah  Not Otherwise Specified
262 pp.     Simon Pulse     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-0596-6
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4814-0595-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-0598-0

This tell-it-like-it-is book questions labels of teens who live on the edges of high school social groups. Etta, the unpredictable, authentic protagonist, is many things at once: smart, a recovering anorexic, bisexual, a theater geek, and black. Her Nebraska town is becoming too small for her New York City aspirations. The dialogue holds true to the gutsy characters, and the plot is believable.

Moskowitz, Hannah  Teeth
248 pp.     Simon Pulse     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-6532-9
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4424-4946-6

Rudy’s family moves to a remote island to benefit from magically curative Enki fish, which ease his brother’s cystic fibrosis, but when Rudy becomes involved with merboy Teeth, his divided loyalties endanger his brother’s supply of the fish. Though a combination of implausible plot elements defy belief, gritty language and an undercurrent of sexual abuse gives this hard-hitting fantasy a real-world edge.

Murphy, Julie  Ramona Blue
412 pp.     Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-241835-7
Ebook ISBN  978-0-06-241837-1

Ramona “Blue” Leroux, stands out in Eulogy, Mississippi: blue hair, six foot three, and a lesbian. Then her childhood friend moves back to town, and Ramona discovers she’s attracted to him. Her subsequent refusal to label herself as gay, straight, or bisexual is refreshing. Set against a post–Hurricane Katrina backdrop, the novel also explores issues of race, class, and family.

rowell_carry onRowell, Rainbow  Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
522 pp.     St. Martin’s Griffin      2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-04955-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4668-5054-5

In this Fangirl companion novel, Simon Snow, the most powerful mage in centuries, uncovers secrets that call into question his beliefs about good and evil. He also realizes that his obsession with his probably-a-vampire roommate Baz may not be purely antagonistic. The novel is longer than it needs to be — just kiss already, Simon and Baz — but there’s much to enjoy along the way.

russo_if i was your girl

Russo, Meredith  If I Was Your Girl
290 pp.     Flatiron     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-07840-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-250-07842-1

After getting attacked in a mall bathroom, eighteen-year-old transgender woman Amanda goes to live with her previously unsupportive father in Tennessee, where no one knows her from her pre-transition life. She finds unexpected friendships and a blossoming relationship with tender and respectful Grant, who has a complicated past of his own. Amanda’s story is neither overly sentimental nor didactic. Russo, herself a trans woman, crafts a thoughtful, truthful coming-of-age tale.

Schmatz, Pat  Lizard Radio
282 pp.     Candlewick     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-7635-3

Fifteen-year-old orphan Kivali, possibly dropped on Earth by an alien lizard race, is a “midrange bender”: an androgynous youth forced to choose a gender pre-puberty; Kivali wonders if it’s really imperative to identify as only girl or boy, straight or gay, human or lizard. A distinct dystopian world, a gender-fluid protagonist, and socially conscious writing provoke questions about Kivali’s (and the reader’s) reality.

sharpe_far-from-youSharpe, Tess  Far from You
344 pp.     Hyperion     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-8462-1

Sophie was there when her best friend, Mina, was murdered, but she doesn’t know by whom, or why. So Sophie launches her own investigation, knowing that Mina’s death isn’t related to Sophie’s painkiller addiction, as everyone else seems to think. This tense, tragic page-turner has plenty of chills, but just as compelling is the depth of Sophie’s physical and emotional pain.

Silvera, Adam  History Is All You Left Me
293 pp.     Soho Teen     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-61695-692-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61695-693-6

Seventeen-year-old Griffin loses Theo twice: first when the young men break up, and again, as the book opens, when Theo drowns. Dual timelines carry readers through the characters’ finely drawn romance (and its dissolution) and Griffin’s heartbreaking journey through the grieving process; both narratives are informed by Griffin’s struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Silvera’s prose is raw but lyrical, a good fit for Griffin’s intensity.

spangler_beast

Spangler, Brie  Beast
330 pp.     Knopf     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-101-93716-7
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93718-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-101-93717-4

Six-foot-four fifteen-year-old Dylan (nicknamed “Beast”) meets attractive Jamie in group therapy for self-harmers. Beauty and Beast fall for each other; but while Jamie is open with Dylan, including about her being transgender, Dylan is absorbed in his own problems. Spangler’s representation of Jamie walks a razor-thin line between manic pixie dream girl and a humanly complex transgender young woman, but she’s frequently successful.

stiefvater_raven-boysStiefvater, Maggie  The Raven Boys
409 pp.     Scholastic     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-42492-9

Raven Cycle series. According to legend, a medieval Welsh nobleman named Glendower vanished to avoid capture after the English defeated his army. Fast-forward to present-day Virginia, where four boys believe that Glendower is eternally sleeping and was brought over to the New World along “mystical energy roads.” Stiefvater’s prose falls flat in places, but the fast pace and intriguing concept make up for any flaws. The story continues in sequels The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King. (Scholastic, 2012)

Wein, Elizabeth  The Pearl Thief
328 pp.     Hyperion     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-1716-5
Ebook ed.  978-1-4847-1951-0

Code Name Verity protagonist Julie begins this prequel in 1938 as an earnest fifteen-year-old. While idling by the river on her family’s dwindling Scottish estate, she is mysteriously knocked unconscious. The ensuing atmospheric mystery is complete with love affairs, gruesome offstage violence, three-thousand-year-old artifacts, and pearls once owned by royalty. Wein’s ability to inhabit a young woman of another era shines.

Wilkinson, Lili  Pink
314 pp.     HarperTeen     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-192653-2

When Ava transfers schools, she ditches her girlfriend and black clothes, opting instead for pastels and the pursuit of a boyfriend, in an attempt to be “normal.” When she still doesn’t fit in, she struggles to be okay with being herself — a charming oddball who can’t be labeled. This Australia-set story of teenage rebellion is as unique as its protagonist.

williamson_art of being normal

Williamson, Lisa  The Art of Being Normal
345 pp.     Farrar/Ferguson     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-30237-5

Two transgender high-school classmates meet and grow close in this layered novel that spotlights different stages of transition and celebrates the importance of friendship. Sympathetic, multifaceted characters and nuanced social and family drama make this both notable and successful. Leo’s search for his absentee father is a major plot engine, and Leo and David are developed well beyond questions of gender.

 

Nonfiction

Andrews, Arin  Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen
Middle school, high school     248 pp.     Simon    2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-1675-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-1677-1

With Joshua Lyon. The author, born female, suffered profound body dysphoria until transitioning to male at fourteen. Now in college, Andrews frankly discusses physical and emotional challenges of his transition, activism, and very visible relationship with another transgender teen (Katie Rain Hill, whose Rethinking Normal also touches on their relationship; see below). “How to Talk to Your New Transgender Friend” guide is appended. Reading list, websites.

Bausum, Ann  Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights
Middle school, high school     120 pp.     Viking     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-01679-2

Bausum begins with a detailed, nuanced exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall riots as a galvanizing moment for the gay rights movement, then traces the movement’s evolution (in a somewhat more cursory way) for the second half of the book. Bausum’s narrative integrity makes her conclusions about the persecution and resilience of the LGBTQ community all the more powerful. Bib., ind.

Cart, Michael  How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity
358 pp.     HarperTeen     2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-115498-0

A talented corps of young adult and adult authors contribute to this polished, poignant collection exploring sexuality and gender identity. A mix of storytelling methods and genres makes for a balanced, appealing volume, albeit one that skews into the adult realm due to the wealth of retrospective grown-up narrators. The literary merit and emotional insight of the tales are nevertheless outstanding.

Hartzler, Aaron  Rapture Practice
390 pp.     Little     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-09465-8

All his life, Aaron Hartlzer’s ultraconservative, evangelical Christian parents exhorted him to live to honor the Lord. But as he begins to listen to secular music, drink, and experiment sexually, he struggles to reconcile his secret lifestyle with his parents’ expectations. This is a captivating, honest, and relatable memoir about a teen’s search for his true identity and for love.

Herthel, Jessica and Jennings, Jazz  I Am Jazz
Gr. K–3     24 pp.      Dial      2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-4107-2

Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. A little girl describes how she was born with “a girl brain but a boy body” and that once her parents talked to a doctor to understand more about it, they let her be herself. There is little plot, but the straightforward text and friendly, pastel-hued watercolors fairly successfully simplify the issue of gender identity for a young audience and their caregivers.

Hill, Katie Rain  Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition
Middle school, high school     264 pp.    Simon    2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-1823-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-1825-6

With Ariel Schrag. The author lived as a male — suicidally depressed due to body dysphoria — until transitioning to female at age fifteen. This candid, touching memoir relates her transition, activism, public relationship with another transgender teen (Arin Andrews, whose Some Assembly Required also discusses their relationship; see above), and hopes for the future. “Tips for Talking to Transgender People” appended. Reading list, websites.

jennings_being jazz

Jennings, Jazz  Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen
Middle school, high school     265 pp.     Crown     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-55464-3
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-399-55465-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-399-55466-7

TV personality/activist Jennings writes openly and (very) honestly about her life as a transgender girl (and what that means). In an upbeat, conversational text, Jennings covers the challenges she faces, her family’s unconditional support and advocacy work, and her hopes for the future. A black-and-white photo opens each chapter. The back matter includes an extensive list of resources and annotated lists of websites, books, movies, and TV shows.

Kuklin, Susan  Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
Middle school, high school     182 pp.     Candlewick     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5611-9
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7035-1

Rather than attempting to convey the spectrum of transgender experience through a multitude of voices, Kuklin focuses on just six young people whose gender identities are something other than what they were labeled at birth. Photographs (of most of the subjects) are candid and winning; appended material, including a Q&A with the director of a clinic for transgender teens, is valuable. Reading list, websites. Glos.

Moon, Sarah  The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves
Middle school, high school      282 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-39932-6

With contributing editor James Lecesne. Editor Sarah Moon asked sixty-four gay, lesbian, and bisexual writers, illustrators, and publishing professionals to write letters to themselves at a younger age — including Marion Dane Bauer, Jacqueline Woodson, Brian Selznick, and a host of others. The resulting letters — which will be a life-saver for some — combine advice, reminiscence, funny stories, and encouragement for readers struggling with their sexuality.

Thrash, Maggie  Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir
Middle school, high school     270 pp.      Candlewick

This graphic memoir traces Thrash’s transformative final summer of sleepaway camp, during which she falls for a counselor, comes out, and weathers the mixed response. The muted pastels of Thrash’s loose-lined watercolor-pencil and pen illustrations reinforce a contemplative tone, and teenage Maggie’s inner journey is heartfelt and thoughtfully drawn. Substantial textual “voice-overs” skew the balance between action and retrospection.

For more on this topic, click on the tags LGBTQIA+, Pride 2017, and Pride Month.

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