Middle grade and YA for Pride Month 2019

These novels — some upper-middle grade and some young adult — reflect a range of experiences among LGBTQIA+ young people. Happy Pride! Find more recommendations for Pride Month reading in these featured lists of picture books, middle grade, and YA on the shiny and new Horn Book Guide Online.

In The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake, twelve-year-old heart transplant recipient Sunny is seeking a "New Life," including finding a better best friend and a kissing partner. A girl named Quinn, who's visiting for the summer, is willing to help — an endeavor that raises more questions than answers for Sunny, who likes both boys and girls. Measured revelations of backstory and emotion-infused first-person narration balance major upheaval with private questions of identity. (Little, Brown, 10–13 years)

Thirteen-year-old Rachel, star of Jo Knowles's Where the Heart Is, feels the pressure of several issues at once: her parents' money troubles; her best friend Micah's romantic feelings (though she's told him she doesn't think she likes boys); her job tending her dilettante "farmer" neighbors' menagerie. All the action happens within the range of a bike ride, in the first few weeks of summer — magnifying the intensity of Rachel's circumstances and her emotional response. (Candlewick, 10–13 years)

Jordan, helped by high school classmate Max, tries his hand at the food truck business with his late father's old truck. Despite their differences, the boys develop a friendship that quickly blossoms into romance; they work together on the truck in the boiling summer heat of Mesa, Arizona, and date each other in the evenings. The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg portrays gay teen relationships in a way that is authentic, compassionate, hopeful, and empowering. (Scholastic/Levine, 14 years and up)

Meredith Russo's Birthday visits friends Morgan and Eric on their shared birthday each year from ages thirteen to eighteen. Morgan is transgender, secretly so (and male-presenting) for much of the book. Eric's father objects to the friendship, which eventually takes on romantic elements — and related strain. Russo doesn't shy away from heavy subjects, including abuse and suicide. But this story, told over a period of years, shows how a difficult situation can reach a mostly happy ending — even if it takes a long time. (Flatiron, 14 years and up)

From the June 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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