Thankfully, books with queer characters as the protagonists are becoming more and more common. LGBTQ+ characters in the past were usually either the side character, the cliche gay best friend, or had a very tragic and sad story. But queer love isn’t a cliche and it’s also not tragic or sad. The following books are some great examples of young adult novels that deal with queer love and all its facets. Friendships, family relationships, struggles, pain, the occasional chaos, but in the end—love and happiness.
The Netflix show Heartstopper has quickly become a fan-favorite upon its release. Personally, it made me cry multiple times as it was the representation of happy queer teenagers that I never had growing up. The graphic novels by Alice Oseman are equally adorable and lovely, telling the story of Nick and Charlie with all the ups and downs of first love, friendships, coming out, and mental health issues. While showing young love between queer kids in a beautiful and heartwarming way, the books also tackle some very important topics, such as bullying, the struggle to accept yourself and the fear of coming out as well as transphobia and eating disorders. Currently, there are four volumes out as well as a yearbook and a coloring book. What started as a webcomic on Tumblr has garnered millions of fans across the globe.
2. Red, White & Royal Blue
Who doesn’t like a romantic story about a prince and the child of an important statesman and love across the pond? Red, White & Royal Blue centers around the son of the first female president of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, and the British prince Henry. Due to an unfortunate event at a royal wedding, Alex has to pretend to be friends with the British prince in order to avoid a media scandal during the re-election run of his mother. What starts as a pretend-friendship quickly turns into a real one and then becomes romantic when Henry comes out to Alex as gay and Alex realizes he is bisexual. First Son and Prince in a relationship with the eyes of the world on them at all times—drama guaranteed. There will also be a film about the book soon and I cannot wait to watch it.
3. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
You probably know the movie Love, Simon, but did you know it is actually based on a book? The story by Becky Albertalli follows Simon Spier, a closeted gay teenager who is in an e-mail exchange with another closeted classmate whose identity he does not know, but who he slowly falls for. He is forced out of the closet by another classmate who discovers the emails and blackmails Simon. Everyone should be able to come out at their own terms and the book is an example of the fears closeted kids might have and how others and they themselves handle the changes after coming out. The name of the book is a fun parody of the “homosexual/gay agenda” that so many conservative people fear (obviously, there is no gay agenda unless you count being yourself and being happy as the gay agenda).
4. It’s Not Like It’s A Secret
The previous books where all about young love between guys, this book on the other hand is a story of young female love. A bittersweet story that not just deals with queer love between two girls, but also covers intersecting issues such as racism, immigrant stories and internalized homophobia, subtle discrimination and identity. The protagonist Sana, a Japanese American, moves to California with her family and finally wants to live her truth and come clean about liking girls and being a lesbian, especially after meeting Jamie Ramirez, a Hispanic girl. The book explores the girls navigating their lives, separate and together, while struggling with what they’ve grown up with and the values they were taught.
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Photo: Alice Oseman, Amazon