For many teens and young adults, books can be a temporary escape from reality, from tales of heroic journeys — with a hint of romance — to thrillers that let you piece together a trail of clues. This can be especially important for LGBTQ+ kids and young adults, given the more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. During a year of race-related book bans, some of the most challenged books are those with LGBTQ+ themes (all while some states are limiting LGBTQ instruction in the classroom).
While books can offer escape, they can also provide a path towards real change. Texas teenager Cameron Samuels, featured in NBC OUT’s Pride 30, noticed websites for LGBTQ+ organizations and resources were blocked by their school district, under the category “Alternative Sexual Lifestyle,” and decided to speak out. Samuels also organized a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to remove the block — in January, the school district removed restrictions for three national LGBTQ+ organizations. Texas students, including Samuels, also continue to fight back against anti-LGBTQ+ book bans through book drives and showing up to school board meetings.
With Pride Month in full swing, it can be a good time for kids, teens and young adults to read books that center on the LGBTQ+ experience and LGBTQ+ authors. To help you sift through the many books out there, we gathered Goodreads data and compiled the best young adult and middle grade books written by LGBTQ+ authors, all of which were highly rated among its members.
Best young adult books by LGBTQ+ authors in 2022
Based on Goodreads data, we recommend the following fiction young adult books based on the number of members who reviewed each book, its average rating and how many members added them to their "want to read" lists.
‘Ace of Spades’ by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Goodreads: 4.28-star average rating from 43,626 reviews
Two students, Devon and Chiamaka, are made senior class prefects, which looks great on college applications (plus, it means they’ll be considered for valedictorian, too). But when an anonymous bully begins to reveal secrets about them, their reputations and carefully crafted futures are put in jeopardy.
‘Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World’ by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads: 4.16-star average rating from 38,700 reviews
A sequel to the award-winning “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” this novel follows two boys, angry Aristotle and wise guy Dante. In the first novel, the two boys meet and fall in love. This one is about what happens after: what it means for two kids to stay in love — and how to build a relationship in a society that doesn’t accept it.
‘Here’s to Us’ by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Goodreads: 4.15-star average rating from 12,680 reviews
Set two years after its prequel, “What If It’s Us,” Arthur is back in New York City for an internship, and stumbles into his ex-boyfriend (and first love) Ben. Although they both have new boyfriends, there still seem to be left-over feelings — and the universe keeps unexpectedly bringing them together.
‘Home Field Advantage’ by Dahlia Adler
Goodreads: 4.15-star average rating from 484 reviews
After the school’s beloved quarterback tragically dies in a car accident, Jack Walsh takes over his role on the football team. All goes downhill when the school finds out Jack is short for Jaclyn. Amber McCloud, the aspiring cheer captain, knows that her squad wants to take Jack down, but her life and goals soon turn upside down when she and Jack start falling for each other.
‘I Kissed Shara Wheeler’ by Casey McQuiston
Goodreads: 4.25-star average rating from 12,602 reviews
Casey McQuiston, whose work was highlighted in NBC OUT’s Pride 30, recently penned a novel called “I Kissed Shara Wheeler,” about a prom queen — the titular Shara Wheeler — who suddenly disappears during prom. Chloe Green, Shara’s rival for valedictorian (and unlikely romantic partner), spends the bulk of the novel hunting for answers to Shara’s disappearance through unlikely alliances and a scattered trail of clues.
‘If This Gets Out’ by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
Goodreads: 4.04-star average rating from 12,184 reviews
A story about the pressures of fame and finding oneself, “If This Gets Out” follows Ruben Montez and Zach Knight, two members of one of the biggest boy bands in America. Ruben, who is forced to stay in the closet by their management, relies on Zach as the pressure mounts, and their close friendship evolves into a romance.
‘Iron Widow’ by Xiran Jay Zhao
Goodreads: 4.23-star average rating from 33,978 reviews
This futuristic sci-fi-inspired novel is a reimagining of the rise of Wu Zetian — the only female emperor in Chinese history — as an 18-year-old, looking to avenge her sister’s murder from an patriarchal military system. She is dubbed an Iron Widow, a feared female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up giant transforming robots called Chrysalises.
‘Jay’s Gay Agenda’ by Jason June
Goodreads: 3.6-star average rating from 4,157 reviews
When the novel starts, Jay Collier is the only openly gay kid in his small rural town in Washington. As he observes other people’s high school relationships (and hookups), Jay develops a list of romantic to-do’s that he calls his “Gay Agenda.” When Jay’s family moves to Seattle, he finds himself in a high school with a thriving LGBTQ+ community, which allows him to finally start crossing things off that list.
‘Kiss & Tell’ by Adib Khorram
Goodreads: 3.78-star average rating from 1,602 reviews
The novel follows Hunter, the only gay member of a boy band called Kiss & Tell. After a painful breakup, Hunter is expected to be the perfect queer role model for teens, but he doesn’t quite know what that means — it was only his first boyfriend, after all. And when his label finds out about a budding romance with the drummer of Kiss & Tell’s opening band, both his public image and his self image are called into question.
‘The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School’ by Sonora Reyes
Goodreads: 4.50-star average rating from 716 reviews
Yamilet Flores is one of the only Mexican students at her new rich, predominantly white, Catholic school. That’s enough of a difference for her, and she intends to keep her queerness a secret — that is, untl she falls for Bo, the only openly queer girl at school. But if word of her crush gets back to her mom, Yamilet may risk more than just rejection.
‘Loveless’ by Alice Oseman
Goodreads: 4.31-star average rating from 35,102 reviews
Author Alice Oseman — who also wrote the critically acclaimed novel and Netflix series “Heartstopper” — crafts a funny and messy story about a young girl named Georgia, who identifies as asexual/aromantic. This realization disrupts the narrative that she’s been told about romantic relationships her entire life, and she embarks on a journey to find love in non-traditional ways.
‘Ophelia After All’ by Racquel Marie
Goodreads: 4.30-star average rating from 2,400 reviews
Ending high school, discovering her queerness and navigating a fracturing friend group, Ophelia Rojas feels her life is spiraling out of control. The novel follows Ophelia as she decides whether to keep living out the fantasy version of herself or rediscover who she is — and defy expectations along the way.
‘She Gets the Girl’ by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
Goodreads: 4.26-star average rating from 6,184 reviews
The novel closes in on Alex Blackwood, who meets Molly Parker on the tail end of a bad breakup. While Alex is flirty, Molly is awkward, shy and her complete opposite. When Alex agrees to help Molly catch the attention of her dream girl (a plan that will allow Alex to win back her ex), they start falling for each other instead.
‘So This Is Ever After’ by F.T. Lukens
Goodreads: 4.04-star average rating from 3,663 reviews
After a battle that ends in beheading the Kingdom of Ere’s evil king, 17-year-old Arek and his quest companions don’t know what’s next. That is, until Arek’s best friend convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued. Suddenly, Arek finds himself in a ruling position he never wanted — and the unexpected catch? He now has to find a spouse by his eighteenth birthday.
Best middle grade books by LGBTQ+ authors in 2022
Based on Goodreads data, we recommend the following fiction middle grade books (intended for ages eight through 12) based on the number of members who reviewed each book, its average rating and how many members added them to their "want to read" lists.
‘Alice Austen Lived Here’ by Alex Gino
Goodreads: 4.1-star average rating from 78 reviews
Sam’s family and friends are very accepting of Sam’s non-binary identity. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone in Sam’s life: Sam’s history teacher, for instance, seems to believe that straight cis white men are the only people responsible for creating history. When Sam’s Staten Island town announces a contest for a new statue, Sam chooses photographer Alice Austin, who lived with a female partner for decades, and Sam and their friend TJ begin digging into the queer community’s rich history.
‘Different Kinds of Fruit’ by Kyle Lukoff
Goodreads: 4.2-star average rating from 147 reviews
Annabelle befriends Bailey, the new kid in town, and begins spending lots of time at Bailey’s parents’ large house and listening to Bailey talk about living in Seattle. Annabelle’s father reveals to her that he and Bailey have something in common that upends Annabelle’s life — they’re both trans.
‘In the Key of Us’ by Mariama J. Lockington
Goodreads: 4.35-star average rating from 69 reviews
Mariama J. Lockington’s coming-of-age story centers on 13-year-old Andi, who’s grieving the loss of her mother. While attending Harmony Music Camp over the summer, trumpet-playing Andi meets Zora — the only other Black girl at the mostly white camp — whose parents have worn her out by trying to turn her into a flute prodigy. As both girls struggle with who they really are, they realize that certain friendships can help make them whole again.
‘Small Town Pride’ by Phil Stamper
Goodreads: 4.47-star average rating from 176 reviews
Jake is the first openly gay kid at his school in Barton Springs, Ohio. Though his family and friends are supportive, not everyone is as open-minded.. And when Jake’s dad hangs a large pride flag in their front yard, people begin to complain, leading Jake and his friends to try and find a way to bring Pride to their (you guessed it) small town.
‘Tiger Honor’ by Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads: 3.99-star average rating from 519 reviews
Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, has finally received his acceptance letter to the Thousand World Space Forces, which means one day he’ll captain a battle cruiser. Unfortunately, he quickly finds his hero, Uncle Hwan, has been declared a traitor. Sebin decides to embark on a journey to help clear his uncle’s name and restore honor to the clan. In doing so, he’ll have to figure out who’s sabotaging him and his fellow cadets — and whether it’s coming from within the group itself.
‘Witchlings’ by Claribel A. Ortega
Goodreads: 4.28-star average rating from 750 reviews
The novel follows three young witches who, during a ceremony, aren’t placed into a coven like everyone else. Instead, they’re labeled as “Spares,” which means they’re less powerful — and worse, pitied. To have any hope of earning their full powers, the witchlings are told to defeat a beast. If they succeed, they’ll be able to perform powerful magic, and if they don’t, they’ll risk being turned into toads.