This is becoming a sort of tradition, isn’t it? We’re a week into 20biteen’s Pride Month 🏳️🌈 which means it’s time once again for a recommendations post dedicated to lgbtqa+ fiction. This year I thought I’d do something a little different: you might have seen #imreadingqueer and the tbr … well, because of that, I’ll be splitting the recommendations in two.
This first part will, admittedly, have a lot of books that have appeared on 2018’s recommendation list. It will also have some new ones. The list at the end of this month will have new-to-me-books that I only just read this month, and ones recommended by … *drum roll* YOU!
I want YOU to drop me a message, a comment, a tweet, etc, all about your lgbtq+ recommendations! You can be anonymous, or you can drop your social handle so I can credit you with the rec. I’ll likely be posting the second part towards the end of the month, so you have until then!
But, without further adieu, lets get onto the books in part one.
aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe // benjamin alire saenz
Aristotle Mendoza is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante Quintana is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
I really can’t go without recommending a book that coincided with me accepting my sexuality now, can I? I always find that this one is best read in the summer … that might be because it’s mostly set over the course of a few summers in the 1980s. Ari and Dante is one of those books that’s character over plot in regards to what drives the narrative, all wrapped in in lyrical prose. Please do note that there is homophobia, both outward (an attack) and internalised.
come close // sappho
‘Yes, we did many things, then – all Beautiful …’ Lyrical, powerful poems about love, sexuality, sun-soaked Greece and the gods.
If we’re talking about og lgbtq+ writers, we can’t really get more og than Sappho. And yes, Sappho is where ‘sapphic’ comes from; she also lived on Lesbos. You can see the correlations. A Penguin Little Black Classic, this is a condensed edition of Sappho’s fragmented poetry. I think it’s around ninety-six pages, and so is one of those that can easily be read in an hour. It’s pains me that most of Sappho’s work exists only in fragments, especially when we consider that she was a prolific poet that composed – approximately – 10,000 lines. Come Close is a beautiful way to introduce yourself to Sappho’s writing, split into a number of sections.
heartstopper // alice oseman
Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. Charlie and Nick attend the same school, but they’ve never met .. until one day they’re made to sit together. Soon enough they become friends, and Charlie finds himself falling (hard) for Nick, even though he thinks he doesn’t have a chance. Love, however, works in mysterious and surprising ways, and Nick is more interested in Charlie than either of them realised. Heartstopper is a graphic novel about love, friendship, mental illness and loyalty.
I’ve read Heartstopper twice now, and I can safely say that it’s one I’m never going to stop recommending it. This is a book that is perfect to curl up with, especially on an overcast day with a hot drink. Volume one both lifted my heart and broke it – that cliffhanger!! – so it’s a good thing that volume two has a July release date! Heartstopper is my first Alice Oseman book, though I now own all of them in anticipation of reading them ahead of meeting her at YALC!!!
leah on the offbeat // becky albertalli
An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon. So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways, and she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
If you’re looking for an easy-read YA, Leah on the Offbeat is a solid choice. The sequel to Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (or Love, Simon if you have the film tie-in), as the synopsis states this follows Leah and her journey at the end of high school. I’ve only read this once, last year in its release week, so I actually cannot remember much outside of prom drama and f/f romance. You know, high school stuff.
lord of the butterflies // andrea gibson
In Andrea Gibson’s latest collection, they continue their artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart, while giving the body wings to soar.
Lord of the Butterflies was either my first or second read of the year, and I absolutely adored this collection of poetry. It’s a truly beautiful and poignant book. I consumed the words of Gibson, fervent in my reading. Lord of the Butterflies pins its focus upon the struggles of the lgbtqa+ community, mental health and family. It is prosaic poetry, and has such a strong presence as to feel like a physical manifestation, which is to say that it has the ability to crawl beneath your skin and into the walls of your heart. This is a poetry book with a lot to say, loudly; it will call you to stop, pause, listen. It is a masterful showcase.
nimona // noelle stevenson
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
Stop whatever you’re doing right now and read Nimona. Read it! It’s a witty and subversive graphic novel, set in an ambiguous time (futuristic-medieval?). And I mean, who doesn’t love good ol’ fashioned hero-villain pining? I like Nimona a hell of a lot, and one of the main reasons is that character sexuality is not the main focus, the crux of personalities; it’s there, yes, but there’s so much more happening.
proud // various
A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top lgbtq+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the lgbtq+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of This Book is Gay and Clean. A celebration of lgbtq+ talent, Proud is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.
Proud is one of the most uplifting and beautiful books of the year, with stories spanning the length of the lgbtq+ spectrum. Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.
queens of geek // jen wilde
Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, wanting to show fans that she’s over her public breakup with costar Reese Ryan. Then Internet-famous actress Alyssa Huntington arrives, and it seems Charlie’s long-term crush isn’t as one-sided as she thought. Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired different, making her fear change. But she’s at SupaCon with her two best friends, Charlie and Jamie, the latter of whom she has a crush on.When she hears about a fan contest for her favourite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
Queens of Geek is one of those quick, easy-to-read-in-one-sitting books. It’s lighthearted and life affirming, but I would say to be cautious as there’s biphobia (which is called out) from Charlie’s ex-boyfriend. Queens of Geek is like a love-letter to fandom and fandom culture.
red, white & royal blue // casey mcquiston
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a Prince. When photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids, American/British relations become threatened. The plan for damage control sounds simple: stage a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Which is all good, until he finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry, a romance that could well derail his mothers reelection campaign and upend the two nations.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, I’m back screaming about this book! I’m likely never going to stop screaming about this book. I somehow managed to write a coherent review back when I read the arc, but if you asked me now I’d just scream at you. Not only do we biracial (Mexican, white) bisexual MC, we also have: a gay love interest, female bisexual secondary character, many (many) POC & lgbtq+ side characters.
shades of magic // v.e. schwab
Synopsis for the first book: Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
If you’re taking part in the #schwabathon then you’ll know that A Darker Shade of Magic is our June book. V.E. stated a month of so ago that, in the modern age, Lila would identify as non-binary – if I can find the tweet/instagram post I’ll link it – and we also have a disaster bi in the form of Rhy, and a chaotic gay in the form of Alucard.
simon vs the homo sapiens agenda // becky albertalli
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated.
I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve read this one now, but around the time the film came out I demanded that all my friends read it. I will say that Simon Vs does smack of the time it was written/released, so you might cringe a little at the 2013/4 nuances, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. This book is a wonderful little thing; it will both break and mend your heart.
the gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue // mackenzi lee
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. As he embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy. When one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
I don’t think I scream about this book enough: hi, I love this book! If you’ve read my review, you’ll know the (many, many) reasons why I love this book. If you haven’t, I’ll do a quick rundown: bisexual MC, gay MC, representation of mental illness, epilepsy, and possibly an asexual MC. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is historical fiction, a whimsical tale that, unlike much historical fiction’s treatment of queer characters, won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
the song of achilles // madeline miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
At this point, I’m convinced eighty-percent (at least) of Greek Mythology is just having your heart broken over queer people. The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, following the relationship of the famous Patrochilles through the perspective of Patroclus. Madeline Miller has a talent for weaving words together to create poetic prose, with a result that will leave your heart aching and your breathe taken.
young avengers // various
Synopsis for the first volume: In the wake of Avengers Disassembled, a mysterious new group of teen super heroes appears. But who are they? Where did they come from? And what right do they have to call themselves the Young Avengers?
Until I have a person tell me they’ve read Young Avengers because I’m always mentioning it, I’m not going to stop always mentioning it. Marvel Comics have been dropping hints for a new line of comics, and I’m convinced the MCU have been dropping hints for bringing them onto the screen (Lucy don’t @ me). In the early Young Avengers comics, Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman were confirmed to be in a relationship, later becoming engaged following the aftermath of the Children’s Crusade. In the 2014 revamp, Gillen and McKelvie took a band of heroes and essentially made it gayer, handling it so well: sexuality is a part of the characters beings, but it does not define them.
And there we have it – part one of the recommendations list is done! Don’t forget to drop me your recs for part two!
Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them?
Until the next time – happy reading!