Two young men walk along a cityscape in the book cover for 'They Both Die in the End'

8 of Our All-Time Favorite LGBTQ+ YA Novels

Despite the infuriating push for censorship and book banning in the United States, Young Adult (YA) LGBTQ+ literature is growing in prominence and popularity. These books are especially important for young readers who are questioning and exploring their sexual orientation and identity. While homophobic parents, people, and politicians try to paint these novels as “corrupting” their kids, the truth is far from that. Instead, these books are uplifting, educational, affirming, and insightful.

Recommended Videos

Whether it is a protagonist discovering/accepting their identity, overcoming their fear to start a relationship, or navigating a world that doesn’t understand them, these books track and teach what being an LGBTQ+ youth really looks like. For young adults belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, these books allow them to see themselves and their own lives reflected in the books their read. Meanwhile, for those outside of the community, it shows young readers that LGBTQ+ youth are just the same as them.

Also, just because they are directed toward young adults, doesn’t mean these books lack literary merit. Many of them have received numerous literary awards and tackle important political and social issues. Hence, they are great reads for both young readers and adults. Here are 8 of the best YA LGBTQ+ novels we’ve found.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
(Dutton Books)

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour was published in 2017. The book won numerous awards, including the 2018 Michael L. Printz Award for its literary merit. The novel follows Marin, a young woman struggling with grief and trauma, who decided to walk out of her old life. She left town with little more than the clothes on her back, headed to college in New York, and cut herself off from her old friends and family. All that is changing, however, as her closest friend, Mabel, is coming to visit over winter break. This means Marin’s past, her feelings, and all the things she left unsaid will slowly come out.

LaCour’s novel is nothing short of beautiful. It is a poignant exploration of grief and of loneliness. It’s also a tragic look into how one will let the person they love go out of fear of voicing their own feelings. Marin is dealing with loss, both physical and emotional, and deals with it by shutting out her past, including Mabel. However, she cannot escape who she is. Everyone who has experienced the weight of growing older, who has loved and lost, and learned hard truths, will see their own lives reflected in this novel.

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
(Dial Books)

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson is another Michael L. Printz award-winner and was published in 2014. The novel follows twins, Noah and Jude, who as children are as close as siblings can be. Noah is artistic, imaginative, and forming a growing relationship with the boy next door. Meanwhile, Jude is also artistic, as well as rebellious, daring, and independent. When tragedy strikes, though, the twins will never be the same. The past is told by Noah, while the present is narrated by Jude, as they each tell one half of the same story.

I’ll Give You The Sun is one of the most creative, vivid, and imaginative books you’ll ever read. The prose reads almost like poetry and the book breathes life into Noah and Jude in a groundbreakingly realistic way. Meanwhile, the book is also a heartbreaking exploration of grief, family secrets, and not being true to oneself.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
(Balzer + Bray)

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was published in 2015 and marks the debut novel of Becky Albertalli. The novel is a coming-of-age novel following Simon Spier, who is a closeted gay 16-year-old. Over the course of 5 months, he exchanges e-mails with Blue, an unknown male classmate whom Simon finds himself falling for. However, when his e-mails are discovered by another student, Simon is blackmailed and forced to come out before his e-mails are leaked to the entire school.

This novel won numerous awards resulted in a film adaptation, Love, Simon, and a spin-off series Love, Victor. Meanwhile, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a novel that every teen should read as they grapple with who they really are. The book is funny, smart, and thought-provoking. One point that Simon and Blue discuss is how everyone should come out, regardless of sexuality. After all, why do those in the LGBTQ+ community have to come out, when straight people don’t? It’s these issues that Simon mulls over as he struggles to accept who he is and how others see him. The novel also captures the beautiful nature of young love.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
(The Penguin Group)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a novel written by both John Green and David Levithan. The story follows two boys, both named Will Grayson. Will 1 has all his chapters written by Green, while Levithan writes the chapters for the other Will. Will 1 likes going through life unseen but struggles to do that when his best friend is Tiny Cooper, a flamboyant gay football player who attracts attention everywhere he goes. Meanwhile, Will 2 is a boy struggling with depression. He develops a crush on a boy named Isaac online—only to find out that a girl in his school has catfished him. When these two Wills overlap, they will see their lives change in unexpected ways.

The novel, published in 2010, made the New York Times children’s best-seller list, making it the first LGBTQ+ novel to make that list. Meanwhile, this collaboration between two of the biggest names in YA literature makes for a very special and eye-opening book. Despite the title being Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the novel is actually largely about Cooper. Cooper is one of the best role models in YA literature—he’s eccentric, funny, wears his heart on his sleeve, and is unapologetically himself. His charm is even enough to break through Will 2’s gloom. It is an unforgettable tale of falling in love and friendship.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
(Knopf Books)

Boy Meets Boy is a novel written by David Levithan and published in 2003. The novel follows Paul, an openly gay sophomore who lives in an LBGTQ-friendly neighborhood in New Jersey. He has a crush on Noah, a new boy in town who is cautious about relationships after his previous boyfriend cheated on him. Meanwhile, the story also follows Paul’s best friend Tony, who deals with homophobic parents and lives in a much less accepting city than Paul. The novel tracks this group of friends over the course of a couple of weeks as they learn what it means to find love, lose love, and find it again.

This story is pretty unique in that it follows the standard “boy meets girl” plot—boy meets girl and falls in love, loses her, then gets her back. Only in this novel, it’s a queer relationship at the center. Boy Meets Boy is an exceedingly fun and heartwarming novel. It explores first love and the varying levels of acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community around the globe. While one may be accepted in their hometown, the city next door might not be so friendly. In this novel, love and friendship become the bridge to feeling accepted.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe book cover.
(Simon & Schuster)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz that was published in 2012. The novel follows two boys, Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza and Dante Quintana who meet in the summer of 1987 at age 15. The two boys quickly become inseparable and Ari even saves Dante’s life, drawing their families close together, too. However, it becomes clear that Dante is love in with Ari, while Ari seemingly doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. The two’s friendship persists, though, and will ultimately be the key to them discovering truths about themselves.

This novel was named a Michael L. Printz honor book, among many other awards. The book is stunningly beautiful and puts all of its efforts and focus into Ari and Dante. And it’s simply impossible to not love Ari and Dante. Readers will find themselves rooting for them throughout the whole book as they tackle the world together. Even in the face of family secrets, hatred, and identity confusion, the two’s bond never breaks. They boast the absolute, most beautiful friendship and Ari never stops advocating for Dante to be who he is and to be able to love freely.

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz
(Simon & Schuster)

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Water of the World is Sáenz’s sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. In the previous novel, Ari and Dante discovered their love for each other. However, now, they must discover what it really means to be in love, especially in a world that doesn’t always accept them. Ari, especially, struggles to be true to himself and to make life his own, after trying to hide his feelings for so long. When faced with a tragedy, Ari’s fight to forge his own path in life will become even more desperate.

As with the first novel, this book wins readers over immediately with Ari and Dante. While Ari is still struggling, he is also coming into himself a lot more. Readers will fall in love with the new Ari as they see how love has revolutionized his life. Meanwhile, Dante is still the same dreamer, staying close to Ari’s side. As in the first novel, though, the boys face the hatred and discrimination of others. Despite their difficult journey, their friendship and the support of their community will see them through it.

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
(Harperteen)

They Both Die at the End is a novel by Adam Silvera published in 2017. The book follows Mateo Torrez, a young boy who receives a dreaded call from Death-Cast. Death-Cast is a company that grew to prominence for its ability to predict deaths. Mateo is told he is a Decker—someone with only 24 hours left to live. Rufus Emeterio is a foster child with a troubled past, who gets the same call. The two, anxious not to live their last day alone, meet each other through an app and decide to spend their last day together.

The novel is a poignant exploration of life and death. As the title tells, this story is a tragic one. However, it is also beautiful as Mateo and Rufus set out to live a lifetime in one day. While not solely an LGBTQ+ novel, both Mateo and Rufus belong to the LGBTQ+ community. The diversity and representation across the board is strong in this gorgeous book and Mateo and Rufus’ bond is the best part of the story. This is the kind of book that makes you question everything about your own existence.

Did we miss any of your favorite LGBTQ+ novels written for a younger audience? Tell us in the comments!

(featured image: 20th Century Studios)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Here Are the 10 Best Books Ever Published by Sarah J. Maas
A shot of Sarah Moss during an interview, imposed over a row of her book covers.
Read Article Book Bans Are Having the Opposite Effect of What Conservatives Want
A group of kids reading colorful books
Read Article Book Banners Reach New Low, Censoring Girl Scout Project That Fought Censorship
A book with passages blacked out for censorship
Read Article 10 Books to Get Your Kids Buzzing About Spring
Bee on a blue flower. Image: Pixabay via Pexels.
Read Article Here’s Your Rundown of All the Bonus Chapters in the ACOTAR Series
Cover art for A Court of Thorns and Roses in black and white, with the covers for A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.
Related Content
Read Article Here Are the 10 Best Books Ever Published by Sarah J. Maas
A shot of Sarah Moss during an interview, imposed over a row of her book covers.
Read Article Book Bans Are Having the Opposite Effect of What Conservatives Want
A group of kids reading colorful books
Read Article Book Banners Reach New Low, Censoring Girl Scout Project That Fought Censorship
A book with passages blacked out for censorship
Read Article 10 Books to Get Your Kids Buzzing About Spring
Bee on a blue flower. Image: Pixabay via Pexels.
Read Article Here’s Your Rundown of All the Bonus Chapters in the ACOTAR Series
Cover art for A Court of Thorns and Roses in black and white, with the covers for A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.
Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.