Here at Scout, we’re over the “bury your gays” trope. Sometimes, all we need is a 200- to 300-page fluff fest filled with unapologetic queer love, the exploration of identity, and those typical coming-of-age woes.
So, for those on the same boat and who have gone through their share of LGBTQ+ films with happy endings, watched “Love, Simon,” and re-read the original “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” book for the 1,235th time, we present you this: our list of young adult reads featuring queer characters, sans all the gratuitious tragedies. You’re welcome.
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Set in ’80s Texas, two Mexican American teenagers meet at a swimming pool like fate, minus the sparks. Aristotle is an angst-ridden youth, seeing that his brother’s in prison. Dante’s a typical know-it-all who people might consider a tad bit weird. They have nothing in common, except for the fact that they’re both loners. Cue the start of a slow-burn friendship, life-changing realizations, and yes, something more.
“The Henna Wars” by Adiba Jaigirdar
When Nishat came out to her parents, it wasn’t exactly well-received—given that, according to them, “Muslim girls aren’t lesbians.” As she treads between the fragile line of her relationship with her family and her own identity, things take a turn for the worse (or better?) when her childhood-friend-slash-business-rival Flávia comes back to her life.
“If I Was Your Girl” by Meredith Russo
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. After transferring, she finds herself in the popular crowd, finally getting the belonging she had once asked for. But part of her feels like she’s harboring the secret tied to a deadname, especially when she meets a sweet, easygoing boy named Grant whom she guards her heart against.
“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee
In 1700s England, a young bisexual lord named Henry “Monty” Montague is expected to take on the responsibilities of his family’s estate, but for that to happen, he’ll have to put a stop to his fast-paced life of pleasure and vice. Without his hedonistic ways, feelings for his best friend and traveling companion Percy come back to haunt him, leading to a manhunt across Europe they didn’t expect.
“Everything Leads to You” by Nina LaCour
After graduating from high school, budding set designer Emi Price has jumped headfirst into Hollywood to kick-start her career. And while that department’s slowly thriving, she can’t say the same for her own personal romance, which is still stuck in fantasy land. At least, not until she finds a mysterious letter in an estate sale, which sends her chasing down the loose ends of a former movie star’s hidden life, and onto the path of a girl named Ava.
“Juliet Takes A Breath” by Gabby Rivera
Protagonist Juliet Milagros Palante is moving from the Bronx to Portland after coming out as a lesbian to her strict Puerto Rican family. She might not know if her mom will ever speak to her again, but at least she has secured an internship with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, a.k.a. the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other so-called gay-sounding stuff.
“Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender
According to him, Felix Love has never been, well, in love. He’s desperately wondering what it’d be like, but while he’s proud of his identity as a Black, queer, and trans man, he’s scared that he’s one “marginalization too many” to get an actual happily-ever-after. However, when someone starts sending him anonymous hate messages, Felix comes up with a plan for revenge—which soon lands him in some sort of quasi-love triangle.
“Symptoms of Being Human” by Jeff Garvin
Riley Cavanaugh is described to be “many things,” especially as a genderfluid teenager who identifies as some days a girl, some days a boy. The problem is, they aren’t exactly out yet, especially with a conservative father in Congress who’s running for reelection. On the advice of their therapist, Riley starts a blog to vent their pent-up feelings. Of course, it soon goes viral, leading to a threat of exposing Riley’s true identity.
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Art by Yel Sayo