Best books for LGBTQIA+ tweens and teens

The moment Z came out to us, I knew we had to ramp up the LGBTQIA+ book selection in our house. Books are life.

We have a terrific selection of books for the average tween girl, including the Judy Blume classics I grew up with. We also have a few books with tertiary gay characters, like Drama by Reina Telgemeier.

However, to my dismay, I couldn’t think of any books with awesome LGBTQIA+ main characters.

Is it terrible that before I knew my kid was queer, I didn’t worry too much about this? I’ve always made sure to have diverse books and movies from a race, culture and religion perspective, but I’ve never sought out LGBTQIA+ books. I’ve never avoided having them, but I also never pursued them.

Now, I find myself on a shopping spree for books with gay, bi, trans and, harder to find, nonbinary young people as the main characters. I’ve found a few really great ones. I’ve been reading them right along with Z (usually I read them first, but not always) and it’s been a terrific experience for both of us.

If you’ve got a tween or teen who is on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum or you think they may be, or you simply want to expand the diversity of books in your house, here’s our list of favorites so far for the middle school set.

I highly recommend these for adults as well as kiddos – they’re just excellent books.

  • Star Crossed by Barbara Dee. One side benefit of reading this book is that it’s like a crash course on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. That might turn off some readers (I’m not sure Z thought it was all that cool), but it would be a fun one to read in tandem with studying R+J in English class. At any rate, the characters here are fun and the theatre backdrop makes for good storytelling.
  • The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake. Sunny faces parental issues, health challenges, friend drama and more, all while realizing she is attracted to girls and especially one in particular. This is a lovely story with great characters and a beautiful setting. This is another one I didn’t want to end. I’d love to read more about Sunny and see how her story continues!
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver. This heartbreaking and heart-warming read is the only one I’ve found so far that has a nonbinary main character. Z hasn’t read this one yet and I am dying for them to crack it open so I can see their reaction when they realize the main character, Ben, is nonbinary. We are almost finished with Sunny St. James so it should happen soon!
  • Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake. Z and I both absolutely loved this book. The main character, Ivy, is utterly compelling and we both felt so much compassion and empathy for her. She goes through a terrible experience and has major parent and friend drama, but Ivy is strong and wonderful. I love that Ivy’s an artist like our Z – I’m sure that’s one reason why Z really connected with this book.
  • Drum Roll, Please by Jenn Lisa Bigelow. This book sparkles with GIRL POWER. All the awesome main characters are female, with boys and men in only minor supporting roles. The book covers issues like parents divorcing, going away to summer camp for the first time, social anxiety and shyness, and of course, having a first crush and finding first love with another girl. Z and I both loved it and consider it our new favorite book. The characters are believable, like-able and lovable. I hated finishing this one – I’m hoping the author comes out with a sequel!

If you have any other great LGBTQIA+ books to recommend, we’re all ears in the comments below and over on Facebook. And if you read any of our favorites above, let me know what you think. Happy reading!

About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat, snake and guinea pig mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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