June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month, and in light of the upcoming election and the tragedy that occurred in Orlando, reading books about LGTBQ characters is more important than ever. Ten years ago it was almost impossible to find queer main characters in popular literature, with readers often needing to seek out indie titles or search through self-published e-books to find non-heteronormative stories. But lately there has been a boom in LGBTQ publishing, particularly in genres like Young Adult literature. And while we definitely still have a long way to go, it’s clear that readers are clamoring for more and more books that celebrate the LGBTQ community.
So as we close out Pride Month, we thought it only fitting to suggest six recently released books with LGBTQ themes that we couldn’t put down:
You Know Me Well, Nina LaCour & David Levithan (St. Martin’s Griffin, June 7, 2016)
Two popular Young Adult authors team up to bring us this heartfelt story about the trials and tribulations of young love. Told in alternating perspectives, You Know Me Well follows Mark and Kate, two high school classmates who meet by chance at San Francisco Pride Week. Mark is stuck in an unrequited love with his best friend Ryan, while Kate loves her best friend’s cousin from afar. Fast friends Mark and Kate spend one crazy night together as they navigate parties, new friendships and some hard truths about what it means to fall in love for the first time.
Here Comes The Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright, July 5, 2016)
We can’t wait to get our hands on Dennis-Benn’s debut novel, a story that explores themes of class struggles and forbidden love. Set in Jamaica, Here Comes the Sun follows local Margot as she does whatever she can in order to raise money for her little sister’s education. But when plans for another resort threatens her village, Margot must make some tough decisions about her future, including whether or not to reveal her secret affair with another woman. This novel dives into the real lives of women as they navigate the realities of living in ‘paradise.’
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, Jazz Jennings (Crown Publishing, June 7, 2016)
At just 5 years old, Jazz Jennings transitioned into living as a girl, a decision that launched an incredible journey. She has shared her story with Barbara Walters, on a TLC reality show called I Am Jazz, and on her insanely popular Youtube channel where she gives candid interviews and explores her varying interests. Her memoir dives even deeper into her life, chronicling the fame and attention, as well as the discrimination and bullying that Jennings has had to face over the years. It’s rare to meet any teen this self-possessed, let alone someone who has gone through what Jenning’s has. Her story has already inspired millions and this charming memoir is sure to inspire millions more.
Into the Blue, Pene Henson (Interlude Press, July 7, 2016)
Ever since Blue Crush came out over 10 years ago, we’ve been obsessed with surfer stories set in Hawaii. Which is why we are dying to get our hands on Henson’s debut novel. It tells the story of Tai and Ollie, two surfers who’ve been best friends since they were kids. They’ve even created a family together, taking care of Ollie’s brother and living with other friends in a rundown beach house. But when Ollie’s pro surfing dreams start to become a reality, Tai has to decide if now is the time to confess his long-time love for his best friend. Can the two make it work, or will their feelings tear apart the family they’ve cobbled together? Pick up this lush new read to find out.
Run, Kody Keplinger (Scholastic, June 28, 2016)
The best-selling author of The DUFF returns with another Young Adult novel that explores the ins and outs of friendship, love, and what it means to be a modern teen. Bo is from the wrong side of the tracks, while Agnes, who’s legally blind, has to deal with overprotective -– and overbearing -– parents. When the two form an intense friendship, they end up running away from their small town together. But they both have to realize that running won’t solve anything, even if it does provide a life-changing adventure. While the two girls never fall in romantic love, Bo is openly bisexual. It’s a refreshing change to have her sexuality in the background rather than as the main conflict in this story of friendship, truth and who we choose to love.
Boy Erased: A Memoir, Garrard Conley (Riverhead Books, May 10, 2016)
Conley was only 19 when he was outed to his parents. His mother and father (a Baptist pastor) insisted that he attend a church therapy conversion program where he would learn how not to be gay. Boy Erased is Conley’s account of that experience, including the fear and shame that went hand-in-hand with the Twelve Step Program that would “cure” him. But this isn’t just a tell-all memoir; Conley also dives into his family, religion, life in a Southern town, and all the complicated factors that contribute to prejudice. Filled with understanding and grace, Boy Erased is a must read for anyone who loves heartfelt, well-written stories about finding yourself.