The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stories about LGBTQ Teens - April 2012

Selected and annotated by Hillary Greer and Katie Boucher

Beam, Cris. I Am J. Little, 2011. 352p. Gr. 9-12.
J, born Jeni, is a female-to-male (FTM) transguy struggling with the repercussions of falling for his best friend, coming out to his parents as trans, and journeying to finding acceptance. Since J is “Jewto Rican,” half Jewish and half Puerto Rican, this novel is groundbreaking in young adult literature for its inclusion of a transgender character of color.

Bigelow, Lisa Jenn. Starting from Here. Amazon Children’s, 2012. 288p. Gr. 9-12.
Love lost can often be eased with companionship found, which is exactly what Colby, recently dumped and feeling increasingly isolated, encounters in Bigelow's novel. Mo, a stray dog Colby takes in, helps her along while she deals with the struggles of a lonely home life and becomes more comfortable with herself.

Bjorkman, Lauren. My Invented Life. Holt, 2009. 232p. Gr. 7-10.
Theatre geeks, sexuality, and sibling rivalry abound in Bjorkman's first novel. Roz and Eva, two sisters with a playful competitive spirit, become more hostile as Roz makes new friends and leaves Eva behind. Chock-full of witty dialogue and hilarious turns of events, the story also deals with issues of coming out as well as questioning one's sexuality.

Bray, Libba. Beauty Queens. Scholastic, 2011. 400p. Gr. 7-10.
A popular young adult novel that so seamlessly includes gay and transgender teens, Beauty Queens (somehow) manages to meld Miss America with Lord of the Flies, all the while making smart social commentary on consumerism. Despite the tragic end of many participants of the Miss Teen Dream contest, the tone of Bray's novel is silly and quite tongue-in-cheek. 

Brothers, Meagan. Debbie Harry Sings in French. Holt, 2008. 240p. Gr. 9-12.
Johnny, with his dark past and unusual style, finally has a steady home life and a great girlfriend. However, when his love for the lead singer of Blondie, Debbie Harry, goes beyond admiration and feels more like envy, he starts to question his identity. Brothers' novel is a great addition to LGBTQ literature, going beyond the usual girl/boy gender dichotomy.

Cronn-Mills, Kirstin. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Flux, 2012. 271p. Gr. 9-12.
High school senior, Gabe, is living out his passion to be a radio DJ. However, his transition from female to male makes the people in his life uncomfortable, from his radio fans to his own best friend. Along with providing readers with an amusing but serious narrative about trans issues, Cronn-Mills also includes an author's note explaining trans identities.

Danforth, Emily M. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2012. 480p. Gr. 10 up.
After her parents die in an accident, Cameron is sent to live with her religious aunt Ruth. Upon finding out about Cameron's sexual experiences with girls, Ruth sends Cameron to a religious camp to "cure" her homosexuality. Set in the early 1990s, Danforth's first novel deals with the issues of death, sexual exploration, and conversion therapy in a way that is both witty and profound.

Davis, Tanita S. Happy Families. Knopf, 2012. 240p. Gr. 8-12.
Siblings Justin and Ysabel are thrown for a loop when their father comes out as a transgender woman. Danita brilliantly illustrates the family's struggles to understand and adjust to their father's transition. Like I Am J, the novel is unusual in YA lit in that it depicts a transgender character of color.

Farrey, Brian. With or Without You. Simon Pulse, 2011. 368p. Gr. 9-12.
Farrey's novel follows Evan, a victim of bullying, and his best friend Davis, who has become involved with a group of gay teenagers who respond aggressively towards bullies called the Chasers. The exploration of serious topics that affect the queer community—such as family rejection, violence, HIV, and cultish behavior—make this novel one with which many LGBTQ teens will identify.

George, Madeleine. The Difference Between You and Me. Viking, 2012. 262p. Gr. 9-12.
Emily is popular, ferociously dedicated to her work on the student council, and has a long-term boyfriend. She also likes to (secretly) make out with Jesse, an androgynous activist… who is also a girl. Jesse has issues with their relationship and, along with her new friend Esther, is fed up with Emily's student council practices. George's novel deals with social activism without negative stigma, and portrays high school relationships in a much more realistic light than most.

Franklin, Emily. Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom; by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin. Walker, 2012. 272p. Gr. 7-10.
After coming out to her best friend, Tessa is betrayed—not only does he out her, he thwarts her plans to wear a tux and go with another girl to prom. Franklin and Halpin take on a topic that is extremely relevant to LGBTQ people in high school and leave readers hopeful for a more accepting climate for queer teens.

Jackson, Corrine. If I Lie. Simon Pulse, 2012. 288p. Gr. 7-10.
Soon after Quinn's Marine "boyfriend" Carey is sent to Afghanistan, she is accused of cheating and is shunned by her hometown. What the town doesn't know is that Carey and Quinn aren't really dating and Carey, the town hero, is actually gay. Jackson's novel explores the wide-reaching effects of military and community intolerance through Quinn's character as she bears the burden of staying loyal to Carey while also being dismissed by the town.

Katcher, Brian. Almost Perfect. Delacorte, 2009. 360p. Gr. 9-12.
Post-break up, Logan finds solace in his friendship with the new girl at school, Sage. When the two become increasingly interested in each other, Sage reveals that she is a transgender woman (male to female) and Logan begins to question his identity. Issues of being transgender in a small town, along with transgender relationships, are highlighted in Katcher's novel.

King, A.S. Ask the Passengers. Little, 2012. 304p. Gr. 8-12.
While she regularly sends up love anonymously to the passengers of planes flying by, Astrid has a much harder time with her actual relationships. Questioning her sexuality and overall sense of self, Astrid struggles to find answers in her small town of Unity Valley, while surrounded by friends and family who too are shaping their own identities through the trials of love, sexuality, and societal pressures.

Kluger, Steve. My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park. Dial, 2008. 240p. Gr. 8-10.
A light-hearted story about friendship, love, and accomplishment, Kluger's novel follows three high schoolers—Alejandra, T.C., and Augie—through their ninth grade year. The novel is written in "documentary" style, with instant messages and journal entries telling the story of Alejandra and T.C's budding relationship and Augie's theatrical and romantic pursuits and coming out process.

Konigsberg, Bill. Out of the Pocket. Dutton, 2008. 256p. Gr. 8-12.
Bobby is his high school’s star quarterback with high prospects for his athletic future. The only problem is that Bobby is most assuredly gay, and while he feels he can come out to his family, friends, and even teammates, he knows that this revelation will hurt his chances at being welcomed into the professional athlete community. This is a story that successfully blends the elements of a rousing sports story with the conflict and vulnerability that comes with coming out.

Levithan, David. How They Met, and Other Stories. Knopf, 2008. 256p. Gr. 7-10.
This collection of short stories tells tales of love as it is first ignited. Here, couples of all types, ages, and genders, tell their “how we met” stories which include the highs and lows of both young and seasoned love. Levithan effortlessly strings together a series of these romantic and realistic narratives, ending with his own personal love story, giving the reader a heartfelt and genuine experience.

Magoon, Kekla. 37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order). Holt, 2012. 224p. Gr. 9-12.
Ellis' life is in turmoil when her father becomes dependent on life support after an accident. As she tries to avoid his inevitable death, she meets an old friend, Cara, at a party who (along with her brother) takes an interest in Ellis. Magoon's novel follows Ellis as she copes with grief and navigates her relationship with Cara, as well as her emotionally abusive relationship with her best friend, Abby.

Moskowitz, Hannah. Gone, Gone, Gone. Simon Pulse, 2012. 251p. Gr. 9-12.
It is one year after the 9/11 attacks and the D.C. area is still reeling from the effects and is facing a new series of sniper attacks. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are struggling with their own individual ideas of transience and the confusing feelings they have for each other. The fear and vulnerability of both of the characters are palpable, and Moskowitz thoughtfully portrays two gay teens struggling to make sense of things.

Newman, Lesléa. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Candlewick, 2012. 128p. Gr. 9 up.
Although fourteen years have passed since Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder, there is still a place for honoring him and mourning his untimely and violent passing. Here, Newman has written dozens of poems, using both fiction and fact, to create a multilayered and emotional series of perspectives recounting his death, writing as Matthew’s family, attackers, and even the fence that “held him all night long.”

Peters, Julie Anne. She Loves You, She Loves You Not . . . Tingley/Little, 2011. 278p. Gr. 9-12.
When her extremely judgmental and homophobic father catches her making out with her girlfriend, seventeen-year-old Alyssa is forced to move in with her mostly absent exotic dancer mother. Filled with a slew of relatively unlikeable supporting characters all struggling with the faults and doubts that make them just as confused as Alyssa, this book exposes the nature of obsessive and devastating teen relationships.

Ryan, Patrick. Gemini Bites. Scholastic, 2011. 240p. Gr. 9-12.
Volatile and competitive twins Kyle and Judy are just two of the large brood of Renneker siblings who are forced to accommodate one more when the mysterious and self-proclaimed vampire, Garrett, comes to stay. When both Kyle and Judy find they are attracted to the bisexually identified Garrett, a revealing and transformative (for all parties involved) contest begins for his affections.

Sáenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon, 2011. 368p. Gr. 7-10.
While the two are spending the summer together, Ari saves his new friend Dante from a car crash. When Dante moves away for school and begins to figure out his sexuality, Ari—angst-ridden and often incapable of coming to terms with his own thoughts—struggles to do the same. Sáenz's novel is both witty and serious in its portrayal of Ari and his emotional journey to understand himself and his feelings for Dante. 

Smith, Andrew. Stick. Feiwel, 2011. 340p. Gr. 9-12.
Stick and Bosten are brothers bound by sibling love and the joint suffering they endure at the hands of their physically and sexually abusive parents. Relying on each other and few friends—Stick has Emily and Bosten has his secret relationship with Paul—these brothers endure heartbreaking trauma and transformation, making for the most satisfying and deserved of happy endings.

Wilkinson, Lili. Pink. HarperTeen, 2011. 320p. Gr. 9-12.
Sometimes resisting convention is as confining as living by it, as Ava discovers when she decides to embrace the pink-loving flowery girl side of her that her aggressively progressive parents have effectively squelched her entire life. While Ava explores her own sexuality, various social circles, and the notion of rebelling against her decidedly liberal and accepting parents, she begins to shape her own true identity.

Yee, Paul. Money Boy. Groundwood, 2011. 184p. Gr. 9-12.
When Ray’s strict father discovers that he has been frequenting gay websites, Ray is thrown out onto the streets. When his delusions of independence and “making it” on his own are realistically shattered, Ray turns to becoming a “money boy,” a young gay prostitute, to bring in money and situate himself within his burgeoning feelings of homosexuality.