There is nothing quite like reading a book and seeing yourself in the main character; it’s like someone has taken everything that makes you you, and put it inside a fictional protagonist who looks the same, thinks the same, and annoyingly, also acts the same. When this character is at the forefront of an action-packed YA fantasy novel, it’s even cooler – oh, so that’s what I would look like if I could wield a mythical sword and slice it through my enemy’s chest in battle?

However, when the YA (Young Adult) genre first came into the mainstream over a decade ago, it was neon impossible to see yourself in the main character unless you were a below-average height, totally white, very straight, and of very little weight, cisgender teen. Take Harry Potter, for example, undoubtedly a blueprint for the genre, but written with incredibly little diversity and by an author who can’t seem to stop endlessly spewing transphobic rhetoric from her massive gob.

Of course, it’s perfectly okay to still love the books – even if you disagree with the author – but YA as a genre has thankfully since diversified, bringing in not just protagonists of color, but also characters who identify as LGBTQIA+. And this Pride Month, we want to celebrate all the great YA authors who are allies to the LGBTQIA+ community and have included great LGBTQIA+ representation in their books for you to find your own fictional counterpart in.  

1. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
[Image description: Cover of “Cinderella is Dead” by Kalynn Bayron] via Amazon

Described by one reviewer on GoodReads as ‘queer black girls overthrowing the patriarchy’ Cinderella is Dead is a queer retelling of everyone’s third favorite fairytale.

It follows the story of Sophia, who would rather marry her childhood best friend, Erin, instead of the male suitors lined up for her, as they try to bring down the King once and for all. It’s the lesbian version of Cinderella us queer girls have all been waiting for!

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2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller] via Madelinemiller.com

A staple of LGBTQIA+ YA fiction and a book that had me crying for weeks – The Song of Achilles is another retelling, this time of Homer’s Iliad. But don’t worry, you don’t have to know anything about Greek mythology for this book to tear out your soul. The whole thing is written like pure poetry, and I have never read a more beautiful book about a more beautiful couple. Achilles and Patroclus ’til I die.  

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3. Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Crier's War by Nina Varela
[Image description: Cover of ‘Crier’s War’ by Nina Varela] via Amazon

Slowburn romance. Enemies to lovers. Mystery and betrayals. Sapphic love. If all those things are setting off fireworks in your head, then you need to pick up Crier’s War. With both lesbian and bisexual rep, this book has a proper ‘enemies to lovers’ romance, where the characters are actually real enemies who truly do want to kill each other – hands down, the superior YA trope.

The novel follows Crier, an android-like Automae who was made to be the epitome of perfection, and Ayla, a human who lost everything after the Automaes overthrew the humans. What more could you want, really?

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4. The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Brilliant Death’ by Amy Rose Capetta] via Amazon

How would you react if I told you The Brilliant Death was a 19th-century Italian mafia story with genderfluid shape-shifters, a great queer romance, and an unashamed critique of the gender binary? Yeah, I thought so. The novel follows Teo, who is forced to travel to the capital of her state to save her father’s life after he is poisoned. Teo is joined by Cielo, a genderfluid shape-shifter who gives me big Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle vibes, and who is able to switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book.

A central theme of the story is Teo’s denial of both her identity as a witch and her complex relationship with her gender. She also turns men that piss her off into inanimate objects. Like, come on, what’s not to love?

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5. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
[Image description: Cover of ‘Legendborn’ by Tracy Deonn] via Amazon

This thrilling urban fantasy follows Bree Matthews, a high school student, who witnesses someone slaying a demon on her first night on campus. This then leads her to the Legendborn: demon-hunters descended from the original Knights of the Round Table. Think The Mortal Instruments, but with much less whiny protagonists.

It touches on grief, inherited trauma, colonial legacies, and being a black woman in the South, and has great LGBTQIA+ rep: Bree’s best friend, Alice Chen, is a lesbian, while there are also two bisexual characters, a gay character, a WLW (woman-loving-woman) relationship, and a non-binary character, as well.

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6. Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry

Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry
[Image description: Coverr of ‘Orpheus Girl’ by Brynne Rebele-Henry] via Amazon

Another loose retelling of a Greek myth, Orpheus Girl deals with some incredibly tough shit. After Raya is caught having sex with her girlfriend Sarah, in a conservative Texas town, she is sent to a conversion therapy camp. The novel explores difficult topics like self-harm, electroshock therapy used as a form of torture, misgendering a transgender person on purpose, and countless other forms of homophobia. It will make your heart ache, and then break, and does it so with vivid and unique imagery. It’s a tough read, but well worth it. Just remember the trigger warnings.

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7. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon] via Amazon

Please don’t be put off by how long this novel is – The Priory of the Orange Tree is most definitely a saga; a saga filled with heroism, magic, romance, pirates, plague, dragons, and one of the best WLW slow burns in YA fiction.

Lovingly described as ‘a really killer high fantasy epic that also just happens to be really gay at times,’ this book is feminist fantasy at its finest. I would try and describe the plot to you, but it’s so complicated you’re just gonna have to read it yourself.

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8. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
[Image description: Cover of ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong] via Amazon

A Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920’s Shanghai with some of the best representation in all Young Adult fiction, These Violent Delights takes everything that was good about RoJo, and turns it up seventeen notches.

Juliette Cai, the heir to the Scarlet Gang, is a young Chinese girl suddenly forced to work with the heir to the rival Russian White Flowers gang, and the boy she once loved, Roma, to defeat two monsters: a killer creature who has appeared from nowhere, and the threat of colonialism. There is fantastic LGBTQIA+ rep in this book as well, including a trans character, and several gay MLM (man-loving-man) characters. Check out our full review of the book and exclusive interview with author Chloe Gong here.

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9. Dreadnought by April Daniels

Dreadnought by April Daniels
[Image description: Cover of ‘Dreadnought’ by April Daniels] via Wordery

If you’re a fan of comics, Dreadnought is the YA superhero story.

It follows Danny, a trans girl who is currently living as a boy due to extremely unsupportive parents, who suddenly gets the body she’s always wanted after famous superhero Dreadnought passes his powers onto her. Yes, it’s a heartwarming superhero novel, but the book also focuses on a range of issues faced by those who are transitioning. Long story short, it’s a superhero novel for those who don’t usually get to be a part of superhero novels.

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10. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
[Image description: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver] via Amazon

A groundbreaking YA book that follows non-binary teenager, Ben, who has to turn to their estranged sister, Hannah, after being kicked out of their home. I Wish You All the Best is a powerful novel about identity, complex family issues, mental health, and an important read for both members of the LGBTQIA+, as well as allies.

It’s one of the first books I’ve seen with a non-binary main character that is also written by a non-binary author – this novel pushes the genre even further forward in sharing the stories of those whose stories are never usually told.

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11. A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
[Image description: Cover of ‘A Dark and Hollow Star’ by Ashley Shuttleworth] via Goodreads

If I was going to name four things to put into my ultimate YA book combo, you can bet it would be fae, murder, mythology, and queer teens. Yes, there are tons of books about Faerie being written as of late, but how many of them follow four queer teenagers that find themselves caught up in a series of brutal and ritualistic murders, who are forced to work together to solve them? Not many!

Described as ‘500 pages of action, banter, magic, and pining,’ A Dark and Hollow Star offers genuine LGBTQIA+ representation, not just that token shit that Sarah J Maas does sometimes.

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12. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
[Image description: Cover of ‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi] via Amazon

The category is: ‘Six of Crows’ meets ‘The Da Vinci Code’ realness. Set in 1889 Paris right before the Exposition Universelle, The Gilded Wolves is a high-energy heist story that follows six main characters on a mission in an intricately wrought Parisian historical fantasy setting. With 100 more crushes on fictional characters that we don’t have time for, this book also has an abundance of representation, including Filipino and Indian protagonists, an autistic main character, and the best kind of natural LGBTQIA+ rep that doesn’t feel forced onto its characters.

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13. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
[Image description: Cover of ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston] via Amazon

Do you want a book that’ll make you laugh, swoon, and cry? Then Red, White & Royal Blue is definitely the one for you.

An MLM romance between a made-up Prince of England – sorry, Harry – and the son of the first woman president of The United States, this book will make your whole body grin in happiness and is one of the more lighthearted novels on our list.

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14. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
[Image description: Cover of ‘Felix Ever After’ by Kacen Callender] via Goodreads

Felix Ever After is one of those books that stays with you for a long time after the final page. The story follows Felix, a black, queer, and transgender teen, who has his deadname and pre-transition photos publicly outed. However, his plan for revenge leads him into a weird quasi–love triangle which then triggers a journey of questioning and self-discovery.

The book is sad and it’s fierce and it’s funny and full of forgiveness. Moreover, it’s so refreshing to read about a queer POC main character with top surgery scars. 

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15. Malice by Heather Walter

Malice by Heather Walter
[Image description: Cover of ‘Malice’ by Heather Walter] via Waterstones

A sapphic blend of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, Malice takes the “true love” aspect of traditional fairytales and turns it on its head.

This book follows Alyce, a type of fae feared for their cruel powers, and the crown princess, Aurora, who is cursed to die on her 21st birthday if she doesn’t get her true love’s kiss. The two women form a connection – despite the fact it was actually one of Alyce’s own that placed the curse on Aurora’s bloodline. Described as ‘a fairytale world without the fairytale ending,’ Malice is dark, bewitching, and very much a piece of art.  

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16. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
[Image description: Cover of ‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’ by T.J Klune] via Amazon

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a heart-warming and wholesome read with LGBTQIA+ main characters that also take on tougher topics such as discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. It tells the story of Linus Baker, a Case Worker who oversees the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages, who travels to an orphanage to look after six supposedly- dangerous children: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist.

Full of humor and heart, if you like the YA trope of “found family” – and to be honest, who doesn’t? – then this is the novel for you. Still not convinced? This book has been described as ‘a chicken soup for my soul and emotional wellbeing’ by one reviewer on Goodreads. Enough said.

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17. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
[Image description: Cover of ‘Cemetery Boys’ by Aiden Thomas] via Amazon

Want to really send your emotions into a spin? Try Cemetery Boys, a queer book about a trans boy who may or may not be in love with a ghost. Oh, and did I mention it’s also from the POV of the Latinx community?

This vibrant and enchanting story follows Yadriel, a 16-year-old gay Latinx trans boy, who after successfully performing a magical ritual and unlocking his true powers as a brujo, sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. The only problem? He ends up falling in love with Julian Diaz – the spirit of a handsome dead boy Yadriel accidentally summons as well. This story looks at LGBTQIA+ issues from a Latinx perspective and will have you feeling all types of ways.  

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18. All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories Of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages by various authors

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories Of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages by various authors
[Image description: Cover of ‘All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories Of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages’ by various authors] via Amazon

Not a novel, but rather an anthology of short stories, All Out is a collection of diverse historical YA fiction written by YA authors across the queer spectrum. From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier to an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene. It truly feels like I was put on this earth to be gay and to read this anthology.

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19. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
[Image description: Cover of ‘This Poison Heart’ by Kalynn Bayron] via Goodreads

We’re finishing this list the same way we started it: with Kalynn Bayron. From the author of Cinderella is Dead, This Poison Heart is a contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique but dangerous power – Briseis can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch. *clutches fist in cottage core lesbian* With long-held family secrets, systemic oppression, and the occult, this novel is the best mix of magical realism and paranormal mythology. It also leads with black and queer characters. Please, just take my money!

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

In a genre that’s largely full of fantasy worlds and made-up creatures, it’s taken long enough for YA to fully encapsulate the diversity of its fans – but it’s now finally possible for all kinds of readers to see themselves in the pages of this genre. 

So go on, purchase them online or head down to your local bookstore and get your hands on some of our favorite LGBTQIA+ YA novels.

Screw you, JK Rowling. Happy Pride Month!

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  • Part-writer, part-booktuber, Tilly is an Editorial Fellow at The Tempest. She loves writing about current affairs and women’s rights, but also passionately defends YA books and considers herself a regular in most YA fandoms. She can pluck her eyebrows without wincing and sink enough vodka shots to raise the Titanic.

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