Recently I wrote a blog post about how queerbaiting got me a wife. I discussed how some of my biggest fandoms perpetuated queerbaiting, and how the fandom and community that grew around that queerbaiting is how I met my wife.
As a bisexual woman though, I’m always excited to see proper queer representation across all forms of media, whether this is in movies, TV shows, or video games. And as an author and avid reader, I’m always looking for amazing books with LGBTQ+ characters.
Today I want to share with you my top five books that feature LGBTQ+ characters (as of March 2018). Some of these titles feature a queer protagonist, while some of my selections showcase side characters or couples.
1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell novel.
What can I say about this book? It’s a story you’re either going to love or hate. The Harry Potter parallels hit you over the head constantly, the two main characters are overly indulgent, and to top it all off, the novel is technically the fanfiction written by a character in the novel Fangirl.
Basically, this book is really written for a target audience. If you grew up reading fanfiction, especially Harry Potter fanfiction, then you’ll love it. The book is so fun, and the characters manage to be tropes without adhering to their tropes in an amazing way. Simon and Baz’s love story is silly, romantic, and awkward...everything a teenage love story should be.Plus they’re going to a magical school and dealing with an evil foe who is threatening to wipe magic from the map entirely while they do this.
2 . Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Is it worth falling in love if you have to keep it a secret? When Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?
This book holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first novel I ever read about lesbian characters. I found it when I was first discovering my own confused feelings about women, and so it really struck a chord with me as a confused teenager. I remember hiding this book in my room, scared my parents would find it (as if they’d care).
The romance in this story really expresses the confusing, amazing feeling of falling in love. If you’ve struggled with understanding your feelings for someone of the same sex and coming out, this story will likely resonate with you. The characters feel genuine and the story realistic. It’s not the most original concept for a novel, but it’s a classic YA LGBTQ+ book and a quick, addicting read.
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares.
This is one of my examples of a book that has a side LGBTQ+ character, Sebastian. He, and everything in this novel, are so realistic that it is both humbling and painful. This story manages to feel hopeless, bleak, inspiring, and empowering, all at the same time.
Sebastian, a friend of the protagonist, faces very real challenges when it comes to his relationships and sexual orientation. His problems illustrate one of the many difficulties of high school, and really life overall. Every word of this book feels like it could’ve been pulled from someone’s diary, and interestingly the movie evoked that exact same feeling. That almost never happens in adaptations!
4. Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change.
This is a beautiful book, and I’m so sad that I don’t know anyone else who has read it. While the story is about Luna it is narrated by her little sister, Regan. Regan loves Luna and desperately wants to protect her from the world. But the world is cruel, and life is hard, and this book does a lovely job of showcasing that.
It isn’t a story just about the transgender experience, but about the impact this experience has on the entire family. While I am cis myself I found the story, interactions, and feelings to be very realistic. While Regan loves Luna dearly, she still gets frustrated and she still can’t fully understand what her sibling is going through.
5. Every Day by David Levithan
A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. It's a lonely existence--until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. She becomes A's reason for existing. So every day, in different bodies--of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and walks of life--A tries to get back to her.
I adore this novel. While it doesn’t technically have LGBTQ+ characters, that’s exactly what the appeal of the book is. A has no gender, no sexual orientation, and no physical body. They’re comfortable being in the bodies of men, women, and any gender in between. A falls for Rihanna because they see something special in her, not because of her gender.
This is not a happy love story. It’s messy and confusing, between two characters that are absolutely lovable but have plenty of flaws of their own. What this book does very well is show you that it doesn’t matter who you love, there are many different ways to love, and that all of us are incredibly different and incredibly similar at the same time.
Have you read any of these books? Do you plan to pick any of them up? If you have any recommendations yourself, please drop them in the comments so I can check them out!