Happy Pride Month! There is nothing I love more than a great queer YA Romance, because my God are there a zillion emotions packed into them, but also, it’s by far the area with most growing representation all around and it’s just doing the best things.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
Religion and Romance collide in this sweet, funny, nuanced romance about a southern lesbian forced to go back into the closet when her radio host father remarries and moves them to a town smaller in both population and mind. She agrees for the promise of her own radio show, which she plans to use to reach out to other queer Christian youth, but when she falls for Mary Carlson, and Mary Carlson falls back, she’ll have to choose between the year she planned to have and the future she really wants. Light on the angst and heavy on the squee, this is the f/f YA romance you’ll back to over and over again. (For more great lesbian romance, check out Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan and Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour.)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
If there’s a more gorgeous writer in YA right now, I haven’t found her. McLemore’s Magical Realism has become a stunning fixture in the category over the past few years, and this book in particular is just to die for. It alternates between the perspectives of queer cis Latina Miel, who grows roses from her wrists, and Desi trans boy Sam, who started out as a bacha posh—a girl from a family with no boys selected to live as one to be the son of the family—only to realize he’s been a boy all along. Their love story is a beautiful friends-to-lovers one, and it’s also fraught, as local girls blackmail Miel for her roses with the threat of blowing Sam’s cover. And if this is your introduction to McLemore, you are welcome; enjoy it and then go buy everything she’s ever written. (Despite the ending not being quite as Happily Ever After as is Romance convention, for another great romantic binary trans YA, definitely grab If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, or for gay trans YA, Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger. If SFF is more your thing, try Dreadnought by April Daniels.)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This is one of the world’s most beloved gay YA books, and it’s not hard to see why. Good luck with your heart not turning into an ooey gooey mess at this story of two Latino boys in the 80s whose fast friendship turns to love only one of them never saw coming, and never thought possible for himself. If Saenz’s beautiful prose doesn’t sell you…nah, I’m just kidding, it’ll sell you. But the characters, including parents, in this one are what make it such a knockout. (For more great gay YA Romance, check out One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva, The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis, History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig for one with a thriller bent, and The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich if you dig one with a sci-fi angle.)
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
I can’t say enough about how much brilliance Blake has been bringing to queer lit in the past couple of years, or about how magical this book is. Grace has grown hopelessly cynical as bad decision after bad decision of her mother’s slowly destroys her life, and this newest one is a doozy—moving her in with her ex-boyfriend. But then she meets sweet, grieving ballerina Eva, and it’s impossible not to believe in love and good things. At least until her mother grabs hold, trying to be the mother to Eva she never was to Grace. Grace knows that everything Maggie touches turns to suck, but convincing Eva of that just when her new girlfriend needs a mother figure most could wreck everything between them…if Maggie doesn’t wreck it first. (For more great bi YA contemporary Romance, check out m/m YAs Autoboyography by Christina Lauren and Social Intercourse by Greg Howard, f/f YAs Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley, Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta, and Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, and m/f YAs All the Feels by Danika Stone, which has a bi love interest, and Noteworthy by Riley Redgate, which has a bi main character.)
Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee
This superhero story definitely has a lot of action going on, but by no means does the romance between fierce, bisexual Jess and her crush-turned-coworker Abby play second fiddle. And by “coworker” I do mean they work together for a supervillain, despite Jess’s parents being superheroes, and yes, Abby’s keeping a pretty big secret, and yes, they are extremely cute together and you get more of them as the series continues. (For more great queer SFF YA Romance, check out f/fs Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova, Ash by Malinda Lo, Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis, and Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst; m/ms The Rules and Regulations of Mediating Myths & Magic by F.T. Lukens, m/fs Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst, and Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, a fabulous fantasy with a genderfluid main character and cis female love interest.
The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde
Wildly fun and inclusive, Jen Wilde’s books never fail to make me smile and swoon. This one’s centered around a band whose drummer, bisexual Emmy, goes a little too far off the rails one night and needs some space from the media, the stage, and definitely from her now-ex-girlfriend. But space from all that stuff leads to much less space between her and her sexy-as-hell genderqueer bandmate, Alfie, and soon Emmy’s got a whole new set of problems. (For more non-binary rep in YA Romance, check out the above-mentioned Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake, and Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin.)
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Cuties get a lot of page-time in this debut Romance, and it’s only fitting for a book this adorable. That girl on the awesome cover is Alice, a biromantic asexual girl who’s just had her heart broken and has given up on trying to find love. She’s tired of her disinterest in sex being a deal-breaker. So when she meets the wonderful Takumi and finds her attraction level shooting off the charts, she’s determined to push that inconvenient bit aside and keep them strictly friends. Unfortunately, their feelings have other plans, which means Alice has got to take a chance or risk losing the guy of her dreams. (For more great ace Romance, try Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee and, in fantasy, We Awaken by Calista Lynne.)
*Want a cute ‘Queer’ enamel pin? Get it here