It’s June, and you know what that means—it’s time to break out the rainbow colors! It’s Pride month, and no matter how you identify, it’s the perfect time to celebrate the LGBTQA+ community. One of my favorite ways to celebrate anything is to engage with stories about that topic. Nothing allows you to immerse yourself in another’s perspective quite like reading a book.
So, with that in mind, here is a list of 19 books to read during Pride month. If there’s anything we know here at Literally, Darling, it’s that love is love. Also, a good story is a good story. If you’re only reading books where the main characters are straight, you’re seriously missing out on some awesome reads.
1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Before reading this novel, I read a review saying it was the female version of Catcher in the Rye. I suppose the reviewer thought they were giving the book a compliment, but I think they were doing it an injustice. Cameron is not a character who should be compared to anyone else. This engaging first-person narrative is the coming-of-age story of a recently orphaned teenage girl who is slowly discovering her sexuality. When Cameron’s aunt finds out Cameron is a lesbian, she ships her off to an super conservative boarding school to be “cured.” Needless to say, this doesn’t work, but Cameron does learn to embrace who she is in a whole new way.
2. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Fans of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will love this debut novel from Silvera about a teenage boy who will do anything to forget the past. When Aaron first hears about the memory altering procedure from the Leteo Institute, he thinks it’s BS. But that was before his father committed suicide, before he met his best friend Thomas, and before he realized he wasn’t really in love with his girlfriend. He’s in love with Thomas, and having his memory altered seems to be the only cure for his heartbreak. I won’t spoil the ending, but the biggest plot twist will leave you guessing until the end.
3. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Amanda Hardy is your typical teenage girl at a brand new high school. She’s just trying to fit in, make friends, and impress her crush. Amazingly enough, he seems like he’s into her too. But would he still accept her if he knew her secret? The real reason Amanda had to transfer schools was because at her old school she used to be Andrew. She had hoped to leave the old version of herself behind when she moved. However, it’s difficult for her to become close to any of her new friends when they don’t know the full story of who she really is. A thought-provoking and emotional book, I can only hope that If I Was Your Girl will pave the way for more books with trans main characters.
4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Narrated by generations past of gay men who died from HIV, this YA novel takes an omniscient view of the lives and experiences of contemporary gay youth. Levithan is a fantastic YA author who has penned many notable novels, many of them featuring gay characters. This novel has some stunning quotes that speak not to just to queer relationships, but all relationships (#loveisloveislove). Ultimately, this is a powerful lament and celebration of queer history and its future.
5. You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
This dual POV YA novel is about two gay teens who meet and befriend each other over the course of Pride week in San Francisco. This novel depicts a variety of queer characters, both out and still closeted. It is also a wonderful story about friendship and change. Also, the cover is absolute eye candy. Written by two prominent queer YA authors, this story has some fantastically relatable quotes that speak to whatever phase of life or love you find yourself in.
6. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
I have never read a book that delivered such a palpable atmosphere of sadness and grief. This stunning novel jumps back and forth in time as the main character examines and grapples with the break-up and subsequent death of his best friend turned boyfriend turned ex-boyfriend. It’s a wonderful depiction of all the confusion, hurt, and tumult that can come with teenage sexuality.
7. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
If you saw Love, Simon and want to read the book it is based on, or just want to sit down with a fantastic coming out story, this is the one for you. It is equal parts euphoria and heartbreak. Most importantly, it explores why is so important for the LGBTQ+ community to come out on their own terms. It’s basically You’ve Got Mail meets Perks of Being a Wallflower.
8. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
A cute lesbian love story meets an old Hollywood mystery in this Own Voices novel. I absolutely loved all the details about set design, movies, and the glamour and intrigue of old Hollywood. While this novel doesn’t shirk the harsh realities for many gay teens in contemporary times, it also offers the hope of love being the happily ever after, regardless of how they identify.
9. George by Alex Gino
This middle grade novel is about a trans girl grappling with her identity and desire to live as her authentic self. Not only is this a great way to open discussion about trans persons and accepting people of all identities with younger audiences, it’s also a powerful read for people of all ages. Bonus points: Charlotte’s Web plays a significant role in the story.
10. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Muchado
Muchado’s debut short story collection is daring, transportive, and unapologetically queer. Rich in feminist and queer theory with a knack for the fantastical, she doesn’t shy away from the ferocity of emotions, both joyous and sorrowful. As a queer woman, reading about the richness of queer love in a way that doesn’t drip with despair, but doesn’t shy away from that despair either, is almost revelatory. This is easily one of the best books I have read this year, and I can’t wait to hear more from this singular new voice.
11. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
It would be hard not to mention this book after the film adaptation that came out earlier this year. Like many young gays, I saw this in the theater (twice) and cried tears of unabridged tenderness. I shared in the longing of young love and desire, however doomed this love story is from the start. The book, like the movie, is dreamy with a strong sense of time and place. However, where the film shows restraint, the source material opts for an almost painful rawness that I find more relatable and realistic for a queer love story in the late eighties. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, this is required summer reading.
12. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Idgie Threadgoode, the protagonist of this novel, is who I now recall as the catalyst for making me realize my queerness, at least on some small level. This book chronicles the love story of Ruth and Idgie in the 1930’s Deep South. While much of the true depth of their relationship is subtle (some may even choose to forgo the queer subtext in favor of friendship), this is undoubtedly a love story, and one that I come back to time and again.
13. The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood
This book is a new adult paranormal romance between gamer girl Deanna and her attractive but mysterious upstairs neighbour Jamie. When threats from an antagonistic player of Wolf’s Run, the online werewolf role playing game Deanna moderates, escalate, Deanna wonders if her new job could be riskier than she’d ever imagined. Maybe her new girlfriend knows more about the werewolf community than she realized.
14. The Art of Three by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae
This MFM polyamorous romance takes place throughout Europe, where young movie star Jamie Conway grapples with his attraction to his handsome, married male co-star Callum Griffith-Davies. But he also struggles with attraction to Callum’s wife as well, the artist Nerea Espinosa de Los Monteros Nessim. From ex-lovers and nosy neighbors to adult children with dramas of their own, The Art of Three is a contemporary romance that celebrates families, and farce, in all shapes and sizes. A great read that depicts polyamory honestly, realistically, and lovingly.
15. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
A beautifully written memoir that is both personal and political. Maggie Nelson brings us on a journey of love, desire, motherhood, and queerness as she explores her relationship with the genderfluid artist Harry Dodge. Nelson’s writing is sharp and soft, both a rebuke of societal conventions and a celebration of those of us who refuse to be defined or confined by heteronormativity. A must read for the queer parents in your life!
16. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
If you love fantasies and young adult fiction, than you’re in for a treat. Denna is a princess whose marriage has been set since birth in order to seal an alliance between her homeland and another kingdom. Before her coronation as queen, Denna must work with her fiance’s unconventional sister, Princess Amaranthine (Mare), to learn how to ride the warhorses the kingdom is known for. But a dangerous conflict is building in the land, and Mare and Denna must work together to save the kingdom. Along the way, they discover a friendship that turns into something more. This book is not your typical fantasy or your typical love story. It will definitely leave you dying for the sequel (luckily, it’s set to come out in 2019).
17. The New Testament by Jericho Brown
For fans of poetry, Jericho Brown’s work is a must read. This collection explores topics of disease and love and lust between men, against a backdrop of the lingering racial conflict and growing acceptance of gays in America. His poems are deeply personal, honest, and profound. His work is impossible to put down. Honored as a “Best Book of 2014” by Library Journal, and winner of the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry (among other awards), you won’t want to skip this collection of poems. Once you open it, you likely won’t be able to put it down.
18. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
All you really need to know is it’s about gay wizards who go to a British boarding school. And yes, they are roommates. It has everything you want – enemies, dumb!hero, diversity, brilliant ladies, diverted tropes, UST, and so much snark. The characters speak like real people, there’s no gay panic, and it’s a romp and a half. So if you’re one of those people who always wished Drarry was canon in Harry Potter, this is the book for you. Read it now, the sequel, Wayward Son was just announced for 2020 so the fandom is hoppin’ and Tumblr will help you keep it alive long after you finish reading it.
19. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
When I first picked up Aristotle and Dante, I knew nothing about it except that it was the newest book on the public library’s YA shelf. So I was surprised and delighted to find the two title characters falling in love, just as they themselves were discovering it. The writing in this book is poetic and yet realistic. It’s impossible not to fall head over heels for Aristotle and Dante, the two misunderstood boys who find solace in the life-changing relationship that springs from an unexpected friendship.
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