The Best GLBT Young Adult Novels of the New Century

shelved under Gay & Lesbian and Young Adult & Teen

Young Adult literature has come a long way in the past fifty years, from a concept to a genre. To track GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender/transsexual) literature as a sub-genre was quite hard for a long time, because — aside from a few notable exceptions like I'll Get There: It Better be Worth the Trip by John Donovan and Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden — there were not many novels that prominently featured GLBT characters until the last decade. And that's why this booklist exists, to highlight some delightful titles for those who are interested in GLBT issues or may be searching for a character struggling through adolescence just like you do/did.

Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy

by David Levithan

This list could begin and end here, honestly. Levithan's debut novel introduces readers to the dizzyingly liberal and beautiful town where our narrator Paul resides, a place where the residents have vastly given up on prejudice of any sort and allow people to live their lives how they please. It's hard not to fall in love with the town's first gay third-grade president, his friends (including standout Infinite Darlene, the school's quarterback and homecoming queen), and his quest to find a boy to groove with while still in high school. Levithan manages to balance the humor, soap opera antics, ricocheting pop culture references, and magical realism that make the novel such an enjoyable romantic comedy with finesse.

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Rainbow Boys

Rainbow Boys

by Alex Sanchez

This book, the first in a trilogy, is the probably the best due to its intricate plotting and buoyant sense of humor. The story of three boys, each at different points of acceptance with their homosexuality, is sweet and brutally honest. By having three alternating narrators, we get to step inside their minds and read how the same events occur but can be interpreted incredibly different by each character. This is clearly evident during any scene involving the love triangle that develops between our narrators. Sanchez is a gifted writer at finding the light in every dark place that he takes the reader, and he makes concise commentary on the blind prejudices that still plague schools.

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Geography Club

Geography Club

by Brent Hartinger

Hartinger wins the award for most creative way of starting a gay-straight student alliance when the school board won't let you actually start one. This comedy of errors about a young Russel Middlebrook, who starts a Geography Club (for queer kids who want to meet without anyone knowing — no else is joining this club) in order to get closer to the boy of his dreams (a woefully closeted baseball player), never lacks for creativity. The biggest complaint you'll have is that the story is all too brief. It is also recommended to check out Hartinger's follow-up novels The Order of the Poison Oak and Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies.

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Hero

Hero

by Perry Moore

For anyone who said that men in tights could be seen as gay, well, here, you're right. Moore's superhero epic follows Thom Creed, a school basketball star and son of disgraced ex-hero, as he comes to terms with his sexuality and the development of his own superpowers. The strong link between these two aspects of Thom is what drives most of the story's developments, yet he is supported by an interesting and supportive cast of characters, each with abilities all their own who push Thom to make the right decisions for himself. Also, the reveal of the villain truly is a surprise that will raise eyebrows. Moore has a talent for writing strong descriptive action sequences that push the plot forward. You can see this book easily being turned into a blockbuster movie, if Hollywood was brazen enough to tackle the subject matter.

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The Bermudez Triangle

The Bermudez Triangle

by Maureen Johnson

Captured here is a difficult phase for any teenager: the senior year of high school, when you must decide what your future holds and realize that your relationships with your lifelong childhood friends is about to change. Johnson draws you into the relationship of three starkly different girls as they begin this turbulent year. Nina must balance a long-distance relationship and her growing sense of isolation from BFFs Mel and Avery. As for Mel and Avery, they must navigate their own budding romance with each other and determine if friends can become lovers. Johnson is able to give each of the girls her own unique voice and patterns, but brings everything back to their core dynamic with a light touch. This is an excellent book for a day at the beach thanks to its revolving door romances and laugh out loud comedy.

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Between Mom and Jo

Between Mom and Jo

by Julie Anne Peters

Peters has written a number of excellent books that all feature GLBT characters, but the reason I'm choosing this for my list is because it deals with a number of politically-charged gay rights issues from a fairly unique perspective: the child of a divorcing lesbian couple. Nick is an engaging narrator, who is genuinely lost in the confusion that would plague any kid when their parents decide to breakup. Yet, his situation is amplified when it becomes a custody battle between his uptight biological mother Erin and his carefree other mom, Jo, who could be denied any rights to see her son. This book will divide readers and force you to consider our current laws regarding adoption, marriage, and divorce in the GLBT community. Yet with all that happening, the book never becomes all-consuming; Nick is a kid with other issues and interests, this event impacts him but does not define his entire experience in the novel.

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Almost Perfect

Almost Perfect

by Brian Katcher

Logan, the narrator, has just met an amazing girl in his small Missouri town: her name is Sage, and she is wonderfully quirky and funny. The brilliance of Katcher's novel is that's exactly how we (the readers) meet Sage before we find out that she was born a man, and is now transitioning MTF (male to female). Through Logan, we are able to experience the surprise of this revelation, and have a comrade-in-arms as we try to understand what it is like for Sage to navigate life in a small town. Katcher certainly did his research about transgenderism, and provides a clear rationale about why it is physically necessary for Sage to transition so early in life, but also goes into the sometime-devastating emotional turmoil of the transition process.

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What They Always Tell Us

What They Always Tell Us

by Martin Wilson

This is story of two brothers at a crossroads is a carefully drawn character sketch with heart that has some surprising turns along the way. Narrated in alternating chapters, James is a high school senior going through a quarter-life crisis a little too early, while little brother Alex is recovering from a recent suicide attempt while also discovering his feelings for James' best friend. Wilson finds humor in the most awkward moments and waxes philosophical with a maturity that stretches the limits of believability, but gives you hope that it is possible to be that aware. The dynamic between the brothers, particularly when James finds out about Alex and Nathen's relationship, is poignant and crucial to understanding the overall story.

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