There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
I’m giving an Ignite talk today about growing up bisexual and the confusion that came from not seeing this identity reflected in the books I was reading. At the time, this led me to believe that there was something wrong with me or the way I felt; that I couldn’t possibly have the feelings I did.
Whether you’ve had this experience or you’re looking for stories to help you understand what others might be going through or just want to read some books that more accurately reflect the world , here are a few recommendations.
These are all YA, because that’s what my talk was about and it is definitely non-definitive because I know I haven’t read everything that is available. I also feel like, despite the diversity of sexualities, there are some issues with other types of diversity. I also asked Twitter for some suggestions and have added these in at the end. Feel free to recommend other things in the comments section. 🙂
I’m going to talk about one non-fiction book first because if you’re confused or if you want to support someone who falls into the LGBTQUIA spectrum or just understand more about what this acronym means, I heartily recommend reading This Book is Gay by James Dawson. You might also find it under Juno Dawson as the author is transgender and began transitioning after the book had already been published.
This book is written based on the UK’s PSHE (personal, social & health education) classes, as if the author had been allowed to discuss gender and sexuality openly. It’s frank and honest and might be a little shocking for some but I also think it’s a very important book.
I spoke about this story a little in my talk so I couldn’t not recommend it. It’s about a girl who begins to question her sexuality when she develops a crush on one of her female teachers.
What I liked most about this is that the story isn’t really about anything external, there’s no grand love story here, but it’s just about that experience of finding out who you are.
I had a brief debate with myself about which Malinda Lo book to include because they are all great and diverse and I can’t wait to read her new one.
Ash is included because it’s the first book of hers I read and probably the one I love the most. The two second description is lesbian cinderella but it’s actually a lot more complex than that.
If you’ve ever wished for fairytales where the princess doesn’t fall in love with a handsome prince, this is a story for you.
I absolutely loved this story about a closeted lesbian who is figuring out who she is and balancing her feelings with the expectations of her family and community.
This is a story about sexuality without being a story about sex. There are themes in this story about what it means to be biracial as well as what it means to be a lesbian and it’s really about finding your place, wherever that might be.
I read this fairly recently and I really enjoyed it. I could fill this list up with titles by Nina LaCour and David Levithan if I wanted to as they’ve both written some great books with representation of the LGBTQUIA community. I loved “Everything Leads to You” by Nina LaCour and “Boy Meets Boy”, “Two Boys Kissing” and “Everyday” by David Levithan.
This one might be my favourite as it focuses on a new friendship between a lesbian girl and a gay boy as they both negotiate their love lives during Pride.
Beauty Queens is a book that has a lot to say – about modern culture, about feminism, and about sexuality. The style of it will not work for everyone but I LOVED it.
When a group of teenage beauty queens are stranded on an island after a plane crash, they must struggle to survive and they learn a lot about themselves and each other.
I love that this book contains all manner of sexualities and never makes it into a big deal.
I loved this story about Simon and his romance with Blue, a boy at his school who he met via the internet and doesn’t know in person.
Simon has some ideas about who Blue might be but when someone else sees the emails and starts blackmailing Simon, it looks like his chance at love might have been derailed.
This is a wonderful story – both a romance and a contemplation on what it means to be gay and how it feels to have to come out.
I couldn’t compile a list like this without including Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. It’s deservedly been awarded with a number of prizes.
This is really a classic coming of age story and is more of a character study than a really plot driven tale but the writing is beautiful and it’s easy to empathise with the characters.
I don’t think I can recommend it strongly enough.
I loved the premise of this book, which reminded me a lot of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. What if you could erase the memories that make your life difficult?
This is a book about an unhappy character and deals with themes of grief, loss and suicide but, for all that, it still manages to be an ultimately uplifting book.
It’s a very real story, that doesn’t pull its punches, and it’s not always nice but I think it’s still an important book. It’s also a love story about choosing to see the good in life.
There’s something quite metafictional about this story, which began as the universe in which the fanfiction in Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fangirl took place.
I absolutely loved it. It’s a bit like a Harry Potter story (specifically Half Blood Prince) if the reason that Harry couldn’t stop obsessing over Draco was because he actually fancied him. There’s a threat to the magical world (the brilliantly named Insidious Humdrum) and in all other ways it’s a fantasy boarding school book like Harry Potter except that Simon and his school nemesis Baz fall in love.
I thought this book was spot on with the experience of being bisexual and it doesn’t make that the entire focus. This is a story about the labels that people apply to one another and how hard it is to not fit into them.
Etta is a great character and this book should be required reading. If I’d read this book as a teenager, I would probably have been less confused about myself.
I love books about LGBTQUIA characters that aren’t about their queerness and Far From You is a great example of this. It’s primarily a murder mystery, where the investigator is a recovering drug addict with a disability.
The main characters are a lesbian and a bisexual girl and there’s a love story in the narrative but it doesn’t take over the whole story. I loved that. The mystery is really well-handled too.
Writing about this book is making me want to reread it.
The Art of Being Normal is the kind of book that I felt compelled to force all of my friends to read. It’s about a friendship between two teenagers but it’s also about being transgender.
What I loved most about it is that it handles the transgender experience with such respect but it’s also quite a light book and, although it touches on the frightening aspects of being transgender, it still manages to be mostly happy and to leave you feeling uplifted. It is possible to be transgender and happy and this book shows that.
I make no apologies for the fact that I love romance novel tropes and a story about two girls who pretend to date and then fall in love is exactly my kind of thing. Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley also contains maybe the best depiction of a character questioning her sexuality that I’ve ever read.
This is a really fun story and my go-to for when I want to read something happy.
It’s rare to find LGBTQUIA characters in fantasy and science fiction type stories, which makes me even happier about this one.
I love this series of books so much and I can’t wait to read the next part when it is finally released. Micah Grey is such a great and interesting character.
Do you want to read a fantasy story about magical powers and dark forces, set against the backdrop of a travelling circus? Of course you do. Oh, and also the main character just happens to be intersex.
Explicit asexuality (rather than implied asexuality – and if you want to get me all riled up sometime, just tell me that this is equally as good representation-wise) is still super-rare, even in YA, which is why this book is so important to me.
The main character of Quicksilver talks about how she felt when she tried to have a relationship with someone who pushed for more and also discusses the real feelings that she has for another character even though she doesn’t want a sexual relationship with him.
It’s also a really good sci-fi story.
I intended to include a lot more books in this post but I’ve run out of time. I do have a few other recommendations because I asked for people’s favourites on Twitter.
From Darran (@shinraalpha):
“Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Unbecoming by Jenny Downham, Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton (a mute girl’s best friend dies before the start, mysterious circumstances. Falls in love with new girl @ school) and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (girl boy platonic friendship – she’s bi, he’s asexual – all about academic pressure vs creative freedom.)
From Sass (@supergirl_sass):
“Erin Gough’s The Flywheel, which I know she wrote because she never read a happy lesbian story as a teen but Flywheel’s only out in Australia right now”
From Alyssa (@alyssakeiko):
“labyrinth lost, of fire and stars, and a darkly beating heart for fantasy books with bisexual f/f rep”
One of the other speakers also had my talk recorded on their phone and uploaded it to YouTube. Thanks, Lindsay!
You can also look at the slide deck: