LGBTQ+ Book Recommendations
Happy Pride! June is Pride Month, and so some of us here at The Geekiary have compiled a list of recommendations for books with LGBTQ+ main characters or storylines.
Recommended by Jamie
TITLE: Lies We Tell Ourselves
AUTHOR: Robin Talley
GENRE: Historical Fiction/Young Adult
SUMMARY: In 1950s Virginia, in the town’s first desegregated high school, Sarah Dunbar (black) and Linda Hairston (white) are forced to work together on a group project. In doing so, they confront issues like race, power, and how they truly feel about each other
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: I actually wrote a recommendation for this book before, but I feel it’s worth suggesting again. This is a really powerful book because it deals with institutionalized racism and internal homophobia, issues that are still a problem for a lot of people today. The book is told in alternating points of view, and Sarah and Linda both have very distinct voices. Their struggles are real, and Talley handles them extremely well. It’s a very compelling account of two young girls fighting a barrage of preconceived notions and basically redefining their personal beliefs.
TITLE: One Man Guy
AUTHOR: Michael Barakiva
GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary
SUMMARY: Alek attends summer school in order to boost his failing grades, and there he meets Ethan, who is everything Alek wants in a friend. But it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends, and Alek is sort of maybe okay with that.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: This is a very cute book, mostly light-hearted and fairly conflict-free. It’s one of those “opposites attract” stories that I’m so immensely fond of (plus my very favorite trope, “slow burn”), full of well-written characters and a real sense of self. Alek discovering his sexual identity goes hand in hand with his respecting his cultural heritage (Alek is Armenian). Alek and Ethan are both believably flawed individuals making the kind of mistakes any teenager would make. Bonus for Alek’s great relationship with his family and best friend Becky.
TITLE: A Natural History of Dragons
AUTHOR: Marie Brennan
GENRE: Science Fiction/Fantasy
SUMMARY: Isabella, Lady Trent, has only wanted one thing for her entire life: to study dragons. These are her memoirs.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: Surprisingly few dragons for a book with the word “dragons” in the title, but still. Dragons. Though not explicitly stated, Isabella reads very much aromantic – she basically marries her husband for his library, and while they do have a sexual relationship, they act more like best friends than husband and wife. Isabella is a great character, not because she’s particularly likable, but because she’s painfully real. A little slow to start but a fascinating read – the first in a series (book two has a canon asexual character, FYI).
TITLE: Under the Udala Trees
AUTHOR: Chinelo Okparanta
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SUMMARY: Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: It is illegal to be gay in Nigeria now, in 2016. Imagine what it must have been like thirty or forty years ago, and what struggles LGBTQ+ people must have had to go through, are still going through, just to be who are they are and be with who they love. This book is a powerful story about coming to terms with one’s sexuality in a place where it is literally a crime to do so. It’s a moving, heart-wrenching book that is a completely immersive experience.
AUTHOR: Carrie Secor
GENRE: Young Adult
SUMMARY: Welcome to small-town Pennsylvania, where everybody lives within a stone’s throw of everybody else, and the rumor mill is the prevailing force in every high school student’s life. Relationships change, people move away, and friendships are tested, all within the privacy of a very public school. You might bluff or you might fold, but once the cards are dealt, everyone has a tell.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: Full disclosure: my little sister wrote this book. Also, the LGBTQ+ character is not a main character, she is the best friend of the main character. However, it’s hard to specifically point to a main character in this book, because there are so many different perspectives. Mostly I felt like this list was a little too light on the ladies, and also this is a well-written book about high school students living a small-town life.
Recommended by Farid
TITLE: The Road to Amazing
AUTHOR: Brent Hartinger
GENRE: Young Adult
SUMMARY: Russel Middlebrook is gettin’ hitched! The wedding is taking place in a remote lodge on an island in Puget Sound. Russel and his husband-to-be have invited all their close friends to spend the whole weekend together beforehand. And for the first time in his life, Russel is determined to not be neurotic, and not overthink things. But that’s before things start going wrong. Who expected a dead killer whale to wash up on the beach below the inn? And what’s this about a windstorm approaching? Then there’s the problem of Russel’s anxious fiancé, who is increasingly convinced the whole thing is going to be a disaster.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: I got introduced to Russel Middlebrook after I had watched the live-action film adaptation of Geography Club in 2013. Immediately I started reading all the books that had been released in the series and quite enjoyed them. I recommend The Road to Amazing because it serves as a conclusion to the awesome series. It has been fun seeing Russel and his friends growing up as the series progressed. Readers have been with Russel through his ups and downs, and it feels very satisfying to see him have a happy ending. A great read for people looking for what it means for a gay young man to come of age without being too stereotypical about it. Also, it is a good thing that the final book in the series focused on Russel and Kevin, my OTP ever since I started reading the series.
TITLE: The Escaped Murderer of Somerville
AUTHOR: A.J. Raven
GENRE: Mystery/Young Adult
SUMMARY: The man who killed an entire family is on the run and eluding authorities after escaping from the Rockfort Asylum. Claiming he has a Master to please, he hunts the curious teen who is determined to find him. In a twisted and bizarre cat and mouse game, Jerry is lured into the forest by the cries of a woman in distress, but discovers something much more sinister.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: I’m recommending this because yes, I’m the author, and also because there aren’t a lot of books that have bisexual leads out there. I enjoy reading stories where the sexuality of a character isn’t their only defining aspect and that’s what I’ve tried to show through my writing. The Escaped Murderer of Somerville is the third book in the series and involves Jerry and his friends trying to lead normal lives after being previously involved in two dangerous cases. However, things don’t go well when Jerry finds himself in trouble again. Over the course of the series you’ll get to see Jerry grow as a character and as a young detective. He isn’t a ‘goody-two-shoes’ and just like any other teenager he experiences jealousy and anger, and sometimes acts on those feelings. We are all ‘a work in progress’.
TITLE: Trust the Focus
AUTHOR: Megan Erickson
GENRE: Young Adult
SUMMARY: With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry — and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon. As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: The ‘In Focus’ series by Megan Erickson tells the stories of different characters as they come to terms with their sexualities. I’m recommending Trust the Focus because that was the first one I read in the series. The story of Trust the Focus is about two young men. One of them is out and proud, Landry, and the other in a very tight closet, Justin. To Landry, Justin is a straight friend because that’s what Justin has been forced to act like all his life due to his conservative upbringing – a straight young man. The book talks about a lot of fears closeted queer kids have and how they try to come out. It is easy for someone else to tell them to come out and just get it over with. However, the fact that a lot of young queer kids are forced to live on the streets after they come out to their families can’t be ignored either. Everyone deals with coming out on their own terms. Some aren’t able to ever come out. Trust the Focus is story of a young man’s struggle with his sexuality. You might not like him as a character but the book is still worth a read.
TITLE: We Are the Ants
AUTHOR: Shaun David Hutchinson
GENRE: Sci-fi/Young Adult
SUMMARY: There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t. Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year. What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.
WHY I’M RECOMMENDING THIS: A lot of trigger warnings for this book because this is one dark story. It talks about suicide, sexual assault, and bullying. However, having said that, We Are the Ants is a very interesting read if you want a Sci-fi story with a gay lead character. Henry has gone through so many struggles in his life, and pairing that up with frequently getting abducted by aliens, and then being given the burden of deciding the fate of the world, we have a character that is truly layered. If you’re into dark stories that talk about mental health, and a character who hasn’t spent a very happy life but still finds the strength to keep going, then this book is for you. The book might actually make you think whether or not the world we live does indeed need saving or if we should just let it end.
Recommended by Undie Girl
TITLE: Grasshopper Jungle
AUTHOR: Andrew Smith
GENRE: Science Fiction/Young Adult
SUMMARY: Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa. To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.
TITLE: Captive Prince
AUTHOR: C.S. Pacat
SUMMARY: Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the truthful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave. Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country. For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…
TITLE: Carry On
AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell
GENRE: Fantasy/Young Adult
SUMMARY: Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
TITLE: A Hero at the End of the World
AUTHOR: Erin Claiborne
GENRE: Fantasy/Young Adult
SUMMARY: Sixteen year-old Ewan Mao knows one thing for certain: according to prophecy, it’s his destiny to kill the evil tyrant whose dark reign has terrorized Britain. Although he’s just a normal boy, deep down Ewan is confident that he has exactly what it takes to be a hero. But when Ewan’s big moment comes, he freezes. His best friend, the clever and talented Oliver Abrams, defeats the villain for him, and Ewan’s bright future crumbles before his eyes. Five years later, Oliver has a job as an Unusual in the government’s Serious Magical Crimes Agency, the life he and Ewan always dreamed of. But a routine investigation leads him and his partner, Sophie Stuart, to uncover a dangerous and powerful cult… one that seems to have drawn his former best friend into a plot to end the world. A deftly plotted, hysterically funny take on Chosen One narratives, A Hero at the End of the World expertly walks the fine line between satire and sincerity. Its sensitive depiction of a broken friendship and wry take-down of unfairly great expectations will appeal to all readers of modern fantasy.
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from THE Ohio State University. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, and conventions in the NYC area.
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