Reading lists

A history of LGBTQ coming-of-age fiction (in 15 books)

Zainab Juma
LGBTQ coming of age novels including Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and Camp by LC Rosen
Image: Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Let's start by saying this: it’s basically impossible to condense the entire history of LGBTQ YA into 15 books. It’s like trying to squash all your stuff into a suitcase before going on holiday – no matter how much you skimp and scrunch, and even sit on top of your battered old wheely number to try and zip it up, you inevitably end up having to leave out some really good stuff.

The YA, coming-of-age genre has such an amazing history of exploring love stories and relationships of all kinds, and pioneering new voices and styles, that it’s totally unsurprising that it’s been a major trailblazer in bringing a whole range of LGBTQ books to the fore and changing the landscape of LGBTQ literature across all genres and ages.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age classic, The Perks of Being a Wallflower consistently appears on the American Library Association’s list of Top 10 Most-Challenged Books. It’s an epistolary novel (a book-in-letters), from the point of view of “wallflower” Charlie, whose friend Patrick is gay – a fact which is totally accepted by all the main characters without a second thought. A beautiful, thought-provoking, empowering read.

Luna by Julie Ann Peters (2004)

16-year-old Regan is the only one who knows about her brother Liam’s secret: he really identifies as a girl. By night, Liam transforms into Luna, and – after several years – Luna asks Regan to help her transition into a full-time female. Regan worries about her sister’s safety and her family’s reaction but ultimately agrees to help… In 2004, Luna was the first YA novel to feature a transgender character. 

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (2019)

Poet Dean Atta’s debut novel is the story of a boy coming to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen. When he arrives at university, he finally finds his wings as a drag artist known as The Black Flamingo. Told in verse, Atta’s book is a bold and beautiful tale about embracing our uniqueness and learning to show ourselves to the world as we are. 

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