The books on this page feature LGBTQI+ main and secondary characters. They may also be found on the other pages by race/ethnicity or in Everybody Else.
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Girl, Serpent, Thorn (Ages 12-18+ / Grades 7-9)
Melissa Bashardoust's Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “an alluring feminist fairy tale” (Kirkus Reviews) about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse.
"There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
"As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
"Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming...human or demon. Princess or monster."
Author Melissa Bashardoust draws from her Persian heritage to write her fantasies and reimagined fairy tales. She received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She shares her Southern California home with her cat, Alice, and a large Jane Eyre collection.
Parents: Persian demons, fairy tale tropes turned on their heads, LGTBQI+ and difficult coming-of-age choices.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass (Ages 12-18+ / Grades 7-9)
Melissa Bashardoust’s acclaimed debut novel Girls Made of Snow and Glass is “Snow White as it’s never been told before...a feminist fantasy fairy tale not to be missed” (BookPage)!
"Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone―has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
"Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do―and who to be―to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.
"Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything―unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story."
Parents: Same-sex love interest, a new take on the Snow White story and stepmother/stepdaughter relationships and conflicts.
Karen Memory (Ages 15+)
You ain't gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. 'Hôtel' has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me."
Set in the late nineteenth century-in a city a lot like what we now call Seattle Underground-when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable's high-quality bordello. Through Karen's eyes we get to know the other girls in the house-a resourceful group-and the poor and the powerful of the town.
Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone's mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap-a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Hard on the heels of that horrifying discovery comes a lawman who has been chasing this killer for months. Marshal Bass Reeves is closing in on his man, and he's not about to reject any help he can get, even if it comes from girl who works in the Hôtel Mon Cheri.
Elizabeth Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the Old Steampunk West with a light touch in Karen's own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science in Karen Memory.
A fun romp but parents, it does feature a whorehouse, alternative lifestyles and a same-sex relationship. Nothing that I would consider explicit.
Sarah Rees Brennan
In Other Lands (Ages 13+)
Hugo & Locus award finalist
The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border ― unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and ― best of all as far as Elliot is concerned ― mermaids.
"'What’s your name?'
"Serena?" Elliot asked.
"Serene," said Serene. "My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle."
Elliot’s mouth fell open. "That is badass."
Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.
In Other Lands is the exhilarating new book from beloved and bestselling author Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world ― even if it means giving up your phone.
Parents: Coming of age story, love triangle and main character is bisexual.
Zelde M'Tana (Ages 18+)
This book features a Black female protagonist of African heritage. A Wild Child, she’s captured and sent off world as a slave, destined as a pleasure woman on another planet. The ship’s crew rebels and heads off into distant space. Zelde, a resourceful and extremely intelligent young woman, participates in the rebellion and works her way up the ship’s ranks. This story is the prequel to the Rissa Kerguelen trilogy.
Not suitable for young teens, there are very mature scenes of sex and violence in the book. There are also same-sex relationships.
The Rissa Kerguelen Trilogy – See the "Everybody Else" page
Prince of Shadows: A Novel of Romeo and Juliet (Grades 9+ / Ages 15+)
"In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.
"Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…
"…And will rewrite all their fates, forever."
Parents: Told from the point of view of two side characters from the Shakespearean play. The story centers around Mercutio and Benvolio. Mercutio is gay and (spoiler) in a relationship that ends tragically. Benvolio has his own love story. Like the play, women are abused and there's gang warfare, magic, murder and plenty of bodies...
The Gilded Wolves (Ages 12-18+ / Grades 7+)
From New York Times bestselling author Roshani Chokshi comes The Gilded Wolves, a novel set in Paris during a time of extraordinary change--one that is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous desires...
No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history--but only if they can stay alive.
Mixed cast of characters:
Séverin - half-Algerian
Laila - Indian
Zofia - Jewish, Polish, autistic
Enrique - Filipino/Spanish, queer
Tristan - ?
Hypnos - Black, queer
Dreadnought: Nemesis - Book One (Ages 12-18 / Grades 7-12)
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with 'curing' her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer―a cyborg named Utopia―still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Pet (Ages 12+ / Grades 7+)
The highly-anticipated, genre-defying new novel by award-winning author Akwaeke Emezi that explores themes of identity and justice. Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question--How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
Acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi makes their riveting and timely young adult debut with a book that asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when the society around you is in denial.
"Like [Madeleine] L'Engle, Akwaeke Emezi asks questions of good and evil and agency, all wrapped up in the terrifying and glorious spectacle of fantastical theology." - NPR
Parents, the main character is transgender and the book contains adult nuances of "monsters," including child abuse and police brutality. Cross-posted on the LGBTQI page.
Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi prefers the pronouns "they" and "them." They have received numerous awards for their five novels, including Pet, their debut YA novel.
Friday (Ages 16+)
Genetically-enhanced Friday is a courier for the Boss in a chaotic world of corporations and corruption, small countries in what used to the be the United States. Until something goes wrong with her last job and her life is ripped apart. Despite the book cover, Friday is clearly described as being of mixed race with brown skin and she discovers, as her group family breaks apart, that her darker skin was of concern to at least one member of the family. It's one of the few Heinlein books that has a female main character that isn't too horribly written, although the rape scene was of the male fantasy of relax and enjoy it. (Disgusting!) I think the end is horribly weak and could've been much better. Female characters were not his strength, he was definitely a man of his era.
Descriptions of genetically-enhanced humans, a rape, group marriages, non-descriptive sex and same-sex relationships may be disturbing to parents and teens.
Juniper Leaves: The Otherworldly Tale of a Lonesome Magical Girl (Ages 13+)
Kinky-haired blerd Juniper Bray used to believe in magic, until she lost her best friend: her grandmother. Now this 15-year-old shy girl is headed to her father’s research trip on a farm hundreds of miles away, with a family she barely knows and the opposite of a best friend, her new arch nemesis, Bree Mckinney. As if she wasn’t miserable enough.
Little does she know the next few months Juniper will discover magical powers she never knew she had, get a crush on a girl she never knew she’d like and well, quite frankly, save the world. Juniper Leaves is a fantastical coming-of-age tale of a girl who learns to let go, live a little, and best of all, believe in herself — all before her sixteenth birthday.
This fantasy story features a black queer protagonist who is obsessed with science. The author describes her as nerdy 15-year-old. Highly recommended.
Alisa Krasnostein (Editor) & Julia Rios (Editor)
Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Ages 13+)
What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgender animal shifter have in common? They're all stars of Kaleidoscope stories! Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.
Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices: Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar
Not Your Sidekick (Grades 5-8)
Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship--only it turns out to be for the towns most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, whom Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there's the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
Parents, this diverse coming-of-age story features LGBTQ characters. It was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction.
Not Your Villain (Grades 5-8)
Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants and, if putting on a binder for the day is too much, hes got it covered. But that was before he became the countrys most wanted villain. After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Sometimes, to do a heros job, you need to be a villain.
C.B. Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer based in Los Angeles, California.
The Fever King (Feverwake) (Ages 16+)
In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
Parents, the book is set in a post-nuclear dystopian world and features an undocumented bisexual Latinx-Jewish protagonist.
Julián is a Mermaid (Ages 4 - 9)
A glimpse of three women dressed as mermaids leaves one boy filled with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.
'Every choice Jessica Love makes imbues the story with charm, tenderness and humor' New York TImes Book Review
While riding the subway home with his Nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself?
A lovely picture book filled with images of an imaginative child who loves mermaids and his abuela's acceptance and love.
William J Manning
Lilith Cohen - Merchants of Death (New Adult 18+)
"For twenty-six years, Lilith Cohen has lived in the darkest corners of society, killing whoever her clients paid her to. Her new husband thinks he married a simple fashion designer.
Agent Cohen travels to Golan Heights, Israel, for what she thinks is just another run of the mill assassination, but to her surprise, there’s something off about the bloody Civil War that rages throughout Syria.
"What starts as a routine kill order turns out to be anything but. This terrorist leader and his men are armed with advanced weapons, which leads her to one conclusion, there’s a Merchant of Death profiting from the bloodshed. Lilith’s hunt for this shadowy profiteer will send her on a road she wished she never went down."
Parents: This dystopian spy thriller series is NEW ADULT 18+. Graphic sex scenes, strong language, violence, substance abuse -- all the dark drama you'd expect in a New Adult novel. The three books of this series are also cross-posted to the LGBTQI+ page.
Lilith Cohen - Retribution (New Adult 18+)
"After Lilith slaughtered the president of Black Reign, she links back up with Dominic and Clare to go on the offensive and take the war to Colvin. But can she rely on her instincts anymore after suffering a crushing betrayal from the person she trusted with her life and heart?
"Colvin knows his president failed to capture Lilith and now he will be upping his game in trying to catch her. Lilith is fully aware of the motivation behind Black Reign’s obsession with her. She must tread carefully after Karl’s betrayal. Anybody around her could be an enemy.
"Will she be able to trust her fellow assassins anymore? Can she even trust her best friend Tiffany? Lilith knows she is just a product to her enemies, and that puts her and the Hunters at risk.
"Now, Venora is in the picture again offering to assist Lilith with her war against Black Reign, only swells the flames of her inner conflict. Despite all the internal and external struggles, Agent Cohen faces, Black Reign must be stopped whatever the cost."
Lilith Cohen - Crimson Arrow (New Adult 18+)
"Ireland’s President is assassinated on a live television broadcast. Days later, a powerful explosion rips through London’s annual New Year’s Eve Festival. Lilith and her team deploy to Ireland, where evidence points toward Venora O’Brien, the infamous World Cup bomber, as the mastermind behind the attack in London. Lilith soon realizes there’s something more sinister about the carnage unleashed upon Trafalgar Square. The battle uncovers long-buried secrets from Agent Cohen’s past and reveals who is truly friend or foe."
When the Moon Was Ours (Ages 12-18+ / Grades 7-9)
From the author of The Weight of Feathers comes a young adult novel about a girl hiding the truth, a boy with secrets from his past, and four sisters who could ruin them both.
Recipient of a Stonewall Honor and longlisted for the National Book Award, McLemore delivers a second stunning and utterly romantic novel, again tinged with magic.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
Atmospheric, dynamic, and packed with gorgeous prose, When the Moon Was Ours is another winner from this talented author.
Cross posted in Latinx/Hispanic & Pacific Islander and LGBTQI
Parents: Contains transgender characters, gender identities, and scenes of transphobia, possible self harm and child abuse
The Last Faoii (Ages 16+)
The faoii have protected Clearwall for generations. With militaristic order and stalwart discipline, these women have reigned in prosperity. But when her monastery is attacked and her sisters slaughtered, only young Kaiya-faoii is left alive.
Forced to cope without the long-standing traditions of her Order, Kaiya travels the country on a mission to avenge her sisters and preserve what is left of her heritage. The search brings her not only to dark discoveries and ancient family secrets, but to something she never wanted or dreamed of: a brother she never knew she had.
Forced into a war at the heart of a broken empire, the siblings must evaluate the true meanings of enemy, betrayal and freedom―and the gray areas surrounding each. Kaiya slowly learns the true state of the world outside her monastery’s walls, the dangers of the poisonous army that is slowly covering the land, and of her own innate abilities gifted by the Goddess.
Note: Parents should be aware of violence and some language. Some of the battle scenes are dark.
Girls of Paper and Fire (Ages 16+)
Uncover a riveting story of palace intrigue set in a sumptuous Asian-inspired fantasy world in the breakout YA novel that Publisher's Weekly calls "elegant and adrenaline-soaked."
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it's Lei they're after -- the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king's interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king's consort. There, she does the unthinkable -- she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world's entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.
Girls of Storm and Shadow (Girls of Paper and Fire - Book 2) (Ages 16+)
In this mesmerizing sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.
Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn't the end of the plan---it's just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei's head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?
Parents: Language, violence, caste system, trigger warnings of abuse and rape. Features a female-to-female romance. This series is cross-posted on the Asian & Pacific Islander page.
Natasha Ngan grew up between Malaysia and the UK. She is Chinese and white.
Everfair (Ages 16+)
From noted short story writer Nisi Shawl comes a brilliant alternate-history novel set in the Belgian Congo.
What if the African natives developed steam power ahead of their colonial oppressors? What might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier?
Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo's 'owner,' King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.
Shawl's speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.
While I would normally place a book with a mixed cast of characters on the "Mixed" page, this alternate history is focused in Africa and thus I feel it belongs on the "Black" page. Note to parents: there are dark and mature themes and same-sex relationships.
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