Published by: Bloomsbury, Feiwel & Friends, HarperCollins, Swoon Reads
Genres: Diversity, Fantasy, Ghost Story, Graphic Novel, Historical, Mystery, Realistic, Romance
Reading about straight protagonists is–well, it’s fine. But, especially if you’re an LGBTQ+ reader, sometimes you look at the same old books and wish that the girl could kiss the girl at the end, or that a drag queen would show up, or that the gender roles weren’t quite so rigid. As LGBTQ+ visibility increases, the more I feel like I’m looking for LGBTQ+ readalikes for my favorite YA classics.
Fortunately, 2020 has been such a good year for LGBTQ+ releases that we made this list! All of these books have LGBTQ+ protagonists, and many have a LGBTQ+ supporting cast, as well as delving into queer themes. All the LGBTQ+ books mentioned were published in 2020, with the exception of one anthology we thought was a good leaping-off point for readers. Let’s get reading!
If you liked Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, try The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig
A little Twilight, a little Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Fell of Dark centers around Auggie, a boy reluctantly living in a supernatural town who is caught up in some supernatural drama. Auggie still has a growing crush on a hot, mysterious vampire boy, but his reluctance to get caught up in the supernatural is fun and refreshing compared to, say, Bella Swan’s willingness to trip right into danger. Readers might also want to sink their teeth into the anthology Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite.
If you liked Little Women, try Jo: A Graphic Novel by Kathleen Gros
The past year has been filled with new takes on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, from Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation to Margaret Stohl and Melissa De La Cruz’s Jo and Laurie, which is a complete re-write of Jo’s romantic arc in the book. Jo: A Graphic Novel is a modern, comic book retelling of Little Women. It’s centered around 13-year-old Jo, who’s surviving the eighth grade by anonymously blogging about her family. In this version, Jo develops feelings for the school newspaper editor, a girl named Freddie Bhaer. We haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but an LGBTQ+ rewrite of Jo March is long overdue, so it’s on our to-read list!
If you liked Christopher Pike’s books, try Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos
Who doesn’t love a good thriller? Throwaway Girls is the story of Caroline Lawson, who is this close to graduating prep school and being able to move away from her homophobic family. When Caroline’s best friend Madison disappears, Caroline knows she has to investigate it herself–to pay Madison back, and to keep both of their secrets. The more Caroline looks, though, the more missing girls she discovers, girls whose disappearances went unnoticed. And these girls? All have ties to Caroline. A brand new release from a debut author, Throwaway Girls is an exciting thriller with a bisexual protagonist.
If you liked Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, try Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
When an anonymous fellow student starts harassing Felix Love online, outing Felix as transgender, Felix decides to get a little dirty to get even. Felix’s plan to catfish his way to revenge lands him into a confusing love triangle, and Felix discovers that he still has some things yet to discover about himself. Felix Ever After is only the first of many contemporary LGBTQ+ romances coming out this year; readers may also enjoy Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales, or Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye, along with many more.
If you liked the Dear America series, try Music from Another World by Robin Talley
As a former Dear America superfan, there’s never enough historical books told in an epistolary format (i.e., told through the letters, diary entries, newspapers, etc.). Music from Another World is told through the letters of pen-pals Tammy and Sharon, in 1977 California. Living carefully closeted lives, Tammy and Sharon find they can share their secrets, and their love of punk rock, with each other. As their friendship deepens, both girls have to decide what they’re going to keep secret, and what they’re ready to share with the world. Historical fiction fans might also like the anthology All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages (published 2018).
If you liked Robin McKinley, Gail Carson Levine, or Malinda Lo, try Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
It’s been 200 years since Cinderella’s famous night at the ball, and now teenage girls are required to attend the Annual Ball. Girls must find a match at the ball–or never be heard from again. Sophia, who is more interested in her childhood friend Erin than any man, ends up doing the unthinkable, and fleeing from the ball. Together with Cinderella’s last living descendant, Sophia decides to take down the king’s regime, and unravel the truth behind Cinderella’s legend. Readers looking for more fairy tale retellings might also enjoy Dark and Deepest Red by Anne-Marie McLemore, or The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell.
If you liked Sabriel by Garth Nix, try Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
We can’t be the only ones who love seeing a little necromancy in our fantasy, right? Cemetery Boys centers around Yadriel; his Latinx family is having trouble accepting his gender, so he sets out to become a brujo without their help. Yadriel means to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin and set his spirit free, but he accidentally summons Julian Diaz instead. The resident bad-boy at school and recently (mysteriously) deceased, Julian’s not going to let Yadriel send him to the afterlife without settling his unfinished business.