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Gay YA: The Good, The Best, and The Better

L.A. Fields
The list author says: "Are you tired of reading YA books that smack you over the head with the moral message like some after school special? Do you believe that teen characters should have more to their personalities than their sexual orientation? Would you like someone to tell you where to find the gems of gay YA fiction?

Here is a list of international English-language books for and/or about gay teens. These books are three-dimensional, honest, and tolerably sexy too, perfect for the gay teen in your life or the gay teen in your heart."
Bad Boy
Bad Boy
"One of the most unique perspectives on a gay character I've ever come across in YA. This book includes such little seen topics as: a past tense drug problem, anger management issues, and what to do when your boyfriend's a bit abusive but you kind of like it. It also includes a smart, assertive female protagonist, and basically treats every one of its characters with unflinching respect."
The Blue Lawn
The Blue Lawn
"This book manages to be intensely sexy without showing you any actual sex. The writing is concise, but sparse. It does an amazing job of giving its teen readers credit by not explaining things to death. Aside from the issues of being gay, one character is also dealing with being the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and his grandmother is a wonderfully complex protagonist throughout the story."
Dream Boy: A Novel
Dream Boy: A Novel
"This book may be a little intense in subject matter to be considered Young Adult, but if you can handle sexual abuse, this story treats it very subtly, but without mincing words. It's extremely sexy, somewhat disturbing, but optimistic in the end, as are most of the books in this list. Happy endings do not have to be unrealistic; hope is the one of the realest things around."
Dance on My Grave
Dance on My Grave
"Here again is a book that deals with a rarely seen issue: the death of a gay protagonist that is not the result of a gay-bashing. He dies in a motorcycle accident, and the story of their relationship is told by the surviving boyfriend. The characters are not perfect, the dead are not irrationally idealized, and that kind of honesty is not easy to come by."
Leave Myself Behind
Leave Myself Behind
"This book has a fantastically blunt first person narrator and is pretty obviously inspired by Catcher In The Rye (his boyfriend's name is J.D., as in Salinger). The female characters are painted with the same broad and slightly offensive brush, but if the boys are what you're reading for, by all means don't pass this up. The wry humor (excuse the pun) is certainly worth the benefit of doubt."
Freak Show
Freak Show
"This book treats the highly overlooked topic of teen drag queens. It is incredibly hard to write a stereotypical character without tipping into caricature, and this book is refreshingly sincere. It has an alternative happy ending to suit its alternative protagonists, and it does a fantastic job at treating serious issues with a studied and deliberate insouciance."
The World Of Normal Boys
The World Of Normal Boys
"Another story with concerns other than just sexuality, in this instance it's the critical injury of a family member. This book is on the more adult end of the spectrum based on its style and sometimes extreme subject matter, but by no means too old for someone in high school. It is sexy and serious and very human."
The Boys on the Rock (Stonewall Inn Editions)
The Boys on the Rock (Stonewall Inn Editions)
"This book is more adult if only because the sex is graphically detailed. It deals with the politics of being/wanting to be closeted, and the main character consistently if reluctantly sticks to his guns, refusing to sacrifice honesty for a relationship, no matter how much he wants to."
Peter
Peter
"This book is on the younger side, which means no actual sex, though it gets fairly sexy. The writing is really well done, and the story is about tenderness between boys and what it means to be a man. It's funny and conversational, and it's full of wonderful female characters as well. A lot of multifaceted content for such a short book."
The Value of X
The Value of X
"I recommend lovers of gay fiction read every last word by Poppy Z. Brite, but for those married to gay teenagers, this book details the beginnings of a relationship that you can see all grown up in Brite's Liquor series. It is a uniquely committed relationship, extraordinarily rare but still extremely believable."
The Smallest People Alive
The Smallest People Alive
"This collection of short stories contains many with young characters, though it is emphatically not appropriate for your middle-graders. Mature high school kids should be able to handle it. The writing is stark, and the metaphors are unusually true. Not for the squeamish. Check out Banner's stories "Traveling, Remaining Still" and "Feast" online at Nerve.com for a taste of what I mean."
What They Always Tell Us
What They Always Tell Us
"A 2008 Lambda Literary Award finalist, this book splits its time between two brothers, one dealing with the fallout from a suicidal incident, the other with outgrowing his home town and his high school friends just before graduation. The gay relationship is easy and realistic, and the writing very true to the teenage voices."
My Heartbeat
My Heartbeat
"The gay relationship in this book is seen through the filter of a sister, but in the end as Ellen develops into her own personality, she no longer lives vicariously through her brother and his best friend, but joins them as a new and very real person."