Teen

A Reading Rainbow: YA Novels That Explore Sexuality and Sexual Identity

by Devon A. Corneal

When I was growing up, Judy Blume revolutionized young adult reading with novels that confronted both sex and sexual feelings openly and others soon followed. There was a catch though — all of the books dealt with people in heterosexual relationships. Gay, bisexual, or questioning kids didn’t have books that reflected their experiences or struggles. Thankfully things have changed.

David Levithan started writing about gay teens over a decade ago, and other authors since have explored the diversity of sexual experiences and identities to write funny, moving, powerful stories that embrace kids, no matter who they’re attracted to. Today’s teen readers can find books that contain characters who remind them of themselves and their experiences. Read on to see a few of my favorites.

  • Boy Meets Boy

    by David Levithan

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    In a perfect world, our sexuality wouldn’t matter much, and we could all go about our lives being who we are. David Levithan’s breakout novel Boy Meets Boy created exactly that world, where the class president at Paul’s high school is openly gay, the star quarterback is a cross-dresser, and Paul’s homosexuality is a non-issue. A world without discrimination allows Levithan’s vibrant and complex characters to shine. A must-read for teens straight or gay.

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  • Openly Straight

    by Bill Konigsberg

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    Rafe is a writer, a soccer player, a skier, and he’s gay. Rafe has been out and proud for years, but when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to hide his sexuality to see what life is like being a regular guy — not “the gay guy.” Sometimes called a “coming out again” story, this book will appeal to all kids who struggle with fitting in and being true to themselves.

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  • Cut Both Ways

    by Carrie Mesrobian

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    Will Caynes is seventeen, a high school senior, and maybe attracted to his best friend Angus. Will is also attracted to his girlfriend Brandy. Right now, he’s not sure who he loves, but one thing he does know is that someone’s going to get hurt. Will just doesn’t know who.

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  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

    by Becky Albertalli

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    Simon Spier isn’t out yet, but an email he wrote to another boy he only knows as Blue is and Simon’s secret may not stay hidden for long. High school just got a lot more confusing as Simon tries to avoid being blackmailed and attempts to meet the mysterious Blue. Blending the best of geekdom with modern technology and a wonderfully funny teen romance, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a gem of a book.

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  • More Happy Than Not

    by Adam Silvera

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    This debut novel from Adam Silvera explores issues of race, class, and sexuality with a splash of fantasy/science fiction. When Aaron’s girlfriend Genevieve leaves for the summer, Aaron finds himself attracted to Thomas. Desperate to return to the way things were before he discovered his feelings for the new guy, Aaron considers having his memory erased at the Leteo Institute. But will that make him happy?

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  • Vanished

    by E.E. Cooper

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    A psychological thriller in which the characters’ sexuality is only one small piece of the intricate plot, Vanished is Gone Girl for the younger crowd. Kalah shouldn’t have fallen for Beth, but she did, and now Beth has gone missing. As she tries to solve the puzzle of Beth’s disappearance, Kalah discovers she doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe.

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  • You and Me and Him

    by Kris Dinnison

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    Maggie and Nash have been friends for years and everything is perfect. Until Tom moves to town and both Maggie and Nash discover they have feelings for him. Now they’ll discover if their friendship can survive a complicated love triangle.

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  • About a Girl

    by Sarah McCarry

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    The final book in the Metamorphosis trilogy finds protagonist Tally on an unexpected quest to find the key to her past while also in the middle of an unexpected love affair with Maddy, a girl who may be the key to her future.

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