June’s almost here, so Happy Pride, and for that matter, Happy Summer Break (or almost Summer Break)! With the new (or soon-to-be) surge in spare time, MEDIAGIRLS has a few reading recommendations of wonderful, colorful LGBTQIA+ Young Adult novels.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (she/her)
Let’s start with a relatively recent release with a lesbian lead. 200 years ago, a forlorn cinder-maid with very distinctive footwear captivated a prince and lived happily ever after. We all know the story of Cinderella. But, now, the kingdom holds its Annual Ball to match maidens with husbands and punish those who would fail to make “worthy” wives. Knowing her heart hardly has a place in the kingdom’s status quo, Sophia flees and meets Constance, Cinderella’s last living descendant. The girls vow to bring justice to the land, and along the way, unravel the secrets obscured by the fairy tale. Intrigue, romance, justice, and the importance of questioning the narratives and norms you’ve been given dance of the pages, and I readily recommend it to fairy tale fans.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (they/them)
A recent winner of the Stonewall Book Award, Pet stars Jam, a trans teen girl living in a fantasy world where monsters, corruption, and all other evils have ceased to exist. Or so she thinks, until she meets the title creature, who emerges from one of Jam’s mother’s paintings in pursuit of a “real” monster. It’s up to Jam to keep her unexpected friend safe from a world that instantly fears and rejects him. Jam has a lot on her plate, but refreshingly for a novel with a trans heroine, the rejection of her family and friends is not one of those concerns. That means there’s more time for some creative world-building, tender relationships, and big ideas about identity, justice, and what truly makes something “monstrous.”
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (she/her)
Here’s a classic rivals-to-lovers tale in the ruthless world of henna tattoos. Nishat is navigating her cultural and sexual identity, eager to come into her own as a lesbian but unwilling to leave her religion and family to do so. So when her old friend Flavia comes back into her life and, coincidentally, starts up a henna business, that’s one more problem for her growing list. To get her happy ending, Nishat must confront prejudice, cultural appropriation, family expectations, and her own stubbornness. But the payoff is absolutely worth it, and I sincerely hope this book makes you smile as much as it did me.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (she/her)
Alice is a biromantic asexual college student navigating the ins and outs of adult life and her identity over a very eventful summer break. But it’s not all micro-aggressions and heartbreak. Alice is an adorkable and instantly iconic narrator whose pop culture in-jokes, clever banter, and astute observations of the world model confidence, integrity, and self-discovery that anyone can relate to. Ace protagonists are hard to come by in YA literature (and literature overall, for that matter), but Alice absolutely deserves her place at Pride and on your bookshelf.
The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert (she/her)
1930, French Quarter of New Orleans: brainy bisexual businesswoman Millie Coleman is on a mission to clear Marion’s name after her friend, the titular drag queen, is falsely accused of a murder. As Millie races against time and the era’s restrictive ideas about sex and gender, contending with conflicting feelings and dirty secrets, Lambert carves out a place for LGBTQIA+ folks in a fully-realized cityscape.
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (e/em)
A romantic comedy for the digital age, the titular “Meet Cute Diary” is a blog run by Noah Ramirez, which collects trans love stories with happy endings. However, before Noah discloses to his readers that his posts are all fictional, an internet troll beats him to it. To save the Diary’s reputation, he turns to his bookstore coworker Drew. Together, they will stage a whirlwind romance to “prove” the existence of love as the Diary presents it. But as their fake-dating scheme continues and feelings deepen, Noah must confront that love in real life is a bit different from what he’s been presented with and subsequently recreated in his writing. Lee’s book is smart, subversive, and ultimately hopeful about love’s mysterious ways.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Aire Saenz (he/him)
A modern classic with the accolades to prove it, I revisit Ari and Dante’s unexpected friendship in 1980s Texas every summer. When moody swimmer Ari meets confident know-it-all Dante, the two boys open each other up to new perspectives about their identities and place in the world. Gentle, insightful, funny, and moving all at once, this book breaks your heart and builds it back up again every time, and is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon beneath an endless sky.
Happy Pride, everyone, and happy reading!
Katherine Lynch is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass. She studies Communications and Media with a minor in Marketing. She loves to read, write, and learn about the world, passions she is eager to share with the MEDIAGIRLS community.