This has been the first year I’ve really been “out” so to speak (check out my National Coming Out Day post here), and coincidentally I’ve read more LGBTQIAP+ diverse content this year than in years past. It was incredibly hard to narrow down this list to just 10, but I feel this list spans gender identity, sexual identity, and more, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend each and every one of them! Without further ado, here are my top 10 LGBTQIAP+ reads from this year!
Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman
Summary: In this rollicking queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman (Stonewall Award Honor Book As the Crow Flies) puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they team up to thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory. When Flor–also known as the notorious Ghost Hawk–robs the stagecoach that Grace has used to escape her Georgia home, the first thing on her mind is ransom. But when the two get to talking about Flor’s plan to crash a Confederate gala and steal some crucial documents, Grace convinces Flor to let her join the heist.
Three Words: western, swashbuckling, character-driven
Readalikes: All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell, Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Summary: High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.” Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?
Three Words: summery, understanding, inspiring
Readalikes: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (if you haven’t read it already), Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding, Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Summary: In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
Three Words: eye-opening, coming-of-age, introspective
Readalikes: The Bride Was a Boy by Chii, Tomboy by Liz Prince, Wandering Son by Takako Shimura
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Summary: Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep. He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
- Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
- Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
- Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Three Words: atmospheric, female-powered, haunting
Readalikes: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Summary: When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?
Three Words: hilarious, steamy, character-driven
Readalikes: The Royal We by Heather Cocks, A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Open Earth by Sarah Mirk, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
Summary: Rigo is a young woman of her time: specifically, the time just after the collapse of Earth. After living her whole life on a small space station orbiting the planet, the cultural norms and rules of her Californian parents are just history to her. In between work shifts at the station air farm, Rigo explores her own desires, developing openly polyamorous relationships with her friends and crewmates. When she starts to feel one of those relationships change, however, Rigo must balance her new feelings with the stability of her other relationships, as well as the hard-earned camaraderie of a small crew floating in the vastness of space. But, as the ship motto goes, “Honesty keeps us alive.”
A heartfelt, positive, and erotic look at one woman’s adventure in love and sex, as a new generation learns to make their own rules and follow their own hearts.
Three Words: body-positive, lush, futuristic
Readalikes: Super Sexy Fun Times by Meredith McLaren, Money Shot by Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie, & Rebekah Isaacs, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Summary: Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.
Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.
Three Words: relatable, beautiful, difficult
Readalikes: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganacheau, Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer
Summary: For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game.
Pan’s life used to be very small. Work in her dad’s body shop, sneak out with her friend Tara to go dancing, and watch the skies for freighter ships. It didn’t even matter that Tara was a princess… until one day it very much did matter, and Pan had to say goodbye forever. Years later, when a charismatic pair of off-world gladiators show up on her doorstep, she finds that life may not be as small as she thought. On the run and off the galactic grid, Pan discovers the astonishing secrets of her neo-medieval world… and the intoxicating possibility of burning it all down.
Three Words: female-driven, fantastical, vibrant
Readalikes: Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, & Babs Tarr, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Summary: Amanda can’t figure out what’s so exciting about kissing. It’s just a lot of teeth clanking, germ swapping, closing of eyes so you can’t see that godzilla-sized zit just inches from your own hormonal monstrosity. All of her seven kisses had been horrible in different ways, but nothing compared to the awfulness that followed Kiss Number Eight. An exploration of sexuality, family, and faith, Kiss Number Eight is a coming-of-age tale filled with humor and hope.
Three Words: coming-of-age, acceptance, relationships
Readalikes: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, & Joy San, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Summary: An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.
Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.
Three Words: dazzling, sensitive, nomadic
Readalikes: Decelerate Blue by Adam Rapp & Mike Cavallaro, Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
What have been your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads this year? Put them in the comments below!
Until next time…