Stella Maxwell
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10 Great LGBTQ Novels for Young Adults

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The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart by R. Zamora Linmark is the story of a 17-year-old’s first experience with love and loss, with guidance provided by the surreal appearances of Oscar Wilde. Ken Z has always been a master of words. Lists, poems, haikus, and more flow effortlessly and provide comfort to the boy. All that changes when he meets the mysterious and beautiful Ran at the mall food court. He experiences his first kiss, his first love, but also his first heartbreak when Ran disappears from his life just as quickly as he had appeared. Refusing to let his life be written as a tragedy, Ken Z turns to his friends and his writing for solace and explanation. He is also guided by several surreal appearances of his personal hero Oscar Wilde, who helps the struggling youth learn that sometimes love is worth the price of heartbreak. Author Linmakr is a poet, novelist, and playwright who was born in Manila and educated in the Honolulu. He has written four collections of poetry as well as the novels Leche and Rolling the R’s which he adapted for the stage. (Delacorte Press) — Donald Padgett

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen answers the question of what would happen if a young, questioning superhero in high school went to a therapist instead of just saving the world on a daily basis. Based on the author’s wildly popular and award-winning Bright Sessions podcasts, The Infinite Noise follows a star running back named Caleb as he comes to terms with his ability to empathetically experience the emotions of others. He always knew he was different, until a violent encounter occured that opened the doors to his abilities. It sounds cool, but it comes with a lot of unexpected consequences and dangers. His therapist, the aptly named Dr. Bright, helps but she also seems to know a lot more about her patient than she reveals. His life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of classmate Adam. With the encouragement of Dr. Bright, Caleb befriends the bullied and alienated Adam and the two become closer that either boy could have imagined. The Infinite Noise is a refreshing look at the superhero genre, focusing not an action and adventure but instead on the emotional impact of one’s abilities and feelings. This is a story that draws the reader into their own empathetic experience through their bonding with the characters. (Tor Teen) — DP

Fresh Ink is a young adult anthology edited by Lamar Giles (founder of We Need Diverse Books) that feels like a novel even though it’s really a collection of short stories, a graphic novella, and even a one-act play. Fresh Ink includes the work of 13 young adult authors, many of them award-winning writers of color, including Daniel Jose Older (Shadowshaper), Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods series), Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese), Aminah Mae Safi (Not the Girls You’re Looking For) and Schuyler Bailer (the Korean American who became the first out trans man to compete on a Division I men’s team swimming at Harvard). The characters are equally diverse: a Native American schoolboy, a lesbian Asian-American Comic Con geek, a Muslim rocker girl, a Black superman, Black and Latinx boys killed by gun violence (left tagging in purgatory), and so much more.  (Random House Children’s Books) —  Jacob Anderson-Minshall 

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Reverie by Ryan La Sala is a page-turning magical mystery that follows gay teenager Kane Montgomery after he is discovered near death in the local river with no memory of how he got there. As Kane begins to piece together clues, he meets three strangers who claim to be friends  —  but can they be trusted? Enter a drag queen sorceress who plots to unravel Kane’s reality, and the story kicks into high gear in this dark, mysterious adventure. In this exciting debut, La Sala touches on the transformation that occurs when our deepest secrets come to light. (Sourcebooks)  —  Desiree Guerrero

All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler is an unblinking look at teenage desire from the author best known as Lemony Snicket. This gutsy novel takes an honest look at the erotic and sometimes uncontrollable sexual impulses of young men. Cole is consumed by thoughts about sex. He fantasizes about having sex with whomever he’s observing at any given moment. He consumes porn equally voraciously. He develops a well-earned unsavory reputation among girls as a result of his many sexual exploits. Soon, he is ostracized and isolated with only his best friend Alec remaining by his side. Then something startling unfold between them, and Cole begins to wonder if he’s been looking for sex (and perhaps even love) in all the wrong places. Things are thrown into even greater turmoil, though, when he meets Grisaille. Handler is the author of the 13-volume children’s collection A Series of Unfortunate Events as well as his four-book series All the Wrong Questions. His latest endeavor truly leaves in all the dirty parts and the result is an engrossing, thought-provoking novel. (Bloomsbury Publishing) — DP

A Student of History by Nina Revoyr is the story of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who gains entry into the old money aristocracy of modern-day Los Angeles. With a nod to Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, Rick Nagano is Nick Carraway and young Pip rolled into one. The Japanese-American’s roots are in the working class, historically mixed-race, and largely African-American neighborhoods of south L.A. His heritage is one of immigration, hard work, racism, internment, and perseverance, but especially family and community. He was the first in his family to go to college and then graduate school, but he stops work on his dissertation to transcribe the journals of elderly heir to an oil fortune. The job gives him access to a hidden city where he falls for the socialite Fiona Morgan, who soon cons him into revealing one of his boss’s secrets. Blind to machinations against him, Nagano sees his relationship with Morgan as an entry into the L.A. elite. Lambda Award-winner Revoyr focuses on the impact of race in the construct of class and society, and how there are some doors that will always remain closed. (Akashic Books) — DP

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Falling by Trebor Healey is the award-winning author’s latest anthology of short stories. Characters fall and lose their way, figuratively and literally, as they confront the profound displacement often found in modern life. Each story is a vivid world unto itself. An American man of mystery suffers amnesia after falling from an Acapulco hotel tower, and his only memory is of butterflies. A gay man fills the role of Evita Perón in one story, while in another a widower finds solace caring for orphaned migrant children. Healey’s humor can be dry, direct, and droll. The settings and characters may be diverse and unique, but Falling examines stories of emotional displacement and deprivation that all can relate to. His previous works include Through It Came Bright Colors and A Horse Named Sorrow. (University of Wisconsin Press) – DP

Either Way: Story of a Gay Kid by Sandra Levins, illustrated by Euan Cook, marries a boy’s coming of age and coming out story with a subplot about a gay solider, and lessons about the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Published by the American Psychological Association and aimed at teen readers. (Magination Press)  —  JAM

Poison in the Colony: James Town 1622  by Elisa Carbone is the fictional account of a young girl in 17th century James Town who has second sight. Virginia Laydon was just an infant at the end of the award-winning historical novel Blood on the River: James Town 1607, but now she is growing into a young woman. Survival on the frontier is tough and is made all the more difficult by a corrupt governor. Virginia can sense the growing unease between the settlers and the indigenous peoples. Can her gifts prevent a bloody confrontation — or will they get her burned as a witch? When accusations fly, Virginia learns it is better to live with the truth than a lie. (Viking Books for Young Readers)  — DP

In The Whispers  by Greg Howard a boy copes with the loss of his mother while struggling with his burgeoning sexuality. Eleven-year-old Riley’s struggles are made more difficult because his mother has simply vanished. His once-vibrant father is now quiet and somber. His older brother has become just another bully. The police keep questioning him instead of looking for his mom’s kidnappers. It’s as though everyone blames Riley for her disappearance. Now he’s having strange feelings for handsome eighth-grader, Dylan. With nowhere else to turn, Riley reaches back to his secret fairy world of the whispers. Can they grant his wish to make his world right again, or will his friends in the real world help him figure things out? Set in a small Southern town, The Whispers is a moving and poignant tale of friendship, family, loss, and the lengths to which a child’s imagination and friends will go to help him find the truth and closure. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)  — DP

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