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Enlightened Young Adult Reading

Enlightened Young Adult Reading

A combination of things sparked my love of LGBTQ fiction – a frustration with the same old love story; seeking inclusion for all in literature; and my romantic curiosity towards a good friend of mine, who was a lesbian. Acceptance always seemed like common sense to me. What did it matter who loved who, as long as they weren’t hurting anyone? When I was a kid, I used to daydream about my best friend and me living together and even sharing a bed as adults, because “that’s what my aunt does with her best friend.” (I was a bit slow on the uptake.)

In high school, I began identifying as bisexual. My parents were not exactly ecstatic, but I know how lucky I am that they kept loving and supporting me. In college, I switched to the more specific identification of ‘androsexual,’ which is not yet common knowledge in the average person’s vocabulary, but it suits me best. I’ve dated cis-men, cis-women, and trans*men, and my Kinsey Scale number drifts all over the spectrum. Luckily for the LGBTQ community, young adult fiction has become more inclusive across the board. Friends have asked me if I think LGBTQ YA fiction should be separated into a special category, but I don’t like that idea at all. I prefer the possibility that the average teenager will see a cover, pick it up, and start reading, regardless of sexual preference or identity, without actively seeking it. It could make a world of difference to that person.


Winner: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Win all of the awards! Released just last year, Aristotle and Dante has a Printz Honor, Stonewall Book Award, YALSA Best Fiction, and Lambda Literary Award, not to mention excellent ratings on Goodreads. It tells the story of two Mexican-American boys who befriend each other and discover themselves as they slowly fall in love.

Runner-Up: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

A romantic comedy with love won, love lost, and a quarterback/homecoming queen trans*woman.


Winner: Ask the Passengers by A. S. King

Astrid is unable to confide in her parents and afraid to come out as a lesbian. Instead, she keeps her relationship a secret from everyone except the people in planes that fly over her head as she lies on a picnic table. She knows they won’t judge her or ask questions as she tries to break free from everyone’s expectations.

Runner-Up: Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

First love story. Get the tissues out.


Winner: Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

Nicola is spending her summer at the Siegel Institute with other smart, intense teens. She falls in with a group that includes Battle, a blonde dancer that soon becomes more to her than a friend. What do you do when you think you’re attracted to guys, and then you meet a girl who steals your heart?

Runner-Up: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Alien apocalypse + bisexual love triangle = win.

parrotfish_cover_200FTM TRANSGENDER

Winner: Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Angela has never felt quite right as a girl, but it’s a shock to everyone when she cuts her hair short, buys some men’s clothes, and announces she’d like to be called by a new name, Grady. Grady is happy about his decision to finally be true to himself, despite the complications. Despite the pressure from family and friends, Grady also finds unexpected allies.

Runner-Up: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

“When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good. It’s time to let my B side play.”


Winner: Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. In the secrecy of their bedroom, Liam transforms into Luna, the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives?

Runner-Up: Being Emily by Rachel Gold

“They say that whoever you are it’s okay, you were born that way. Those words don’t comfort Emily, because she was born Christopher, and her insides know that her outsides are all wrong.”


Winner: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Considered the first Young Adult lesbian love story, Garden’s novel is about two girls whose friendship turns into love, and despite pressures from family and school, they promise to remain faithful to each other and their love. So controversial, it was publicly burned in Kansas City.

Runner-Up: Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books by Francesca Lia Block

This collection of novellas features a gay couple as protagonists.


Winner: Am I Blue? Coming Out of the Silence edited by Marion Dane Bauer

Original short stories about homosexuality, including authors such as Bruce Coville, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jane Yolen.

Runner-Up: How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart

In nontraditional narratives, short stories, and brief graphics, tales of anticipation and regret, eagerness and confusion present distinctively modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification. Stories from David Levithan, Julie Anne Peters, Emma Donoghue, and more.


Winner: At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neal

Jim and Doyler are the sons of old army friends. Before the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Ireland, they make a pact to learn to swim and claim a far-off island for themselves. Meanwhile, their fathers remain unaware of the depth of the boys’ friendship, and they all remain unaware of the changes soon coming to Ireland.

Runner-Up: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic and deprived of her liberties as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison.


Winner: Proxy by Alex London

A dystopian twist on the classic Whipping Boy story. Syd is a Proxy – when his Patron, Knox, needs to be punished, Syd is the one who feels the pain. When Knox goes too far and takes a life, Syd knows he has to escape or suffer too-severe consequences. While on the run, Syd meets his Patron face-to-face, and the two boys realize they need each other more than either could have guessed.

Runner-Up: Coda by Emma Trevayne

Another dystopian, this one featuring a world where the government keeps the world addicted to the music literally coursing through their veins. 


Winner: Huntress by Malinda Lo

Fairy tales and Chinese influences, this fantasy is about two girls who go on a dangerous journey to the fairy city, in order to resolve the imbalance of nature. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

Runner-Up: Hero by Perry Moore

Because gay superheroes are awesome.


Winner: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This novel tells the story of Sahar and Nasrin, two girls who are in love, and risk their lives being so. However, while homosexuality is illegal in Iran, being transsexual is considered nature’s mistake. Sahar plans to have sex reassignment surgery in order to become a man so she can marry the girl that she loves. Is love worth sacrificing her true self?

Runner-Up: The God Box by Alex Sanchez

Two gay teens explore being both gay and Christian.


Winner: Shine by Lauren Myracle

When her best friend falls victim to a hate crime, Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. This daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Runner-Up: Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Three best girlfriends. When one comes back from summer camp, she finds that the other two have fallen in love.


  • GRAPHIC NOVEL – Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
  • ABUSE – Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters
  • INCLUSIVE – Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  • GENDER QUEER – Every Day by David Levithan
  • AFRICAN AMERICAN – The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson


  • Julie Anne Peters
  • David Levithan
  • Francesca Lia Block
  • Alex Sanchez

Reading books about teens that went through such awful situations with family and friends was better than reading articles online about the same thing. Book characters are fictional, and there are infinite possibilities for their future. Still, when a Julie Anne Peters or David Levithan novel brought me to tears, it was for more than the made-up people; I have cried over every teen kicked out of their homes for sexual preference or identity, and I recognize how lucky I am that I will never experience anything like it. I encourage any and all to seek out a way to volunteer or donate to organizations that help LGBTQ youth who struggle to get by, such as The Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, the Ali Forney Center in New York City, and The Trevor Project.

Amber Midgett is assistant manager at Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, PA, as well as a publishing and editing graduate student at Rosemont College. She is a born-and-bred North Carolinian and apologizes for the current state of their politics. Amber has a serious addiction to finding books at yard sales and thrift shops. She has begun to realize that she might love the books themselves more than she loves reading. Find her online on Twitter @ambermidgett or at her website,

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Amber Neva Brown
Young Adult Reviewer at Girls in Capes
Amber is Inventory Manager at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh and head of the Girls in Capes book club at that branch. She grew up on the Outer Banks and has a Masters in Publishing from Rosemont College. Her ultimate fandoms are Harry Potter and Doctor Who, and she could recommend a book to probably anyone. Find her on Twitter at @ambernevabrown and on Instagram at @isnotacrayon.
Amber Neva Brown
Written by Amber Neva Brown

Amber is Inventory Manager at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh and head of the Girls in Capes book club at that branch. She grew up on the Outer Banks and has a Masters in Publishing from Rosemont College. Her ultimate fandoms are Harry Potter and Doctor Who, and she could recommend a book to probably anyone. Find her on Twitter at @ambernevabrown and on Instagram at @isnotacrayon.