Queer Children’s and Young Adult Literature and the Need for Inclusive Library Spaces

Thomas Crisp

Recommended Book List

This list highlights a variety of young adult books with LGBTQ content, characters, and themes published after 2010.

Birdsall, Bridget. Double Exposure. Sky Pony, 2014. 304p. $16.95. 978-1-629-14606-5.

From the Publisher: “Fifteen-year-old Alyx Atlas was raised as a boy, yet she knows something others don’t: she’s a girl. And after her dad dies, it becomes painfully obvious that she must prove it now—to herself and to the world. Born with ambiguous genitalia, Alyx has always felt a little different. But it’s after she sustains a terrible beating behind a 7-Eleven that she and her mother pack up their belongings and move from California to Wisconsin to start a new life—and Alyx begins over again, this time as a girl.”

Barzak, Christopher. Wonders of the Invisible World. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 339p. $17.99. 978-0-385-39279-2.

From the Publisher: “Aidan Lockwood lives in a sleepy farming community known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in years, moves back to town. It’s Jarrod who opens Aidan’s eyes to events he’s long since forgotten, and who awakes in him feelings that go beyond mere friendship. But as Aidan’s memories return, so do some unsettling truths about his family. As Aidan begins to probe into long-buried secrets, the lines between the past and the present, tales and truths, friends and lovers begin to blur, and Aidan will need to confront a family curse before he can lay claim to his life once more.”

Beam, Cris. I am J. Hatchet, 2011. 352p. $16.99. 978-0-316-05361-7.

From the Publisher: “J had always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually, J stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible — from his parents, from his friends, from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he’s done hiding — it’s time to be who he really is. And this time, he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.”

Cronn-Mills, Kirstin. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Flux, 2012. 271p. $9.99 Trade pb. 978-0-738-73251-0.

From the Publisher: “My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life. 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.”

Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine. Algonquin, 2013. 248p. $16.95. 978-1-616-20251-4.

From the Publisher: “Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love–Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed. So they carry on in secret until Nasrin’s parents suddenly announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution: homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. Sahar will never be able to love Nasrin in the body she wants to be loved in without risking their lives but is saving their love worth sacrificing her true self?”

Griffin, Molly Beth. Silhouette of a Sparrow. Milkweed, 2012. 224p. $16.95. 978-1-571-31701-8.

From the Publisher: “Growing up in the 1920s, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson envies the birds outside her window. Her mother does not approve of Garnet climbing trees to peer into nests or any other such un-ladylike behavior. She has Garnet’s life all planned out: after finishing high school, she’ll marry and tend to the home. But when Garnet is sent away for the summer to stay with relatives in the lakeside resort town of Excelsior, Minnesota, she finds a chance to spread her wings. A newly built amusement park and roaring dance hall beckon, and her explorations land her where she least expects—in a growing relationship with a beautiful and daring flapper, Isabella.”

Hartzler, Aaron. Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket to Salvation. Little, Brown, 2013. 390p. $17.99. 978-0-316-09465-8.

From the Publisher: “Aaron Hartzler grew up in a home where he was taught that at any moment the Rapture could happen. That Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye and scoop Aaron and his family up to heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that every moment of every day might be his last one on planet Earth.But as Aaron turns sixteen, he finds himself more attached to his earthly life and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want the Rapture to happen just yet–not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Eventually, Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.”

Levithan, David. Every Day. Knopf, 2012. 325p. $16.99. 978-0-307-93188-7.

From the Publisher: “Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.”

Lo, Malinda. Adaptation. Little, Brown, 2012. 402p. $17.99. 978-0-316-19796-0.

From the Publisher: “Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded. Among them are Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David, who are in Arizona when the disaster occurs. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway in the middle of the Nevada night, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are–or how they’ve been miraculously healed. Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing the curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction-and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.”

Nelson, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. Dial, 2014. 384p. $17.99. 978-0-803-73496-8.

From the Publisher: “At first, Jude and her twin brother are NoahandJude; inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.”

Reed, Raziel. When Everything Feels Like the Movies. Arsenal Pulp, 2015. 176p. $15.95 Trade pb. 978-1-551-52574-7.

From the Publisher: “School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone knows his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favorite co-star, Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck!

But train wrecks always make the front page.”

Rice-González, Charles. Chulito. Magnus, 2011. 321p. $14.95 Trade pb. 978-1-9368833-03-0.

From the Publisher: “Set against a vibrant South Bronx neighborhood and the youth culture of Manhattan’s piers, Chulito is a coming-of-age, coming out love story of a sexy, tough, hip-hop-loving, young Latino man and the colorful characters who populate his block.

Chulito, which means “cutie,” is one of the boys, and everyone in his neighborhood has seen him grow up including Carlos who was Chulito’s best friend until they hit puberty and people started calling Carlos a pato…a faggot. Chulito rejects Carlos and buries his feelings for him, but when Carlos comes home from his first year away at college and they share a secret kiss, Chulito’s worlds collide as his ideas of being a young man, being macho, and being in love are challenged.”

Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon & Schuster, 2012. 368p. 978-1-442-40893-7.

From the Publisher: “Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

Setterington, Ken. Branded by the Pink Triangle. Perfection Learning, 2013. 155p. $26.25.  978-1-627-65466-1.

From the Publisher: “During World War II, thousands of homosexual men were targeted by the Nazi regime. This book shares the stories of pink triangle prisoners from this little-known chapter of world history.”

Shraya, Vivek. God Loves Hair. Arsenal Pulp, 2014. $18.95. 978-1-55152-543-3.

From the Publisher: “Vivek Shraya’s first book is a collection of twenty-one short stories following a tender, intellectual, and curious child as he navigates the complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging. Told with the poignant insight and honesty that only the voice of a young mind can convey, God Loves Hair is a moving and ultimately joyous portrait of the resiliency of youth.”

Stetz-Waters, Karelia. Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before. Ooligan, 2014. 304p. $14.95 Trade pb. 978-1-932-01073-2.

From the Publisher: “Triinu Hoffman has to face cruelties like this every day. Shy, intellectual, and living in a rural town, she just doesn’t fit in. She does her best to hide behind her dyed hair and black wardrobe, but it’s still hard to ignore the bullying of Pip Weston and Principal Pinn. It’s even harder to ignore the allure of other girls. As she tumbles headlong into first love and teenage independence, she realizes that the differences that make her a target are also the differences that can set her free. With everyone in town taking sides in the battle for equal rights in Oregon, Triinu must stand up for herself, learn what it is to love and have her heart broken, and become her own woman.”

Watts, Julia. Secret City. Bella, 2013. $11.95 Trade pb. 978-1-594-93390-5.

From the Publisher: “1944. When sixteen-year-old Ruby Pickett and her family move to the new, government-built city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Ruby knows that her daddy’s new job will help the war effort, but she has no idea how. Ruby is not alone in her lack of knowledge, as the city’s true purpose is a carefully guarded secret. A thinker and a reader, Ruby has always been restless, and she finds Oak Ridge a much more stimulating environment than her old home in rural Southeastern Kentucky. Ruby finds a kindred spirit in twenty-three-year-old Iris, a wife, and mother who has moved to Oak Ridge with her scientist husband and is frustrated by the intellectual limitations of being a full-time housewife. Ruby and Iris’s relationship starts as friendship but deepens in emotional intensity until it, like the purpose of Oak Ridge itself, is a dangerous secret.”


14-0020 Thomas Crisp early childhood education


Thomas Crisp is an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. His research focuses on children’s media and culture, with particular attention toward issues of diversity, representation, and social justice in queer children’s and young adult literature.

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  1. and anaheim.net/libraries

    Hi Thomas,
    I LOVED your article in the June 2016 VOYA, “Queer Children’s and Young Adult Literature and the Need for Inclusive Library Spaces.” Where may I see the digital copy? Is it OK to share with colleagues (digitally), or do I have to give them a paper photocopy 🙂
    Online, it looks like there’s only the reading list…:-(

    Thanks very much!
    Tasneem Watts
    Principal Librarian

  2. Hi, Taz,

    I will pass along your message to Thomas.
    The digital copy of VOYA is available on our website by clicking on the turning pages and entering the number that is on your mailing label of the print copy. You are welcome to share with colleagues and in workshops or classes. You can download a pdf copy from the digital copy and email it to them.
    The reading list is part of the supplement available only at our site.

    Thank you for reading VOYA!

    RoseMary Ludt, Editor

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