Deaver’s debut delivers an honest coming-of-age and coming-out story about 18-year-old queer, nonbinary Ben De Backer.
The novel centers on conflicts within a North Carolina family that drive the narrative after Ben comes out to their parents and is kicked out of the house. Welcomed by their older sister, Hannah, who they haven’t spoken to in more than a decade, and her husband, Thomas, they begin a new life, enter therapy, and begin to find peace as they finish their senior year. Ben finds comfort in art classes, which become a safe haven as the art teacher takes them under her wing. Ben’s loneliness abates thanks to budding friendships, but when their connection with another student, Nathan, hints at something more, Ben struggles to find the confidence to risk sharing their truth again. Dealing with new friendships, family rejection, first love, anxiety, and personal growth, this novel is grounded in familiar YA terrain while exploring themes of gender identity. Deaver’s treatment of Ben’s nonbinary identity creates a realistic portrayal of their journey toward self-acceptance. Ben and their family are white, Nathan is brown-skinned (ethnicity unspecified), and a few secondary characters are ethnically diverse, including a nonbinary character who is a Muslim immigrant and hijabi.
Holds appeal for readers of all genders and sexualities through sympathetic characters and a hopeful narrative of empowerment.
At the height of the 1980s AIDS crisis, three teens grapple with love and friendship.
Raised in Tehran, then Toronto, Reza is living in New York City with his mother and new stepfather and stepbrother. Though he is attracted to men, he is paralyzingly afraid of AIDS, equating being gay with death. Judy, who loves fashion, is best friends with Art, the only out student at their school, and both are bullied by fat-shaming, homophobic peers. United in their love for Judy’s uncle Stephen, who is gay and has AIDS—and whom Art sees as a father figure—they become involved in AIDS advocacy. After meeting Reza, the duo find that they are both attracted to him, their friendship strained when Reza and Judy start dating—despite Art and Reza’s undeniable chemistry. In a tribute to gay culture icons, the book depicts the social and political climate of the time in vivid detail, capturing the dichotomy between fear and love and, finally, acceptance. The lack of clinical trials for women and people of color, safe sex, and heteronormativity are highlighted in a nondidactic way along with the legacy of the 1980s gay community, the devastation of HIV/AIDS, present-day joy, and continued violence toward the queer community. Reza and his family are Persian, and Art, Judy, and their families are assumed white. Despite an abrupt ending, a truly lovely romance to cherish.
Two best friends fall in love despite the changes in their lives and societal pressures that threaten to tear them apart.
Inseparable childhood friends, transgender girl Morgan and cisgender boy Eric spend every birthday together. A September snowstorm brought their families together in the hospital on their shared day of birth. As they navigate puberty and high school, Morgan struggles to understand and love herself. Cancer took her mother away, and she fears rejection from Eric and her football coach dad if she tells them she’s not a boy. On top of family tension and worries about his friendship with Morgan, Eric hides his own concerns about his sexuality and his future. In a narrative that follows Morgan and Eric from year to year on their birthday, Stonewall Award Winner Russo (If I Was Your Girl, 2016) captures the intense longing of two teens who feel trapped in their small, football-obsessed Tennessee town. Morgan’s self-acceptance is an intimate, honest journey with an ultimately hopeful resolution that acknowledges the diverse struggles and experiences of transgender people. While the story ends on a happy note, grief, economic struggle, abuse, discrimination, suicide, and divorce play significant roles in the narrative and the characters’ development. The slow-burn romance between Eric and Morgan is affirming and worth the wait. Apart from Morgan’s Latina friend, Jasmine, the cast is white.
Rachel Recht and Sana Khan are either mortal enemies or star-crossed lovers.
Jewish-Mexican Rachel has hated South Asian–Persian Muslim Sana ever since Sana asked her out during their freshman year at their exclusive private school as a prank. At least, Rachel assumed it was a prank—why else would a perfect cheerleader like Sana want to date a scholarship student like her, even if Rachel is a brilliant filmmaker? So when Rachel’s film teacher forces her to cast Sana in her final film class project—a project that will determine whether she gets a scholarship to her dream college, NYU—Rachel is sure that the whole thing will be a disaster. Until she realizes that seemingly perfect Sana is wrestling with her own demons—including her family’s unreasonable expectations and her own doubts about her future. Before long, sparks start to fly, and Rachel and Sana discover parts of each other that they cannot help but love. Safi (Not the Girls You’re Looking For, 2018) expertly weaves a fast-paced will-they-or-won’t-they story of two American girls trying to decide who they are and what they want. While Sana and Rachel’s sexual orientation is an important part of the story, it is just one part, allowing Safi to create layered, nuanced characters who keep readers enthralled.
A queer romance that will sweep readers away.
A 17-year-old struggles to navigate friendship and finding herself while navigating a toxic relationship.
Biracial (East Asian and white) high schooler Freddy is in love with white Laura Dean. She can’t help it—Laura oozes cool. But while Freddy’s friends are always supportive of her, they can’t understand why she stays with Laura. Laura cheats on Freddy, gaslights and emotionally manipulates her, and fetishizes her. After Laura breaks up with her for a third time, Freddy writes to an advice columnist and, at the recommendation of her best friend Doodle, (reluctantly) sees a psychic who advises her that in order to break out of the cycle of her “non-monogamous swing-your-partner wormhole,” Freddy needs to do the breaking up herself. As she struggles to fall out of love and figure out how to “break up with someone who’s broken up with me,” Freddy slowly begins to be drawn back into Laura’s orbit, challenging her relationships with her friends as she searches for happiness. Tamaki (Supergirl, 2018, etc.) explores the nuances of both romantic and platonic relationships with raw tenderness and honesty. Valero-O’Connell’s (Lumberjanes: Bonus Tracks, 2018, etc.) art is realistic and expressive, bringing the characters to life through dynamic grayscale illustrations featuring highlights of millennial pink. Freddy and her friends live in Berkeley, California, and have a diversity of body shapes, gender expressions, sexualities, and skin tones.
A triumphant queer coming-of-age story that will make your heart ache and soar.
(Graphic novel. 14-adult)