Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass
Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.
Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.
Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.
Pedro & Daniel by Federico Erebia
Pedro and Daniel are Mexican American brothers growing up in 1970s Ohio. Their mother resents that Pedro is a spitting image of their darker-skinned father, that Daniel likes dolls, that neither boy plays sports.
Life at home is rough, but the boys have an unbreakable bond that will last their entire lives.
Together, the brothers manage an abusive home life, coming out, first loves, first jobs, and the AIDS pandemic, in a coming-of-age story unlike any other.
Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.
Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.
Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?
Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, and Carlyn Greenwald
In his small Georgia town, Barclay Elliot is basically a legend. Here basketball is all that matters, and no one has a bigger spotlight than Barclay. Until he decides to use the biggest pep rally in the town’s history to come out to his school. And things change. Quickly.
Barclay is faced with hostility he never expected. Suddenly he is at odds with his own team, and he doesn’t even have his grandfather to turn to the way he used to. But who is Barclay if he doesn’t have basketball?
His best friend, Amy, thinks she knows. She drags him to her voting rights group, believing Barclay can find a bigger purpose. And he does, but he also finds Christopher. Aggravating, fearless, undeniably handsome Christopher. He and Barclay have never been each other’s biggest fans, but as Barclay starts to explore parts of himself he’s been hiding away, they find they might have much more in common than they originally thought.
As sparks turn into something more, though, Barclay has to decide if he’s ready to confront the privilege and popularity that have shielded him his entire life. Can he take a real shot at the love he was fighting for in the first place?
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon
Margo Zimmerman Gets the Girl by Brianna R. Shrum and Sara Waxelbaum
Margo Zimmerman is gay, but she didn’t know until now. An overachiever at heart, Margo is determined to ace her newly discovered gayness. All she needs is the right tutor.
Abbie Sokoloff has her own gayness down to a science. But a flunking grade in US History is threatening her acceptance to her dream school. All she needs is the right tutor.
Margo agrees to help Abbie get her history grade up in exchange for “Queer 101” lessons. But as they spend more and more time together, Margo realizes she doesn’t want just any girl—she wants the girl.
Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko
It’s summertime and 17-year-old Coley has found herself alone, again. Forced to move to rural Oregon after just losing her mother, she is in no position to risk her already fragile heart. But when she meets Sonya, the attraction is immediate.
Coley worries she isn’t worthy of love. Up until now, everyone she’s loved has left her. And Sonya’s never been with a girl before. What if she’s too afraid to show up for Coley? What if by opening her heart, Coley’s risking it all?
They both realize that when things are pushed down, and feelings are forced to shrivel away, Coley and Sonya will be the ones to shrink. It’s not until they accept the love they fear and deserve most, that suddenly the song makes sense.
Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything by Justine Pucella Winans
Sixteen-year-old Bianca Torre is an avid birder undergoing a gender identity crisis and grappling with an ever-growing list of fears.
Some, like Fear #6: Initiating Conversation, keep them constrained, forcing them to watch birds from the telescope in their bedroom. And, occasionally, their neighbors. When their gaze wanders from the birds to one particular window across the street, Bianca witnesses a creepy plague-masked murderer take their neighbor’s life.
Worse, the death is ruled a suicide, forcing Bianca to make a choice—succumb to their long list of fears (including #3 Murder and #55 Breaking into a Dead Guy’s Apartment), or investigate what happened.
Bianca enlists the help of their friend Anderson Coleman, but the two have more knowledge of anime than true crime. As Bianca and Anderson dig deeper into the murder with a little help from Bianca’s crush and fellow birding aficionado, Elaine Yee (#13 Beautiful People, #11 Parents Discovering They’re a Raging Lesbian), the trio uncover a conspiracy much larger—and weirder—than imagined. But when the killer catches wind of the investigation, Bianca’s #1 fear of public speaking doesn’t sound so bad under the threat of being silenced for good.
Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen
Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.
The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
Unwritten Rules by K.D. Casey
Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.
The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.
Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.
Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
Buy it: Amazon
Sizzle Reel by Carlyn Greenwald
For aspiring cinematographer Luna Roth, coming out as bisexual at twenty-four is proving more difficult than she anticipated. Sure, her best friend and fellow queer Romy is thrilled for her—but she has no interest in coming out to her backwards parents, she wouldn’t know how to flirt with a girl if one fell at her feet, and she has no sexual history to build off. Not to mention she really needs to focus her energy on escaping her emotionally-abusive-but-that’s-Hollywood talent manager boss and actually get working under a real director of photography anyway.
When she meets twenty-eight-year-old A-list actress Valeria Sullivan around the office, Luna thinks she’s found her solution. She’ll use Valeria’s interest in her cinematography to get a PA job on the set of Valeria’s directorial debut—and if Valeria is as gay as Luna suspects, and she happens to be Luna’s route to losing her virginity, too . . . well, that’s just an added bonus. Enlisting Romy’s help, Luna starts the juggling act of her life—impress Valeria’s DP to get another job after this one, get as close to Valeria as possible, and help Romy with her own career moves.
But when Valeria begins to reciprocate romantic interest in Luna, the act begins to crumble—straining her relationship with Romy and leaving her job prospects precarious. Now Luna has to figure out if she can she fulfill her dreams as a filmmaker, keep her best friend, and get the girl. . . or if she’s destined to end up on the cutting room floor.
Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni
When Nar’s non-Armenian boyfriend gets down on one knee and proposes to her in front of a room full of drunk San Francisco tech boys, she realizes it’s time to find someone who shares her idea of romance.
Enter her mother: armed with plenty of mom-guilt and a spreadsheet of Facebook-stalked Armenian men, she convinces Nar to attend Explore Armenia, a month-long series of events in the city. But it’s not the mom-approved playboy doctor or wealthy engineer who catches her eye—it’s Erebuni, a woman as equally immersed in the witchy arts as she is in preserving Armenian identity. Suddenly, with Erebuni as her wingwoman, the events feel like far less of a chore, and much more of an adventure. Who knew cooking up kuftes together could be so . . . sexy?
Erebuni helps Nar see the beauty of their shared culture and makes her feel understood in a way she never has before. But there’s one teeny problem: Nar’s not exactly out as bisexual. The clock is ticking on Nar’s double life, though—the closing event banquet is coming up, and her entire extended family will be there, along with Erebuni. Her worlds will inevitably collide, but Nar is determined to be brave, determined to claim her happiness: proudly Armenian, proudly bisexual, and proudly herself for the first time in her life.