“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.
This edition is dedication to YA with trans and/or nonbinary main characters, with the aim of helping readers find books that explore gender identity and can more safely be read in unsafe spaces. Please note that most of these have some potentially triggering content, including transphobia and abuse, so I do encourage reading reviews, if that’s helpful to you. (And please do read the notes below as well.)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – This absolutely lovely m/f romance steeped in magical realism includes trans boy Sam as one half of the couple.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi – This was a Backlist Book of the Month on the site in 2021, so you can read a lot more about it here. For the sake of this post, I’ll just mention that the protagonist is a trans girl and that’s not in the copy.
I Was Born for Thisby Alice Oseman – Note: this is only under the gaydar with the British copy; the copy on the version coming out in the US in October 2022 does state that Jimmy is trans. You can get the UK version via Book Depository, Waterstones, or Blackwell’s.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall – Note: This blurb can be read as Sapphic, so do read it carefully and consider your environment, but there’s no visible nod to the fact that the main character is either genderfluid or bigender.
Even if We Break by Marieke Nijkamp – In this gaming-themed thriller, there are five POVs, one of which belongs to a trans boy and another of which belongs to a nonbinary kid. The copy is 100% thriller-centric with no descriptions of the POVs to be found. (You can also find hidden nonbinary rep in one of the three POVs of Nijkamp’s newest YA thriller,At the End of Everything.)
For a books with gender questioning as a non-central element, check out This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano. (This is also true of And They Lived… by Steven Salvatore, though obviously that book is not under the gaydar. Feels like I should mention it, though, in case this is a thing someone is looking for where it’s not mentioned on the cover.)
Non-queer-specific anthologies are also great resources for hidden trans and/or nonbinary rep. You can find trans stories in:
Continuing in the tradition that’s been happening on this blog since…last year, I’m documenting some of the many literary accolades that’ve been heaped on incredible LGBTQIAP+ works this year, partly to help you find great books but mostly just so we can bask in the joyous glory. Without further ado, check out what’s been deemed this year’s best of the best!
This is one of my favorite posts (courtesy of Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner) to do on my personal blog, and I thought it’d be fun to bring it here, using just the LGBTQIAP+ books I’ve read this year, and hear what your answers would be in the comments! (Note: a few of these answers on my personal blog were LGBTQIAP+ books anyway, so those have been copy-pasted here.) So, let’s see how this goes:
2016 Reading Stats
Number Of Books You Read: 64 books w/LGBTQIAP+ protags
Number of Re-Reads: Just Out on Good Behavior, for obvious reasons!
Genre You Read The Most From: Contemporary YA
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Pretty much any book I expected/hoped would have better representation than it does.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Best surprises are the ones that had queer POVs in books I definitely did not expect to see them in, and wouldn’t necessarily have read this year (if ever) if bloggers didn’t push me to! So: Cherry by Lindsey Rosin, Winning by Lara Deloza, and This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin.
4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
Series Ender: Pretty sure Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo’s the only one I read with any queer POVs!
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Santino Hassell – picked up one book, continued to read four more of his throughout the year.
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
The Abyss Surrounds Usby Emily Skrutskie! I know that conceptually that book is so many people’s dream, but it’s not my usual thing and I found it totally unputdownable. AndNot Your Sidekick by CB Lee – not usually a superhero-book reader but this was so much fun, and I’m so psyched it’s gonna be a continuing series.
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis. That’s one of my favorite LGBTQIAP YAs of all time now and people were talking about its greatness for SO LONG, but I was slow to it for no good reason.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
To the boys who get called girls,
the girls who get called boys,
and those who live outside these words.
To those called names
and those searching for names of their own.
To those who live on the edges,
and in the spaces in between.
I wish for you every light in the sky.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. It didn’t even happen immediately, but as the book sank in, I just completely lost it.
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
I feel like in LGBTQIAP+ lit almost everything is a hidden gem because they rarely get decent marketing budgets, but I have such a soft spot for Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, for quietly delivering both (explicit) pan and (implicit) ace rep in a mainstream YA. While both of those words pop up a bunch in 2017 YA, 7WWL was the only mainstream 2016 YA I saw to contain either one. (And yes, it’s also a good book!)
Queer Lit on my Mind, which isn’t exactly a book blog but it’s a (now-) friend’s Tumblr I think posts great reviews.
2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?
I’m actually a terrible reviewer, and since I keep needing to remind people this isn’t a review site, I’m going to abstain from this question so I don’t send the wrong message!
3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Not that I can take any credit for it, personally, but gotta go with Casey Lawrence’s “Goodbye, Bad Bi“!
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Only did one LGBTQ panel this year – with Adam Silvera, Jenn Marie Thorne, and Kenneth Logan – but it was great! Also attended a good one featuring Rebecca Podos, Kenneth Logan, Cordelia Jensen, and I.W. Gregorio.
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
Kicking off this site, I’d say!
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
Thank you to guest-posting author Casey Lawrence, whose “Goodbye, Bad Bi” was by far the most popular post on the site this year.
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I did hope more people would share the post of Trans Lit Under $5 – most of those books are #ownvoices titles that could definitely use some love!
9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
The LA all-Romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice is amazing, and so great for queer romance. And I’m not just saying that because they made Out on Good Behavior their book club pick one month, but I’m also not not saying that? Because choosing an f/f NA for book club is pretty damn awesome.
10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Finally launching this site! (And my personal Goodreads challenge of reading 175 books.)
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon – I’ve been saving that series for myself forever!
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. I freaking loved Pointe and this character is bi and Jewish, so, no-brainer! But absolutely highly anticipating Noteworthy by Riley Redgate and Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee, both of which sound super clever and fun, and by authors I’m really curious to see more from as well. Redgate did something really fantastic for YA by bringing it its first mainstream on-the-page pansexual character, and Tash reportedly contains fantastic on-the-page ace rep, so, lots to look forward to!