11 Must-Read YA Books With LGBTQ Love Stories

Ashley Batz for Bustle
By Kerri Jarema

Okay, Valentine's Day is on its way, and if you're going to pick anything up to read tomorrow, why not make it appropriately themed? You can pick from a plethora of romantic young adult novels, you can pick books that celebrate being single, or you can even pick books with no romance at all if you'd rather pretend Valentine's Day just isn't a thing. But if you want to pick up a book that depicts romance in a way that is diverse and crucial, you can pick up LGBTQ books to fall in love with. Many of these books are Own Voices, and feature love stories that are as sweet and sincere and ship-worthy as any you would find elsewhere. But they have the added bonus of showing us more diverse characters and lives than those would see elsewhere.

Friends to lovers, lovers to friends, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, all of these relationships are explored realistically, romantically, and with the aim of representing the true hardships, triumphs and complications of any first love, first breakup, or unexpected relationship. Because, after all, that’s what we want from any literary romance, right? Here are 11 of our favorite books depicting LGBTQ romance. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, all will give you the ultimate feels.

'Everything Leads to You' by Nina LaCour

Nina LaCour's beloved book, Everything Leads to You, is as much about film, Hollywood, family, ambition, and friendship as it is about the romance that blossoms between two of the characters. As a young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world. She's a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to her ex-girlfriend way too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic and beautiful, and she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true love.

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'Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda' by Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda has already burrowed its way into the hearts of many a YA reader. But for those uninitiated, the book follows sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier. When an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wing man for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten incredibly complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling his shot at happiness.

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'Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe' by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Benjamin Alire Saenz's poetic, ethereal book follows best friends Aristotle and Dante as they grow together, and apart, in El Paso, Texas. 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.

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'Carry On' by Rainbow Rowell

If you've read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, chances are you already fell in love with Simon and Baz. In Carry On, we get to follow Simon Snow and his roommate Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch during a tumultuous year of wizarding school. Half the time Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it's their last year at Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up. But there is more connecting them than just sharing a room, and they're about to find that connection just might change everything. Carry On is a love letter to love stories and the power of words — to every 'chosen one' who ever had more on their mind than saving the world.

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'You Know Me Well' by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

No list of LGBTQ love stories would be complete without David Levithan, and You Know Me Well (also with fan-favorite Nina LaCour) is a must-read. Featuring primarily gay and lesbian characters, this book follows Mark and Kate, who have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed. That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night during PRIDE. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way. When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more. A book about identity, friendship, and navigating the joys and complications of first love.

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'History Is All You Left Me' by Adam Silvera

OK, this book is sad. Like, really sad. So, sad. Come on Silvera, why is this so sad? But, it's also delves into love, all-encompassing first love, and putting together the puzzle pieces of life after loss. When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. This gorgeous book about rebuilding the future and confronting history is definitely a love-worthy tear fest.

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'Under The Lights' by Dahlia Adler

Dahlia Adler's Under the Lights follows Josh Cheste, a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Meanwhile, Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her best friend, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved... and the person she never imagined she could.

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'One Man Guy' by Michael Barakiva

Aleksander Khederian doesn’t need, or want, to go to summer school, but his strict Armenian-American parents think it’s the best way for him to bring up his grades and stay on the honor track. Just when Alek thinks his summer couldn’t get any worse, he meets Ethan. Ethan is cool, confident, and adventurous... everything Alek wishes he could be. Alek is drawn closer to Ethan’s alluring persona, and before long, it's obvious that Ethan wants to be more than just friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend — he’s barely ever had a girlfriend — but maybe it’s time to think again. But how will his family, so embedded in their culture and traditional ideals, react when he breaks the news?

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'Look Both Ways' by Alison Cherry

Look Both Ways follows Brooklyn Shepard during a summer away from the city, what she thinks is the beginning of everything. Her theater apprenticeship at Allerdale is a chance to prove that she can carve out a niche all her own, surrounded by people who don’t know anything about her or her family of superstar performers. Brooklyn immediately hits it off with her roommate, Zoe, and soon their friendship turns into something more. Brooklyn wants to see herself as someone who’s open to everything and everyone, but as her feelings for Zoe intensify, so do her doubts. She’s happier than she’s ever been—but is it because of her new relationship? Or is it because she’s finally discovering who she wants to be? A book about finding yourself both in love and without, and learning that neither talent nor love is as straightforward as we like to think.

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'Georgia Peaches And Other Forbidden Fruit' by Jaye Robin Brown

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit follows Joanna Gordon who has been out and proud for years. But when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees. Although it is mostly much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right? A tense, romantic look at the complicated intersection between being loyal to others while staying true to yourself.

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'If I Was Your Girl' by Meredith Russo

Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl follows Amanda Hardy, the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. But then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met — open, honest, kind — and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew. This is a moving, true-to-life story about identity, and love, and building a life that is honest and true.

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