Sometimes, I can’t think of a better way to end the night than with a good book. Now, say that book is a rom-com or deep memoir-style story—well, the night just got even better. I always gravitate toward rom-coms but realized most of the stories I read were tales of heterosexual romances. While I love the genre in all its forms, I strive to be conscious of the authors I support and want to consume stories about dating and relationships that actually reflect my own.
From writing about a real-life queer experience to telling tales about a steamy, passion-filled love like no other, these queer authors helped me see that the stories I grew up with weren’t representative of everything I wanted in my own relationships. Though I began to see LGBTQ+ characters in books I read as a teenager, they were usually a barely mentioned side character, ambiguously gay, or even used as a shock factor. Sick and tired of this trope, I went on the search for books about LGBTQ+ characters actually written by LGBTQ+ people. And might I say, I think I found some of my favorite books.
Here are 15 books by queer authors to add to your reading list ASAP.
Not only did this book make me feel like I was friends with the main characters, walking through an art gallery or attending a political rally, but it’s also one of the best rom-coms I’ve ever read, period. Taking on the enemies-to-friends-to-lovers trope, the story follows Alex, the son of the first woman president of the United States. With a passion for politics, he’s devoted to helping his mom on her presidential marketing strategy—until a clash with his arch-nemesis Prince Henry makes it all over the tabloids. In an attempt to make a convincing apology, the two form an American-British fake friendship, which quickly turns into exchanges of love letters and hush-hush dates. I loved that this book balanced a romance with the narrative of working on a presidential campaign and didn’t feel confusing or rushed. And hey, if you happen to like this one, author Casey McQuiston’s next novel is going to be released later this year.
Though it’s not a romance, this is a coming-of-age type of story that depicts the hardships of queer adolescence. This book is written in a series of personal essays exploring journalist and activist George M. Johnson’s experiences from childhood to his college years. With stories of getting bullied to being rejected for his sexuality, Johnson gives a raw, unfiltered peek into what it’s like to grow up as a Black queer boy. Although it’s technically a young adult novel, Johnson’s frank tone doesn’t shy away from anything and comes across as mature and poignant. Johnson’s commentary on subjects like toxic masculinity, Black joy, and gender identity make this a perfect pick if you’re looking for something that feels real.
The title says it all: Buckle up for a book that’s going to hit all of those emotions. Nate, an aspiring screenwriter, is trying to keep it together. Between keeping his mom close after his dad left to fending off pleas to meet someone special from his ex-girlfriend who’s also his best friend—things are complicated here—he just doesn’t believe in any happy endings. But when his childhood best friend, Oliver, comes back into his life, he realizes a love story might not be such a treacherous thing. As both characters work to overcome their past mistakes and show how they feel about each other, they discover that friendship and love might not be so different. Fans of an understated rom-com, this one’s for you.
I picked this book up when I was looking for something with a deeper meaning that I could work through slowly, and Honey Girl definitely hit that sweet spot. Grace does everything right—she has been a straight-A student, has always lived up to her father’s expectations, and is on track to becoming a great astronomer. After a blurry night in Vegas, Grace wakes up to realize that she’s married a girl she met less than 24 hours ago. Without any way to contact her new wife, Grace flies back home and begins to search for her spouse through minor clues. When Grace finally finds her wife, every choice she could make seems destined for disaster. I thought this book was less of a romance and more of a “coming of age in your 20s” genre (if that’s a thing) since it focuses on Grace’s relationships with her friends, family, and mostly herself. I kept thinking about Grace and her relatable dive into a messy adulthood days after finishing this novel.
Of course, I can’t leave out a classic. One of those books that everyone should read, Giovanni’s Room tells the story of James, a guy who knows exactly how he’s expected to act in 1950s society. He’s got a job, he’s got a girlfriend he just proposed to, and he’s constantly bombarded with the idea of marriage. Though he’s broke and not on the best terms with his family, he’s not ready to go back home, and he splurges on a trip to Paris, where he meets Giovanni. Soon, Giovanni becomes synonymous with escape, and James is caught in a passionate love affair that’s nothing like he’s ever had. A timeless narrative on how identity and society intertwine, Giovanni’s Room doesn’t shy away from the depiction of isolation and psychological restlessness. This book is known for being one of the best pieces of prose published in the last century—you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you passed it up.
A feel-good story that focuses on more than just a romance? Sign me up. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care follows, you’ve guessed it, Delilah Green, a jaded photographer lured back to her hometown by the promise of a hefty check from her stepsister. While she’s back in town, she comes across Claire, a girl from her past who’s also helping to plan the wedding. The two soon get to know each other really well and start to wonder if their relationship goes beyond just friendship. Not only does this check all of the boxes for a heartfelt, sexy romance, but each character is also developed to the point where it really does feel like you’re reading about one of your friends in the pages of a book.
It seems like everyone’s talking about this book, which merges history with a coming-of-age narrative. When 17-year-old Lily Hu discovers a lesbian nightclub and dives into a world where girls can be together, she knows she has to keep it a secret. As a teenager in 1950s Chinatown, it’s not safe for her or the friends she makes in that club. With unlikely friendships and the main character wrestling with discovering what she wants and doing what’s best for her family, this is a whirlwind of a book. There are elements of romance, identity, and drama, making this book a fresh take on the historical fiction genre.
I love a good coming-of-age novel, and Not My Problem fits the bill perfectly. The story follows Aideen, a high schooler who’s constantly worrying about her mother’s drinking and a seemingly doomed friendship. When Aideen’s classmate, Meabh, expresses her own problems, Aideen solves the issue by pushing her new friend down the stairs—which was actually the perfect solution. With Aideen’s fast-growing reputation as a problem solver, more classmates come forward with their own issues for Aideen to grapple with. Though both Aideen and Meabh are sarcastic and fit into the MO of an anti-hero, they’re lovable and worth rooting for throughout the whole novel. If you’re hoping to find a romance reminiscent of an enemies-to-lovers narrative with a lot of heart, look no further.
You may have heard of the movie, but have you read the book? In case you’re not familiar, Carol tells the story of Therese, a stage developer who hates her job in a department store. But when Carol, an alluring housewife in the midst of a divorce, begins to visit Therese at work, the two become involved in a love affair no one else approves of. In an attempt to leave their pasts behind, the two set off on a trip across the country—followed by a private investigator who’s not afraid to make threats. Written in the earlier 1900s, this book, originally published under the name The Price of Salt, comments on the notion of forbidden love, societal expectations, and how far one may go for an erotic obsession.
A book that I promise you’ll be able to fly through in a weekend, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is everything you want out of a cute rom-com. When Hani comes out as bi to her peers at school, she’s met with a slew of biphobic remarks since she’s only ever actually had relationships with guys. Flustered and feeling like she’s under attack, Hani defends herself by saying she’s in a relationship—with Ishu, who Hani has absolutely nothing in common with. In an attempt to salvage her relationship with her friends and her popular-girl status, Hani convinces Ishu to fake date her until her friends can validate her bisexuality. Though this is a hilarious, trope-filled romance, the story also deals with serious subjects like biphobia and racism. Nevertheless, this book is proof that you can have the cutest relationship even if others try to bring you down.
A cheesy ’90s rom-com rolled into the pages of a book, Perfect on Paper has the best balance of heart and quirkiness. Darcy, a teen with nothing better to do than run a business giving out anonymous relationship advice, is the school’s expert when it comes to the woes of the adolescent heart. But when her arch-nemesis, Alexander Brougham, catches her collecting letters for that exact relationship advice service, she’s blackmailed into helping him win his ex-girlfriend back. With a bisexual main character and even multiple love interests, this book has characters that are dynamic and well-thought out. If you’re someone who considers themselves a love advice guru for everyone except yourself (guilty as charged), you’re going to fall in love with this book.
When Juliet comes out to her parents, that means moving out of her house and to Portland for a new life. Still trying to figure out where she fits as a Puerto Rican lesbian, Juliet realizes that this summer might be her hardest yet. But with the promise of an internship with feminist and author Harlowe Brisbane, Juliet is ready to plan her future away from her family. Told in a stream-of-consciousness format, this book is a raw, unfiltered depiction of how important self-acceptance and a good support system are when you’re feeling alone. Juliet truly develops her own version of what it means to be a person of color, a lesbian, and a feminist, exactly how a teenager would today. If you’re looking for a funny story with some social commentary, especially about discussions on problematic white feminism, this one won’t disappoint.
A book that pretty much sums up my anti-social high school experience, this one’s all about taking those risks you’ve always wanted to while still worrying about which college you’ll attend. Goody two-shoes Codi has always done the right thing, never even having attended a proper high school bash. Her friends like chilling in the basement and hanging in a lifestyle I’m pretty sure most of us have adopted in a post-pandemic world. However, you can’t always stay inside, and one night, Codi and her friends decide to switch things up and crash a party. But when she walks in on Ricky, who Codi has always seen as more popular, kissing another boy, she finds a new friend in him. United in their decidedly non-hetero attractions, Codi’s excited to finally meet someone who’s also gay—especially since none of her friends know she doesn’t like guys. Not only is this a story about self-acceptance, but it’s also a relatable, queer, coming-of-age story.
A world divided and hopes for a strong leader aren’t too different from our own reality, so delving into this book, there are some especially poignant themes. When the East and West of an heirless queendom are at odds, tensions are higher than ever for Queen Sabran. As assassins threaten her existence, the pressure to have a daughter, who must ensure that the House of Berethnet stays in power, weighs heavily on Sabran’s mind. Unbeknownst to Sabran, Ead Duryan, a lady-in-waiting, is protecting the queen with her own magic and patiently awaiting the return of the Nameless One, an evil dragon that’s been banished hundreds of years ago. As the queendom grows more every second, Ead, who is also a warrior from the Priory of the Orange Tree (that’s right, she’s not just a lady-in-waiting), struggles between her duty to protect and her own attraction toward the queen as the potential for a romance looms before her. Often praised as updated (and, of course, queerer) Harry Potter, this book’s complex fantasy plot and myriad of dynamic characters make it one of those picks you can just fly through.
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