Rainbow Reading: From GLBT to QUILTBAG in YA by Robin Brenner (NoveList Plus)

Since the landmark publication of David Levithan’s optimistic gay romance Boy Meets Boy in 2003, the world of literature concerning sexual and gender identities for teens has expanded and diversified. As acronyms have grown to be more inclusive, shifting from GBLT (gay, bisexual, lesbian, and trans) to QUILTBAG (queer/questioning, intersex, lesbian, trans, bisexual, asexual, and gay), so too have books. Today’s stories reflect the growing awareness of sexuality and gender as spectrums rather than defined points on a line.

For decades, teen titles which addressed sexuality dealt mainly with the central issue of being gay in a society which perceived that to be a problem. Plots hinged on the struggles rather than the joys of coming out.  In today’s fictional landscape, authors don’t ignore the societal pressures GBLTQ teens face but that conflict is no longer the center of the story. Characters enjoy an equal degree of standard teenage drama as their straight peers, and the thrills of love and sex are portrayed with an authentic level of explicitness — no more convenient blowing curtains or fades to black.


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old, not-so-openly-gay Simon Spier is blackmailed into playing wingman for his classmate or else his sexual identity–and that of his pen pal–will be revealed.




One Man Guy by Michael BarakivaOne Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

When Alek’s high-achieving, Armenian-American parents send him to summer school, he thinks his summer is ruined. But then he meets Ethan, who opens his world in a series of truly unexpected ways.




Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher BarzakWonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak

Seventeen-year-old Aiden has been living like a ghost since his mother tried to stop a family curse by causing him to forget his psychic experiences but when Jarrod, a childhood friend, returns, so do the memories and Aiden is compelled to seek the truth and release them all from the story that has trapped them.



Hold Me Closer by David LevithanHold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Larger-than-life Tiny Cooper finally gets to tell his story, from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends, in the form of a musical he wrote.




I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy NelsonI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

A story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah.




Lizard Radio by Pat SchmatzLizard Radio by Pat Schmatz

Fifteen-year-old bender Kivali, who was deposited on Earth as an infant by mysterious saurians, must discover her true identity in a futuristic society run by an all-powerful government.




Wandering Son by Takako ShimuraWandering Son by Takako Shimura

Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy.



More Happy Than Not by Adam SilveraMore Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

After enduring his father’s suicide, his own suicide attempt, broken friendships, and more in the Bronx projects, Aaron Soto, sixteen, is already considering the Leteo Institute’s memory-alteration procedure when his new friendship with Thomas turns to unrequited love.



Honor Girl by Maggie ThrashHonor Girl by Maggie Thrash

When Maggie falls in love with another girl at Camp Bellflower, an all-girl summer camp in Appalachia, her expertise at the camp’s rifle range is what keeps her going through a summer of heartbreak and self-discovery.



Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

In alternating chapters, eighteen-year-old Darcy Patel navigates the New York City publishing world and Lizzie, the heroine of Darcy’s novel, slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack and becomes a spirit guide, as both face many challenges and both fall in love.


last updated: February 2016

About Princess Leia

I am the Teen Services Librarian at the Grayslake Area Public Library.
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