As much as I’m an avid reader of YA novels featuring queer protagonists, I haven’t actually read that many middle grade books / younger YA novels with LGBTQIAP+ characters. Well, I don’t usually get to read that many middle grade novels, period. But I’ve been wanting to read more of these books recently so that I can recommend them to the younger readers in my life and the tweens that come into the bookstore I work at asking for recommendations. I’m sick of talking about the same hyped middle grade series, and I want to give these people novels that they might see themselves in.
The first book I ever read with a queer protagonist was The Flywheel when I was about 15, and that book holds so much emotional significance to me. It was the first book I saw my feelings represented in. It was the first time I recognised that having feelings for other girls was valid and didn’t make me unnatural or unlovable. If I’d have read more middle grade novels with queer protagonists in my early teen years, perhaps I would have been able to come to terms with my identity as a biromantic asexual sooner.
Although there are undoubtedly a lot more middle grade and YA novels now than there were five years ago, I would still love to hear more buzz about middle grade novels with queer protagonists—and there’s always room for more! So if you have any recommendations for books I should check out, specifically featuring LGBTQIAP+ characters under 14, I would love to check them out. In the meantime, here are three novels featuring younger teens who happen to be queer!
Boy Meets Hamster is a novel that follows the life of a 14 year-old gay boy who goes on a summer vacation with his mum to Cornwall’s worst caravan park. What starts as the least appealing holiday ever ends up being something far more interesting, especially with the gorgeous boy in the caravan next door. Boys Meets Hamster is a book that melted my heart. It’s a really quick and cute read, and perfect for summer.
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is a cute romcom about twin flying trapeze artists, Birdie and Finch. But when Birdie suffers a terrible accident, Finch has to team up with the geeky Hector to form a double act and save the family circus. This is a funny and heart-warming novel that brings circus elements and new friendships together to form a truly unforgettable read with gorgeous relationships between not only Birdie and Finch, but also Finch and Hector. Perfect for fans of contemporaries.
George is a gorgeous, heart-warming novel about a girl whom the world identifies as a boy. 10 year-old George knows who she is, but when she isn’t cast as the lead role in her fourth-grade production, she decides to tell everyone how she identifies. George is such a sensitive and honest portrayal of a kid coming out to their family and friends as trans, and I loved every single minute spent reading it. This is a book everyone needs in their life.
Two that are on my TBR…
Lily and Dunkin is a novel about a transgender girl in eight grade and a boy who’s living with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past 13 years. With promises of a gorgeous friendship and the intrigue of a secret, Lily and Dunkin is definitely a novel I hope to get to soon.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World is about what happens when a tornado destroys 12 year-old Ivy Averdeen’s house, resulting in the displacement of her family and her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands going missing. When Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity, Ivy thinks that this someone might be a girl in her class she’s started developing feelings for. How gorgeous does that sound?! I’m so eager to get my hands on this stunning novel, and I’m sure I’ll absolutely adore it.
Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What other middle grade LGBTQIAP+ books would you recommend? What are some of your favourite queer YA novels? I’d love to know!