10 LGBTQ Romance Books About Growing Up and Coming Out

    Celebrate National Coming Out Day with these heartwarming LGBTQ love stories.

    October 11th marks the 29th anniversary of the first National Coming Out Day. Established after the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the day champions the idea that coming out to those closest to you—and having the freedom to live openly as a LGBTQ individual—is an important form of activism for the LGBTQ community.

    While coming out is not always easy, it is powerful. The Human Rights Campaign, which is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the United States, says it perfectly: "Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality."

    Books, and inclusion within those books, can also play a role in advancing our movement towards equality. The novels in this list portray the LGBTQ experience through a young adult lens, as the coming-of-age heroes and heroines grapple with their sexuality and the messiness of first love—all while trying to find themselves in the process.

    Annie on My Mind

    By Nancy Garden

    When their paths cross at the MET, Liza feels an immediate connection with Annie, an aspiring singer from a very different background. Under the protection of a compassionate teacher, their unlikely friendship gives way to the all-consuming passion of first love—and sparks a slew of controversy at home and at school. One of the first lesbian love stories to feature an HEA, Annie on My Mind is as heartwarming as it is powerful: “Don’t let ignorance win,” Annie’s teacher says at one point. “Let love.” 

    Annie on My Mind

    By Nancy Garden

    South of Sunshine

    By Dana Elmendorf

    Sunshine, Tennessee is place of Friday night football games, loud pick up trucks, and weekly Bible studies. But despite what its name suggests, the town isn’t without its dark sides—bigotry, homophobia, and racism run rampant among the community. While prejudice and expectation have pressured Kaycee to deny her homosexuality, her current flame, Brenn, has always embraced it. But in a place that's so close-minded, can Kaycee truly open her heart to what it wants most?  

    South of Sunshine

    By Dana Elmendorf

    Dive

    By Stacey Donovan

    Between a fading friendship and a troubled home life, “V” feels as though everything is falling apart. As she weathers the stormy seas of her mother’s alcoholism and her father’s illness, she finds an anchor in the chaos: Jane, the spirited new girl in-town. Their friends-to-lovers romance takes V off guard, but she soon learns that if she wants to get closer to healing—and to Jane—she'll have to set aside her fears and dive straight in.

    When Love Comes to Town

    By Tom Lennon and James Klise

    Neil Byrne is a star rugby player, a class clown, and a closeted homosexual to his friends and family. When Love Comes to Town follows his coming-of-age journey throughout 1990s Ireland, as he experiences romance in all its different shades. Funny and heartbreaking, honest and uplifting, this novel is a match made in heaven for fans of Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower.

    When Love Comes to Town

    By Tom Lennon and James Klise

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    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

    By Benjamin Alire Saenez

    It’s the summer of 1987, and new friends Aristotle and Dante couldn’t be more different. While Aristotle is confident and self-assured about his sexuality, Dante is reserved and unsure of his place in the world. Together, they endure family hardships and personal crises, changing the course of each other’s lives and hearts. Ultimately, Aristotle and Dante will realize that bond they share goes much deeper than friendship—and that love should never be shameful. Grab a bucket, dear reader. You’ll need it for your tears.

    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

    By Benjamin Alire Saenez

    If I Was Your Girl

    By Meredith Russo

    A violent incident sends Amanda from her Atlanta home to her estranged father in Tennessee. Presented with this fresh start, she’s determined to keep her past hidden—namely that she, Amanda, was once a boy named Andrew. But a new romance sees Amanda’s walls begin to crumble, and she must decide if true love is worth revealing her true self...Whether you're a romance junkie or a newbie to the genre, this standout portrayal of the trans experience is an indispensable addition to everyone's personal library.

    If I Was Your Girl

    By Meredith Russo

    Her Name in the Sky

    By Kelly Quindlen

    For Hannah, the perfect senior year includes wild parties, joy rides, and lazy beach days—not falling in love with a girl. But as always, the heart wants what it wants, and it seems that Hannah’s heart yearns for Baker. Her Name in the Sky charts Hannah and Baker’s relationship as they grapple with their changing friendship, their families' conservative beliefs, and the powerful feelings they share.

    Her Name in the Sky

    By Kelly Quindlen

    A Boy Worth Knowing

    By Jennifer Cosgrove

    Nate has always been the odd boy out, and it’s little wonder: as a clairvoyant, he can see and talk to the dead. With only ghosts for company, Nate is unbearably lonely—until James moves to town and takes an immediate interest in him. Though their chemistry is off the charts, relationships are unfamiliar territory for Nate, and it'll take a few unusual guardians to get him to open himself to love...

    A Boy Worth Knowing

    By Jennifer Cosgrove

    Almost Like Being in Love

    By Steve Kluger

    Though Travis has settled comfortably into his adult life, he can’t stop thinking about his high school lover, Craig, from 20 years before. Determined to fill the Craig-shaped hole in his heart, he sets out on a cross-country voyage to win back the one that got away...Told through letters, journal entries, and more, Travis and Craig's decade-spanning romance is a reminder that sometimes our first loves deserve a second chance.

    Almost Like Being in Love

    By Steve Kluger

    Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

    By Becky Albertalli

    When Simon’s romantic emails to his pen pal, Blue, fall into the wrong hands, he’s prepared to do anything to keep their relationship a secret. To prevent the gossip from spreading—and potentially blindsiding his friends—Simon agrees to play matchmaker for his blackmailing classmate, Martin. But when things don't go according to plan, Simon must decide how far he'll go to protect someone he's never even met. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the adorable, sweeter-than-sugar romance you've been waiting for since David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy

    Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

    By Becky Albertalli

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    This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for A Love So True to continue publishing the swoon-worthy stories you love.

    Featured still from "I Can't Think Straight" (2008), via Enlightenment Productions

    • romance books
    • LGBTQ
    • coming of age
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