Let’s get gothic

Fall is here! Which seemingly doesn’t mean a ton when living by the beach in North Carolina, but the weather goes from ‘ugggh, it’s so hot’ to just ‘regular hot.’ Until it rains and then I remember, ‘right, the rain.’

Anyway, Halloween is coming soon! So it’s the perfect season for spooky stuff, including these gothic book lists.

Gothic Romance Books:

Best Gothic Novels:

Magical LGBTQ+ Novels for Young Adult Readers

We all wish for a little more magic in our lives sometimes. And while we can’t cast spells or shoot fire from our palms, we can turn to fiction. Here’s a list of books for LGBTQ+ YA fiction readers who love fantasy worlds, witches and wizards, and even some occasional raising of the dead.

This list is to celebrate the release of Instalove, my newest paranormal romance where magic exists. Basically, the book is about a guy who never received his Hogwarts letter. So I started with other books that include magic and wizards, then I expanded a bit to include other supernatural elements for fun.

Here’s seventeen books featuring queer young men, gay romance, and magic.


The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos

A magic-infused YA novel about friendship, first love, and feeling out of place that will bewitch fans of Rainbow Rowell and Maggie Stiefvater.

Living in a small town where magic is frowned upon, Sam needs his friends James and Delia—and their time together in their school’s magic club—to see him through to graduation.

But as soon as senior year starts, little cracks in their group begin to show. Sam may or may not be in love with James. Delia is growing more frustrated with their amateur magic club. And James reveals that he got mixed up with some sketchy magickers over the summer, putting a target on all their backs.

With so many fault lines threatening to derail his hopes for the year, Sam is forced to face the fact that the very love of magic that brought his group together is now tearing them apart—and there are some problems that no amount of magic can fix.


The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.

In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.

Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts 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 the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove he’s a brujo to his Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut.

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his cousin suddenly dies, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. 

However, the ghost he summons is not his cousin. It’s Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves.


White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton

Not all magicians go to schools of magic.

Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.

Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.

It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love.


The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglas

Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.

Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.


Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchinson

Jack Nevin’s clever trickery and moral flexibility make him the perfect assistant to the Enchantress, one of the most well-known stage magicians in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Europe. Without Jack’s steady supply of stolen tricks, the Enchantress’s fame would have burned out long ago.

But when Jack’s thievery catches up to them, they’re forced to flee to America to find their fortune. Luckily, the Enchantress is able to arrange a set of sold-out shows at Seattle’s Alaska–Yukon–Pacific World’s Fair Exposition. She’s convinced they’re going to rich and famous until a new magician arrives on the scene. Performing tricks that defy the imagination, Laszlo’s show overshadows the Enchantress, leaving Jack no choice but to hunt for the secrets to his otherworldly illusions. But what Jack uncovers isn’t at all what he expected.

Behind Laszlo’s tricks is Wilhelm—a boy that can seemingly perform real magic. Jack and Wilhelm have an instant connection, and as the rivalry between the Enchantress and Laszlo grows, so too does Jack and Wilhelm’s affection. But can Jack choose between the woman who gave him a life and the boy who is offering him everything?


Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

To use his magic is to risk his life.

Braden suffers from a powerful magical curse. The witch eyes allow him to see the memories of the world, to see forgotten emotions, buried memories, and to pierce through lies and deception. They make his magic unparalleled, but every use brings him closer to death.

But when a powerful vision of doom threatens his only family, Braden heads for the source of the vision, the town of Belle Dam where feuding families of witches have ruled for decades. Upon his arrival, he meets the enigmatic Trey, a gorgeous boy with motives of his own.

And by then it’s too late.

A dangerous secret puts the boys on opposite sides of the feud, and as more people realize the power that Braden is capable of, he becomes a pawn in a deadly game.

(My review of Witch Eyes is here.)


Winter Trials by K.S. Marsden

With Midwinter just around the corner, Mark’s Nanna decides that it is time he learnt more about his family heritage. Learning witchcraft shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

Balancing school, magic, and the distractions of the gorgeous new guy, should make this a very interesting winter.

(This book is free!)


The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myth and & Magic by F.T. Lukens

Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but its pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town. Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.


Lesser Known Monsters by Rory Michaelson

Being the chosen one isn’t always a good thing.

Oscar Tundale is useless, or at least that’s what he’s always thought. He and his friends are about to discover that not only are monsters real, but some of them are very interested in Oscar. Now, they must find out what the monsters want, before something terrible happens to London; or worse yet, the world.

Lesser Known Monsters is an own voices queer dark fantasy featuring diverse characters on a found family adventure. Perfect for fans of action and paranormal romance seeking LGBTQ+ heroes.


A Boy Worth Knowing by Jennifer Cosgrove

Ghosts can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Nate Shaw should know; he’s been talking to them since he was twelve. But they aren’t the only ones making his high school years a living hell. All Nate wants is to keep his secret and keep his head down until he can graduate. That is, until the new boy, James Powell, takes a seat next to him in homeroom. James not only notices him, he manages to work his way into Nate’s life. But James has issues of his own.

Between dead grandmothers and living aunts, Nate has to navigate the fact that he’s falling in love with his only friend, all while getting advice from the most unusual places.

Ghosts, bullies, first love: it’s a lot to deal with when you’re just trying to survive senior year.


The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.


Ghosting You by Alexander C. Eberhart

Tommy hears dead people. Okay, one dead person. His best friend, Chase. Since his death, Tommy can’t stop hearing his voice. They talk every day and Tommy even sends him texts, but it always ends the same. Message failed to send. Until one day, a stranger texts back.

Getting stuck in nowhere Georgia was not on Nick’s summer agenda, but a horoscope, a chance encounter, and a cute boy has things looking up. There’s just one problem, the boy hates him. When a broken phone leaves him with a new number, Nick is ready to write off the entire summer as a loss. But then he receives a strange text.

When Tommy and Nick’s worlds collide, the attraction is instant, but Tommy just can’t let Chase go. Can Nick use his status as Tommy’s anonymous stranger to break down his defenses or is Nick destined to live in a love triangle with a ghost?


The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).


He Came From Ice by Kody Boye

He was just supposed to be a hot hookup. Something sexy to take my mind off being poor, living in a run-down apartment, and kicked out of college due to some plagiarism I totally did not commit. Life was going downhill fast, and a hot, anonymous hookup with a guy by the handle IceFire would make my life suck a little less—or more, but in the right way.

Man, was I wrong.

Hot and charming, Guy Winters and his touches leave me breathless. One night turns into two. Then a date. Then more. Except his body is always cold. Our makeouts are almost too intense. And there’s something just not right. It takes a break-in and a murder in self-defense before I finally get it.

And the truth about Guy has me running for my life.


The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

What’s a boy to do—in Caleb Roehrig’s YA paranormal romance The Fell of Dark—when his crush is a hot vampire with a mystery to solve?

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town.

Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it.

An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.


Which books are your favorite? Are there any magical novels I’m missing? Let me know!

Trans books

Here’s a book list featuring trans and nonbinary characters from Buzzfeed. These novels span genres, though there’s a fair amount of YA and a link to last years post with all YA recommendations. In addition to 13 books, there’s also suggestions for titles like the ones chosen. Check it out!

“Celebrate Trans Day of Visibility with great trans lit from all categories and genres!”

Buzzfeed

Explore the World in YA LGBTQ books

Taking readers to new worlds is one of the pleasures of literature, but being transported to different lands from the comfort of one’s couch has become especially important in these times. Here’s a virtual travel guide of YA books that spans the globe. All you need is your imagination and a good book to immerse yourself in a new culture. I used the Buzzfeed list by Dahlia Adler to narrow the list down for those who want their globe trotting exploration to include queer characters.

Who: Adib Khorram

What: Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Where: Iran

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming—especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Key elements: mental health, coming of age, friendship, self confidence, bi POC, immigration, religion


Who: Agay Llanera

What: Another Word for Happy: A story about coming out

Where: Philippines

Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?

Key Elements: college, coming out, Filipino, art, religion


Who: Ciara Smyth

What: The Falling in Love Montage

Where: Ireland

Saoirse doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out. But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Key elements: romantic comedy, WLW, humor, dementia, best friends, angst


Who: Lucas Rocha

What: Where We Go From Here

Where: Brazil

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating.

Key elements: friendship, mental health, gay rights, Latnix, multiple POVs, toxic masculinity


Who: Emily O’ Beirne

What: Points of Departure

Where: Australia

Five girls, five tickets overseas. It’s exactly what they all need after the final slog of high school. But when Kit’s suddenly forced to drop out, Liza’s left with three girls she barely knows.

There’s Mai, committed only to partying. There’s Tam, who already has her doubts about leaving her sick father behind. And there’s Olivia, so miserable about screwing up exams she’s not even sure she wants to get out of bed, let alone on a plane. Meanwhile Kit’s stuck working double shifts to pay off a debt, wondering if she’ll ever get it together.

Key elements: road trip, friendship, multiple main characters, standalone, coming of age, WLW


Who: Adiba Jaigirdar

What: The Henna Wars

Where: Ireland


When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Key elements: rivals, Muslim characters, WLW, cultural appropriation, bi POC, sisterhood, enemies to lovers


Who: Vitor Martins

What: Here the Whole Time

Where: Brazil


What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Key elements: body issues, self esteem, Latnix, coming of age, sweet, pop culture


Who: Tochi Onyebuchi

What: War Girls

Where: Nigeria


Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Key elements: dystopia, war, WLW, fantasy, historical, adventure, family,


Who: Cecilia Vinesse

What: The Summer of Us

Where: Europe


American expat Aubrey has only two weeks left in Europe before she leaves for college, and she’s nowhere near ready. Good thing she and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last group trip across the continent. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible with their friends Clara, Jonah, and Gabe.

Key elements: road trip, summer, adventure, coming of age, standalone, WLW


Who: Elizabeth Acevedo

What: Clap When You Land

Where: Dominican Republic

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Key elements: poetry, grief, family, Latinix, WLW, historical, immigration


Who: Sabina Khan

What: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Where: Bangladesh

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart.

Key elements: WLW, arranged marriage, abuse, standalone, social issues, emotional


Who: Randy Ribay

What: Patron Saints of Nothing

Where: Phillipines


Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Key elements: some LGBT representation, politics, Filipino characters, death, drugs, mystery


Who: Cindy Pon

What: Want

Where: Taiwan


Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

Key elements: queer supporting characters, cyberpunk, dystopia, sci-fi, action

10 YA Novels About Being Gay in a Small Town

Some people appreciate the simple things in life, like a rustic locale where everybody knows their neighbors. At least, some people enjoy reading about a quiet country life while still having Chipotle and Target only a short drive away. And while small town life seems peaceful and idyllic, these places aren’t always paradise for those who are different, which leads to the inherent drama of trying to figure out oneself while afraid everyone else won’t understand.

These LGBT books include finding yourself and falling in love in unlikely places. Here’s 10 books about coming of age and gay romance in a small town setting.

About: A crush on his best friend is only the start of his problems when Tretch realizes how much of himself he’s keeping separate from those closest to him.

From the Official Description: When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.
Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend.

Featuring: coming of age, friendship, family, self expression, dance, identity issues


About: A typical jock decides to change his life and seeks help from the coolest, most authentic guy he knows, a guy who happens to be an openly gay artist. But it’s not like his sexuality matters… or does it? My review is here.

From the Official Description: In the small town of Spring Valley, molds weren’t made to be broken, and high school senior Jay Hall’s been living comfortably in his popular jock one since adolescence. If it weren’t for the colorful, outspoken artistic anomaly Brighton Bello-Adler, he might have been willing to remain there. Unnaturally drawn to Brighton, Jay knows he needs something from him, but is he ready to find out what that something is?

Featuring: coming of age, transformation, adventure, road trip, loneliness, slow-burn, developing relationship


About: Sky’s plan to be himself and get the guy of his dreams might be derailed by a homophobic hacker.

From the Official Description: Determined not to let anything ruin his senior year, Sky decides to make a splash at his high school’s annual beach bum party… What better way to start living loud and proud than by pulling off the gayest promposal Rock Ledge, Michigan, has ever seen?

Featuring: coming of age, transformation, adventure, road trip, loneliness, slow-burn, developing relationship


About: A proud openly gay guy and a football star have a rocky past but must work together for a common goal. Maybe they fall in love along the way?

From the Official Description: Boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.

Featuring: humor, unlikely allies, controversial, southern setting, bisexuality, family dynamics


About: Three queer boys growing up in a world where masculinity is everything and homosexuality might as well not exist.

From the Official Description: Charlie is a hardcore rocker, who’s not as tough as he looks. Hammer is a footy jock with big AFL dreams, and an even bigger ego. Zeke is a shy over-achiever, never macho enough for his family. But all three boys hide who they really are. When the truth is revealed, will it set them free or blow them apart?

Featuring: multiple main characters, Australia, serious topics, gender norms, religion, mental health


About: Zeph dreams of openly dating his ultra-closeted boyfriend when a mysterious new guy enters his life fresh from boarding school.

From the Official Description: Is it possible to have it all—even for a boy from a dying town of old cranberry bogs? Even for the son of religious zealots who will never accept his being gay?
Zeph hopes so, because he isn’t giving up on his happily ever after.

Featuring: secrets, hidden relationship, love triangle, relationship drama, HEA


About: The new boy in town falls for the popular jock who, of course, seems as straight as they come.

From the Official Description: Fairmont Boys is a coming-of-age story about friendship and the kind of love that is found in the most unlikely places.

Featuring: Sports, opposites attract, time jumps, YA&NA, series


About: Life keeps getting worse for a teen struggling with troubles no one should have to confront alone, until a new face seems to turn everything around.

From the Official Description: A breath of fresh air has blown through Emmett’s life. Not only does Noah’s mixed-race parentage make him unlike the other rich kids in town, he’s also openly gay and interested in Emmett, despite all the barriers Emmett has erected to keep prying eyes out of his life.

Featuring: coming of age, transformation, adventure, road trip, loneliness, slow-burn, developing relationship


About: A tragedy makes a flawed and complicated individual reevaluate everything.

From the Official Description: Starting with the death of someone he loves, Riley’s world beings to fall apart. As he tries to keep his head above water, he’s faced with a choice… be the Riley everyone believes him to be or he can search within himself and the hearts of those who care about him to find out who he really is and who he will someday become.

Featuring: Bisexuality, closeted, family issues, angst, bullying, growing up


About: A bigoted boy takes rash action when an openly gay couple moves in nearby. But he may have more in common with them than he thinks.

From the Official Description: In the small town of Spring Valley, molds weren’t made to be broken, and high school senior Jay Hall’s been living comfortably in his popular jock one since adolescence. If it weren’t for the colorful, outspoken artistic anomaly Brighton Bello-Adler, he might have been willing to remain there. Unnaturally drawn to Brighton, Jay knows he needs something from him, but is he ready to find out what that something is?

Featuring: friends to lovers, coming of age, coming out, inner demons, bisexuality, religion

Best Summer Romance Novels Featuring Gay Characters

Whether relaxing by the beach with a good book or just dreaming of the perfect vacation, there’s a lot of books that capture the magic of summer. Summer means driving with the windows down, splashing around in the surf, staying up late, and getting up to no good. The teens in YA novels have less responsibilities and more freedom when off from school and it feels like anything could happen.

Here’s the best summer romance books in YA gay fiction.

Caught Inside– Jamie Deacon

Luke believes he has his life figured out…and then he meets Theo.

It should have been simple – a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family’s holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn’t interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.

Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara’s cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.

Writing Style: First person, one POV. Descriptive. 247 pages.
Topics and Tropes: sports, surfing, identity crisis, love triangle
For those who enjoy: introspective pieces, sweet love stories, developing relationships

What Readers Think:

Even if you’re not a fan of coming-of-age stories, athletes as main characters, or homosexual pairings, I urge you to give “Caught Inside” a try. The struggle to find love and acceptance is one we’ve all faced, regardless of gender, sexual preference, age, or ethnicity.

NfRtB, Amazon Review

Something Like Summer (Volume 1) – Jay Bell

Love, like everything in the universe, cannot be destroyed. But over time it can change.

The hot Texas nights were lonely for Ben before his heart began beating to the rhythm of two words; Tim Wyman. By all appearances, Tim had the perfect body and ideal life, but when a not-so-accidental collision brings them together, Ben discovers that the truth is rarely so simple. If winning Tim’s heart was an impossible quest, keeping it would prove even harder as family, society, and emotion threaten to tear them apart.

Something Like Summer is a love story spanning a decade and beyond as two boys discover what it means to be friends, lovers, and sometimes even enemies.

Book 1 in the Something Like Series

Writing Style: Third person, one POV. Descriptive prose. 293 pages.
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, life in the 90’s, love and life
For those who enjoy: humor, steamy scenes, stories that span the years, books with their own movies

What Readers Think:

Wow! I was immediately hooked! The story of Ben and Tim is very moving, full of strong and emotional moments. I felt (and still feel) that Tim and Ben are real people and have been lucky to have a glimpse of their live and love story. And I still cannot decide which one I prefer!

PIERREAmazon Review

The Vast Fields of Ordinary – Nick Burd

It’s Dade’s last summer at home, and things are pretty hopeless. He has a crappy job, a “boyfriend” who treats him like dirt, and his parents’ marriage is falling apart. So when he meets and falls in love with the mysterious Alex Kincaid, Dade feels like he’s finally experiencing true happiness.

But when a tragedy shatters the final days of summer, he realizes he must face his future and learn how to move forward from his past.

Writing Style: First person, one POV. Sharp, realistic. 332 pages.
Topics and Tropes: Small town setting, closeted jock, bad boy. Deals with issues like suicide, divorce, drugs, crime.
For those who enjoy: angst, coming of age stories, evocative writing.

What Readers Think:

It’s a “Catcher in the Rye” for the Millennial Generation. Burd can be effortlessly poetic when he wants, but he also knows when to just say less and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. More than anything, this is a dreamy meditation on growing up, coming of age, and falling in love. Burd is a helluva writer and this is a hellaciously good novel.

, Amazon Review

 That Feeling When: LGBT+ Summer Camp Romance – S.M. James

Dance Academy reject, Archie Corrigan, resents the stereotype guy ballet dancers are gay. Because he isn’t. At all. Forced to reassess his life goal at Camp Crystal Cove, it’s by sheer dumb luck he meets Landon Summers, who turns everything Archie was sure of into chaos.

Poor boy turned teen heartthrob, Landon Summers, is the name on everyone’s lips. With his unexpected leap to fame, his agent advises him to keep his bi status on the down low. Not a problem! Until Landon meets Archie.

Their unexpected friendship leads to an inevitable kiss, but their moment is caught in high definition and used as fuel for blackmail. If the truth gets out, Landon’s career could be over, and Archie will be forced to acknowledge the one thing he’s fought to deny.

But how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?

 Publication Date: Sept 16. 343 pages.
Topics and Tropes: summer camp, stereotypes, fame, blackmail, bi main character
For those who enjoy: humor, banter, flirting and developing relationships, good supporting characters

What Readers Think:

This was such a cute story. It’s the kind of book that definitely gives you all the feels. At it’s heart, it’s about two young men who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. The fact that it’s a love story is a complete bonus.

Shereads, Amazon Review

My Summer of Wes – Missy Welsh

Malcolm Small has lived a sheltered life with parents who don’t seem to care about him. Now, during the summer between high school graduation and going away to college, Mal wants to take control of his life and make some improvements…starting with making a new friend.

Wes, the boy across the street, quickly becomes both friend and a sort of mentor to Mal. With Wes’s patient guidance and example, Mal’s breaking free of his life-long shy shell and taking chances.

Mal is also feeling free enough to start listening to the tiny voice inside him that whispers his attraction to Wes. After years of denying it, could Mal be gay after all?

Self-acceptance comes easy for Mal with Wes by his side. What about telling Mal’s parents? What about being out at college? Mal’s about to undergo some very challenging times as he grows up fast and must decide what he’ll stand for and against.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, strong voice. 260 pages.
Topics and Tropes: coming out, friends to lovers, opposites attract, anxiety and panic attacks, new beginnings
For those who enjoy: coming of age stories, love stories with light angst, some steamy scenes, new adult stories

What Readers Think:

While some of the main events were predictable, the way the story was told was all of fun, sweet, moving, funny, occasionally teary. Missy has a clever turn of phrase which is delightful!

, Amazon Review

Things I’ll Never Say – M.J. O’shea

Sam’s best friend in the world is ditching him; moving out of state to go to college and leaving him behind. It hurts like hell but he doesn’t know how to tell Ryan that he needs him to stay without saying too much. Like maybe that he might want to be a lot more than just friends…

Ryan has to get out. He’s been in love with Sam for so many years he’s afraid if he doesn’t leave that he’ll spend his whole life alone in love with someone he can never have…but of course Ryan can’t tell his oldest and best friend that he’s in love with him. It would ruin the most important thing in his life.

Before it’s too late, they have to find the courage to tell each other the truth about how they feel…to finally say those things they’ve kept to themselves for far too long.

Writing Style: Third person, two POV. 69 pages.
Topics and Tropes: best friends to lovers, surfing, misunderstandings, unrequited love
For those who enjoy: short stories, angst with a happy ending, new adult

What Readers Think:

I loved this story! If your a sucker for a good romance then this is for you. It may be a little predictable, but our hearts tend to go in that direction in these stories anyway. They both love each other but they don’t dare tell each other for fear of losing their friendship. A great read that wont disappoint. 🙂

Tammy Roos, Amazon Review

Kicked Out of Surf Dudes for Jesus – Elizabeth M. Gooden

Can a boy-boy romance bloom among the disapprovers? Paul Wu, age 15, has been crushing on Trevor Harris, the good church boy, for two years. Now he suspects Trevor likes him back. Maybe it’s time for Paul to reveal his feelings, but how? He can’t just say, “Dude, I think about you all the time,” or can he?

Trevor, meanwhile, has been saying prayers to confess his sin of lust for Paul, but maybe it’s time to confess he is gay and give up trying to change the fact.

On a surf trip to Mexico sponsored by a church that condemns homosexuality, the pressure builds as the boys sit close to each other at the campfire.

Sequel Story: Epic Triumphs of Gay Ninja Surfers over Systemic Religious Oppression

Writing Style: First person, two POV. Strong voices.  209 pages.
Topics and Tropes: surfing, religion, young love, Asian main character, alcoholism,
For those who enjoy: found families, the innocence of first love, light hearted yet serious reads

What Readers Think:

 It really delves into the inner workings of a couple of kids wrestling with the dynamic tension of spirituality, religion, family, and other deep themes, but does so in the voice of its teen protagonists.  This book avoids the typical tropes of YA literature and gay romances by maintaining true heart and a sense of romantic innocence, while also being grounded in the reality so many teens face.

R Rhoads, Amazon Review

At the Lake – Geoff Laughton

Shane Martinelli and William Houghton come from very different backgrounds. They meet at a high-end summer camp in the Adirondacks, where Shane works as a lifeguard to earn some money and begin saving for college. William is one of the guests, and he doesn’t want to be there. As far as William knows, his father only dumped him at the camp so he could spend time with his latest mistress. When Shane figures out William can’t swim, he offers to teach him.

William enthusiastically responds, but when an unexpected storm blows in, William is caught in the water and Shane comes to his rescue. They barely reach shore before lightning strikes the dock—close enough to damage Shane’s hearing.
The following summer both boys return to the camp. Shane doesn’t let his use of hearing aids stand in his way. William is now a counselor-in-training. The attraction between them is undeniable, but how can they possibly make it work? Once camp is over, a week at William’s family home in the Hamptons will determine if the love that bloomed at the lake can survive in the real world.

Writing Style: Third person, one POV. Descriptive, thoughtful. 247 pages.
Topics and Tropes: summer camp, age difference, rich/poor dynamic, growing up, MC with a disability
For those who enjoy: slow build, emotional connections, character studies and character driven stories, a few pleasant surprises

What Readers Think:

If you like young adult romances that center around dealing with who you really are, if you want to know what it’s like for two young gay men to figure out their place in the world and what they want to do with their lives, and if you’re looking for a sweet read with a lot of tenderness and some very loving moments, then you will probably enjoy this novel

Serena Yates , Goodreads Review

 Just a Dumb Surfer Dude – Chase Connor

Cooper is a genius. At least that’s what everyone else keeps saying, even if he doesn’t like it. But that’s not his biggest problem. Being gay while attending Dextrus Academy, an all-boys prep school, and only having one other gay friend, life can be…difficult.

Cooper wants to stay true to himself, and being a hormonal gay teen makes that difficult at times. So far, he’s managed to navigate being a good son, a good student, a best friend, and not lose himself in the process.

But when Logan, a hot surfer dude, transfers to Dextrus Academy, is it possible that Cooper will lose himself for a chance at true happiness?

Writing Style: First person, one POV. lighthearted, 141 pages.
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, coming of age, academics, literature
For those who enjoy: romantic comedies, friendship and familial story lines, shaking up the status quo

What Readers Think:

 This an entirely SFW teen romance very much in the vein of the recent film “Love, Simon”. A very promising author I will continue to follow.

DeeGee, Amazon Review

Fourteen Summers – Quinn Anderson

Identical twins Aiden and Max Kingsman have been a matched set their whole lives. When they were children, Aiden was happy to follow his extroverted brother’s lead, but now that they’re in college, being “my brother, Aiden” is starting to get old. He’s itching to discover who he is outside of his “twin” identity.

Oliver’s goals for the summer are simple: survive his invasive family, keep his divorced parents from killing each other, and stay in shape for rowing season. He’s thrilled when he runs into his old friends, the Kingsman twins, especially Aiden, the object of a childhood crush. Aiden is all grown-up, but some things have stayed the same: his messy curls, his stability, and how breathless he makes Oliver. Oliver’s crush comes back full force, and the feeling is mutual. Summer just got a whole lot hotter.

Fun-loving Max takes one thing seriously: his role as “big brother.” When Aiden drifts away, Max can’t understand how his own twin could choose a boy over him. Summer won’t last forever, and with friendship, family, and happily ever after on the line, they’ll have to navigate their changing relationships before it’s too late.

Writing Style: Third person, Three POV. New Adult. 226 pages.
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, second chance at love, childhood crushes, family drama, first times
For those who enjoy: strong romance and supporting relationships, sweet yet substantial stories, fleshed out characters

What Readers Think:

I love LGBT romance that includes family dynamic. It enriches the whole story and reading experience. It hits home. This story was so moving that I encourage people to experience and enjoy it. It is an excellent romance novel.

keanharv, Amazon Review

Wanting – Piper Vaughn

Jonah Beckett has been in love with his older brother’s best friend, George “Laurie” DeWitt, since he was thirteen-years-old. When his boyfriend, Dirk, breaks up with him for refusing to put out, Jonah uses his heartbreak over the situation as an excuse to ask Laurie to teach him all about sex before he starts college in the fall. Problem is, he made Dirk up, and Jonah has no idea what will happen when Laurie finally finds out the truth.

Writing Style: Third person, one POV. 54 pages.
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, best friend’s brother, longtime crush, scheming
For those who enjoy: fun short stories, sweet and sexy romances, new adult

Book One in the Wanting Series

What Readers Think:

A truly heartwarming, sweet, romantic story. This would be the perfect read while sitting at the edge of the lake one afternoon during the summer. It’s one of those books that works in that setting and just leaves you with a feeling of peace and happiness.

Smitten with Reading, Amazon Review

Have you read any of these titles yet? Are there any more stories like these I should check out? Let me know!

For more summer romance books featuring queer love stories, you can also check out work by me, Finn Manning.

 

Best Bad Boy Books in Gay YA Fiction

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With devil may care attitudes and rugged good looks, it’s easy to fall for the bad boys even when you shouldn’t. The bad boys in these stories shake up the status quo, cause trouble, and may break a few hearts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find true love in the end.

Why are bad boys so irresistible? I don’t know, but here’s ten books about rebels, punks, jerks with hearts of gold, and dangerous, brooding bad boys.

(And I’ve also been expanding this list on my Pinterest account, so check it out too!)

GUYLINER – J. LEIGH BAILEY

515tfc3kg5lSeventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.

As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.

Writing Style: Third person, character driven, two POVs. 273 pages
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, sports, conformity, friendship to romance

For those who enjoy: bi characters, coming of age stories, sweet romances

Guyliner has it all — a great story, told well with three dimensional characters and settings. And the writing and pacing, the glue that keeps it moving, is fantastic.

Short version: A great read beginning to end. ENJOY!

JD Hood, Amazon Review

OUTSHINE THE STARS – NASH SUMMERS

51esvudlkkl-_sy346_Justin is hell on legs. He’s a self-proclaimed brat, a manipulator, and has a bit of a flare for the dramatic. While Justin might look like the picture of innocence, he leaves a path of terror wherever he goes.

His senior year starts off like all the others, him and his best friend sticking their noses up at everyone else while they bask in their own glory. But when a handsome new student catches Justin’s eye, he recruits the likes of a smart-mouthed kid named Connor to help him in his mission to capture the heart of the attractive newcomer. When Justin is finally forced to face himself and the truth behind his self¬centered universe, it feels like the sky comes crashing down

Writing Style: Third person, one POV, prose, 44 pages
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, growing up, tragic backstories

For those who enjoy: funny dialogue, short stories, easy reads that also pack a punch

Lulls you into a sense of knowing the quirky characters then surprises you with unexpected depth. Great descriptions. Lovable folks.

Deborah Albee, Amazon Review

REASONS TO LOVE A NERD LIKE ME– BECKY JERAMS
Love Stories Book One

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Scotty Williams is the nerdiest 17-year-old at Havensdale College – and proud of it. However being a nerd can have its downsides, particularly when you’re constantly being targeted by the school bully Taylor Raven and his cronies.

As Scotty tries to navigate his final college years with the aid of his best friend Olive, he also finds himself on the radar of the mysterious and intimidating Vincent Hunter, toughest guy in the Sixth Form. Is Vincent really as bad as he seems? Will Scotty’s darkest secret ever be revealed? Can he ever just finish his last few college years in peace? But most importantly… will any guy ever find the reasons to love a nerd like him?

Writing Style: First Person, one perspective, fast paced, plot driven. 417 pages
Topics and Tropes: nerd/punk dynamic, high school drama, bullying
For those who enjoy: humor, great romantic relationship and friendships, heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories

What Readers Think:

I was slightly wary of this book, because the summary looks a bit predictable. However, I was mostly wrong! There were parts of this book that I could not stop reading. I also love LGBT representation in all forms, and I think Jerams does a good job of showing both sides of acceptance. The plot is definitely more complex than I expected, with twists and turns at every corner, and of course the romance is extremely sweet. Though sometimes the dialogue is a bit cheesy and unnatural, this novel definitely is enjoyable, entertaining, and meaningful.

Rebecca, Goodreads Review

THE RED SHEET– MIA KERICK

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One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, realistic yet whimsical, 190 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/nerd dynamic, personal growth, bullying, amnesia

For Those Who Enjoy:  humor and unique storytelling

What Readers Think:

Kerick makes great use of chapter length, the majority of them being rather quick so that I got so invovled in the rhythm of the story that I had to keep reading to see what Bryan would do next… This story not only offers a lot of humor but some very relatable issues that speaks to teenagers… a definite recommendation for all people who have bullied others, experienced bullying, or who just want a good read.

Kwriter07, Amazon Review

LAST OF THE SUMMER TOMATOES– SHERRIE HENRY

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Kyle Jackowski, typical sullen emo teen, struggles to find a way to deal with his sexuality and finds himself in trouble with the law… again. But instead of being sent to a juvenile detention center like he expected, he is given a chance to commute his sentence by working on a farm for the summer.

Enter Sam, son of the farm owners, who shows Kyle what he feels is perfectly normal and that he doesn’t have to hide from his feelings. In turn, Sam’s parents show Kyle that his abusive stepfather and battered mother are not the norm. With their love and support, Kyle finds his place in the world—by Sam’s side.

Writing Style: Third person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes:  city boy and country boy, redemption, insecurities and acceptance,

For those who enjoy:  hopeful or serious stories, cute love stories

What Readers Think:

I LOVED Sam’s parents, omg they were the best. I had to keep taking off my glasses to wipe the tears away, Kyle was so starved for love and Sam’s parents had plenty of love to give. What can I say about Sam? Not surprising that he was a great guy, with the greatest parents he had no choice but to be the sweetest and the most patient guy with Kyle. I loved hearing about their farm life and omg I wanted to taste all the food that was talked about.

TRUST ME– JEFF ERNO

Shawn Graham and Bobby Wilder couldn’t be more different. Shawn is a devout Christian fundamentalist from northern Michigan; Bobby is a street-smart latchkey kid from southern Ohio. From an early age, they are both confused and troubled by their attraction to the same sex. Shawn believes that homosexuality is sinful, and a traumatic incident of childhood sexual abuse adds to his guilt and shame. Bobby has an image to maintain and flatly denies the possibility that his same-sex attractions even exist. He’s just too cool to be gay.

When they finally connect, their preconceptions are suddenly dwarfed by what they feel for each other. They become inseparable and fall deeply in love; however, love doesn’t make life easy. Plans are in motion that will surely devastate the young couple. Painful experiences of the past overshadow happy memories, and heartbreaking obstacles loom over the possibility of a future. If Shawn and Bobby want to stay together, they will have to fight with everything they have.

Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV. 366 pages
Topics and Tropes: 1980s setting, self identity struggles, balancing religion and sexuality (warning for rape/sexual abuse towards children)
For those who enjoy: tear-jerkers, steamy scenes

What Readers Think:

A story where emotions and personal relevance definitely overrode my reactions to the writing. Coming-of-age story tackles a lot in its pages and does a good job at presenting a balanced view showing ugliness as well as beauty – Bobby and his teenage “bad boy” ways, Shawn’s struggle with his identity in the face of his religious convictions…

Lil’ Grogan, Goodreads Review

GO YOUR OWN WAY– ZANE RILEY
Go Your Own Way #1

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Will Osborne couldn’t wait to put the roller coaster ride of his public education behind him. Having suffered bullying and harassment since grade school, he planned a senior year that would be simple and quiet before going away to college and starting fresh. But when a reform school transfer student struts into his first class, Will realizes that the thrill ride has only just begun.

Lennox McAvoy is an avalanche. He’s crude, flirtatious, and the most insufferable, beautiful person Will’s ever met. From his ankle monitor to his dull smile, Lennox appears irredeemable.
But when Will’s father falls seriously ill, Will discovers that there is more to Lennox than meets the eye.

Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV, simplistic. 326 pages
Topics and Tropes: Love/hate relationship, abuse, biracial character
For those who enjoy: angst, sexual tension, character driven stories

What Readers Think:

Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It takes the wrong side of the tracks trope and knocks it around. Lennox is a fascinating boy and it’s painful to watch him make bad choice after bad choice.. As he starts to open himself up to Will in the tiniest of little pieces, you start to hope for Lennox… The characters in this novel are vividly drawn. I find myself attached to all of them. This was a beautiful start to their journey.

Ritz Bitz, Amazon Review

WES AND TOREN– J.M. COLAIL

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It’s not so easy being young, gay, and in love for the first time at the average high school. Senior Toren Grey cares more about his family and his grades than what brand of clothes he wears. He agrees with the majority consensus that he’s a nerd. So he’s quite surprised when resident bad boy Wesley Carroll speaks to him in the hall, stirring feelings that Toren has to hide.
Disconcerted by Wes’s free and easy ways, Toren can’t deny the attraction between them. As he relaxes and gets to know Wes better, he finds there’s more to the sexy rebel than his public image. Before long the young men are exploring new territory and falling in love, but life just isn’t that simple. After they graduate, obstacles block their relationship at every turn: Wes working versus Toren in college, the virulent disapproval of parents, and everyday trials faced by any struggling young couple. Wes and Toren have to believe in each other… and never doubt that their love can conquer all.

Writing Style: First person, one POV, relationship driven. 304 pages
Topics and Tropes: coming of age, nerd/bad boy dynamic, high school to college storyline
For those who enjoy: sweet love stories, steamy scenes, light angst

What Readers Think:

This is the ultimate comfort read for me. It’s just a sweet story. It’s long and it’s relaxed like someone taking a leisurely walk through a park on a spring day. There was a natural progression to Wes and Toren’s relationship. There was no insta-love and they don’t have sex two minutes after they meet.

Laddie, Goodreads Review

HEARTLESS– J. ROMAN
Keeping Secrets: Book One

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For gay teens in the South, Erwin High School is as good as it gets. The prevailing liberalism means being gay doesn’t have to be the focus of your life—which frees up seventeen-year-old Jason Strummer to take on the role of bully. Jason understands his beauty and power and has a reputation to match his attitude. No one but his best friend suspects the cruelty Jason hides behind is a ruse to keep his hellish private life out of the public eye.

Jason has only loved one boy in his life, and that crush on Tommy Johnson ended so badly that they’re no longer on speaking terms. When an ex-lover threatens Jason and Tommy steps in to help, the heartless playboy can’t help but fall a little bit back in love with him—but Jason will have to choose between keeping Tommy or his secrets.

Writing Style: First person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes: second chance at love, personas and masks, enemies to lovers

For those who enjoy: an atypical main character, thoughtful portrayal of difficult subjects, rocky love stories

I felt like I actually was inside a teenage boy’s head… I really enjoyed the story. Even though Jason isn’t exactly an endearing character, I felt compassion for him and am looking forward to the next installment where I hope he’ll find happiness and soften up a bit.

Madison Parker, Goodreads Review

Which of these are your favorites? Are there any other books featuring bad boys I should check out? Let me know!

10 Amazing Contemporary Gay YA Romances

The best love stories are unexpected, which may be why there’s so many great YA contemporary LGBTQ stories. The protagonists aren’t looking for romance, they’re just trying to get through high school when a potential Mr. Right appears. Between coming out, falling for the last person they’d expect and high school drama, it’s easy to become engrossed in these captivating books for teens. These gay YA romances will hook you and have you rooting for a happy ending.

Autoboyography – Christina Lauren
416 pages

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Riding with Brighton – Haven Francis
220 pages

Yesterday, Jay was convinced his life was damaged beyond repair.
Yesterday, Brighton was sure his life was perfect.
Then today happened.

Realizing he’s wasted his life in the meaningless pursuit of popularity and athleticism, Jay Hall knows he has nothing in common with alternative, free-thinking artist Brighton Bello-Adler. But he’s determined to change that.

Brighton’s managed to fill his life with an eclectic mix of people and interests that keep him satisfied. As the only gay guy in his small town, the one thing that’s missing is a man, but Jay’s not gay, so Brighton’s not sure what he’ll gain by letting him into his life. Still, he’s willing to find out.

Heading off on an impromptu road trip, the boys chart a course connecting their worlds, and along the way discover pieces of themselves they didn’t know were missing. As the sun rises on a new day, Jay and Brighton know their lives have changed. Now they just have to figure out how to live in them.

In a fresh and clever romance that turns stereotypes upside down, the journey to coming out and coming of age is full of challenges and surprises, but ultimately, acceptance and love.

Fjord Blue – Nina Rossing
256 pages

After a year of partying, getting into fights, and finally crashing his father’s vintage Bonneville in a car chase, seventeen-year-old Benjamin has pushed his parents to their limit. It’s not like he can tell them why he’s so angry at life, or that he’ll do anything to distract himself from the lust he feels toward his best friend’s sexy cousin, Dino. He can’t even protest when he’s sent away from Miami to spend the summer working on his grandparents’ farm in the desolate fjords of Western Norway.

The farm is isolated and old-fashioned, and so are Ben’s religious grandparents. It’s cold and wet, and Ben is miserable and restless. Relief comes in the form of Even, the eighteen-year-old blond Viking farmhand who offers Ben friendship and a new outlook on his situation. But Even is hiding issues of his own.

Ben’s grandparents want him to inherit the farm, but the only thing keeping Ben there is his desire to know Even better. As the feelings between the two young men grow, things kept hidden are slowly revealed—for good and ill—and they must turn to unlikely places for encouragement.

Under the Stars – Geoff Laughton
180 pages

Ethan Tanner is an out and proud, fastidious, and fashionable sixteen-year-old vegetarian who likes theater and musicals. This year, it’s his sister’s turn to pick the vacation destination, so he ends up on a dude ranch he knows he is going to hate. What with the dirt, animals, and germs, he can’t possibly be happy.

Jason McCoy is the closeted sixteen-year-old son of the ranch owners and is trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit him. He takes an interest in Ethan, shows him around, and gets him to ride a horse. When he invites Ethan camping, Ethan thinks Jason must be joking. But Ethan takes a risk, and the two boys bond under the stars.

After that, Ethan and Jason are inseparable. Their friendship grows into something deeper as they begin to figure out what they want from life. But Ethan’s home is in Chicago, and the distance might be more than the two teenagers—and their blossoming relationship—can withstand.

Loving Lakyn – Charlotte Reagan
209 pages

Lakyn James is sixteen years old and hating every second of it. He was supposed to be done, he’d tapped out. End of story, unsubscribe here. Suicide “attempt”, they said. His intentions had no “attempt” in them.

Re-entering normal life after ‘trying’ to take his own is weird. Especially when the world keeps going like it never happened. He still has to eat breakfast, go to school, and somehow convince a cute boy that he’s too damaged to date.

Scott White comes with his own problems, namely a habit of drinking too much and being indecisive about rather he wants in the closet, or out of it. Lakyn can’t stand him; he also can’t help smiling when Scott’s around.

Unfortunately – or fortunately – for Lakyn, life has decided to give him a second chance. He’s not happy about it, but maybe, with a lot of hard work and a good therapist, he can learn to be. And maybe he can hold Scott’s hand at the same time.

No promises though.

This book contains sensitive triggers so know your limits. Full list of triggers can be found here: http://charlotte-reagan.com/triggersll/

Collide – J.R. Lenk
290 pages

Being bisexual is cool now—unless you’re a boy. Or so it seems to invisible fifteen-year-old Hazard James. But when he falls in with bad apple Jesse Wesley, Hazard is suddenly shoved into the spotlight. Jesse and his friends introduce him to the underworld of teenage life: house parties, hangovers, the advantages of empty homes, and reputation by association. So what if his old friends don’t get it? So what if some people love to hate him? Screw gossip and high school’s secret rules. There’s just something about walking into a room and having all eyes on him when just last year nobody noticed him at all.

For a while Hazard basks in the attention, and before he realizes the depth of the waters he’s wading, he and Jesse strike up a “friends with benefits” routine. It could be something more, but what self-respecting teenage boy would admit it? Not Jesse—and so not Hazard, either. Not until it’s too late. Hazard and Jesse have collided, and Hazard’s life will never be the same.

Play Me I’m Yours – Madison Parker
238 Pages

Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Lu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and now he doesn’t know which is worse. His one comfort in life is his music; he feels unloved by everyone. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.

Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.

The Biggest Scoop – Gillian St. Kevern
233 pages

Everything is going wrong for Milo Markopoulos. The future of the school newsletter is in jeopardy, he doesn’t have a single friend among his junior classmates, and his film script has been rejected again. Worse, he has only one day to find a story that will satisfy the school newspaper editor, Candice. Enter transfer student, Taylor. Good looking, responsible, and possessed of a mysterious something that has him turning heads on his first day of school, Taylor is the story Milo is looking for—too bad Taylor has plans for a quiet high school experience.

Despite their many differences of opinion, Milo finds himself developing a close journalistic relationship with the future class president. But Taylor’s success might put an end to their burgeoning friendship. What will happen when Taylor is no longer Milo’s story? How far will Milo go to save the newspaper?

Been Here All Along: He’s in Love with the Boy Next Door – Sandy Hall
242 pages

Gideon always has a plan. It includes running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. It does NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend, Kyle. It’s a distraction, it’s pointless—Kyle is already dating the head cheerleader, Ruby—and Gideon doesn’t know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. So when both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong.

Sandy Hall, the author of A Little Something Different, is back with her signature wit in this quirky and heartfelt LGBT YA novel.

Sweaters & Cigarettes – Mika Fox
488 pages

Theo can’t stop looking at Max. With those black clothes and piercings, and that sarcastic charm that’s enough to intimidate pretty much anyone, he’s not exactly what you would call ordinary. Especially not when Theo is as ordinary as it gets, for a high schooler, along with all the insecurity and awkwardness that comes with it.

Basically, Max is everything Theo is not, but no matter how hard Theo tries, he can’t get him off his mind. He’s honestly crushing on him so hard, that it’s not even funny.

Theo has never spoken to Max, has even tried to hate him, but when their paths actually cross, their first conversation takes a surprising turn. And before long, they both find themselves falling harder and faster than they ever could have anticipated.

‘Sweaters & Cigarettes’ is a story about first love, first times, and all the sweet thrills that go along with it.

These are some of my personal favorite stories featuring gay high school romances, and I read anything and everything, so there’s some versatility in terms of style and content. However, there’s still some tropes I can’t seem to get enough of like opposites who attract, bad boys and falling in love with someone you shouldn’t. Have you read any of these books? Which are you favorites?