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

Bye bi Zach (lolz)

Once upon a time, Luke Chambers went on a confusing sexuality journey. I can be more specific than that. Once upon One Little Lie, Luke Chambers went on a confusing sexuality journey.

I really enjoyed writing this storyline, so there’s a lot of it, which is why some of it isn’t in the book. There needs to be more about being bi in books, says the bi person, and also, I love Zach, so that’s probably why I liked coming up with this stuff.

Here’s some info about this scene: See Zach. See Zach be bi. Bye Zach bye.

Now here’s some info that includes, um, actual info. Due to shenanigans, Luke told his parents he’s dating a girl while he’s really dating a boy and all he knows is that he likes a boy, he just doesn’t know what means in terms of who and what he is.

His BFF Zach is bi, and Luke often ropes him into his gay freakouts.

As you maybe haven’t read the larger story this is part of, I should probably note that these are a character’s thoughts. This doesn’t make them right. In fact, a lot of them are wrong. That’s the fun thing about first person POV, you get to see the thought process from beginning to end.

~

ball

Luke

It was Friday and we just played and won a game at another school. I cleaned up afterwards and got to my car before realizing I’d left my mitt in the dugout. When I went to grab my glove, I almost ran into Zach, who was there flirting with some girl.

“Seriously?” I questioned when I saw the pair and muttered, “I’m the one who hit a home run.”

Sure, I was taken. But we were at a rival school and she didn’t know that. And I was a pitcher. I didn’t get a huge number of home runs, it was annoying I had to bat at all, so it was doubly impressive.

“I got on base every time I was up,” he told me without looking at me and smiled at the girl with him as he said, “And I look better running.”

That was debatable, but I didn’t get into it as the girl gave Zach her number and left. He looked like he wanted to leave too but was resigned, waiting for me to speak. Good. I just didn’t get this.

I still couldn’t really picture him with a guy, but I guess it would happen eventually. Maybe his pride was wounded because the first guy he went on a date with after he came out chose someone else. But he said he liked guys, so eventually he’d have to get over that and give in to being gay.

“You still want to date girls?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said simply, like that was it.

Zach was the out one who said he was bi, and he even didn’t mind the term gay, but he wasn’t acting very gay at all. He liked one guy, and his shoes and car were always clean. But those last things probably didn’t even count.

I was gayer than him at the moment, which was really unsettling.

“Just thought you’d be over girls by now,” I commented. How long did it take? Did I set him back by stealing Ryan away?

“Bi isn’t gay,” he said, which sounded like a weak argument to me because he was the one who used the terms interchangeably for himself.

“Yeah, but—” I started to argue because it was rare that I got to be right in an argument with Zach. Damn, I rarely got to be right in argument with anyone. There was Alicia, but that was more she just didn’t care and went along with me instead of arguing, which wasn’t the same.

“Look, I still like girls,” Zach interrupted. Yeah, he was making that clear, with his hitting on every girl, and making out with them in front of my locker. It was a little too clear.

“Me too.” I felt the need to say that even though no one had asked. “We don’t need to talk about this anyway—”

“You started it,” he fired back. He would throw that in my face. “And you were asking questions earlier.”

“That was before.” Did I have to know things right away? Couldn’t I just enjoy this for a while?

bball“Before your beard?” he asked with snide amusement.

I played dumb. “No, I think technically that had already started.”

“Oh,” Zach said in mock understanding. “So you’re going to dig in your heels and ignore the problem until it goes away?”

Like he could talk! Zach always made a big show of protesting whenever he got dragged into a serious conversation and generally did everything he could to avoid them.

He was the one who loved avoiding stuff, but the second I tried to do the same, he called me on it. That totally wasn’t fair.

I pointed this out. “Like you’re one to talk. How long are you gonna be bi?” He liked guys and girls right now. Eventually, the girls would fade away. That was how it worked. The longer he tried to stay bi, the longer he was avoiding the truth.

“I like guys and girls and don’t feel the need to choose and I’m not just saying that.” He sounded annoyed.

He was totally just saying that.

“Okay, but it’s a half way point,” I argued.

Zach rolled his eyes. “Not literally.”

He said it wasn’t either/or. I kinda had a hard time remembering that. It had always seemed like either/or to me. Not both. And that wasn’t right, you couldn’t really have both, could you? For a little while when you figured things out, sure. But not forever. That was greedy or something.

“But like—” I tried to say some of my thoughts.

“No, it may be different for you but that’s how it is for me,” Zach talked over me. “I’m bi. I’ve always been bi. I am not interested in switching my cell phone provider. Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, totally, completely bi.”

I snorted, but he wasn’t done yet.

“Will that change in the distant future?” he asked and then answered his own question. “Well, keeping in mind that sexuality is fluid and I may learn more about myself as I get older,” he looked at me wryly, “No, probably not.” But he couldn’t really- “I really don’t think so,” he said earnestly. “Maybe sometimes I’ll be more into girls, maybe sometimes I’ll be more into guys, but I like both and will continue to like both. I say that with as much certainty as I can.”

He stared at me. I stared back. He stared back.

I coughed and remarked, “What? Do you want an Oscar for that speech or something?”

He shoved me and left.

Jeez, and I thought I was handling this whole thing bad.

bballll

Maybe all Zach’s flirting with girls made sense. What if he was just getting it out of his system? Or trying really hard to appear straight before he gave up and went gay? He just hadn’t quite got there yet.

Okay, I know that goes against everything Zach just said but he’s confused. I didn’t blame him.

This whole thing was really confusing.

I was confused, Zach was confused, and Cara had seemed really confused about me and Ryan. Maybe some of it was denial or just that rumors abounded surrounding my love life and that made things unclear, but mostly? Mostly it seemed like she didn’t even want to think about the idea of me with another guy.

Cara Lewis shouldn’t be the standard I base anything on. But. It kinda seemed like a lot of people thought like her.

Zach was pretty adamant about being able to like both, but did it really matter? If I was bi, I could date guys and girls. Except, would any of the girls want me? Or would I be able to be bi but I’d have to hide it from girls? Would guys care too? What was so good about having a label if no one wanted you once you had it?

I looked a lot of information up when I found out Ryan was gay and that I’d accidentally outed him. I guess I could go look at that research again. But… just the thought kinda made me sick. Which was weird because it was all really supportive stuff about how figuring out sexual orientation was a process, and it was okay to experiment, and that it took time and whatever.

Reading that once was way different than trying to apply it to yourself. It had all sounded good but now I thought it was wishful thinking. Maybe in some ideal world anyone could be anything they wanted and you could go back and forth and try things out.

Here, though? This was a modest Midwest community. You got a label and it stuck to you. That’s just how it worked.

~

I’m currently playing around with the thing at the end where I say this has been more on Mondays, where I post deleted scenes every other Monday.

Book Review: Just A Dumb Surfer Dude

Quick summary: Cooper’s life is fine but uneventful. He’s smart, his classes are easy, he has people who care about him, but he mostly feels like he’s waiting for his life to start. Then a new kid comes to school and everything changes.

(I tried not to spoil things but there are probably mild spoilers and hints about what happens in my review.)

What I thought: Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale is a quick, fun read that would work well for reading during the summer or at the beach but can be read anytime. The “surfer dude” is less important than one might think by the title, but those who like humor, sweet romances, and romantic comedies will enjoy this story.

I really liked the narrator’s voice and liked that there were multiple love interests, that’s not always something you see in LGBTQ teen fiction. It started out a little slow for me, but I got more interested as I kept going.

Depending on how perceptive you are, there may be a fun twist or two. I am usually much better at picking out this kind of thing, but I didn’t see it coming, so I really liked the surprising direction the story went in.

The Romance: Cooper is presented as an intelligent guy, but he has no experience with relationships or dating, so there’s a coming-of-age aspect where he explores getting close to guys romantically. It’s all new and intense and scary. While this story is on the shorter side, it still tells a complete story about finding love. It’s not heavy on the angst but has a few ups and downs and isn’t completely predictable.

If you’ve been reading a lot of stories about boy meets boy and then one or both boys freak out about liking another boy, this book offers variety. Cooper already knows he’s gay, so the story explores finding that special person more fully and what makes someone “the one” without any sexuality crises.

There’s also a sequel.

Plotty Details: Cooper’s life at his all-boys school is okay, but there isn’t much going on. He has one best friend he’s close with and his relationship with his father is important to him. Both he and his father don’t enjoy being single. He’s one of the only gay kids he knows and hasn’t had any romance yet and is sort of getting impatient waiting for it. While there’s no love interest in his life, his best friend is also gay. They aren’t out to everyone, but Cooper’s dad knows.

Cooper finally gets some excitement in his life when a new student comes to school. He’s even paired up with the hot guy in one of his classes. The problem? This new boy seems to like him even though his best friend really wants to go out with the new guy.

Best Part: Cooper has great relationships with his father and his best friend Alex. If you like your romances to have a little more depth, there is also plenty of father-son moments. Cooper and his dad don’t relate to each other perfectly but love each other and that comes through. The father is an English teacher and there’s a lot of little quips I enjoyed about different books. The dialogue was at its most witty when Cooper was with Alex or his father. Cooper’s a big smart alec who loves tormenting the people he loves.

Riding With Brighton Review


It’s hard to imagine anyone could find fault with Riding with Brighton. It’s a great character piece and a lovely romance too.

Summary: Jay Hall sees his life from a fresh perspective and finds himself wanting. He wants to change everything and knows just the person to help him: Brighton Bello-Adler, who is just about the coolest person in the world. They spend a few days together and go on an adventure of self-discovery and romance.

About Jay: Jay is unhappy with his life because he’s unhappy with himself. He’s good looking, popular, and an athlete, but he’s not impressed by his friends or any of his accomplishments. Because he’s been living with a part of himself he was too scared to acknowledge. But things are changing.

Jay’s been getting to know someone in one of his classes, Brighton. He likes talking to Brighton but feels really inadequate compared to him. Brighton is a shameless flirt with everyone, charming, an artist, and openly gay. He’s seems very confident and sure of who he is. And Jay wants to be like that. So he thinks.

It becomes pretty clear that it’s not hero worship Jay feels but a crush. It’s really sweet watching Jay gushing about Brighton in the safe context of a role model. He thinks he wants to be like Brighton, but he really wants to be worthy of catching Brighton’s attention.

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It was a sharp right turn, backward a good mile and a half, around corners, down hills, through a forest, and across the universe from where I really wanted to go.

About Brighton: In addition to Jay, there’s Brighton. Brighton is kind of a perfect angel who does no wrong but he’s still a strong character with his own voice. Jay’s the star of the show while Brighton is a supporting player, but again remember that this happens over the course of a few days and Jay has enough drama going on that it would have been too much to add more conflicts for Brighton.

What’s really great about Brighton is that he’s just a normal guy. He’s not boring but his life is going pretty well. And while that might not be great from a story perspective, it’s refreshing and a much needed portrayal of a gay teen in today’s culture. There’s no angst or depression. He has loving friends and a supportive family and being gay is just one part of him. He’s a good counterpoint to Jay and a realistic ,sometimes seldom seen, type of gay teenager.

The romance department is the only area lacking in Brighton’s life. He wants to be a normal kids who goes and dates and takes someone to prom. But there’s not a lot of dating options in his town. And he’s very attracted to Jay. He’s torn between the strong pull he feels for him and keeping his distance while Jay figures stuff out. He doesn’t want to get his heart broken but he can’t help the more attracted he becomes the more Jay shows of himself of Brighton.

What makes it unique: This is an interesting story because all the action takes place in the space of a weekend. It’s like a crash course in Jay’s psyche and emotional development as he dives head first into issues he’s never been able to confront before. The book provides a really in-depth character analysis and there’s lots of upheaval and revelations as Jay fits the coming out process into the span of a few days.

The Romance: The action is both the story of Jay finally being honest with himself and those around him and getting to know Brighton better. They can’t really help falling for each other the more time they spend together. They develop a real connection and a very supportive partnership.

There’s a lot of fun and flirty banter and swoon worthy moments. The book has the feel of a whirlwind romance, something intense and all consuming. But it’s not an artificial, insta-love kinda thing because the main characters get to know each other very deeply in a short amount of time and there’s both big romantic moments and more tender elements where the characters discovering each other and falling hard.

Favorite Part: The prose. The prose is just, really, really good.

My thoughts: Haven Francis wrote a beautiful book that should probably be read more than once in order to fully take in and appreciate everything. It’s life affirming and lovely but also doesn’t solve everything.