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

Cults and other weirdness

Do you ever get a weird song stuck in your head? If you are a human being, the answer is probably. And if the human being is me, then I have a song stuck in my head right now. I guess it’s just the subject matter that’s weird, because the song is oddly catchy. The subject is cults.

 

Speaking of weirdos, I write a series about a giant loser and his boyfriend. This is a cut part from One Little Lie where Ryan and Luke are hanging out in Ryan’s room being cute. They can’t be as on top of each other as they want to be because Ryan’s dad is home, they are teenagers, and Ryan’s father possibly owns a firearm. Okay, you are caught up.

~

Luke

“As much as I like your dad, you should probably open the door, so he doesn’t come back.”

“I don’t wanna get up.” Ryan groaned and buried his face in my chest. “Carry me.”

“Yeah, like that would work.”

Ryan was taller than me, though it was hard to tell when we were lying on the bed and he was clinging onto me like an octopus. I poked him in the side with a finger and he squirmed, so I did it again. He clung onto me tighter in retaliation, but I didn’t mind him being pressed up close to me in the first place, so I let him.

“Are you calling me fat?” he asked in a mock scandalized tone but didn’t pull away.

“I’m calling you a giant.” I wrapped my arms around him instead of pushing him away like I was supposed to. This wasn’t cuddling or something girly like that. It was just… a lying down hug. Okay, that didn’t sound any better.

He pulled his head back enough to glare. “You’re ruining the mood.”

“Think your dad did that,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s good at that,” Ryan sighed before pulling away and getting up and opening the door.

“Too bad,” I continued. “I’m sure you were looking forward to doing that yourself.” Ryan was a smartass and could be kinda awkward, so he wasn’t the smoothest guy I’d ever dated. Well, no, he was, because he was the only guy I ever dated. Somehow, he made being weird seem attractive.

He came back and sat on the bed, hitting me in the stomach with a hand. “How dare you,” he protested. “I am romantic and sexy and errrrrotic.” He dragged the ‘r’ sound out while waggling his eyebrows at me.

Okay, sometimes he made being weird attractive and sometimes he was just weird. But still, it was cute coming from him. Even if I didn’t tell him that. “See that right there?” I asked smugly. “Ruining the mood.”

Superpowers and the Powerpuff Girls (hey, those topics are related!)

I would never repeat myself, but it’s possible I’ve said this next bit before. But I’m going to say it again anyway, even though it’s not entirely new, and you’ve perhaps heard this already. I hate repetition and also being subtle, apparently. Yes, I repeated myself intentionally in this paragraph to be hilarious. I will give you a second to laugh and collect yourself after my wit nearly knocked you over.

While I was about to say something else, I’m now off topic. Because I thought of Mojo Jojo, who always repeats an idea in new ways, and I’m going to put a picture here. Why? Evil monkey! That’s the best answer to any question ever. And in general, an evil monkey is a great idea. I know someone whose nickname is JoJo, and sometimes they like sharing their name with a cartoon monkey supervillain, and sometimes they get angry at being called ‘Mojo Jojo.’

mojojojo
When trying to type ‘Google’ after ‘Mojo Jojo, I typed ‘gogo.’ Pic from Pinterest.

Back to what I was originally going to say, the deleted scene I’m going to post talks about superhuman abilities. I’m almost positive I put my superpowers in the back of one of my books, but I’m not sure which one. I don’t think it’s in all of my books, so this might be new information if you haven’t read that one book this is also from, or if you skip the author section at the end of novels.

After accidentally building this up, my superpowers will be anticlimactic. Oops! I never trip over untied shoelaces, and I can lose anything in the most annoying way possible. Is my debit card still missing after I misplaced it a few weeks ago? No way! Ahem, those are my superpowers. And now for a character from One Little Lie talking about some stuff I also talked about.

P.S. Luke from this series is Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls. Ryan is Buttercup. I’m proud of myself for getting those names right as at first they were respectively ‘the one in blue’ and the ‘the one in green.’

~

My name is Luke Chambers and I’m a superhero. Once upon a time, I thought I was an ordinary guy. Sure, I was good looking and athletically gifted but that was genetics and practice. Now, I had a strange gift I hadn’t asked for.

That’s the only thing that makes sense. Only I could keep taking awkward, potentially bad situations and making them infinitely more complicated. I used to be suave, so my ability to mess things up had to be supernatural. It was a superpower. I was Bad Idea Man. Okay, that’s not the best name for a superhero, but like I said, I’m not so good with bright ideas.

My parents thought I was dating a girl, and I hadn’t corrected them yet, so it was time for the Luke’s an Idiot Explanation Tour. I’d done this tour before. Who did I want to face first: Ryan or Lydia? Lydia would be brutal, but maybe she’d give me some advice about how to fix this or how to tell Ryan in a way that didn’t get me in trouble. I couldn’t think of one, but as she liked to tell me, I was dumb.

Plus, getting through this conversation with Lydia meant I could see Ryan next, like a reward.

I thought about telling the truth to my parents last night. In fact, that was all I had done. I laid on my bed and worried about it, which was surprisingly exhausting as I fell asleep early and still didn’t feel rested when I woke up. Maybe if this conversation somehow went well and was over quickly, I could take a nap. I had a game later today.

 

Friendship, cookies, and bi panic. Totally normal bro stuff.

I was gonna do the talky talk talking thing here, but this is a pretty good sized scene, so I’ll just get to it. Porcupines! (Sorry, I couldn’t completely do the whole serious, professional thing. That would be too weird.)

This is from One Little Lie, and it’s a deleted scene.

Relevant information: Luke is dating a boy and wants to figure out his sexuality but most of his feelings about this are “oh god, oh god, oh god.” He goes to his friend Zach, known bisexual and avoider of feelings, for help.

~

Luke

My sister said she thought I was a boring straight guy once. I was certainly interesting now; my dilemma was multifaceted. I had no idea what I was. I didn’t think and maybe didn’t want to be gay, but what if I was? Things had never felt this good, this intense before.

That’s what I thought about after leaving Ryan’s house.

heartThen there was the other part, which was maybe worse. Maybe things didn’t feel so intense and crazy and wonderful because Ryan was a guy. Maybe it felt that way because my feelings for Ryan were more than I’d ever had for anyone else, maybe it was lo-

Nope. No. Too scary.

I’m the good guy, I’d always been the good boyfriend. I held doors open, paid for dinner, tried to listen, bought flowers, all of it. I executed all the right moves on the outside, but it never felt like this on the inside.

I’d said I love you before and I had thought I meant it at the time, but it didn’t feel like this. Real, intense. Consuming. Was I gay? Did it matter that I still liked girls?

I wasn’t the type to do awkward or self-doubting and now there was a lot of that in my life. Ryan and I were each other’s first boyfriends. Though he’d been on a few dates with Zach and had definitely been attracted to other guys. Maybe Ryan was special to me, but I wasn’t special to him.

Huh.

What a not fun thought.

That was only one of the reasons I couldn’t share with Ryan when he offered last night. Mainly, I wanted to go into his house and do anything that involved being undressed and not talking. Also because I didn’t want all of my fond, serious thoughts to spill out. And also because… it just didn’t feel right unloading all this stuff on him.

Lydia had her own soul searching to go through, so I turned to Zach. The easiest way to get Zach to cooperate was to tell him exactly what you wanted and make it clear that you would leave him alone after you got it. This wasn’t baseball. No warm up. No beating around the bush. Direct.

When it was time for our next away game, I clapped him on the shoulder and sat down next to him on the bus. “Prepare yourself for a serious conversation,” I informed him.

“Thanks for the warning.” He moved to get up. “But you didn’t inform me in writing at least three days in advance so—”

“Okay, but I want to talk about BEING GAY AND QUEER SHIT,” I raised my voice. “Whoever sits next to me will have that to look forward to.” Suddenly there were no free seats for Zach. “Come on, we can do this quickly.”

He sat back down but complained, “I don’t want to hold your hand through this. Can’t you talk to your actual boyfriend about this?”

“I’ll tell him once I figure it out.” He did it on his own.

Okay, this was what I was talking about earlier. The big reason I couldn’t let him help me. Not only did he figure it out on his own, my addition only made things more complicated. I opened my stupid big mouth and told people he was gay.

I didn’t really know him at the time. I didn’t know about being in the closet or outing people. It was an accident. I just… After that, I didn’t want to put this on him. I could do this myself.

Mostly. I told Zach, “I’m talking to you whether you like it or not.”

He idly glanced out the window, but I doubted he’d make a break for it. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

guypicsDeep, deep down he was really a good person. You just had to get through all the bullshit first. Zach liked to present himself a certain way and his family weren’t really the type to have serious, intense conversations. My parents freaking loved talking. I just didn’t think they’d want to listen to anything I had to say at the moment.

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So,” Zach said after a tense silence, “Are you gonna start talking then, or what?”

“Right, right.” Okay. I wanted this. “I bought some time. With the Lydia thing. But I still don’t know.” There.

He didn’t say anything. I just expressed my doubts in such an eloquent and articulate manner and he had nothing to say?

“Okay, so this is supposed to be a conversation,” I explained.

“I’m aware,” Zach said cooly. That was all he said.

“It’s your turn to talk,” I prompted. Maybe I should jump out the window instead.

He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want me to say to that.”

Oh dear god. “Help me,” I ordered. Or maybe begged. “How do I even decide? It’s like a big decision. Straight or gay.”

“You’re acting like there’s no other options.” He rolled his eyes. “Like being bi, for instance.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I shrugged.

Zach said he liked guys and girls. That was an option, hypothetically. I couldn’t imagine it any more than I could being gay; maybe I liked it even less for some reason.

It wasn’t that simple, was it? To just say, oh, I like both and there, problem solved. That was awfully convenient. How long could that last for? Wasn’t it just putting off the inevitable? I couldn’t decide if that’s what I wanted to do or not.

“Please don’t let this inflate your ego more,” I told Zach, “But you make it look really easy.”

“I’ve known I was gay for a while now,” he said simply. He used gay and bi interchangeably sometimes, but how was I supposed to know if that was what he was doing this time? Then, seeing that I was clearly about to ask if he was gay now, he added, “I’m still bi, but I don’t have a problem with either term.”

Gay had become something of a catch all term, but it didn’t feel like it to me. If I called myself gay out loud, that meant I liked men and men only. Zach didn’t agree. Not that there was anything wrong with being gay, obviously. It just wasn’t me.

Zach sighed and his tone wasn’t exactly gentler, but for him it was almost warm and fuzzy as he continued, “You suddenly found yourself in a… situation.” Instead of boyfriend, I would have to refer to Ryan as my situation later; he’d get a kick out of that. “It might take time to figure everything out.”

I thought about that. How much time did I get? Did I have to become gay after my transitional period was over? When should I expect my membership card in the mail and how did I go about returning it?

heartyStill, it wasn’t bad advice. This was new to me. I got a little time at least. All I could come up with to say in response was, “Wow, you sound so wise and rational.”

“I know,” Zach shuddered. “I don’t like it.”

Well, that didn’t really help. But I guess it was reassuring. I felt really dumb, but I hadn’t been dealing with this for that long, that was true. But Zach had known he was gay for a while now?

“I don’t think I’ve seen you go after a guy besides Ryan,” I noted.

“Oh god, we are not talking about that,” he said firmly.

I sighed. This was probably as good as our conversation would get, so I deemed Zach’s best friend duties over with and reached into my backpack. “Hey, I brought snacks.”

Zach smiled. Now some of the guys looked jealous, which made his smile grow. Zach liked envy even more than dessert. Ryan made cookies for the road. We ate them all ourselves but shared with Joey too. Apparently, I owed him for always telling him things he didn’t want to know.

~

This is part of a continuing thing I do called More on Mondays.  Where I post extra scenes, hence the more, on every other Monday, hence the Mondays.

Add don’t die to the end of all of these, a bucket list by Ryan Miller

I never run out of words to think, write, type, or other things you can do with words, until the moment I am supposed to use them for a purpose. Besides writing books, because that would be bad for an author to have trouble coming up with words.

Words are an important part of books. That was me either being super obvious or providing you with helpful information if you somehow had no idea what a book was.

The reason I couldn’t come up with anything to say for a moment is because it’s hard to know what to talk about when discussing a list of random, unrelated activities. Other than, hello, this is a list of random, unrelated activities.

Ryan comes up with a bucket list or a list of things to try or very dangerous ideas in One New Start.

Here are some items from the list that didn’t make it in, along with some that probably did, but don’t ask me to tell you the difference.

Ryan’s bucket list for senior year! *jazz hands*

Learn sweet dances and dance moves for prom
Play chicken in a tractor
Fire guns in the air like Yosemite Sam
Teach a robot how to love
Make friends with a robot
Dine and dash if that’s possible without the guilt eating me alive
Eradicate all guilt from the world without thinking of the consequences
Think of the consequences, go on an emotional journey
Write a book about my experiences while bringing back guilt
Be drag queen for a night? Include Zach, so he wont make fun of me if I’m an ugly girl.
Find perfect drag name.
Ryan… gender neutral, but not very exciting.
Go hunting if it’s not too gross and if there’s a way I won’t die.
Eat something deep fried at a fair and don’t die
Ride all the rides at an amusement park
Go to space
Drive over the grand canyon
Break a board in half with sweet karate moves
Make friends with a lion

New YA Books

What’s new in YA right now and what’s on the horizon?

I have no idea!

Everything is just so much, all the time, you know? Maybe not, because what I said doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I can’t keep up with new releases. So it’s good there’s other people out there to do that for me.

I found this list of YA fiction being released in July-September. These are all sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. The full list is here, but I figured I would just mention the queer ones. Because Hella Gay YA and all that.

The Infinite Noise: A Bright Sessions Novel  by Lauren Shippen

Description: 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.

Release: Sept. 24

The only podcasts I’ve ever listened to are fictional ones about gay characters and true crime, and I’m sure there’s other types that are really good… but yeah, I’m only interested in podcasts if there’s true crime or queer characters and hopefully less crime.

Basically, it’s really cool that The Bright Sessions podcast is a book now.

 Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Description: There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Release: Sept. 10

Jam is trans and selectively nonverbal, and this book sounds interesting and too scary for me. I have begun to very, VERY slowly enjoy a little bit of horror, mostly by accident. Otherwise I am a big coward and there’s no shame in that because I said so.

Red Skies Falling (The Skybound Saga) by Alex London

Description: Kylee is ensconsed in the Sky Castle, training with Mem Uku to master the Hollow Tongue and the Ghost Eagle. But political intrigue abounds and court drama seems to seep through the castle’s stones like blood from a broken feather. Meanwhile, Brysen is still in the Six Villages, preparing for an attack by the Kartami. The Villages have become Uztar’s first line of defense, and refugees are flooding in from the plains. But their arrival lays bare the villagers’ darkest instincts. As Brysen navigates the growing turmoil, he must also grapple with a newfound gift, a burgeoning crush on a mysterious boy, and a shocking betrayal.

Release: Sept. 3

Game of Thrones but gayer. And YA.

Is Game of Thrones already gay? I’m gonna get around to watching that eventually. I’m guessing there’s less gay people dying in horrific ways in this novel. Again, I don’t watch GoT, but it always seems like somebody is dying in horrific ways.

Of Ice and Shadows (Of Fire and Stars) by Audrey Coulthrust

Description: Princesses Denna and Mare are in love and together at last—only to face a new set of dangers.

Mare just wants to settle down with the girl she loves, which would be easier if Denna weren’t gifted with forbidden and volatile fire magic. Denna must learn to control her powers, which means traveling in secret to the kingdom of Zumorda, where she can seek training without fear of persecution. Determined to help, Mare has agreed to serve as an ambassador as a cover for their journey.

As rising tensions and unexpected betrayals put Mare and Denna in jeopardy and dangerous enemies emerge on all sides, can they protect their love and save their kingdoms?

Release: August 13

This is the book where, whenever I see the first one on the list of top 100 queer YA novels, I’m like that looks cool, I should read that. And then I remember my KU is filled with M/M teen romances because those are the ones I write and occasionally blog about, but I  read real slow, so I don’t read this yet.

True story. I’m sure all of this really helped you with your reading selections. I still want to read the first one, then this second one, because I have to go in order and because fantasy novel about princesses in love.

 

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre

I’m including the cover of one book that may not be queer, or isn’t as far as I can tell, but I liked the tagline. So simple but memorable. This one also might be too scary for me, but again, love the tagline.