In honor of making V-Day as queer as possible, I’m bringing you some of my favorite recent YA reads featuring queer romance! I decided to branch out of the romance genre for this, so you’ll find my favorite queer romances within graphic novels, science fiction, and fantasy.
1. City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn
The heiress and the outlaw is always a great trope but turns out it’s even better when it’s gay. Unfortunately, the romance takes a slight backseat here as the main characters stay focused on a) not getting their organs harvested and b) saving a family member, but I suppose those reasons take fair precedence over a love story. Winn’s debut is a fast-paced, plot-driven book with a stunning world, fantastic characters, and plot twists all around. The romance is beautifully built, and Winn is amazing at getting readers to really root for the main characters.
I wanted to mention that I didn’t even realize it was queer at first because the summary on the back and the cover don’t give it away, so if you can’t be seen with LGBTQ+ books for whatever reason, this is a great read for you.
2. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
It is embarrassing that it took me this long to get around to picking this book up, but, boy, did it live up to the hype. Cemetery Boys follows Yandriel, a trans boy who wants to be accepted by his family as a brujo, one of the men who help spirits pass safely to the next life. The romance comes in strong in this low fantasy, and I spent the whole book rooting for Yandriel and his love interest, Julian, a spirit Yandriel accidentally comes into acquaintance with during the book.
Thomas takes careful care to portray every part of Yandriel’s culture and makes the magic come to life, and they put as much thought into the nuance of Yandriel’s transness, bringing up misgendering, struggles with school bathrooms, reflections on his appearance. Thomas makes you root for him the whole way through, and this adds a layer of enjoyment to the read.
3. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
I don’t think I could get my feelings on the splendor of Bayron’s sophomore novel into words if I tried. This is the Madea retelling to fill the void in your soul, and it comes with a side of incredible worldbuilding and one of the sweetest sapphic romances I’ve ever seen. She presents the most beautiful, most unexpectedly delightful world and still gives herself room to navigate social issues such as race.
And the romance. The romance. God. Marie and Bri are so complicated and loving and trying their best. They are so sweet and caring. The plot is brilliant and I’m so excited to step into this world again, but I look forward to the romance the most in the sequel (which is Happening!!! Stay calm!! Or don’t!!)
1. Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet
The queer stories and characters in this anthology of meet-cutes are to die for, and if you're looking for romance worth going feral over, this book is for you. Every single story is unique, and all of them showcased the best of each writer. The best thing is that the stories aren’t just pure fluff: they have raw, real characters that jump to life in the short snippets the authors provide.
2. I am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki
This YA DC graphic novel had its flaws, which is why I was debating whether to recommend it, but it is really such a sweet story. The main character, Mandy, is the prickly teenage daughter of alien princess/superhero Starfire. She’s just trying to get through high school while avoiding her mother’s fans and her feelings for one (1) pretty girl named Claire.
In perfect romance novel fashion, of course they end up having to do a project together.
The rushed and unsatisfying ending ruined this novel for me, but despite that, it’s a really good read with a fantastic art style, and unlike a lot of media about teens, doesn’t feel too out-of-touch. Mandy’s understandable as a teenager, and I found myself rooting for her to find her way in life (which, no spoilers, is why the ending was so bleh for me.)
I honestly do recommend picking these books up, especially because a handful of them are by authors who aren’t as mainstream. These gems will make your V-Day season and fill the void in your heart one meet-cute (or absolute disaster) at a time.
Have a lovely Valentine season, y’all!
is a high school student in New Jersey. They like (in no particular order) books, music, science, history, running, and (of course) writing and are always up to learn something new! Find them on Instagram at @writing_stoot.