LGBTQ+ representation is so important. Especially if you’re trying to figure yourself out, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone. I don’t believe that people should feel ashamed of their sexuality or gender identity (or even just questioning it) under any circumstances. That being said, there are many reasons why someone, especially if you’re a teen at home, may not be living in a safe enough environment to come out. If you’re living in a place where you feel like you can’t be openly and authentically yourself, take a look at these books. These are novels with canon LGBTQ+ characters and themes. However, these books don’t look like it at first glance, so if your parents happen to notice you reading them, you don’t have to worry about outing yourself. Coming out is an exceptionally personal choice: never feel pressured to reveal private information about yourself if it isn’t safe.
Ash by Malinda Lo
I have probably recommended this book at least a dozen times over the years. Malinda Lo’s Ash is a book I picked up many years ago, completely blindsided by the fact that it is a gay retelling of Cinderella. I was twelve years old, and intrigued by the fact that a book title was quite close to my name. What resulted was the equivalent of a bomb going off in my head. Ash tells an incredible love story filled with a plot so intricate that you could easily forget it’s a retelling of another classic tale. This is definitely a book you could read without alluding to the fact that it is an LGBTQ+ novel.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Content warning: minor mentions of mental illness and scratching/self-harm
Honey Girl has a beautiful cover, definitely fitting for such a cute love story. What would normally be your typical cringe accidentally-got-drunk-married-in-Vegas story is astonishingly different in Honey Girl. This plot has so much depth and emotional growth between the characters, you can’t help but root for them while they attempt to overcome strife. Honey Girl is a book you could describe to your parents as a wacky Vegas trip without discussing LGBTQ+ characters.
Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson
Content warning: parental death
This book is cute and charming, through and through. At its core, this is a coming-of-age novel about how the friends around you help you discover yourself. What starts off as a quirky book about a mentally lost twenty-two-year-old working at an arts and crafts store turns into a reflection of societal expectations with hilarious banter peppered through. Overall, this is never a novel you would think would be full of LGBTQ+ themes upon first glance.
The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Content warning: discussions of trauma through adoption
Once I started this book, I seriously could not put it down. I think I read about 350 pages in one day. Just as when I picked up Ash, The House In The Cerulean Sea is not one I read anticipating an LGBTQ+ story. But boy, what a pleasant surprise. This is a heartfelt story that emphasizes the saying “home is where your heart is.” It’s about your heart literally swelling in your chest so much that you can’t breathe because there are just some people in this world who make you feel so full of love in every form. This award-winning novel doesn’t hint at LGBTQ+ themes at first glance, but I’m so glad it’s in the plot.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston
That Inevitable Victorian Thing is an alternate history retelling that has created a universe that intrigues me so much. I really wish I’d found this book when I was 14 instead of almost 24, because that was pretty much the prime of my Victorian-era phase. This book subverts the way that the British empire notoriously colonized the world. There are three teens whose lives become interlinked through societal expectations, government requirements, and at their core, emotional chemistry. LGBTQ+ themes are hinted at early on, and the Victorian sci-fi equates to a unique plot you can rant about to your parents without outing yourself.
is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. When she isn't writing, she's reading and working on her bullet journal. You can read more of her work at ashaswann.com