Earlier today, VOYA tweeted out an article from Entertainment Monthly: Entertainment News from Emerson College titled The Top Ten LGBT Characters in Young Adult Literature. I applaud the author for trying to bring more awareness to LGBT books, but based on the comments, many are underwhelmed by the list or find it problematic. Big points of concern include that Dumbledore is on the list and that there’s a lot of David Levithan.
I’ve decided to create my own list of 10 great LGBT characters, but from both YA and MG literature. Also, I in no way can claim to have read enough books with LGBT characters to create an ultimate top 10 list, so instead, this is just my personal 10 favorites based on what I’ve read. I’d love to hear recommendations of your favorites! Presented in no particular order:
10. Astrid from Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
I think this was the first book I read with a LGBT character who I felt was a fully realized character. Astrid struggles with what to do about these new romantic feelings for a girl, but that’s just a portion of her character. She also deals with family problems and tries to figure out who she is as a whole person. Also, I’m pretty sure this was the first book I read with a lesbian relationship at the forefront… which is pretty sad considering I was 22 when I read this.
9. Grayson from Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this upcoming MG book featuring a transgender girl. I was so thrilled to see a MG title about a transgender character. The entire book is quite gentle and entirely appropriate for it’s intended audience. I really hope this book finds it’s way into the hands of many young readers (and their parents, too!)
8. Dad and Papa from The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
Another MG title, this book is about a family of 4 boys being raised by 2 dads. I love that this book isn’t about gay dads, but rather about a whole family that happens to include 2 dads. I also love that Dad and Papa are very different characters and don’t fall into stereotypes.
7. Angel from Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
When people talk about this book, they mostly talk about Brendan, but for me it’s really Angel who steals the story. She’s transgender and confident about herself despite having had to deal with many hardships when she was first transitioning. She tries to help others in similar situations by volunteering at a center for LGBT teens. She’s an inspirational and realistic character.
6. Ari and Dante from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
A coming of age story about two Mexican-American teen boys who fall for each other. There’s a reason this book won so many awards. Stunning.
5. Dee from Just One Day by Gayle Forman
I was trying to keep this list about LGBT characters who are the main characters of the story, but I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t include Dee. Despite only being a side character, he’s really well developed. He’s also just an amazing friend and person. Please please, Gayle, give Dee his own story!
4. Emi from Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
This book isn’t a coming out story. That shouldn’t be a big deal, but this was huge for me because so rarely do I find a book with a LGBT character that isn’t their coming out story. In this story, Emi is dealing with the aftermath of a break-up from her long-time on-again-off-again girlfriend. She knows it’s finally time to move on, especially when Ava comes into her life. Rather than being a coming out story, this is a regular romance story journeying how a couple found their way to each other. And I found that so refreshing.
3. Batwoman from Batwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
(I’m cheating a little with this one. It’s really aimed more at adults, but I would assume plenty of teens are reading it, too.) Lesbian superhero! That’s really all that needs to be said.
2. Ethan from One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
This is Alek’s story, but it’s love-interest Ethan who really stole my heart. He’s confident about his sexuality and isn’t a stereotype at all. He’s independent and daring but can also be so sweet. I totally understand why Alek fell in love with him.
1. Nate from Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
We first met Nate in the MG book Better Nate Than Ever, but it’s in this sequel that we see him navigate a crush and possible relationship… all while dealing with being a star in a broadway show! Nate is so funny and lovable and I could just re-read these books over and over and over again.