Pride Month might be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about some of our favorite LGBTQ characters in YA. These women have overcome stereotypes, faced racism, learned to accept themselves and find acceptance in others, and even found a bit of romance in the process.
Here are our top picks featuring lesbians who continue to pave the way.
Space pirates, sea monsters, and a pirate queen make up this epic, queer YA adventure.
Cas is a Reckoner in-training, raising genetically engineered beasts to defend ships against pirates. But pirate queen, Santa Elena, swoops in and kidnaps Cas. She wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own and needs Cas’s help to do it. Filled with adventure and heart-pounding moments, Cas teaches us how to survive against impossible odds, all while falling in love with the girl who should be her enemy.
#2) Ash by Malinda Lo
A lesbian retelling of Cinderella. After her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. She meets the dark dangerous fairy Sidhean and Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, who changes her heart. But Sidhean has already claimed her for himself, and she must choose between fairy tale and true love. Filled with darkly, compelling writing, Ash teaches us the connection between life and love, solitude and death, and how to overcome even the deepest grief.
#3) Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Pen is comfortable in her own skin with short hair and loose clothes. She has no doubts about her gender or sexuality. But her friends and parents tell her she should quit trying to be something she’s not. She doesn’t fit in to what society expects of her, but with her girlfriend, her brother, and new friends by her side, Pen begins to see that being herself is all she ever needed to be. Told through the eyes of a young butch lesbian, Pen gives us a raw and emotional look at sexual orientation and how to find acceptance within ourselves.
#4) Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Virginia, 1959, Sarah Dunbar, her sister Ruth, and eight other students are the first black students to attend Jefferson High School. Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. When the two of them are paired up for a project, they must confront harsh truths about race, power, and their growing emotions for one another. Told from alternating POVs, the two female leads show us what it’s like to face racism, domestic violence, and our own sexuality. Raw and realistic with emotional and hard truths, Lies We Tell Ourselves is one you won’t want to miss.
Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want, except for freedom. So when the goddess Hades appears, offering her a choice, Persephone accepts and travels to the underworld. Hades offers sanctuary to Persephone, but she finds more than just freedom and quickly falls in love. Persephone shows us that with a strong will anyone can reclaim their life and overcome despair. With an epic romance and vibrant depictions, The Dark Wife is a moving queer retelling everyone should pick up.
#6) It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has secrets. Some small, some big—like the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend. When she meets Jamie Ramirez, she wonders if it’s time to admit she’s into girls. But there’s always complications, and telling her secret might be the easiest thing. It’s the “afterwards” Sana’s worried about. Through Sana’s POV, we are confronted with issues like racism, stereotypes, and sexuality. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is filled with humor, romance, and ultimately, acceptance.
HM: Giant Days by John Allison, and various illustrators
Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. From colds to crushes, to revenge against internet jerks, the three of them will be surprised if they make it past their first year. But with a lasting friendship like theirs, anything is possible. Funny and uplifting with a distinctive voice, Giant Days offers a positive portrayal on exploring sexuality, and experiencing all the awkward college moments in between. Thirty-seven chapters of the graphic novel have been released and are available for digital download. Giant Days, the book, written by Non Pratt will be released in August of this year.
Do you have a favorite LGBTQ character in YA? Tweet us @PiqueBeyond and let us know.