Girls Loving Girls in YA 2016


On Tuesday night I read that is shutting down as of Friday, September 23rd. I was shaken and saddened and angry, and it got me thinking that if we as queer women don’t support “our” media, how can we expect it to last? The powers that be often define what is of value as what is  profitable. If we want our media to continue and thrive, we have to support it, monetarily when possible.

For years I have noted with frustration the surprisingly few number of young adult novels with lesbian and queer girls as main or featured characters. And others have noted it, too — maybe most comprehensively, as statistical snapshots, by Malinda Lo here and here.

I’ve been feeling more optimistic lately. I haven’t done any comparisons to prior years, but it certainly feels like in 2016 we are seeing a bumper crop of YA novels about girls who love girls. But I continue to hear that submissions about queer girls still get rejected due to an alleged or perceived lack of market. And reviewers still flag queer content and characters as for “mature” readers only. And novels with queer characters still regularly get challenged.

I can’t help but worry that this year’s bumper crop could be no more than a fluke.   Or in a few years voices in bookstores and acquisitions meetings and literary agencies may be saying there’s only a limited market for lesbian and queer girl centric novels in YA.  Will they say, “Look at the sales stats for 2016! The market couldn’t support that many queer girls in YA all at once!” I hope not. I hope this is a firm step forward, rather than an exceptional one-off year.  And while I do love seeing so many queer girls in YA this year, I’m greedy. I want more. Many more. Especially more diversity — of characters and of experience — in those queer girl narratives. I want to see the queer girl narratives that are published get the attention they deserve.

If we want more of any kind of novel — including young adult novels featuring queer women — then we have to show we will purchase, review, and share the books that are published.

To that end, I’m compiling a list of 2016 YA novels published in the US featuring queer teen girls who are attracted to/involved romantically with girls (whether exclusively or inclusively).  This isn’t meant to be a list of every book that has a tertiary or secondary queer girl character, or that has a queer girl character but only very limited content on the page related to her sexuality and identity. I am focused on spotlighting those books with featured lesbian/bisexual/pansexual/queer teen girls and significant queer girl content (not necessarily a relationship, but more than a mere reference to the character’s identity).

The following is a work in progress and I will update as new titles are discovered. I have not read all of these books yet, so in many instances I am relying on blurbs and reviews. Please let me know if I’ve mischaracterized any of the books.  And I know this is likely not an exhaustive list. Please suggest missing titles in the comments or by email (within the parameters discussed above).

2016 YA novels featuring lesbian characters:

Georgia Peaches & Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown – Harper Teen
Style by Chelsea M. Cameron – Self published
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Balzer + Bray
Winning by Lara Deloza – Harper Teen
South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf – AW teen
Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember – Harmony Ink Press
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard – Harper Collins
My Year Zero by Rachel Gold – Bella Books
Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler – Candlewick Press
Radical by E. M. Kokie – Candlewick Press
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina La Cour – St. Martin’s Griffin
Marian by Ella Lyons – Harmony Ink Press
Without Annette by Jane B. Mason – Scholastic Press
This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – Sourcebooks Fire
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – North Star Editions
Under Threat by Robin Stevenson – Orca Books
Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward – Adaptive Books

2016 YA novels featuring bisexual/pansexual female characters:

The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (Prisoners Of Peace, Book 2) – Margaret K. McElderry Books
Look Both Ways by Alison CherryDelacorte Press
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaSourcebooks Fire
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine – Margaret K. McElderry Books
Gena/Finn by Kat Helgeson and Hannah Moskowitz – Chronicle Books
Run by Kody Keplinger – Scholastic Press
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee – Duet
Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicholas – Entangled Teen
Cherry by Lindsey Rosin — Simon Pulse
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith – Roaring Book Press
As I Descended by Robin Talley – Harper Teen
Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace – Katherine Tegen Books

While I know there is often crossover appeal and teens will read books published for the adult market, my goal is to highlight and bolster those novels specifically published as young adult with queer female teen characters that also have substantial queer content.  BUT, I love helping readers find books, especially queer books, so below are links* to other lists and posts that include queer books that didn’t fit my parameters.

*In compiling the above list, I reviewed the following lists and posts compiled by others. I thank them for their work and encourage you to check out these lists, too:
BNTeen Blog – 15 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQ YAs of 2016

BNTeen Blog – 22 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQ YAs books of the second half of 2016
BNTeen Blog – Kick Off Bisexual Awareness Week 12 2016 YA Books
Goodreads Listopia – 2016 f/f SFF with HEA/HFN (Includes non-YA books) – YA novels with LGBTQIAP+ Characters


By E.M. Kokie

Author of young adult fiction, including PERSONAL EFFECTS (Candlewick, 2012) and RADICAL (Candlewick Press, Fall 2016). Often opinionated. Sometimes Sarcastic.

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