Rainbow Book List

The 2020 Rainbow Book List

Posted by: Kathleen Breitenbach on: February 5, 2020

The Rainbow Book List Committee is proud to announce the 2020 Rainbow Book List. The List is a curated bibliography highlighting books with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content, aimed at children and youth from birth to age 18. This list is intended to aid youth and those working with youth in selecting high-quality books published in the United States of America between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

As a committee, we evaluated over 550 books and selected 92 titles. Starred titles indicate the Rainbow Book List’s Top Ten choices, which are the books that the committee considers to be of exceptional merit.

This year, our committee has noticed an abundance of genre fiction, as well as books whose plots do not revolve around anxiety concerning a queer character’s identity. Micro trends that we’ve noticed this year have been books about birds or with birds in the title, and books about queer witches. We’ve also seen an increase in books with non-binary, asexual-spectrum, and bisexual characters.

Now, without further ado, we present to you the 2020 Rainbow Book List!

Picture Book Non-Fiction

Little Bee Books, ed. Our Rainbow. 2019. 20p. Little Bee Books. $8.99 (9781499809343). Ages 2-5. 

Through page spreads by different illustrators, Our Rainbow explores the traditional meanings assigned to each of the colors on the rainbow pride flag.

Meltzer, Brad, and Christopher Eliopoulos. I am Billie Jean King. 2019. 40p. Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers, $15.99. Ages 5-8. (9780735228740). 

The engaging story of tennis star Billy Jean King and her work, both on and off the court, to become a sports icon and women’s rights activist – as well as King’s realization that she is gay. Includes timeline and photographs. 

Pierets, Fleur, and Fatinha Ramos. Love Around the World. 2019. 40p. Six Foot Press. $18.95 (9781644420058). Ages 4-8. 

Fleur and her wife Julian are on an adventure to get married in every country that legally allows same-sex marriage. The couple learns about a variety of wedding traditions that they incorporate in each place they wed.

*Sanders, Rob, and Jamey Christoph. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. 2019. 40p. Random House Children’s Books. $17.99 (9781524719524). Ages 5-9. 

The historic Stonewall Inn narrates its own history as well as the subsequent 1969 uprising. Includes a short essay about the Stonewall Inn, photographs, interview with activist Martin Boyce, glossary, and a bibliography. 

Stevenson, Robin. Pride Colors. 2019. 28p. Orca, $9.95 (9781459820708). Ages 0-4. 

“A bright red heart, a little star. I love you just the way you are.” This gentle book alternates pages that focuses on each color of the rainbow with touching, affirming messages for any parent or caregiver to share with their child.  

Thorn, Theresa and Noah Grigni. It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. 2019. 40p. Macmillan/Henry Holt and Company. $17.99 (9781250302953). Ages 3-6. 

Colorful illustrations and simple language explain the basics of gender identity and cis, trans, and nonbinary genders. An affirming and uncomplicated introduction to gender concepts for all children from an own voices nonbinary author.

Picture Book Fiction

Gale, Heather, and Mika Song. Ho’onani : Hula Warrior. 2019. 40p. Penguin/Tundra Books, $17.99 (9780735264496). Ages 4-7. 

Based on a true story, this book follows Ho’onani as she takes on a traditional boys-only role in a hula performance at school. Ho’onani asserts herself as existing in the middle between genders.

Haack, Daniel, Isabel Galupa, and Becca Human. Maiden and Princess. 2019. 40p. Little Bee Books. $17.99 (9781499807769). Ages 4-8. 

A warrior maiden begrudgingly attends the matchmaker ball at the request of her friend, the Prince. She does end up finding true love — with his sister, the Princess.

Hoffman, Sarah, Ian Hoffman, and Chris Case. Jacob’s Room to Choose. 2019. 32p. American Psychological Association/Magination Press, $17.99 (9781433830730). Ages 6-9. 

Jacob (of Jacob’s New Dress) encounters hostility when using the school bathroom. In response, their teacher helps the students see that people do not always conform to strict gender presentations. Together as a class, they create improved signs for the bathrooms.

*Lukoff, Kyle and Kaylani Juanita. When Aidan Became a Brother. 2019. 32p. Lee & Low Books. $18.95 (9781620148372). Ages 4-8. 

This heartwarming picture book from an own voices trans author and an own voices illustrator of color explores what it’s like for Aidan when his parents expect a new baby. He wants to ensure everything will be just right for his younger sibling. Aidan knows that sometimes grown-ups can make mistakes, like when his parents thought he was a girl when he was born. As Aidan prepares for his role as big brother, he realizes that mistakes can be fixed with open communication.

Phi, Bao and Basia Tran. My Footprints. 2019. 32p. Capstone, $19.99 (9781684460007). Ages 5-9. 

Thuy is bullied at school because she has two mothers, and because of her heritage. This picture book from an own voices Vietnamese author shows how Thuy draws strength from her culture when she imagines her snowy footprints are those of wild animals. 

*Smith, Heather and Brooke Kerrigan. A Plan for Pops. 2019. 32p. Orca Book Publishers. $19.95 (9781459816145). Ages 3-6. 

Saturdays are special for Lou and Lou’s grandparents, Grandad and Pop. When Pop loses the ability to walk, he doesn’t want to leave his room, but Lou comes up with a plan to help! 

Juvenile Non-Fiction

Branfman, Jonathan and Julie Benbassat. You Be You! The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family. 2019. 80p. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. $18.95 (9781787750104). Ages 5-10. 

This simple book guides readers through the rainbow of gender and attraction spectrums, and breaks down common ideas about marriage, having kids, and even romance itself.

Medina, Nico and Jake Murray. What Was Stonewall? 2019. 112p. Penguin, $5.99 (9781524786007). Grades 3-6. 

Beginning with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, this book provides a broad overview of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, from the early days of bohemian Greenwich Village, to the dedication of the Stonewall National Monument in 2016. Plenty of photographs and illustrations make this accessible for middle grade readers interested in LGBTQ+ history. 

Middle Grade Non-Fiction

Pitman, Gayle E and Fred Sargeant. The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets. 2019. 224p. Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (9781419737206). Grades 5-9. 

Pitman takes a uniquely archival approach to her subject, examining objects that provide insight into the Stonewall Riots, their social context, LGBT history, and the gay rights movement. Includes a timeline, notes, bibliography, and index. 

Middle Grade Fiction

Bigelow, Lisa Jenn. Hazel’s Theory of Evolution. 2019. 336p. HarperCollins, $16.99 (9780062791177). Grades 3-7. 

Realistic Fiction.

Hazel would rather get lost in the pages of an encyclopedia than deal with the mounting changes in her life: starting over at a new school in her last year of middle school; worrying about her mom’s pregnancy following two miscarriages; and questioning romantic attraction as other girls focus on boys.

Blake, Ashley Herring. The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James. 2019.375p. Hachette/Little, Brown and Company, $16.99 (9780316515535). Ages 4-8. 

Realistic Fiction.

After finally getting a heart transplant, Sunny’s summer plan is to “do awesome amazing things she could never do before.” On her quest to find a new best friend and kiss a boy, she wonders if she really wants to kiss a boy at all. 

Bunker, Lisa. Zenobia July. 2019. 313p. Penguin/Viking Books for Young Readers,  $17.99 (9780451479402). Grades 5+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Zenobia has a whole lot of new in her life: a new school, new friends, a new place to live with her lesbian aunts, and a new opportunity to finally live as a girl. When someone posts hateful Islamaphobic and transphobic memes on the school website, Zenobia knows her coding skills from her old life could help her catch the culprit, and suddenly she has new decisions to make: who can she trust? And is catching the hacker worth the attention and risk?

Diloway, Margaret. Summer of a Thousand Pies. 2019. 384p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 (9780062803467). Grades 3-6. 

Realistic Fiction.

After her mother’s death, Cady’s father spirals into substance abuse which lands him in jail. Cady experiences neglect, food insecurity, homelessness, and the foster care system before she’s sent to live with two aunts she has never met. Resistant at first, Cady soon discovers a passion for baking. But the perfect pie crust isn’t the solution for everything; she must also deal with her trauma — and the realization that her parents were more flawed than she knew. Back matter contains recipes, including one for a gluten-free pie crust.

Holt, K. A. Redwood and Ponytail. 2019. 418p. Chronicle Books, $18.99 (9781452172880). Grades 5-8. 

Realistic Fiction/Verse Novel.

At first, Kate and Tam dismiss each other as “just a cheerleader” and “just a jock.” But as they spend more time together, they challenge the ways others have defined them and begin to define and accept themselves.

Pancholy, Maulik. The Best at It. 2019. 336p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 (9780062866417). Grades 5-7. 

Realistic Fiction. 

Rahul, a 7th grade Indian-American boy growing up in a small town, deals with anxiety, bullies, racial prejudice, and being different by following his grandfather’s advice – find something to be the best at. As Rahul figures out who he is, his best friend Chelsea and his family are there to cheer him on, and he hopes that just maybe his crush Justin will start to notice him. 

Salazar, Aida. The Moon Within. 2019. 240p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99 (9781338283372). Grades 3-6. 

Realistic Fiction/Verse Novel.

Celi is unhappy about her impending menstruation and even more unhappy that her mom wants to celebrate it in a reclaimed indigenous ceremony. What’s more, her best friend is coming out as nonbinary and the boy she likes is being a jerk about it. Can Celi find the strength to both be true to herself and loyal to her friend? 

Young Adult Non-Fiction

Baumann, Jason, ed. Love and Resistance. 2019. 224p. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. $24.95 (9781324002062). Grades 10+. 

Drawn from The New York Public Library Archives, this collection of photographs by Kay Lahusen and Diana Davies documents LGBTQ+ activists and activism in the 1960s and 70s. Photographs are organized into four sections: Visibility, Love, Pride, and Protest, and each section is contextualized in a brief introduction; individual photographs are also described and contextualized. 

Bausum, Ann. Viral: the Fight Against AIDS in America. 2019. 176p. Penguin/Viking Books for Young Readers, $22.99. (9780425287200). Grades 9+. 

Bausum explores the AIDS crisis in America from the beginning to the present day in an easy to follow narrative that is compelling and fast-paced. Including information about ACT Up, presidential administrations’ funding of research and personal tales that include first hand sources, this is an engaging and well-researched book on HIV and AIDS. Includes a timeline, source notes and bibliography. 

Gonzales, Kathryn and Rayne, Karen, Ph.d.. Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You. 2019. 304p. American Psychological Association/Magination Press, $16.99 (9781433829833). Grades 10+. 

This inclusive guide for teens who are transgender, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, or genderfluid is written by trans authors and addresses topics such as mental and physical health, reproduction, transitioning, relationships, sex, and life as a trans person. The inclusion of multiple perspectives from actual trans people, and understandable and relatable language, not to mention backmatter of links to other resources makes this a valuable resource for trans+ teens, young adults, and the people who love them.

*Hutchinson, Shaun David. Brave Face. 2019. 368p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99. (9781534431515). Grades 10+. 


Author Shaun David Hutchinson explores growing up, discovering his sexual identity and facing life-threatening depression in his memoir of his teen and young adult years. Hutchinson survives a suicide attempt and embarks on a journey of recovery and self-acceptance in this honest and, at times, humorous memoir.

Young Adult Fiction

Berquist, Emma. Missing, Presumed Dead. 2019. 369p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books, $17.99 (9780062642813). Grades 8+. 

Supernatural Thriller.

With a single touch, Lexi has the power to see the moment of how and when someone will die. This, combined with her ability to see ghosts, often leaves her stumbling for the comfort of a psychiatric ward for a respite. One night, Lexi literally bumps into Jane, a girl who will be murdered hours later. Jane’s ghost desperately needs Lexi’s help to catch the murderer before they strike again.

Boteju, Tanya. Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens. 2019. 384p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99 (9781534430655). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Insecure, self-conscious Nima wants her life to be less boring. She starts with a drag show where she befriends Diedre, a trans drag queen, and Winnow, a young drag king. But can Nima pursue her new friendships without losing her old ones? And what’s going on with her mom, who’s suddenly gotten back in touch after walking out more than a year ago with no explanation?

Bowman, Akemi Dawn. Summer Bird Blue. 2018. 369p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99 (9781481487757). Grades 7+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Rumi’s world falls apart when her sister dies suddenly. To make things worse, her mother ships her off to live with an aunt in Hawaii. She struggles to navigate her grief and sense of abandonment with the help of her new neighbors, a teenage surfer and a taciturn 80-year-old.

Cameron, Sophie. Last Bus to Everland. 2019. 336p. Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, $17.88 (9781250149930). Grades 9+. 


Brody feels alone in his small apartment he shares with his stressed mom, agoraphobic dad, genius older brother, and theatrical younger sister. So when his cat runs off and leads him to meet a handsome, costumed stranger, he’ll take whatever escape he can get. The door to Everland only opens at 11:21 on Thursdays, but will he choose to stay or go when the doors start closing for good?

Capetta, A. R. The Brilliant Death. 2018. 352p. Penguin/Viking Books for Young Readers, $18.99 (9780451478443). Grades 9+. 


Teo is a strega who has just turned one of her father’s enemies into a music box when a stray cloud materializes into a person on the mountain. After her father is poisoned and the heads of the other Five Families murdered, Teo and Cielo use their strega powers to confront the person responsible in Vinalia’s capital.

Capetta, A. R. The Lost Coast. 2019. 352p. Candlewick, $17.99 (9781536200966). Grades 9+. 


Danny is drawn to the wild California Redwood Coast by a coven of queer teen witches called The Grays. The Grays are convinced that Danny is the only one who can save their leader, Imogen, who has disappeared–and who also may be a victim or the cause of some deadly magic that has settled there.  

Clare, Cassandra and Chu, Wesley.The Red Scrolls of Magic. 2019. 368p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books, $24.99 (9781481495080). Grades 8+. 


Part of the Shadowhunters universe and the first book in The Eldest Curses series, The Red Scrolls of Magic features High Warlock Magnus Bane and his new boyfriend, Alec Lightwood. Readers don’t need to have read previous books in this universe to enjoy the wild ride as Bane, Lightwood and a cast of diverse characters tear through Europe on a quest to stop a demon-worshipping cult so they can go back to enjoying their vacation together. 

Drake, Julia. The Last True Poets of the Sea. 2019. 400p. Disney/Hyperion, $17.99 (9781368048088). Grades 8+. 

Realistic fiction.

Violet’s hard-partying ways escalate the same time her brother, Sam, attempts to take his life, so her parents send her to stay with her uncle in a small Maine town where she and Sam used to spend summers. There, she immerses herself in the mission to locate the shipwreck in which her ancestor was the sole survivor. She is joined by a group of local teens, led by the enigmatic Liv. As Violet untangles the threads of her family’s past, she finds herself falling for Liv.

*Emezi, Akwaeke. Pet. 2019. 203p. Random House Children’s Books/Make Me A World, $17.99 (9780525647072). Grades 7+. 

Speculative Fiction.

In Jam and Redemption’s hometown of Lucille, there are no monsters anymore — or so they’ve always been taught. But when a creature emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting and claims it’s here to hunt a monster, Jam and Redemption must reconsider what they thought they knew, and answer the question: how do you hunt monsters if no one will admit they even exist

Fowley-Doyle, Moïra. All the Bad Apples. 2019. 314p. Penguin/Kathy Dawson Books, $17.99 (9780525552741). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction.

The women in the Rys family have always been labeled as “bad apples.” When Deena Rys receives impossible letters from the older sister who jumped off a cliff, she and her friends set off on a journey across Ireland. Together they trace the path of the Rys women’s history and the curse that’s always followed them. Deena struggles to find a way to heal her family and give voice to the horrific abuse her ancestors endured.

Goslee, S. J. How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom. 2019. 240p. Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, $17.99 (9781626724013). Grades 9+. 

Realistic fiction.

Nolan is perfectly fine opting out of social engagements to stay home and draw narwhals, but his big sister has other plans. She pushes Nolan into asking his secret crush, Si O’Mara, to the prom. His prom-posal goes horribly wrong when Bern accepts the invitation instead. Nolan and Bern start fake-dating and soon lines begin to blur of what is real between them.

Grant, Mira. Alien: Echo. 2019. 304p. Macmillan/Imprint, $18.99 (9781250306296). Grades 10+. 

Science fiction/Horror.

Olivia and her chronically-ill twin sister, Viola, live on the planet Zagreus with their xenobiologist parents. When Olivia hosts a party for her sort-of girlfriend, Kora, and a few classmates, deadly xenomorphs invade the planet – which also leads to the exposure a shocking family secret. Olivia, Viola, and Kora must figure out a way to escape these terrifying aliens as well as adapt to how their lives have been completely turned upside down.  

Griffin, Sarah Maria. Other Words for Smoke. 2019. 352p. Greenwillow Books, $17.99 (9780062408914). Ages 9+. 


Twins Mae and Rossa’s lives are changed when they stay with their aunt whose house is full of secrets, mystery, and maybe even demons. This horror tale is both about a family and their secrets as well as the history of Ireland’s mistreatment of women.

Hawkins, Rachel. Her Royal Highness. 2018. 274p. Penguin/G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $17.99 (9781524738266). Ages 7+. 


When Millie Quint arrives at Gregorstoun, one of Scotland’s most exclusive boarding schools, everything seems perfect – except for her roommate, Flora, who just happens to be the princess of Scotland. At first they can’t stand one another, but soon Millie finds herself falling for the princess. Millie doubts her chances of a happily-ever-after because, after all, real life isn’t a fairytale. 

Hutchinson, Shaun David. The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried. 2019. 297p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99 (9781481498579). Grades 9+. 

Speculative fiction.

July may be dead, but that doesn’t stop her from waking up in Dino’s family’s funeral home.  Being thrown into this bizarre reality, the former best friends revisit the past as they navigate the surreal circumstances of the present.

Johnson, Lana Wood. Technically, You Started It. 2019. 374p. Scholastic/Scholastic Press, $18.99 (9781338335460). Grades 7+. 

Realistic Fiction. 

Haley’s classmate randomly sends her a text, and she thinks she knows who sent it. The text is from Martin Nathaniel Munroe II – but there happen to be two students in Haley’s class with this exact same name! Told entirely in text messages between Martin and Haley, this novel explores a case of mistaken identity as they build an unexpected friendship. But Haley needs to figure out which Martin is really sending the texts before their budding relationship turns into an epic disaster.

Johnston, E.K. The Afterward. 2019. 352p. Penguin/Dutton Books, $17.99 (9780735231894). Grades 9+. 


A year after the epic quest that brought Apprentice Knight Kalanthe and thief Olsa together, the two are torn apart by Kalanthe’s need to find a husband who can pay off her knight school loans. 

Keplinger, Kody. That’s Not What Happened. 2018. 336p. Scholastic, $18.99 (9781338186529). Grades 8+. 

Realistic fiction.

Three years after a mass school shooting, Lee and the other survivors are still trying to come to terms with what happened that day. While Lee has to decide if she should tell the truth about the details surrounding her best friend’s death, she also has to deal with what comes after high school, prom, and how to explain to her friends that she is asexual. 

*Khan, Sabina. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali. 2019. 336p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9781338227017). Grades 9+. 

Realistic fiction.

Rukhsana, a Bangladeshi-American teenager, must balance her life between conservative Muslim parents and her friends who don’t understand her family and culture. Rukhsana knows her family will not approve of her love life – she’s secretly dating a girl. Her parents discover the relationship and send her to relatives in Bangladesh to marry a nice, young Bengali man. Rukhsana finds unlikely allies as she carves out her own path to live the way she chooses.

Kisner, Adrienne. The Confusion of Laurel Graham. 2019. 288p. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, $17.99 (9781250146045). Grades 9+. 

Realistic fiction.

Laurel wants to become a famous birder and nature photographer. When her grandmother is hospitalized after an accident while tracking a mysterious bird call, Laurel knows she must find and document this bird. Not only will she finish what her grandmother started, but Laurel is certain it will ensure her a winning entry into the junior nature photographer contest. But standing in her way is the girl she suspects sabotaged her earlier photos – and Laurel just might be falling for her.

*Konigsberg, Bill. The Music of What Happens. 2019. 342p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99 (9781338215502). Ages 9+. 

Realistic fiction.

A chance encounter leads Max to help Jordan run a quirky food truck, which may be the only thing standing between Jordan and his severely depressed mother from becoming homeless.  Max is hiding his own trauma, while Jordan is struggling with the responsibility of taking care of his mother and the resentment his feels towards his two best friends. Opposites attract as they struggle to face their demons.  

Lawson, Rich. Annex. 2018. 368p. Hachette/Orbit, $15.99 (9780316416542). Grades 8+.

Science fiction.

Aliens have invaded Earth, turning adult humans into mindless drones and young people into hosts for their Parasites. A small group of kids, led by the charismatic Wyatt, have escaped the aliens and scrape by on their own. Violet, a white trans girl, and Bo, a Nigerien-American boy, discover Wyatt isn’t the savior that he seems to be, but they’ll have to work with him anyway if they’re going to save the world.

Legrand, Claire. Sawkill Girls. 2019. 464p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99 (9780062696601). Grades 9+. 


People have been disappearing for decades on the island of Sawkill Rock, but lately those disappearances have been getting more frequent. As the horror comes closer and closer, Val, Marion, and Zoey must work together to find a way to thwart the evil that preys on their home.

London, Alex. Black Wings Beating. 2018. 432p. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (9780374306823). Grades 8+. 


In a world that revolves around birding and falconry, fraternal twins Brysen and Kylee are often at odds. He’s determined to be a great falconer but lacks skill, while Kylee is gifted but antagonistic towards the craft. Still, the siblings rely on each other to survive. When Brysen has to capture the elusive and lethal Ghost Eagle in order to save his boyfriend’s life, Kylee accompanies him, despite her own misgivings.

McCarthy, Cori and Capetta, A. R. Once & Future. 2019. 368p. Hachette/Little, Brown/Jimmy Patterson, $18.99 (9780316449274). Grades 9+. 

Science Fiction/Fantasy.

In this sci-fi reimagining of Arthurian legend, Ari Helix draws together a band of fighters, including a now-teenaged Merlin, and her friends to fight a tyrannical, intergalactic corporation that has been exploiting the residents of some planets and destroying others. To make matters worse, Morgana, Merlin’s nemesis, is determined to free the soul of the original Arthur, locked inside of Ari. 

McLemore, Anna-Marie. Blanca & Roja. 2018. 384p. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 (9781250162717). Grades 8+. 

Magical Realism/Fairy Tale Adaptation.

For generations, there have always been two daughters in the del Cisne family, and destiny dictates that shortly after the younger sister’s 15th birthday, one sister will turn into a swan and the other will remain human. When two local missing children reappear in the woods near the sisters’ home, Blanca and Roja’s bond is tested. They find themselves confronting their ideas about family, love, and identity while waiting expectantly to discover their fate.

*Mejia, Tehlor Kay. We Set the Dark on Fire. 2019. 364p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99 (9780062691316). Grades 9+. 

Speculative Fiction. 

Daniela Vargas is the Medio School for Girls’ top student, and upon her graduation, she’s guaranteed a life of comfort and luxury as she’s picked to be one of two wives to the city’s most promising young bachelor. As Primera, she’s been through years of rigid training, but nothing prepares her for the decisions she’ll have to make after her marriage — especially not when she’s asked to spy for the resistance, or when she finds herself falling for someone forbidden.

Mitchell, Saundra. All the Things We Do in the Dark. 2019. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062852595). Grades 8+. 


Something happened when Ava was nine; the scar on her face is proof of that much. After spending years trying to build a life and stuff trauma down, she trips over a dead body in the woods while walking back from getting a tattoo. Is this death and her trauma connected in any way other than in Ava’s mind? And what about Haley, the cute girl Ava’s falling for, who just happens to be the daughter of the first in a string of police office she talked to all those years ago? Contains resources for sexual abuse and assault survivors.

Mitchell, Saundra. The Prom: A Novel Based on the Hit Broadway Musical. 2019. 240p. Penguin/Viking Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (9781984837523). Grades 8+. 

Realistic Fiction/Romance.

The only thing Emma wants is to dance with her girlfriend Alyssa at prom, but the PTA in her small town is determined not to let them “ruin” prom for the rest of the students. Enter two slightly washed-up Broadway stars with their own agenda, pushing Emma and Alyssa to fight for what they want.

Montgomery, Candace. By Any Means Necessary. 2019. 320p. Page Street Publishing Co., $17.99 (9781624147999). Grades 10+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Torrence “Torrey” McKenzie is ready to make a fresh start as a freshman in college. But no sooner does he leave then he finds out that the family apiary is about to be seized by the city and there’s not enough money to pay the back taxes to save it. Torrey struggles with the decision to go back and save the apiary from developers or stay in school and make a new life for himself.

Muir, Tamsyn. Gideon the Ninth. 2019. 444p. Tor/Tom Doherty Associates/Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, $25.99 (9781250313195). Grades 10+. 

Science Fiction. 

When the Emperor summons the heirs of each of the solar system’s Houses to a necromantic trial of wits and skill, Harrowhark Nonagesimus forces Gideon to accompany her as her cavalier. If Harrowhark succeeds, she’ll become immortal — but without Gideon’s sword, she’ll fail, and the Ninth House will die with her. Then dead bodies start turning up. Can Gideon and Harrow stay alive long enough to solve the Emperor’s puzzle?

Nazemian, Abdi. Like a Love Story. 2019. 432p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (9780062839367). Grades 10+. 

Historical Fiction.

Set in 1989 NYC against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, the story of three teens intertwine: Reza, a recent Iranian immigrant battling his attraction to other men; Art, an out-and-proud activist and photographer; and Judy, a plus-size fashion designer and Art’s best friend, whose uncle is dying of AIDS. In an attempt to avoid the truth about himself, Reza starts dating Judy. Soon she falls in love with him, but he’s fallen in love with Art. Can Reza untangle this web without losing his friends?

Petras, Junaunda. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. 2019. 320p. Penguin/Dutton Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (9780525555483). Grades 9+. 

Realistic fiction.

When Audre’s mother catches her with the pastor’s daughter, she’s shipped off from her home in Trinidad to live with her father in Minneapolis. There, she meets and falls for Mabel, who is questioning not only her own romantic feelings, but also why she’s been feeling ill all summer.

Philips, L. Sometime After Midnight. 2018. 385p. Penguin/Viking Books for Young Readers, $18.99 (9780425291634). Grades 10+. 

Romance/Fairy Tale Adaptation.

Aspiring musicians Cameron and Nate meet and immediately click, but Nate runs away when he learns that Cameron is heir to the record-label that destroyed his dad’s life. The only evidence of their meeting is the photo of Nate’s sharpie-covered Chuck Taylors, which Cam’s sister posts online to help Prince Charming track down his Cinderfella. 

Poston, Ashley. The Princess and the Fangirl. 2019. 316p. Quirk Books, $18.99 (9781683690962). Grades 10+. 

Fairy Tale Adaptation.

While Imogen wants to save a character in a movie franchise, the actress who plays the character, Jessica, would like to leave. When they meet at a fan convention, they are mistaken for each other. After the super-secret script to the Starfield sequel leaks, suddenly all fingers are pointed at Jessica. Jessica and Imogen agree to switch places to discover the culprit.

Roehrig, Caleb. Death Prefers Blondes. 2019. 448 p. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, 17.99 (9781250155825). Grades 10+. 


Wealthy socialite Margo Manning and her found family of struggling but exuberant young men pull off elaborate heists while in their drag queen personas. When Margo’s father’s death spurs her to take on a risky job, her friends must decide how far they are willing to stick by her side in this fun, sexy thriller. 

Rowell, Rainbow. Wayward Son. 2019. 356p. Macmillan/St. Martin’s/Wednesday Books, $19.99 (9781250146076). Grades 9+. 

Fantasy/Paranormal Romance.

Simon, Penny, and Baz triumphed over the villain in Carry On, but the happy ending hasn’t turned out like they expected. Without his powers, Simon is a couch potato with wings, and the hope of a real relationship between Simon and Baz has gone nowhere. When an opportunity arises to ride to the rescue, the three embark on a road trip across the American West.  

Russo, Meredith. Birthday. 2019. 278p. Macmillan/St. Martin’s/Flatiron, $18.99 (9781250129833). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Eric and Morgan’s families were thrust together the day they were born when they were all snowed-in at the hospital thanks to a freak, out-of-season September blizzard that hit their Tennessee community. Over the course of six birthdays, their lives unfold in complex and beautiful ways.

Ryan, Tom. Keep This to Yourself. 2019. 309p. Albert Whitman, $17.99 (9780807541517). Grades 9+. 


A year ago, Mac’s best friend Connor was the final victim of a serial killer who tore through their tiny town. As the school year ends, Mac finds a note from Connor asking to meet – a note left in a comic book from the night he died. Mac teams up with friends to solve the mystery of who killed four people, and why the murders suddenly stopped after Connor’s death.

Schrieve, Hal. Out of Salem. 2019. 448p. Seven Stories Press, $19.95 (9781609809010). Grades 8+. 

Paranormal Fiction.

Z is nonbinary and recently lost their family in the car crash that turned Z into a zombie. Now, Z is under suspicion from their uncle, their classmates, and society in general. They’re soon befriended by Aysel, a werewolf of Turkish descent, and Tommy, a boy who’s bullied for his alleged fey ancestry. When werewolves are blamed for the death of a local man, anti-monster sentiment rises, including in local law enforcement, which puts all three teens at risk.

Shrum, Brianna R. Kissing Ezra Holtz (and Other Things I Did for Science). 2019. 277p. Sky Horse/Sky Pony Press, $16.99 (9781510749405). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction/Romance.

Of course Amalia’s AP Psychology teacher pairs her up for a group project with the guy from her synagogue she’s been avoiding her whole life. For their project, she and Ezra decide to bring back a study that suggests it can make any two people fall in love. As they refine their experiment on others, it might actually be working on them.

Silverman, Laura. You Asked for Perfect. 2019. 267p. Sourcebooks/Sourcebooks Fire, $10.99 (9781492658276). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Ariel is stressed out trying to make sure everything about his high school years is perfect so that he can get into the best college. But after failing a calculus quiz, he asks Amir to tutor him. Math may not be Ariel’s thing, but Amir might just be perfect for him.

Smedley, Zack. Deposing Nathan. 2019. 393p. Page Street Publishing Co., $17.99 (9781624147357). Grades 10+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Nate is a devout Catholic who lives under the thumb of his overly-strict aunt and never breaks the rules, until he meets Cam, who is whip-smart, irreverent, and rebellious. Despite their differences, the two quickly become friends and then, maybe, something more. But when Cam comes out as bi and expects Nate to do the same, he’s met instead with violent biphobia and homophobia. Through flashbacks and deposition testimony, Nate tells the story of how Cam met him, quickly became his closest friend, and ended up stabbing him in the stomach.

Solomon, Rachel Lynn. Our Year of Maybe. 384p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $18.99 (9781481497763). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Sophie and Peter have been best friends forever, even after Sophie turned down Peter’s romantic advance in middle school. Now they’re in high school and Sophie’s the one in love with him, but after she donates a kidney to Peter, they find themselves growing further apart rather than closer. Will Peter’s reinvigorated life mean the death of their friendship?

Sterling, Isabel. These Witches Don’t Burn. 2019. 320p. Penguin Books/Razorbill, $17.99 (9780451480323). Grades 8+. 

Fantasy/Supernatural Romance.

Hannah and her family are descended from a line of Elemental Witches. Her life consists of avoiding her ex and selling souvenirs to Salem tourists. When a blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school bonfire, Hannah is convinced it’s the work of a Blood Witch. While trying to smoke out the culprit, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute girl who’s new to town. But she learns it’s so hard to date when trying to stop a string of deadly attacks.

Thomas, Leah. Wild and Crooked. 2019. 438p. Bloomsbury/Bloomsbury YA, $18.99 (9781547600021). Grades 9+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Whether because of her infamous family history, their low-class status, or her sexuality, Kaylyn is used to others picking on her. When she attends a new high school, she uses a fake name to avoid notoriety and pretends to be a nice Southern Belle. She is surprised to find herself among the popular students. But she also befriends one of the least popular – Gus Peake who’s known as “the disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy. When Kaylyn’s family history comes to light, their small town explodes in anger.

Vale, Lillie. Small Town Hearts. 2019. 324p. Macmillan/Swoon Reads, $17.99 (9781250192356). Grades 9+. 

Realistic fiction/Romance.

It’s the summer after high school, and Babe’s job as a barista in a beach town keeps her busy after breaking up with her best friends, when cute tourist Levi walks through her door. She never falls for summer boys, but he might be just what she needs to distract her from memories and the reappearance of her ex-girlfriend.

Villasante, Alexandra. The Grief Keeper. 2019. 320p. Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (9780525514022). Grades 9+. 

Science Fiction/Romance.

Marisol flees El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, but they get caught crossing into the United States. When she’s told her asylum request has been denied, her only hope of staying and keeping her sister safe comes from a pilot program of a new technology that funnels the grief, trauma, and pain of wealthy patrons to poor immigrants with no other choices. Her new life is nothing like the American TV shows Marisol loves so much, but in living so closely with Rey, who lost her brother during a concert, it may not only be her grief Marisol feels.

Wells, Rebecca Kim. Shatter the Sky. 2019. 294p. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 (9781534437906). Grades 9+. 

When Kaia is abducted by the empire, Maren sets off on a quest to steal a dragon, rescue her girlfriend, and save her way of life.

Wexler, Django. Ship of Smoke and Steel. 2019. Tor Teen/Macmillan Publishing Group, $17.99 (9780765397249). Grades 9+. 


Eighteen-year-old Isoka is a ward boss in a port city, using her combat magical skills to survive on the streets and providing for her sister’s more comfortable existence. Captured and threatened with the life of her sister, she agrees to use her skills to attempt to steal a legendary ghost ship. To accomplish her mission, Isoka will become a part of the brutal crew, battling creatures while navigating her unexpected feelings for a fellow fighter as well as a princess with her own dark power.

Winters, Julian. How to Be Remy Cameron. 2019. Interlude/Duet, $17.99 (9781945053801). Grades 9+. Realistic Fiction.

Remy Cameron is black, adopted, and gay… but who is he? When he’s assigned to answer that question in a school essay, Remy is stymied. How can he know who he is when he doesn’t know where he came from? And why should he be expected to have an answer at age 17, anyway? Fortunately, a birth relative connects with him on Facebook who may offer some answers. As the mystery of his identity unfurls, Remy is also working to move past a bad relationship and open up to a cute new boy in town named Ian.

Zappia, Francesca. Now Entering Addamsville. 2019. 357p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books, $17.99 (9780062935274). Grades 9+. 

Supernatural Mystery.

Addamsville is no stranger to ghosts, and unlike most people who live there, Zora knows they’re real because she can see them. Supernatural forces in Addamsville start causing fires that get people killed, and Zora is framed for their crimes. She’ll need to track down the true culprit. In a small town obsessed with ghosts but unaware of the actual existence of spectres among them, will anyone believe the truth?

Graphic Non-Fiction

Kobabe, Maia. Gender Queer: A Memoir. 2019. 239p. Oni/Lion Forge, $17.99 (9781549304002). Grades 10+. 

Maia’s memoir documents eir life and journey of self-discovery, from cringey crushes, to gay fanfic and coming out as both nonbinary and asexual.

Graphic Novel Fiction

Gillman, Melanie. Stage Dreams. 2019. 104p. Lerner/Graphic Universe, $29.32 (9781512440003). Grades 6-9. 

Historical Fiction.

In New Mexico Territory, a Latina bandit known as the “Ghost Hawk” holds up a stagecoach and takes hostage a trans woman, Grace, who offers to help her sneak into a party where several Confederate railroad barons will be meeting. As they prepare to infiltrate high society, the women start to develop feelings for each other, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Graley, Sarah. Kim Reaper, Volume 2: Vampire Island. 2019. 99p. Oni Press, $14.99 (9781620106372). Grade 9+. 

Paranormal Fantasy.

Kim works overtime for her grumpy grim reaper boss and doesn’t have enough time to spend with her girlfriend, Becka. She ends up going on a group date to Vampire Island with her girlfriend and Becka’s roommate who Kim despises. Things quickly get out of hand when the vampires realize there are humans at the party. 

O’Neill, Katie. The Tea Dragon Festival. 2019. 134p. Oni Press, Inc., $21.99 (9781620106556). Grades 4-8. 


In this prequel to The Tea Dragon Society, Rinn stumbles across a real dragon! Aedhan was assigned to guard Rinn’s village, but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. Rinn investigates the mystery of Aedhan’s enchanted sleep, as well as helping Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he lost. 

Pascat, C.S. Fence, Volume 1. 2018. 112p. BOOM! Box, $9.99 (9781684151929). 

Pascat, C.S. Fence, Volume 2. 2019. 112p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781684152971). 

Pascat, C.S. Fence, Volume 3. 2019. 112p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781684153343). 

Grades 7+. 

Sports Fiction.

Nicholas must prove his worth as an illegitimate son of a fencing champion, so he gains acceptance at a prestigious boarding school whose fencing team has a reputation for excellence, but before he can make a name for himself, he must find a way to make it onto the fencing team and compete against the heavy favorite, Seiji – who is also his half-brother.

Steele, Hammish. DeadEndia: The Broken Halo: Book 2. 2019. 237p. Nobrow Press, $16.95 (9781910620625). Grades 9+. 

Paranormal Fantasy.

Dead End is a hotel in a theme park, as well as a portal to hell. Norma is dealing with unwanted ghosts while trying to keep the hotel running, Barney is secretly (and literally) wrestling demons, and neither of them are sure if they are even still friends. All the while, a war is brewing across the thirteen planes and Dead End is somehow right in the center of everything. 

Sturges, Lilah. Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass. 2018. 144p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781684152520). Grades 9+. 


In this prequel to the Lumberjanes graphic novel series, the Janes set out to earn their orienteering badge–only their compass seems to possess some mystical qualities. At the same time, Molly and Mal are each orienting themselves in their new relationship, while concerned about its effect on their group of friends. 

Tamaki, Mariko. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. 2019. 304p. Macmillan/Holtzbrinck/Roaring Brook Press/First Second, $17.99 (9781626722590). Grades 8+. 

Realistic Fiction.

Freddy is addicted to her popular, attractive girlfriend–the titular Laura Dean–even though Laura has broken up with her twice. Laura disrespects Freddy’s time, friends, and heart. Things come to a head when Freddy’s best friend is in crisis on the same day as Laura’s birthday party.

Templer, Hannah. Cosmoknights. 2019. 211p. Idea and Design Works/IDW Publishing/Top Shelf Productions, $19.99 (9781603094542). Grades 10+. 

Science Fiction.

When a charismatic pair of off-world gladiators show up on Pan’s doorstep, she just wants to get them patched up and on their way. But their talk intrigues her, and soon she follows them off the galactic grid, learning the secrets of her world — and discovering the chance to burn it all down. 

Usdin, Carly. The Avant-Guards, Volume 1. 2019. 112p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781684153671). Grades 9+. 

Sports Fiction.

Charlie transfers to art school in the hopes of getting a new start. When the spirited Olivia tries to recruit her to the school’s (admittedly terrible) basketball team, Charlie is hesitant–she used to be a basketball star, but left it all behind. When she does finally decide to join the team, she and the other players find themselves learning to trust and support one another. 

*Walden, Tillie. On a Sunbeam. 2018. 535p. Macmillan/Holtzbrinck/Roaring Brook Press/First Second, $21.99 (9781250178138). Grades 8+. 

Science fiction.

A romantic space adventure that spans the halls of the boarding school where Mia and Grace fell in love, to the ancient structures on distant planets in the far reaches of the galaxy. Separated under mysterious circumstances, Mia is determined to reunite with Grace – and she will brave anything to find her again.

*Walker, Suzanne and Xu, Wendy. Mooncakes. 2019. 256p. Oni/Lion Forge, $14.99 (9781549303043). Grades 8+. 


Nova is a young witch who wears a hearing aid and lives with her two grandmothers. Tam is a nonbinary werewolf on the run from their stepdad. The two, who were childhood friends, reconnect and soon romance is in the air.

13 Responses to "The 2020 Rainbow Book List"

[…] school or library? Want some great books to add to your personal collection? The just-announced 2020 Rainbow Book List from the American Library Association has what you […]

[…] Congratulations to Shaun David Hutchinson for having Brave Face and The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried on the 2020 Rainbow Book List! […]

[…] The 2020 Rainbow Book List […]

[…] The Rainbow Book List is a curated bibliography highlighting books with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content, aimed at children and youth from birth to age 18. This list is intended to aid youth and those working with youth in selecting high-quality books published in the United States of America between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019. […]

[…] Selection aids: Class book groups discussion book. I’d already read this for my personal TBR, but it was recently featured on the ALA’s 2020 Rainbow Booklist […]

[…] was a starred title on the 2020 Rainbow Book List and was a finalist for the National Book Awards 2019 for Young People’s Literature.This is an […]

[…] This curated collection includes 2020 Stonewall Book Award Winners, and selected works from the 2020 Rainbow book list, the 2020 Over the Rainbow book list, and the recent Lambda Literary Award […]

[…] Feels Good to Be Yourself was a 2020 Rainbow Book List title and is an “own voices” book. I recommend it for all public and elementary school […]

[…] You Be You! was on the 2020 Rainbow Book List. […]

[…] and Resistance was on the 2020 Rainbow Book List. I highly recommend it for public and academic libraries as well as for use in journalism and […]

[…] American Library Association Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Round Table. (2020, February 5). The 2020 Rainbow Book List. Retrieved from https://glbtrt.ala.org/rainbowbooks/archives/1331 […]

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