Rainbow Book List

The 2021 Rainbow Book List

Posted by: Rainbow Project on: February 10, 2021

The Rainbow Book List, now in its 14th year, is an annual annotated bibliography consisting of quality LGBTQIA+ literature intended for readers from birth to age 18. This resource guide is meant to assist librarians, educators, parents, and others to ensure that everyone from babies and children to tweens and teens have access to selecting quality books with significant content regarding inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and all that extends throughout the Rainbow spectrum.

The 2021 Rainbow Book List compiles some of the best LGBTQIA+ titles published in the USA and Canada between July 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020. This year’s committee evaluated close to 600 eligible titles and selected a total of 129 titles. 

We’re delighted to see so many remarkable offerings in the expanding landscape of LGBTQIA+ literature for youth. The range of these contributions ensures that more young readers can see themselves reflected in the pages of a book. This year’s offerings give us everything from precious board books, touching picture books, astonishing true stories and biographies of remarkable people. We provide you with titles that incorporate the wide and varied lives of young people, non-fiction titles that challenge the status quo, and fiction that will break your heart and mend it together again. 

As a result of the sheer number of eligible titles and those ultimately chosen, for the first time in its history the committee separated these exceptional selections by age and created two Top 10 Titles lists. The Rainbow Book List Committee is ecstatic to provide theseTop 10 lists: one intended for preschool through middle grade; the other intended for teen readers. An asterisk (*) indicates that title has been selected for one of the two Top 10 lists.

The Rainbow Book List is brought to you by the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association. Members of the 2021 Rainbow Book List are: Jenna Ingham (chair), East Brunswick Public Library (NJ); Angharad Daly, Pima County Public Library (AZ); Alex Falck, Chicago Public Library (IL); Shanna Hollich, John Stewart Memorial Library at Wilson College (PA); Amanda Melilli, UNLV Teacher Development & Resources Library (NV); Roz Posley, (DC); Simone Pyle, The Newton School (VT); Laura Russell, College of the Mainland Library (TX); Kristi Sadowski, Southington Public Library & Museum (CT); Caitlin Young, New Orleans Public Library (LA); Ashley Vassar Balay, Licking County Library (OH); and Kel Rowan (administrative assistant), Ocean County Library (NJ).

2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 Titles for Young Readers
2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 Titles for Teen Readers

Board Books

Joosten, Michael and Wednesday Holmes (Illustrator). Pride 1 2 3. 2020. 22p. Simon & Schuster: Little Simon, $7.99 (9781534464995). Ages 1 to 5. Board book/Counting and Numbers. Bright primary colors and diverse figures illustrate this rhyming, counting board book about a Pride parade.

Little Feminist. We Are Little Feminists: Families. 2020. 14p. Little Feminist, $8.00 (9781734182422). Ages 0 to 5. Board book. This board book showcases pictures of real-life families of all different genders, ethnicities, and identities. Includes simple accompanying text that helps build vocabulary and highlight the importance of family connection.

Picture Book Nonfiction

*Burgess, Matthew and Josh Cochran (Illustrator). Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring. 2020. 64p. Enchanted Lion Books/Ingram, $18.95 (9781592702671). Ages 6 to 14. Biography. This colorful picture-book biography traces the life and art of Keith Haring.

*Mercurio, Peter and Leo Espinosa (Illustrator). Our Subway Baby. 2020. 40p. Penguin Random House, $17.99 (9780525427544). Ages 4 to 8. Adoption Non-fiction. Loving illustrations help tell the story of how an infant abandoned in a NYC subway station was adopted by the man who found him and his partner.

Robillard, Evie and Rachel Katstaller (Illustrator). Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. 2020. 48p,  Kids Can Press, $17.99 (9781525300561). Ages 6 to 9. Biography. Soft illustrations, quotes from Stein’s works, and free-verse poetry sketch the outlines of Stein and Toklas’ (but mostly Stein’s) lives together in Paris.

Robinson, Lisa and Lauren Simkin Berke (Illustrator). Were I Not a Girl: The Inspiring and True Story of Dr. James Barry. 2020. 40p. Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (9781984849052). Ages 4-8. Biography. A picture book biography of Dr. James Barry, who was assigned female at birth but lived as a man from age 18 until his death. Straightforward and sensitive, Were I Not a Girl acknowledges both the difficulty of discussing historical gender-nonconforming figures in modern terms, and the importance of knowing they existed.

Sanders, Rob and Nabi Ali (Illustrator). The Fighting Infantryman: The Story of Albert D.J. Cashier, Transgender Civil War Soldier. 2020. 48p. little bee books, $18.99 (9781499809367). Ages 6 to 9. Biography. This picture book biography, published in partnership with GLAAD, details the life of Albert D.J. Cashier, a transgender Union Soldier.

Picture Book Fiction

Brannen, Sarah S. and Lucia Soto (Illustrator). Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. 2020. 32p. little bee books, $17.99 (9781499810080) Ages 3-6. Realistic Fiction. A young girl is worried that her uncle’s impending marriage means she’ll lose him, but she learns that instead, she’ll be gaining another wonderful uncle!

Kirsch, Vincent X. From Archie to Zack. 2020. 40p. Abrams/Abrams BFYR, $17.99 (9781419743672). Ages 4-8. Realistic Fiction. Archie writes letters to his friend, Zack, telling him that he loves him. Not ready to share his words with Zack, Archie instead hides his notes in various spots around the neighborhood. Will Archie and Zack ever be able to tell each other how they feel? This sweet picture book captures the deep feelings two children can have for each other.

Kirst, Seamus and Devon Holzwarth (Illustrator). Papa, Daddy, and Riley. 2020. 32p. Magination Press, $14.99 (9781433832390). Ages 4-8. Realistic Fiction. When a classmate asks Riley which of her dads is her real dad, she worries that she will have to choose between her Papa and her Daddy. She instead learns that all it takes to make a family is love. Diverse characters and family representations round out this lovingly written picture book.

Lukoff, Kyle and Luciano Lozano (Illustrator). Call Me Max. 2019. 32p. Reycraft Books, $17.95 (9781478868620). Ages 7-9. Realistic Fiction. Max, a young trans boy, transitions at school and comes out to his parents while explaining gender identity to the audience and exploring the difference between gender-nonconformity and transness.

Lyons, Maddox, Jessica Verdi and Dana Simpson (Illustrator). I’m Not a Girl. 2020. 40p. Macmillan: Roaring Brook Press, $18.99 (9780374310684). Ages 3-6. Realistic Fiction. After trying for months to assert his identity as a boy, Hannah finally learns the word “transgender” and comes out to his parents, who support him and help him socially transition.

Manushkin, Fran and Kate Alizadeh (Illustrator). Plenty of Hugs. 2020. 32p. Dial, $17.99 (9780525554011) Ages 2-5. Realistic Fiction. Two moms reassure their baby that the world is wide, wonderful, and plentiful.

*Neal, DeShanna, Trinity Neal, and Art Twink (Illustrator). My Rainbow. 2020. 32p. Kokila, $17.99 (9781984814609). Ages 4-8. Realistic Fiction. Autistic trans girl Trinity wants to have long hair, but growing it out is too itchy! None of the wigs in the store are quite right, so Mom makes Trinity a special rainbow wig.

*Pitman, Gayle E. and Violet Tobacco (Illustrator). My Maddy. 2020. 32p. Magination Press, $14.99 (9781433830440). Ages 4-8. Realistic Fiction. My Maddy is a heartwarming story about a young girl and her parent. Readers learn that not all parents are boys or girls; some parents are just themselves. In this young girl’s case, that parent is her Maddy, a loving, caring parent who lives outside the gender binary.

Royce, Ellie and Hannah Chambers (Illustrator). Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero. 2020. 32p. powerHouse Books, $17.99 (9781576879351). Ages 3-7. Realistic Fiction. Told from the perspective of their adoring nephew, this is the story of a courageous drag queen who saves the day and brings two communities together.

Juvenile Nonfiction

Grinapol, Corinne. Who Was Harvey Milk?.  2020. 112p. Penguin/Penguin Workshop, $15.99 (9781524792794). Ages 8-12. Biography. This biography of gay pioneer Harvey Milk is short and punchy, packing in ample information about Milk’s childhood and young adulthood as well as the historical context in which he lived. Charcoal illustrations complement the straightforward text and bring Milk to vivacious life.

*Simon, Rachel E. and Noah Grigni (Illustrator). The Every Body Book: LGBTQ+ Inclusive Guide for Kids about Sex, Gender, Bodies, and Families. 2020. 96p.Jessica Kingsley Publishers, $19.95 (9781787751736). Ages 8 to 12. Nonfiction/Health. Filled with self-affirming information, The Every Body Book uses inclusive language, illustrations, and facts to cover a number of important topics for young people including consent, relationships, gender, sex, puberty, and hormones.

Juvenile Fiction

Bosch, Pseudonymous and Shane Pangburn (Illustrator). Unbelievable Oliver and Sawed-in-Half Dads. 2020. 208p. Penguin Young Readers, $16.99 (9780525552352). Ages 7 to 9. Mystery. In this sequel that also stands alone, Oliver performs his magic act at a wedding rehearsal and one of the grooms goes missing.

Cassidy, Sara and Charlene Chua (Illustrator). Genius Jolene. 2020. 112p. Orca Books, $7.95 (9781459825291). Ages 6 to 8. Beginning Chapter Book. Eight-year-old Jolene goes on her annual trip in her dad’s 18-wheeler, the first one since her parents divorced and her dad came out as gay.

Hernandez, Carlos. Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe. 2020. 432p. Rick Riordan Presents,  $16.99 (9781368022835). Ages 8 to 12. Science Fiction. Sal has type 1 diabetes, the ability to travel between universes, a best friend named Gabi, and an inventor papi. When Evil Gabi appears from another universe, she claims that Papi’s latest creation will end in disaster. Can Sal and Gabi thwart Evil Gabi, save the universe from Papi, AND pull off the greatest parents’ night their arts-magnet school has ever seen?

Klas, Benjamin and Fian Arroyo (Illustrator). Second Dad Summer. 2020. 224p. Lerner/One Elm Books,  $16.99 (9781947159242). Ages 8 to 12. Realistic Fiction. While living with his dad one summer, Jeremiah has to deal with Michael–his dad’s boyfriend–and the grumpy old man who lives in their building. In getting to know them, Jeremiah learns a little bit about the history of Pride and grows comfortable with Michael’s flamboyancy.

Rivera, Lilliam and Elle Power (Illustrator). Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit. 2020. 264p. Brown Books for Young Readers, $14.99 (9780316456647). Ages 8 to 12. Mystery. Inspired by the comic series, Goldie tries solving the mystery of the missing diamond cap from a film set in this middle-grade novel.

Rosewater, Kit and Sophie Escabasse. Derby Daredevils #1: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team. 2020. 176p. Abrams/Abrams BFYR, $14.99 (9781419740794). Ages 8 to 12. Sports Fiction/Roller Derby. This middle-grades novel follows Kenzie as she forms a junior roller derby team, makes new friends, and deals with her first crush.

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Harris, Duchess. LGBTQ Discrimination in America. 2019. 112p. Abdo, $25.95 (9781532119057). Ages 8 to 12. Information. This slim nonfiction volume gives a quick overview of the laws, opinions, and social norms that have lead to discrimination of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Includes a glossary, source notes, links to further reading, and an index.

Harris, Duchess. LGBTQ Service in the Armed Forces. 2019. 112p. Abdo, $25.95 (9781532119071). Ages 8 to 12. Information. Follows the progress and the setbacks of LGBTQ+ servicemembers throughout history, up to the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Harris, Duchess. LGBTQ Social Movements in America. 2019. 112p. Abdo, $25.95 (9781532119088). Ages 8 to 12. Information. This nonfiction primer introduces teen readers to the history of queer activism in the U.S.

Houtman, Jacqueline and Walter Naegle, Michael G. Long. Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington. 2019.160p. City Lights Books, $13.95  (9780872867659). Ages 12 and up. Biography. Troublemaker for Justice recounts the life and activism of Bayard Rustin, who was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement and taught the principles of nonviolent resistance to many people, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Because he was gay, though, he was deliberately kept out of prominent leadership roles and was not given credit for his contributions. This book was co-written by Rustin’s longtime partner, Walter Naegle, and places particular emphasis on the formative role that Quakerism played in Rustin’s life.

Stevenson, Robin. 2020. 168p. Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle. Orca, $24.95 (9781459821248). Ages 9-12. Nonfiction. A necessary primer that celebrates LGBTQ+ victories over the past 50 years, this expanded edition of the 2016 publication focuses more deeply on activism and the need to continue fighting for equality. Updates also include new Proud Moments and Queer Facts, a section on being an ally, and profiles of activists, families, and others in the LGBTQ+ community from around the world.

Middle Grade Fiction

Bean, Lexie. The Ship We Built. 2020. 288p. Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (9780525554837). Ages 10 to 14. Epistolary. Fifth-grader Rowan doesn’t have anyone he can talk to–about losing his friends, about being a boy, about his dad coming to his room at night–so instead he writes letters and ties them to balloons, hoping they’ll float away to be found by someone who will listen. Gradually, he becomes close friends with a girl named Sophie, and their friendship grows strong enough to sustain them both through difficult times.

Bildner, Phil. High Five for Glenn Burke. 2020. 278p. Macmillan/Farrar Straus & Giroux. BFYR, $16.99 (9780374312732). Ages 10 to 13. Sports Fiction/Baseball. Sixth-grader Silas is a great baseball player, but he’s worried about what will happen if anyone finds out that he’s gay. He knows all about Glenn Burke–the inventor of the high five and first openly gay baseball player–and how his career was ruined by homophobia. After coming out to his best friend and his coach, Silas panics and fumbles–can he rescue his friendship and get back in the game?

*Callender, Kacen. King and the Dragonflies. 2020. 259p. Scholastic, $17.99. (9781338129335). Ages 8 to 12. Realistic Fiction. King’s family–especially his father–have strong opinions about what it means to be a Black man, and they don’t allow for being gay. But King admires his friend Sandy for escaping an abusive home and living his truth no matter what. If King comes out, too, can his father learn to change?

Connor, Leslie. Home for Goddesses and Dogs. 2020. 385p. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (9780062796783). Ages 10 and up. Realistic Fiction. Lydia is mature beyond her 13 years; from the time her father left when she was 6, she lived alone with her mother and her failing heart–just days ago, Lydia held her mother as she died. Now she’s living in rural Chelmsford, NY, with her two aunts, an old man, and a couple dogs. Lydia’s never been a dog person, but as she bonds with a troublesome new rescue, she finds it easier to trust in the love of her new family.

Nuanez, J.M.M. Birdie and Me. 2020. 256p. Penguin/Kathy Dawson, $16.99 (9780399186776). Ages 10 and up. Realistic Fiction. Jack and her younger brother, Birdie, lost their mother in a car accident and are removed from their Uncle Carl’s house after missing too much school. Now they have to adjust to Uncle Patrick, who keeps his distance and won’t let Birdie wear the feminine clothing he likes. Accustomed to a parental role, Jack tries to take charge of the situation and protect Uncle Carl from his poor decision-making, but she needs the flawed adults surrounding her to step up and take the burden off her shoulders.

Ryon, Loriel. Into the Tall, Tall Grass.  2020. 336p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99 (9781534449671). Ages 10 and up. Magical Realism. Loriel Ryon’s debut novel, Into the Tall, Tall Grass, follows the journey of pre-teen Yolanda, who is seeking understanding around grief, love, and growth. Wela, Yolanda’s grandmother is in her final days, but not if Yolanda can help it. Wela could be saved, if Yolanda can get her across the family land in time. It’s during this journey that Yolanda learns the truth about her family, their magic, and the friends who help her along the way.

*Sass, A.J. Ana on the Edge. 2020. 384p. Hachette/Little Brown BFYR,  $16.99 (9780316458610). Ages 8 to 12. Sports Fiction/Figure Skating. Ana is a champion figure-skater. She hates her new princess-themed program, but how can she tell her mother that, when it cost so much money? And why does it bother her so much, anyway? When she finds the word ‘nonbinary,’ she realizes why the program doesn’t fit, but she still has a lot of work to do repairing relationships that have suffered in the meantime.

Stead, Rebecca. The List of Things that Will Not Change. 2020. 224p. Wendy Lamb Books, $16.99 (9781101938096). Ages 8 to 12. Realistic Fiction. When Bea’s dad tells her that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married and that she will be getting a new sibling, Bea is thrilled, but she soon realizes that people and relationships aren’t as straightforward as she would like them to be.

Tamaki, Mariko. Lumberjanes: Ghost Cabin. 2019. 256p. Abrams/Amulet, $14.99 (9781419733611). Ages 8 to 12. Adventure. The Lumberjanes are having a bad day! In an attempt to cheer up Molly, Mal suggests they tackle the Case of the Missing Socks, little suspecting that it will lead to a cabin occupied by the ghosts of former Lumberjanes and–of course!–a quest for an ancient, mystical object.

Young Adult Nonfiction

Eli, Adam and Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator). New Queer Conscience. 2020. 64p.  Penguin/Penguin Workshop, $8.99 (9780593093689). Ages 12 and up. Manifesto. In this installment of the popular Pocket Change Collective series, activist Adam Eli explores how aspects of his Jewish faith, namely kindness and support, can be used to bring together the queer community into a stronger and more responsible “global conciousness.”

Finke, Leigh. Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens. 2020. 260p. Beaming Books, $16.99 (9781506465241). Ages 12 to 18. Inspirational. This affirming nonfiction book sets out to answer the questions that many young LGBTQ+ Christians may have about how their identity intersects with their religion. It features information from LGBTQ+ professionals and testimonies from young adult queer Christians.

*Johnson, George M. All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto. 2020. 320p. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (9780374312718). Ages 14 to 18. Memoir. “Memoir-manifesto” is a well-chosen label for this book, which relates stories from the author’s childhood and young adulthood and contextualizes them within a queer Black experience. Although the author’s family is loving and supportive, pervasive heteronormativity, queerphobia, and anti-Black racism threaten his mental, emotional, and physical safety.

Mckenna, Miles. Out!: How to be Your Authentic Self. 2020. 224p. Abrams/Amulet, $19.99 (9781419739941). Ages 13 and up. Self-Help. YouTube star and activist Miles McKenna draws from his own experiences publicly documenting his transition to create an inclusive guide to finding validation, inspiration, and support for LGBTQ+ teens exploring their own identities.

Vaid-Menon, Alok and Ashley Lukashevsky. Beyond the Gender Binary. 2020. 64p. Penguin/Penguin Workshop, $8.99 (9780593094655). Ages 12 and up. Autobiography. For those ready to move beyond blog posts but who aren’t ready to invest the time in an in-depth read, this book is essentially a long-form essay arguing that the gender binary is harmful and unnecessary. The first half explains what the gender binary is and how it functions in society, using the author’s experiences to demonstrate their points. In the second half, Vaid-Menon addresses common arguments against gender-nonconformity and the recognition of nonbinary genders.

Young Adult Fiction

Acevedo, Elizabeth. Clap When You Land. 2020. 432p. Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, $18.99 (9780062882769). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. Camino and Yahaira are living separate lives in the Dominican Republic and New York City, respectively, when they each lose their father to a plane crash. The accident exposed a secret: their fathers were the same man, living a double life in DR and NYC. What does that mean for their memories of him, and for the future of their family?

Allen-Agostini, Lisa. Home Home. 2020. 153p. Delacorte, $17.99 (9781984893581). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. As if life wasn’t hard already, consider moving to Canada from Trinidad. It wasn’t her idea; her mother thought it would be best, given her condition. She’s currently living with her aunt, whom she barely remembers, but at least she’s nice. The thing is, how can she be expected to change or grow when everything in Canada is so cold? This place is the entire opposite of where she has been and it might be what she needs, but right now she’s not sure if she believes that. 

Atta, Dean. The Black Flamingo. 2020. 416p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (9780062990297). Ages 14 and up. Verse novel. A novel-in-verse based on the author’s experience growing up Black, mixed, and gay in London, from his childhood through his first drag performance as the Black Flamingo.

Bartlett, Claire Eliza. Winter Duke. 2020. 432p. Hachette/Little Brown BFYR, $17.99 (9780316417341). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. When Ekata’s entire family falls under a sleeping curse during the pageant that was supposed to help her older brother choose a bride, the would-be-scholar finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the role of Duke and woefully underprepared. Worse still, a disgusting suitor intent on seizing her kingdom’s power is breathing down her neck. In an impulsive and desperate effort to avoid this suitor’s intentions, she marries one of her brother’s potential brides. She soon finds herself juggling a sudden marriage to a fascinating stranger, a persistent suitor who would see her marriage fail, and an investigation into the cause of the curse on her family and the way to break it.  

Bashardoust, Melissa. Girl, Serpent, Thorn. 2020. 336p. Macmillan/Flatiron, $18.99 (9781250196149). Ages 12 and up. Fantasy. Cursed before she was even born, Soraya must live her life secluded from society. On a quest for the cure that would free her, and save her kingdom, she must choose who to trust, and who to betray—and decide if she is the monster she has always feared she would become. Inspired by fairy tales, and Persian myths and traditions, Soraya’s story reminds readers that monsters and heroes aren’t always as they appear. 

Briant, Amy. The Book of Kell. 2020. 301p. Bella Books, $18.95 (9781642471045). Ages 13 and up. Survival/Post-apocalypse. In a post-apocalyptic world, three teens must find a way to survive enemy drones, domestic terrorists, crazed loners, and a barren wilderness after an accident leaves them alone with few resources.

Callender, Kacen. Felix Ever After. 2020. 368p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray, $18.99 (9780062820259). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. During a summer art program, someone puts up pre-transition photos of Felix, along with his deadname. As he works to uncover the culprit, Felix makes new friends and loses others. But the biggest mysteries are inside him: why is he still having Gender Feels, what do they mean, and will he ever fall in love?

Capetta, A. R. and Cori McCarthy. Sword in the Stars. 2020. 368p. Hachette/Jimmy Patterson,  $18.99 (9780316449298). Ages 13 and up. Fantasy. The sequel to Once and Future finds Ari and her friends back in the Middle Ages, navigating the intricacies of King Arthur’s world as they search for the Grail that will help them defeat the evil Mercer corporation. The twists and turns in this duology’s finale will keep readers enthralled to the very end.

Chupeco, Rin. The Never Tilting World. 2020. 512p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $10.99  (9780062821881). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. Generations of twin goddesses ruled Aeon together until catastrophe split the world in two, locking one half in eternal night and the other in eternal day. Now, two young goddesses raised on opposite sides of the divide each embark on a perilous journey in the hope of healing their world.

Clarke, Hannah Abigail. The Scapegracers. 2020. 400p. Workman/Erewhon Books, $17.95    (9781645660002). Ages 14 and up. Contemporary Fantasy. An outcast teenage lesbian forms a coven with the popular girls at school, and together they cast curses and try to elude witch hunters.

*Cornwell, Betsy. Circus Rose. 2020. 288p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books, $17.99 (9781328639509). Ages 12 and up. Fantasy.  Ivory and Rosie are twins and half-sisters, born to a bearded woman who refused to choose between her lovers, and raised in their mother’s circus. After a long foreign tour, they come home to find themselves under attack by religious zealots. As tragedy follows tragedy, will Ivory be able to save her circus family?

Coulthurst, Audrey. Of Ice and Shadows. 2020. 464p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062841223). Ages 13 and up. Fantasy. Mare and Denna are two princesses in love, but while Mare is tasked by her brother-king with forging a political alliance, Denna wants training to control her volatile fire magic. The Dragon Queen offers to train Denna, but the more Denna gets to know her, the less she trusts her.

Dow, Alechia. The Sound of Stars. 2020. 432p. HarperCollins/Inkyard, $18.99 (9781335911551). Ages 13 and up. Science Fiction. Two years after earth was invaded by the Ilori, Ellie Baker lives in one of the largest remaining human settlements and runs an illegal library. M0Rr1S is an Ilori who appreciates emotions and music, two things forbidden to them. Together, Ellie and M0Rr1S run from the Ilori authorities, heading from New York to California, where they may be able to stop the Ilori’s plans and free humanity.

Dugan, Jennifer. Verona Comics. 2020. 336p. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers/Penguin Publishing Group, $17.99 (9780525516286). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction/Romance. In this modern spin on Romeo and Juliet, Ridley and Jubilee meet at a convention prom and fall for each other despite the bitter feud between Jubilee’s indie-comics-shop-owning moms and Ridley’s dad, the ruthless head of a comics empire. With both of them feeling the pressure of keeping their relationship secret, and Ridley struggling with intense depression and anxiety, the pair are forced to ask themselves: what if love can’t conquer all?

Eliopulos, Andrew. The Fascinators. 2020. 320p. Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, $18.99 (9780062888044 ). Ages 13 and up. Contemporary Fantasy. Three teens in a small town begin to grow apart as their senior year starts. As Sam begins to explore his feelings for James, Delia gets frustrated with their amateur magic club, and they all begin to get mixed up with some sketchy new magickers who might ruin everything.

*Gailey, Sarah. When We Were Magic. 2020. 352p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $18.99 (9781534432871). Ages 14 and up. Contemporary Fantasy. This firecracker of a novel follows a group of friends who attempt to correct the accidental murder of a classmate. When We Were Magic combines magic, friendship, and awkward moments to create a captivating story. Each character brings their own uniqueness to the strong group of friends, but despite their differences, their loyalty remains. Author Sarah Gailey has written another page turning novel, with the quirky strange content to boot. 

Gonzales, Sophie. Only Mostly Devastated. 2020. 288p. Macmillan/St. Martin’s/Wednesday, $17.99    (9781250315892). Ages 13-18. Romance. In this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease, Will and Ollie’s dreamy summer fling ends in uncertainty–just in time for Ollie to move across the country and start attending the same high school as Will. Will’s not out to his family and friends, but still has feelings for Ollie, who must decide whether or not to trust Will with his heart again.

Guel, M. B. Queerleaders. 2020. 135p. Bella Books, $14.95 (9781642471151). Ages 12 to 18. Humor/Romance. After being publicly outed as a lesbian at her Catholic high school, Mackenzie decides to date every cheerleader on the squad.

Henry, Katie. Let’s Call It a Doomsday. 2020. 386p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99 (9780062698902). Ages 13 and up. Ellis has severe anxiety that she deals with by prepping for the apocalypse–her extreme risk-aversion might be frustrating and inconvenient to her family now, but she’ll make it up by saving them all when disaster strikes! She also finds comfort in her Mormon faith. After being aggressively befriended by Hannah, Ellis’ worldview starts to expand and she begins to take small risks she never would have considered, but just as she’s starting to recognize her disordered thinking, it seems like the end of the world may actually be upon them.

Ireland, Justina. The Deathless Divide. 2020. 560p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (9780062570635). Ages 14 and up. Historical Fantasy. In this sequel to Dread Nation, Jane McKeene’s adventures continue as she attempts to make it to California to find her mother. When she stops at a supposedly safe village, she begins to suspect that something is amiss. Allied with Katharine Deveraux, will the two girls manage to stay alive long enough to accomplish their goals in a world where the dead don’t stay dead?

Jaigirdar, Adiba. The Henna Wars. 2020. 400p. Macmillan/Page Street Kids, $17.99 (9781624149689). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. When Bengali-Irish teen Nishat comes out to her Muslim parents, she is met with an insistence that she can chose to be straight.  Feeling rejected at home and at school for being one of the few students of color, Nishat is determined to win a school business competition by promoting her family heritage through henna, but her love interest turns nemesis when she decides to open a henna business as well. 

*Johnson, Leah. You Should See Me in a Crown. 2020. 336p. Scholastic, $17.99 (9781338503296). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction. In this affectionate rom-com, Liz Lighty finds herself an unlikely candidate for prom queen at her affluent suburban school. Shy, awkward, Black, and low-income, Liz has never felt like she belonged, and she can’t wait to leave for her dream college. But when her scholarship falls through, it seems her last resort is to win prom queen, and the scholarship money that comes with it. Liz’s plan is complicated when new girl Mack decides to run for prom queen also…and ends up running away with Liz’s heart.

Khorram, Adib. Darius the Great Deserves Better. 2020. 352p. Penguin/Dial Books, $17.99 (9780593108239). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction. Darius is 16 and confused. Not about his sexuality (gay) or identity (fractional Iranian, tea lover, and soccer player) but about why he still wants to be friends with Chip even though Chip goes along with Trent’s bullying, why he wants to have sex with his boyfriend in theory but not when they’re actually together, and why his dream job doesn’t feel so dreamy.

Klune, T.J. The Extraordinaries. 2020. 394p. Tor Teen/Macmillan, $18.99 (9781250203656). Ages 13-18. Humor/Fantasy. In a world where masked superheroes, called Extraordinaries, fight the forces of evil, Nick Bell feels anything but extraordinary. Struggling with the aftermath of his mother’s death, his loving father’s dangerous work as a police officer, his ADHD, and his increasingly complicated feelings for his best friend Seth, Nick decides to become an Extraordinary himself. In the (sometimes hilarious) process, Nick learns that heroes—and villains—aren’t always as they appear, and that you don’t need to be an Extraordinary to be exceptional.

Lambert, Kristin. Boy in the Red Dress. 2020. 368p. Penguin/Viking BFYR, $18.99 (9780593113684). Ages 12 and up. Historical Fiction. When a murder happens at the Cloak and Dagger and fingers begin to point to Marion, the club’s star performer (and titular boy in the red dress), his best friend Millie sets out to solve the mystery on her own. Set in the speakeasies of Prohibition-era New Orleans, this is a classic whodunit with a queer twist.

*Lee, Lyla. I’ll Be the One. 2020. 323p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan, $17.99 (9780062936929). Ages 13 and up. Realistic Fiction. Skye Shin dreams of becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and a reality TV competition may just be her chance. To win, she’ll have to deal with fatphobic beauty standards, fierce competition, and intense media scrutiny–as well as unexpected attraction to one of her competitors.

*Little Badger, Darcie  and Rovina Cai (Illustrator). Elatsoe. 2020. 368p. Levine Querido, $18.99 (9781646140053). Ages 12 and up. Mystery. In this OwnVoices novel, Elatsoe is on a mission to discover who killed her beloved cousin, and why. If not for her cousin, then she is doing this for her people, the Indigenous Lipan Apache tribe. Elatsoe has the ability to raise ghosts from the dead, a tradition that has been passed down through generations. On this journey it will take vulnerability, wit, and the legends of her people for Elatsoe to understand all that is hidden in the small town of Willowbee. 

Levithan, David. 19 Love Songs. 2020. 310p. Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House, $17.99 (9781984848635). Ages 14 and up. Anthology. In these nineteen short stories, Levithan creates a literary mix-tape of old favorites, new tunes, and personal recollections. In prose and verse that is by turns snappy, sharp, and poignant, he revisits characters from his previous novels, and introduces us to new ones, including Levithan’s own in personal reflections and recollections. Each story is a celebration of love, all kinds of love, and of the moments when we stop to listen and see one another. 

London, Alex. Red Skies Falling. 2019. 480p. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, $18.99 (9780374306847). Ages 12-18. Fantasy. In the second book of Alex London’s Skybound Saga, twins Brysen and Kylee face growing turmoil as they prepare to defend their home against an invading army. While Kylee struggles to master her abilities and avoid becoming a political pawn, Brysen discovers new abilities of his own and navigates his growing feelings for an intriguing boy.

Lukens, F.T. Monster of the Week. 2020. 304p. Interlude/Duet, $17.99 (9781945053825). Ages 12 and up. Paranormal Fantasy. Bridger just wants to relax and have fun with his best friend, Astrid, and his new boyfriend, Leo. But first he has to finish a research paper in order to graduate, then a journalist comes around digging into the mythological creatures that Bridger is supposed to help keep secret, and to top it all off, his absentee dad suddenly reappears! 

Marshall, Kate Alice. Rules for Vanishing. 2019. 402p. Penguin/Viking, $18.99 (9781984837011). Ages 12 and up. Paranormal Fantasy. Nobody knows why Sara’s older sister, Becca, disappeared, but Sara is convinced that she went in search of a ghost road that’s part of local lore. A year later, Sara and a group of her and Becca’s friends go into the woods at midnight and find the ghost road. They choose to follow it in hopes of rescuing Becca, but none of them could have imagined the horrors that will meet them along the way.

McAdam, Tash. Blood Sport. 2020. 128p. Orca Books, $9.95 (9781459824362). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction. Trans boy Jason is stuck in a group home; he was supposed to live with his sister, but she died. The cops say it’s an overdose, but Jason knows his sister would never have done drugs, not after their mom OD’d. His investigation leads him to a boxing ring where he finds unexpected community and healing… but also the man who may have killed his sister.

McGuire, C.M. Ironspark. 2020. 324p. Macmillan/Swoon Reads, $18.99 (9781250245267). Ages 13 to 18. Contemporary Fantasy. After her mother is abducted by a group of Fae, Bryn studies all she can about them. She soon learns that she has entered a battle that she can’t fight on her own. Despite the help of a water witch and two classmates, she starts down a road which could prove dangerous. 

McLemore, Anna-Marie. Dark and Deepest Red. 2020. 320p. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 (9781250162748). Ages 13 to 18. Historical Fantasy. In 1518, Strasbourg is consumed by a plague that causes the afflicted to dance incessantly, even until death. Lala fears that she and her aunt will be blamed–they are Romani, and gadje are always blaming the Romani for their misfortune. Contemporarily, Rosella wears the red shoes that her family is famous for and is similarly stricken with involuntary dancing. Emil–Rosella’s friend and a descendant of Lala–is determined to discover the connection between Rosella’s plight and the events of 500 years ago.

McSmith, Tobly. Stay Gold. 2020. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $18.99 (9780062943170). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. Pony doesn’t want anyone at his new school to know that he’s trans, even if it means keeping his mouth shut when his new guy friends make transphobic jokes. Cheerleader Georgia is so invested in projecting the perfect image that she’s not sure who she is. When the two of them become friends, they help each other find the courage to be themselves.

Mejia, Tehlor Kay. We Unleash the Merciless Storm. 2020. 400p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan, $17.99 (9780062691347). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. The sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire, this book continues the story of Carmen Santos as she returns to La Voz headquarters and reckons with the exposure of her undercover identity. When she learns that her true love might be the target of the next assassination plot, will she break with La Voz in order to save her?

*Mejia, Tehlor Kay and Anna-Marie McLemore. Miss Meteor. 2020. 400p. HarperCollins, $17.99 (9780062869913). Ages 14 and up. Magical Realism. Lita is a star – literally. After falling to earth several years ago, she’s now living life as a teenage girl. When the annual Miss Meteor pageant rolls around, Lita decides to enter – but will her ex-best friend Chicky be willing to help her? Will the pageant help her forget about the past and imagine a new future? Lita learns that winning isn’t about being perfect, it’s about showing your true self to the world – even the parts that no one else understands.

Mitchell, Saundra (editor). Out Now: Queer We Go Again. 2020. 416p. Harlequin/Inkyard Press, $18.99 (9781335018267). Ages 13 and up. Short Story Anthology. This collection features short stories from queer YA authors. These modern day stories highlight a wide range of identities, many of them intersectional. 

*Onyebuchi, Tochi. War Girls. 2019. 464p. Razorbill, $18.99 (9780451481672). Ages 12 and up. Science Fiction/Afro-Futurism. In a not-so-distant future, climate change and nuclear disasters have made much of the earth unlivable. In the midst of war in Nigeria, two sisters, Onyii and Ify, are torn apart and face two very different futures. As their lives progress through years of untold violence and political unrest, battles with deadly mechs and cyborg soldiers outfitted with artificial limbs and organs, they are brought together again and again and must come to terms with how the war has impacted their lives.

Pool, Katy Rose. There Will Come a Darkness. 2019. 496p. MacMillan/Henry Holt, $19.99  (9781250211750). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. Before the Seven Prophets disappeared, they left behind a final, secret, prophecy. This prophecy promised the rise of a new prophet whose actions could either save or destroy the world. Five individuals find their fates intertwined as they try to avoid the prophesied “Age of Darkness.” Little do they know, steps taken to avoid a fate may be the very actions that lead to it. 

Popovic, Lana. Blood Countess. 2020. 304p. Abrams, $17.99 (9781419738869). Ages 14 and up. Historical Fiction/Horror. Anna lives in terror of her abusive father until she’s unexpectedly called upon to serve the Lady Elizabeth Bathory. Although the other servants tell horror stories of their Lady’s violent rages, Anna finds her charming, and the two of them are drawn together. But as they grow closer, Elizabeth starts to reveal her dark side, darker than anything Anna could have imagined. Can Anna find a way to escape and end Elizabeth’s reign of terror?

Power, Rory. Wilder Girls. 2019. 368p. Random House/Delacorte, $18.99 (9780525645580). Ages 14 and up. Science Fiction. The Raxter School for Girls has been under a strict quarantine for more than a year, and even those who haven’t been killed by the mysterious Tox are barely surviving. Hetty suspects that the last remaining teacher is working against them, and then her best friend disappears, so Hetty convinces her friend/crush Reese to join her on a dangerous expedition beyond the school gates in search of answers.

Quindlen, Kelly. Late to the Party. 2020. 304p. Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, $17.99  (9781250209139). Ages 12 to 18. Realistic Fiction. Codi and her friends are not part of the “cool kids,” but when her friends convince her to crash a party, she discovers an unexpected friendship with cool kid Ricky, who takes Codi under his wing and helps her discover and grow into who she really is. But why is Codi hiding these new feelings from her old friends? Will they accept her as she is?

Roehrig, Caleb. The Fell of Dark. 2020. 384p. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, $18.99 (9781250155849). Ages 13 to 18. Paranormal. August Pfeiffer has pretty normal concerns for a boy in high school. He’s struggling in math and just wants to meet a cute boy who likes him back. He also has a few less-than-normal concerns–like the fact that his town attracts vampires and one of those (extremely hot) vampires has just told him that, despite being human, he’s the vessel for an ancient and evil power that wants to take over the world.

*Rosen, L.C. Camp. 2020. 384p. Hachette/Little Brown BFYR, $17.99 (9780316537759). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. For Randy, going away to Camp Outland is a breath of fresh air, a time to be exactly who Randy can’t always be at school. But this year will be different. This year, Randy won’t be the flamboyant theater kid, this year Randy will be exactly the type of bro Hudson would want to date. Changing a thing or too will be necessary for Randy to succeed, even if that means leaving some friends behind. 

Rutkoski, Marie. The Midnight Lie. 2020. 368p. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR, $18.99 (9780374306380). Ages 14 to 18. Fantasy. Nirrim is a Half-Kith. Her people are confined to live in a ward, where they can be punished for enjoying the pleasures of life, such as a sweet pastry or finely made furniture. Though she lives carefully to avoid paying tithes, she is willing to risk everything to help her fellow Half-Kith escape the conditions in which they live. When she meets Sid, a traveler who is unfamiliar with her way of life, she finds herself questioning everything she has been taught and no longer satisfied with the life she has been told she deserves.

Sarif, Shamim. The Athena Protocol. 2019. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062849601). Ages 14 and up. Mystery/Thriller. After killing a war criminal against orders, teenage secret agent Jessie is fired from the feminist private military organization her mother helped found. Worried about her mother’s safety on their next mission, Jessie goes rogue. Her investigation leads her to the beautiful–and seemingly innocent–daughter of a slave trader.

Shippen, Lauren. Infinite Noise. 2020. 333p. Macmillan/Tor, $17.99 (9781250297518). Ages 13 to 18. Speculative Fiction. Caleb is an empath who can feel other peoples’ emotions. Constantly bombarded by them, he struggles to know which feelings are his own. Meanwhile, Caleb’s classmate Adam is struggling with depression and loneliness; his sense of isolation ends up becoming a haven for Caleb, and the two gradually become friends, then boyfriends. But when Adam tells his parents Caleb’s secret, everything goes sideways.

Silver, Avi and Haley Rose Szereszewski (Illustrator). Two Dark Moons. 2019. 252p. Molewhale Press, $13.99. (9781775242727). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. When Sohmeng falls from her mountain home into the wild jungle below, she’s rescued by a feral young outcast named Hei. As they get to know each other, their relationship becomes romantic, and they realize that a shared enemy threatens both of their worlds.

Silvera, Adam. Infinity Son. 2020. 355p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $18.99 (9780062457820). Ages 14 and up. Contemporary Fantasy. Brothers Emil and Brighton idolize the Spell Walkers, a vigilante group who were born with super-powers and help protect the world from those who would misuse their powers. The worst of these dangerous people are the Specters, a group who obtain supernatural powers by consuming the essence of magical creatures rather than being born with powers themselves. Shortly after his 18th birthday, Emil manifests a power that only a specter should be able to have—phoenix fire–and this power may just drive the brothers apart.

Smyth, Ciara. The Falling in Love Montage. 2020. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062957115). Ages 13 and up. Romance. Saoirse isn’t interested in romance, love, or happily ever after. However, when Ruby suggests they enact every rom-com cliche, she goes along–after all, Ruby is only in town for the summer, so what could be the harm in a little fun? But when their summer fling promises to be something more, Saoirse has to decide if love is worth the risk of losing.

Spalding, Amy. We Used to Be Friends. 2020. 368p. Abrams/Amulet, $17.99 (9781419738661). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. James and Kat were best friends looking forward to spending their senior year of high school together, but like friends sometimes do, they find themselves growing apart. Kat has started dating her first girlfriend and James’ parents are going through a divorce that she’s not ready to talk about. This book, told in two different timelines, tackles the important question of how to grow up when you and your friend are growing in different directions. 

Stamper, Phil. The Gravity of Us. 2020. 320p. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (9781547600144). Ages 13 and up. Romance. Cal relocates to Houston from Brooklyn after his dad is selected for the upcoming NASA mission to Mars and falls head over heels for fellow “Astrokid” Leon.

Sterling, Isabel. This Coven Won’t Break. 2020. 321p. Penguin/Razorbill, $17.99 (9780451480354). Ages 12 and up. Contemporary Fantasy. Hannah Walsh’s senior year isn’t turning out the way she had hoped. Instead of focusing on school and having fun with her new girlfriend, Hannah finds herself embroiled in a battle to save magic itself. After escaping from The Hunters, a group with the power to strip a witch of their magic, her fellow witches believe her to be the best person to defeat The Hunters. Unfortunately, Hannah is hiding a secret–her run in with The Hunters left her magic damaged–and the people she cares about most are in danger.

Talley, Robin. Music from Another World. 2020. 384p. Harlequin/Inkyard Press, $18.99  (9781335146779). Ages 13 and up. Historical Fiction. Two girls strike up an unlikely friendship in 1970s America. Tammy and Sharon go to different religious schools in different parts of California, but they get paired up as pen pals for a school assignment. What starts as summer writing homework turns into a friendship that explores identity and belonging against a backdrop of gay civil rights in San Francisco.

*Thomas, Aiden. Cemetery Boys. 2020. 352p. Macmillan/Swoon Reads, $17.99 (9781250250469). Ages 13 and up. Paranormal/Romance. Yadriel accidentally summons the wrong ghost in an attempt to prove himself a real brujo to his family who struggle to accept his gender identity. Though he thinks he is summoning the ghost of his cousin, he actually summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, and finds himself with not one, but two, mysterious deaths to investigate. 

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. 2020. 368p. Candlewick, $18.99 (9781536204315). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. Florian, sometimes known as Flora, is a pirate who does whatever it takes to survive while Evelyn is the daughter of an Imperial noble family who is sold off to a husband she has never met. When the two meet on the Dove, a slaver ship disguised as a sailing vessel for nobles, they are sent on a violent and magical journey in hope of finding love and freedom.

Tsai, Addie. Dear Twin. 2019. 200p. Metonymy Press, $18.95 (9781999058807). Ages 14 and up. Realistic Fiction. Poppy wants to go to college, but ever since her twin sister, Lola, mysteriously disappeared, their father has been depressed and is forcing Poppy to stick around. She begins to work through her feelings about her life and her identity in a series of diary entries while also writing a series of eighteen letters to Lola, one for each year of their lives, in an attempt to convince her to come home.

van Whye, Kevin. Date Me, Bryson Keller! 2020. 336p. Random House, $17.99 (9780593126035). Ages 14 and up. Romance. Bryson Keller agrees to a dare. He will date a different person each week, for one week, if they are the first person to ask him out on Monday. Though the entire school knows about the dare, they don’t know that a boy, Kai, is going to beat all the hopeful ladies to the question. Will this unexpected “relationship” really only last five days?

Varela, Nina. Crier’s War. 2019. 448p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062823946). Ages 14 and up. Fantasy. This debut novel takes place after the Automae, who were originally designed to serve royal humans, stage a rebellion and take power. Ayla, a human servant, has one goal: kill The Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier, and take revenge for the death of her family. Despite her intentions, Ayla soon discovers that Lady Crier may be more sympathetic to her situation than she expected and she just might be falling in love with her.

Yee, F.C. Avatar, the Last Airbender: Rise of Kyoshi. 2019. 448p. Amulet Books, $18.99 (9781419735042). Ages 13 and up. Fantasy. After discovering a traitor in her household, Kyoshi must join forces with a group of outlaws who live on the fringes of society in her quest to find true allies and right longstanding wrongs. Avatar Kyoshi is well known to fans of the Avatar: The Last Airbender television series, but this novel delves more deeply into her past by detailing her discovery of her Avatar status and subsequent rise to power.  

Graphic Nonfiction

Maison, Corey, Zuiker Anthony (Illustrator) and Ahmara Smith (Illustrator). Identity : A Story of Transitioning. 2020. 81p. Zuiker Press, $12.99 (9781947378247). Ages 11 and up. Memoir. In an eye-catching and accessible graphic novel format, Corey Maison tells the story of her life, from being assigned male at birth, to working through her gender dysphoria, to becoming a complex and confident 16-year-old trans girl.

Graphic Fiction

Curato, Mike. Flamer. 2020. 368p. Macmillan: Henry Holt BYR, $25.99 (9781627796415). Ages 14 to 18. Realistic Fiction. A powerful graphic novel about friendship, self-esteem, and sexuality seen through the eyes of Aiden who is away at camp before his first year of High School. 

Gros, Kathleen. Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort Of). 2020. 263p HarperCollins, $22.99 (9780062875976). Ages 8 to 12. Realistic Fiction. This graphic novel adaptation of Little Women introduces us to Jo, an eighth grader who has just joined her school’s newspaper. Her family is adjusting to having their father overseas and their mother working long hours as a nurse. When her next door neighbor and friend, Laurie, confesses that he has feelings for her, Jo isn’t certain what to do. She doesn’t reciprocate Laurie’s feelings, but she might have a crush on her new friend Freddie, who has been supporting her dreams of becoming a serious journalist. 

Layne, Aliz. Beetle & the Hollowbones. 2020. 256p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $21.99 (9781534441538). Ages 8 to 12. Fantasy. Beetle, a 12-year old goblin witch, wishes she could be someone else—someone like her former best friend, Kat, who is pretty, popular, and a sorcerer who gets to do “big” magic. Instead, she is taught goblin magic by her Gran, the Town Witch, and hangs with Ghost Blob, an entity who is tethered by some mysterious magic to the local mall and cannot leave. But when Kat returns to town with her Aunt Hollowbone, the two girls must work together to foil a nefarious scheme that will destroy the mall—and Ghost Blob!

*Leyh, Kat. Snapdragon. 2020. 240p. Macmillan/First Second, $12.99 (9781250171115). Ages 10 to 14. Fantasy. Snap gets to know the town witch and discovers that she may in fact have real magic and a secret connection to Snap’s family’s past. 

*Nguyen, Trung Le. Magic Fish. 2020. 256p. Random House/Graphic, $23.99 (9780593125298). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction/Fantasy. A young Vietnamese-American boy literally can’t find the words to tell his parents that he’s gay, but cross-cultural fairytales help bridge the language barrier in this beautifully-illustrated graphic novel.

Oseman, Alice. Heartstopper, Volume 1. 2020. 288p. Scholastic/Graphix, $24.99 (9781338617443). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction. Openly gay Charlie befriends rugby-player Nick, and he soon falls into what he thinks is doomed to be an unrequited crush. 

Oseman, Alice. Heartstopper, Volume 2. 2020. 320p. Scholastic/Graphix, $24.99 (978133861749). Ages 12 and up. Realistic Fiction. Nick questions his sexuality as he and Charlie grow closer in this second volume of this story about friendship, love, and mental illness.

Ries, Ariel Slamet. Witchy. 2019. 252p. Oni Press, $14.99 (9781549304811). Ages 13 and up. Fantasy. In a world where the length of your hair determines the strength of your magic, but hair too long makes you an enemy of the kingdom, Nyneve has spent her life hiding hers and makes a life-altering decision when conscription rolls around.

Sanchez, Alex and Julie Maroh (Illustrator). You Brought Me the Ocean. 2020. 208p. DC Comics/Random House, $16.99 (9781401290818). Ages 14 and up. Superhero Comics. Contemporary Fantasy. This volume from DC Comics presents a new origin story for Aqualad. Jake Hyde hasn’t been in water since his father drowned, but even though he lives in the New Mexico desert, he finds himself inexplicably yearning for the ocean. When he meets Kenny Liu, the swim team captain, he falls in love and must come to terms with coming out. But when Kenny convinces him to start swimming again, he discovers strange blue markings on his skin that glow when they come into contact with water, and he must come to terms with another new aspect of his identity as well.

*Smith, Niki. The Deep & Dark Blue. 2020. 256p. Hachette/Little Brown BFYR, $24.99 (9780316485982). Ages 8 to 12. Fantasy. A pair of twins flee after a political coup that puts their lives at risk. They decide to disguise themselves as Hanna and Grayce, two girls living in the Communion of the Blue, an order of weaving women who spin magic like wool. What one twin doesn’t know is that, for the other, being Grayce isn’t a disguise. This is a beautiful story about self-discovery, acceptance, and affirmation.

Sturges, Lilah and polterink (illustrator). Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship. 2019. 144p. Boom! Studios, $14.99 (9781684154517). Ages 9 to 12. Contemporary Fantasy. In this graphic novel set in the Lumberjanes world, Jo, Mal, Molly, April, and Ruby have to contend with a mischievous group of Pookas trying to make the camp their own. After discovering the Pookas’ hiding place, and mistaking them for harmless friends, the Pookas steal their identities and enter the human world. Will the Lumberjanes be able to take back their identities by helping each other remember who they are?

Usdin, Carly and Noah Hayes (Illustrator). The Avant-Guards, volume 2. 2020. 112p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781684155682). Ages 13-18. Sports Fiction/Basketball.  In this second collected volume of the Avant-Guards (issues #5-#8), the newly formed basketball team must learn that a team sticks together even when they aren’t winning every game–both on and off the court.

Usdin, Carly and Nina Vakueva (Illustrator). Heavy Vinyl: Y2K-O!. 2020. 112p. BOOM! Box, $14.99 (9781684154951). Ages 13 and up. Realistic Fiction. The gang from Vinyl Destination (music store by day, fight club at night) is back for another music saving adventure, but this time they must win a battle of the bands competition in order to stop a dastardly Y2K plan intent on destroying the growing world of digital music.

Ukazu, Ngozi. Check, Please! #2: Sticks and Scones. 2020. 352p. Macmillan/First Second, $23.99 (9781250179494). Ages 14 to 18. Sports Fiction/Hockey. Realistic Fiction. Bittle and his teammates are back with more hockey and baked-goods hijinks! Now in his junior year at Samwell University, Bittle has to adjust to a new crop of teammates, friends leaving college, and his secret relationship with Jack, former teammate turned professional hockey player.

Vieceli, Emma and Claudia Leonardi (Illustrator), Andrea Izzo (Illustrator). Life Is Strange, Volume 2: Waves. 2019. 112p. Titan Comics, $16.99 (9781787730885). Ages 13 and up. Science Fiction. In this comic series based on the popular video game, Max Caulfield must leave her girlfriend Chloe behind as she enters an unfamiliar alternate timeline where Rachel is still alive and dating Chloe, and Max must struggle to find her place.

Vieceli, Emma and Claudia Leonardi (Illustrator). Life Is Strange, Volume. 3: Strings. 2020. 112p. Titan Comics, $16.99 (9781787732070). Ages 13 and up. Science Fiction. The adventures of Max, Chloe, and Rachel continue as Tristan and his own time-traveling powers turn their world upside down. How far will Max go to recover what she has lost?


Hagino, Makoto. Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, volume 1. 2019. 192p. Viz, $9.99 (9781974710430). Ages 14 and up. Romance. Volume 1 of this manga series introduces Konatsu Amano, a new girl in a small seaside town in Japan. Finding herself in a new town and a new school is tough, but then she meets Koyuki, an older girl who is the sole member of the Aquarium Club. Konatsu finds it hard to open up to new people and make friends, but she thinks Koyuki might be worth getting to know better.

Hagino, Makoto. Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, volume 2. 2020. 192p. Viz, $9.99 (9781974710591). Ages 14 and up. Romance. Konatsu takes a chance and decides to join the Aquarium Club with Koyuki. It’s just the two of them, but they have a successful open house event, and that shared experience deepens their bond.

Hagino, Makoto. Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, volume 3. 2020. 168p. Viz, $9.99 (9781974710607). Ages 14 and up. Romance. Konatsu and Koyuki are starting to become friends, but they each are still very lonely in their own ways. At the town’s summer festival, Konatsu asks Koyuki why she spoke to her on the day they first met, and Koyuki’s awkward reply puts their tentative new friendship in jeopardy.

Hagino, Makoto. Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, volume 4. 2020. 168p. Viz, $9.99 (9781974715442). Ages 14 and up. Romance. Konatsu and Koyuki prepare for another Aquarium Club open house, but Koyuki comes down with a sudden fever and can’t participate. When Konatsu visits her sick friend, they start to realize how important they are to one another.

Hagino, Makoto. Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, volume 5. 2020. 168p. Viz, $9.99 (9781974715497). Ages 14 and up. Romance. The shark show at the Aquarium Club’s open house is a great success, and Koyuki is thrilled! But she gets embarrassed at her sudden burst of emotion and runs away. Luckily, Konatsu accepts her just the way she is, and as the girls begin to spend more time together, their bond grows deeper.

Kamatani, Yuhki. Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, volume 2. 2019. 180p. Seven Seas, $12.99 (9781642750614). Ages 13 and up. Realistic Fiction.

______. Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare volume 3. 2019. 180p. Seven Seas, $12.99 (9781642750621). Ages 13 and up. Realistic Fiction.

_______. Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare volume 4. 2019. 180p. Seven Seas, $12.99 (9781642750638). Ages 13 and up. Realistic Fiction. When Tasuku Kaname is outed at his school, he contemplates suicide; however, before he can act on these thoughts, he discovers a drop-in center for members of the local LGBTQ+ community. This series is the story of his journey towards accepting his own identity with the help of supportive and kind people who understand what he is going through.

3 Responses to "The 2021 Rainbow Book List"

[…] American Library Association has just announced its 2021 Rainbow Book List—with a record-setting number of 129 librarian-approved LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and young […]

[…] American Library Association has just announced its 2021 Rainbow Book List—with a record-setting number of 129 librarian-approved LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and young […]

[…] full 2021 Rainbow List is available on the GLBT Roundtable’s website, and is archived here. Note that books selected for either […]

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