For this year’s Pride Month, I decided to honor it with the most sacred thing I know: books.
Call me a nerd as much as you’d like, but books have always held a special place in my heart (and shelves). You see, I’m from Brazil: I was born and raised there until my family moved abroad when I was 14 years old. As a bookworm growing up in Brazil, I faced a major problem: not every single young adult book published reached my local bookstore. Best-selling novels were easy to find, but more obscure American books could take months, even years, for me to buy. I used to make shopping lists of books whenever I got a chance to travel to the United States. Barnes and Noble was my own personal version of heaven, filled with every single possible novel I ever read about on Goodreads. It got so bad my parents had to remind me that I couldn’t go over the checked luggage’s weight limit.
Books mean something to me. They can make me bawl my eyes out and laugh until my stomach hurts all in the same afternoon. They can comfort me in good or bad days. They can provide worlds for me to escape into. They can even make me feel empowered enough to want to change my own world.
This is why, for Pride Month, I have decided to share some of my favorite books featuring queer representation with you. So, from my bookshelves and to-read lists, here are five books to pick up during Pride Month.
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
I honestly had to limit myself to only one book from Levithan for this list because he just has so many good ones. Boy Meets Boy? It’s a classic. Every Day? It’s trippy, but it’s still pretty good. But The Realm of Possibility? It’s fun, angst-ridden, weird, and great all at once—so memorable I didn’t forget about it since I picked it up in my school’s library during my freshman year of high school.
The Realm of Possibilities is set up as a poetry novel with twenty characters who all go to the same school. Each character is the “writer” of a poem—each has its own voice, style, and, peculiarities. One of my favorite styles was Diana, the third writer, who wrote love songs for Elizabeth. However, there are so many other storylines happening all at once. Some are getting into relationships while others are going through break ups. Some are going through personal struggles while others are obsessed with writing on surfaces. Some are falling in love with Holden Caufield while others can’t stand their friend’s obsession with the aforementioned Holden Caufield.
It’s a beautiful mess. Levithan does his best at building the book like a regular high school, adding as much diversity of experiences as he can with his limited number of characters. It’s one of those books that you have to read again and again until you finally make sense of all of the characters’ relationships and struggles, and it truly never gets old.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
It’s another favorite of mine. It’s 1987, and 15-year-old Ari Mendoza is having the worst summer of his life. His brother is in prison, his relationship with his father is rocky at best, and his mother is begging him to stop acting so miserable all the time. When he tries to escape his house by going to the pool, he meets Dante Quintana, a boy who loves art and hates shoes. Dante teaches Ari how to swim and, eventually, all of the secrets of the universe.
Of course, it’s not that simple. It never is.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is about Ari’s and Dante’s friendship, which eventually turns into a sort of will-they-won’t-they romance. But it’s also about Ari struggling to connect with his parents. It’s about Dante struggling with his Mexican identity. It’s about trying to figure out who you are, not wanting to be alone, and hoping you will be OK in the end.
It’s one of those sincere, beautiful stories, and it honestly made me tear up the first time I read it, despite the fact that I was working a desk job at the time—still worth it though.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I had a small freak out moment when I first heard that this book was real.
I read Fangirl, where this was introduced as the fan-fiction that the protagonist, Cath, was writing about her favorite wizard series and her OTP, Simon and Baz. It sounded amazing back then, but, when I read about Carry On, I thought, “Oh my God, she did it? Rowell really did it? Holy shit, what?!”
Carry On has some Harry Potter vibes: its main character, Simon Snow, is an orphan wizard who also happens to be “The Chosen One.” However, it gets so much crazier than that. His powers are unstable. The villain, the Insidious Humdrum, looks like a younger version of him. His roommate, Baz—who happens to be a vampire—is missing. It’s a hot mess, filled with a lot of adventure, ghosts, and kissing.
If you are a fan of Rowell, wizards, fan-fiction, or just plain fun books, pick up this one. I promise you won’t regret it.
All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell and Others
Full disclosure: I have never read this book. I ended up finding it while doing research for this article, and it instantly got added to my to-read list. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I imagine it must be something like this.
All Out is an anthology book with seventeen writers, each writing stories with queer characters in all sorts of times, places, and scenarios. Two girls fall in love in 1994 Seattle after the death of Kurt Cobain. A girl trying to figure out who she is in 1955 San Francisco. Red Riding Hood is here, too, but now in 1870 Mexico. There are more “normal” stories, but there’s also plenty of witches, demons, curses, and spirits to satisfy all of your fantasy cravings.
Again, I still have to read this one, but I have always loved speculative fiction. I love fantasy and science fiction, and I’ve been searching for books in those genres with more queer representation. If you’re like me, All Out seems to be a good choice to learn about more writers with queer narratives while still having a blast reading their work.
Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance by Kieron Gillen
Do comic books count as books? To me, they do.
If you’re still going through an Endgame depression and questioning what you will do with your life without the Avengers, may I introduce you to Young Avengers, a team of super-powered, not-always-human teenagers consisting of punch-first-questions-later Miss America, archer Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop, magician Wiccan, shapeshifter Hulkling, savvy Marvel Boy, and (somehow) Kid Loki. Their parents are now a threat, and now they have to save the world.
Whether you’re new to comic books or a long-time fan, Young Avengers is amazing for all readers. Not only does it have multiple queer superheroes in the same team, but it’s also incredibly accessible for new readers. You don’t have to read a million other comic books to understand Young Avengers. Just come in ready for a solid story with creative design and captivating, witty characters.
Though these are my five book picks for Pride month, I would need at least a thousand more articles to cover all of the amazing writers contributing to queer representation in literature, and maybe even then it wouldn’t be enough. However, hopefully this article gave you a new book to read, or at least gave you enough inspiration to start your own to-read list.
Drop by your local bookstore this month. Support books with diverse narratives, be it in sexuality, identity, or another aspect. Share your favorites with others. Books are something special, and everyone should get the joy of relating to the characters and worlds they read about.