A Rainbow of Recommendations


With LGBTQIAP+ pride month approaching, I thought I would take the time to look through some of my favorite young adult stories with minority sexual orientation representation. Using ROYGBIV as our guide, let’s look at some great titles with color-coded covers!

Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram

Trigger warning: Depression

Darius the Great is not Okay, and you won’t be either after this nostalgic and endearing novel. Darius is half-German on his dad’s side and half-Persian on his mother’s side. He is a typical nerd, obsessed with Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and tea. He is thrust out of his mundane life and into the bustling country of Iran when his family learns that his grandfather may not have much time left. The book takes a turn as we watch Darius make a new friend with the next-door neighbor, Sohrab. This novel is overflowing with diversity and representation, ranging from mental health to sexual orientation. The writing and messages within this book are subtle, but by the end it will leave you okay with not being okay. 

The cover of this novel depicts a warm and inviting red sky over the Iran cityscape with Darius and Sohrab looking out.

Something Like Summer by Jay Bell 

Something Like Summer follows Ben and Tim as a romance develops. Tim is effortlessly cool and sexy and everything Ben wants to be, but things are never as simple as they seem. This novel spans decades over the two men’s lives, revisiting the couple again in the future. The book features typical young adult tropes like love triangles but puts a refreshing twist on the common storytelling devices. This novel came out in 2010, so some of the representation is a bit lacking, but it is still an excellent read for anyone interested in a shocking and emotional look at teenagers caught in one another’s orbit.

The cover of this novel is a brilliant orange, highlighting the hot summers the boys spent together as teenagers.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Trigger warning: Racism, slurs 

Lies We Tell Ourselves takes place in 1959 amidst the civil rights movement. Sarah is one of the first Black students to attend an all-white high school, and unfortunately, that comes with endless torment for her. Linda, on the other hand, is one of the many white students who believes that races should be separate but equal. When the two are paired up for a school project, they must overcome their differences and come to terms with the fact that they might have feelings for one another. A deeply emotional and compelling story, Lies We Tell Ourselves points to the importance of finding your voice, even when people are determined to silence it.

The cover of this novel depicts school photos with a bright yellow highlighter scratching through the faces and circling Sarah as the outlier.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a cult classic and has stolen the hearts of nearly an entire generation. The book is written in epistolary format and dives deep into the awkwardness of high school. The main character of the novel, Charlie, is deeply complex, trying to live his life to the fullest while also desperately trying to run away from it. Perks of Being a Wallflower is a fantastically emotional coming of age story with gay representation and specific attention on mental health. 

The cover of this novel is simple: a plain, lime-green background with a small image of Charlie’s feet in the corner, watching everyone else live their life so easily.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy is not your typical young adult LGBTQIAP+ story, as the main character, Paul, is already out and attends a quirky high school with many LGBTQIAP+ characters. The story itself has some dated concepts due to its time of publication in 2005, but, overall, it is a heartwarming romantic comedy. Paul is a sophomore in high school and believes he has found “the one” in a boy named Noah—that is, until he ruins it. With Paul’s friends drifting away and his ex-boyfriend never really leaving, Paul must do everything he can to get Noah back. 

The cover of this book is a peaceful baby blue with heart candies depicting the title. It is a story that is filled with both sadness and wonder.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is no hidden gem; in fact, it has more awards than I can count, and for good reason. This story is about two Mexican American boys set in the 1980s discovering themselves and each other through the power of friendship and love. The novel is told from Aristotle’s (Ari’s) point of view and follows the two young men from ages fifteen to seventeen. Both main characters unravel their depths as the book progresses, showing the difficulties that both boys have faced and must overcome. I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a young-adult, realistic-fiction book about love and self-discovery.

The cover of this story, while not exactly indigo, captures the gentleness and tranquility that can be found in the novel when spending time with the two complex leads.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is another iconic LGBTQIAP+ novel that needs no introduction. It is a fantastical story with diversity and representation on every page. Simon is a play on the traditional “chosen one” trope and is failing at it miserably. His roommate, Baz, a possibly evil vampire, offers plenty of charisma as they face off against a magic-eating monster. Carry On is a story that combines traditional romance with fantasy elements like magic schools and monsters, making it a welcome addition to this list!

The cover of this novel depicts the two leads in front of a whimsical purple monster, perfectly conveying the romantic and fantastical story you are about to embark on.

As we travel through a rainbow of stories with a wide array of diverse characters it is important to remember the importance of representation in young adult fiction. These stories offer insight into the experiences of minorities in a realistic and entertaining way. After a storm comes the rainbow. Hardship and errors are what make the happy endings and the love we find along the way worth it. In celebration of Pride Month coming soon, I encourage readers to pick up a book with LGBTQIAP+ representation and to celebrate acceptance and love in our everyday lives!

Jenica Delaney, Pine Reads Review Writer