LGBTQ Parents in YA Novels

A much-needed discussion about the representation of the LGBTQ community is growing in the YA world. Author Malindo Lo does an amazing job of putting a spotlight on the issue by creating a yearly list of published LGBT YA titles and The Hub’s own Molly Wetta put together an impressive guide last year of YA novels with LGBTQ characters. This building conversation and one Stephanie Perkins book later left me wondering where the LGBTQ parents were hiding in the YA world.

Courtesy of Flickr user lewishamdreamer
Courtesy of Flickr user lewishamdreamer

Family relationships are a huge part of young adult literature because of what an important part they are to teens’ lives. Your parents (or lack their of) and the struggle to come to terms with their flaws is a major part of growing up. Parents are pretty much the anchors of your universe, so seeing these relationships and familial conflicts play out in a YA novel is necessary, needed, and in no way restricted to families with heterosexual parents.

So where are the LGBTQ parents in our YA books? With over 7 million LGBTQ parents that have school-aged children in the United States , it’s a question I hope more people will be asking our YA literature community soon, because right now there are too few titles out there representing these families.

This list is by no means comprehensive and did take the full force of my fellow Hub bloggers to help me put together. I tried to stick to books where the parents seemed like more fully-formed characters in the story, as opposed to purely background players. Read on for our guide to main characters in YA novels with LGBTQ parents:

  • Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults): Lola is a one-of-a-kind girl who never wears the same outfit twice. She’s over the top and completely lovable as she stumbles her way through the feelings she has for the boy next door, Cricket. Equally lovable are her two dads, who might just be my favorite parents ever in a YA novel. They are fully-formed characters who at times are frustrating and others outright hilarious.LOLA
  • The Popularity Papers series by Amy Ignatow: I’ve only read the first book in the series, but it had me laughing out loud. Two friends in elementary school, Lydia and Julie, set out to observe “the popular girls” so that they can learn how to become one of them by middle school. It’s definitely more a middle grade book and kind of like a graphic novel mashed together with a Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s truly a fun read, and Julie has two dads: Dad and Papa Dad. They are pretty much in the background for this first one, but their characters are more drawn-out as the series continue.
  • My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari: Another middle grade title, this one is about a girl who likes to make pies and whose family could be in trouble over their state’s backlash to a civil union law.
  • Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters: Nick loves his family and his life. He has two moms that love him, but struggles when his birth mother and her wife Jo begin to have marital problems.
  • The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon (2009 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults): Ben begins lashing out at his father after his dad comes out. This gets Ben a one-way ticket out of his city life to Montana where his dad’s boyfriend lives. Ben struggles to find his own identity in a new strange place.
  • From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jaqueline Woodson (2006 YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and 2006 Margaret A. Edwards Winner):  Probably the oldest title on this list, which really only makes me respect Jacqueline Woodson even more than I already did (if possible)! Melanin Sun struggles to accept his mother after she comes out to her family as a lesbian.
  • Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis: Twins Ysabel and Justin discover and struggle with their father’s identity as a transgender trying to decide whether or not to transition.
  • In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg: This is a sweet romance between a teen boy and girl who have never met but end up spending the summer in the other’s room when their parents’ swap houses. The boy was conceived through donor insemination and raised by two moms.
  • My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi: A novel about Lucy was adopted by two dads and is dealing with her HIV diagnosis.

What do you think, readers? Any books that you would like to add to the list above?

– Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Elite by Kiera Cass

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Katie Shanahan Yu

Katie Shanahan Yu is a Media Specialist for a middle school in Rockville, MD. Find her on Twitter: @kakakates

8 thoughts on “LGBTQ Parents in YA Novels”

  1. I’d add “Genesis” by Jared Stone. I read it at the very end of 2013 (published that fall I think?). College Freshman Lucian finds himself embroiled in a larger scheme that begins with a missing roommate. Lucian must struggle to learn to control and use powers he’d never even thought existed in anticipation of a coming battle between good and evil; all while trying to make friends with people giving off mixed signals, figuring out his feelings for the lusciously handsome Sam trying to get him to join his frat, and attempting to do well in a Religions class he didn’t even want to take in the first place. A fun romp through college life as a gay man with supportive parents; which has a sinister and dark fantasy plot that snags you from the first scene and keeps you on tenterhooks until the end.

  2. One of my favorite books from 2013 is “Wise Young Fool” by Sean Beaudoin. Ritchie’s parents have split up, and now Ritchie lives with his mom and her girlfriend, Looper. Looper is the only adult who demonstrates any empathy for the angry, frustrated teen. Their friendship evolves naturally, over covert cans of Stroh’s and reliable rides home. This counts for a lot in Ritchie’s fractured world.

  3. In “The Summer Prince,” by Alana Dawn Johnson, June’s mother remarried a woman and she has a pretty important role in the book.

  4. In “Roomies” by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, EB’s dad is gay (her mom and dad divorced and he now lives in San Francisco).

  5. Stealing Parker. Main character Parker’s mom has come out and it rocked the town. Parker struggles with how her town and especially people at her church respond.

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