Book Recs: Neurodiverse Characters

This rec list comes from a request I got on twitter for LGBT books with neurodiverse characters. Obviously, neurodiversity covers an enormous spectrum, so I’m in no way attempting to cover all that (and if you look at the list, you can probably see where there are gaps, i.e. rep that isn’t anxiety, depression, PTSD, because sure those are the most common disorders but there’s a lot more out there).

What I’m attempting to give you here is a handful of recs (ownvoices where possible, elsewise covered respectfully) to start you off. And, as ever, I would happily take recs from you in return. (Also I have extended the rec list to feature 12 books instead of the usual 10 just so I can broaden the variety here.)

P.S. I’m only giving the rep for the neurodiverse LGBT character(s) in the book, even if there are more LGBT or neurodiverse characters in all. If that makes sense.

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Six Goodbyes We Never Said

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Candace Ganger
Goodreads
Rep: bi/pan mc with OCD, anxiety (GAD) and depression (ownvoices)

Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects. 

Candace Ganger’s Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

Why Should I Read It?

If you want a book that has casual bi/pan rep, but also no romance, then look no further. Six Goodbyes We Never Said instead centres on grief and friendship (among other themes) and has a wonderfully unique writing style.

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A Tiny Piece of Something Greater

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Jude Sierra
Goodreads
Rep: gay mc with cyclothymia (ownvoices)

Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.

Why Should I Read It?

Ownvoices representation and a really soft and cute romance, what more could you possibly want from a book?

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I Wish You All The Best

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Mason Deaver
Goodreads
Rep: nonbinary mc (ownvoices) with anxiety

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Why Should I Read It?

Read this book about a nonbinary teen, they said. Get your heart broken and then taped back together, they said. And by they, I mean me.

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The Outside

 

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Ada Hoffmann
Goodreads
Rep: wlw autistic mc (ownvoices)

Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.

Why Should I Read It?

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t read this one. But people I trust have liked it, and it’s ownvoices rep too, so obviously it has to be on here.

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The Truth About Keeping Secrets

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Savannah Brown
Goodreads
Rep: lesbian mc, bi li with anxiety, PTSD and depression

TWs: emotional abuse, mentions of self harm (see full list)

Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town.

He is also unexpectedly dead.

Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?

And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?

As the two girls grow closer in the wake of the accident, it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.

But what is picture perfect June still hiding? And does Sydney even want to know? 

Why Should I Read It?

Who doesn’t love a thriller, and who doesn’t love a gay thriller on top of that. In this case, the neurodiversity rep is a side character (but a pretty major side character), though the main character may be read as such too, I’m not sure.

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The Wicker King

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K. Ancrum
Goodreads
Rep: bi mc with anorexia, anxiety and depression, side character with catatonic depression, bi mc with peduncular hallucinosis

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not. 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Why Should I Read It?

Given that Anna is basically a one-person K. Ancrum hype squad, there was absolutely no way she would have let me get away with not including this book on the list. But, honestly, it’s not like she’s wrong here.

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We Are the Ants

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Shaun David Hutchinson
Goodreads
Rep: gay mc with anxiety and depression

Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.

Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.

Why Should I Read It?

I am reliably informed (by Anna, so maybe less reliable) that “you know how in “once more, with feeling” buffy can’t stop dancing her final number, until spike catches her & sings that life is just living?? this feels a lot like that, only it’s gay & there’s science™”. Whatever that means.

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A Light Amongst Shadows

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Kelley York & Rowan Altwood
Goodreads
Rep: bi mc with substance use disorder

TWs: implied torture, child abuse

James Spencer is hardly the typical “troubled youth” who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends and indulging in his love of writing, while contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.

The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years. Rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts… James is the only one who believes him.

James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.

Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’s determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding… Especially if it means keeping William and himself from becoming the next victims.

Why Should I Read It?

Okay, so, sure, maybe substance abuse disorders is pushing it with neurodiversity, but, if that one module I did on behavioural neuroscience has taught me anything, it’s that addiction works on your dopamine system (among others), so is literally changing the architecture of your brain so. It counts in my book (and also, yes, I did just want to rec this one).

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Far From Home

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Lorelie Brown
Goodreads
Rep: bi mc with eating disorder

TWs: eating disorder

My name is Rachel. I’m straight . . . I think. I also have a mountain of student loans and a smart mouth. I wasn’t serious when I told Pari Sadashiv I’d marry her. It was only party banter! Except Pari needs a green card, and she’s willing to give me a breather from drowning in debt.

My off-the-cuff idea might not be so terrible. We get along as friends. She’s really romantically cautious, which I find heartbreaking. She deserves someone to laugh with. She’s kind. And calm. And gorgeous. A couple of years with her actually sounds pretty good. If some of Pari’s kindness and calmness rubs off on me, that’d be a bonus, because I’m a mess — anorexia is not a pretty word — and my little ways of keeping control of myself, of the world, aren’t working anymore.

And, if I slip up, Pari will see my cracks. Then I’ll crack. Which means I gotta get out, quick, before I fall in love with my wife.

Why Should I Read It?

The best “I married a woman so she could get a green card and oh shit I might be falling in love with her”. Hands down.

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Amelia Westlake

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Erin Gough
Goodreads
Rep: lesbian mc with anxiety

Two very different girls, and one giant hoax that could change – or ruin – everything.

Harriet Price has the perfect life: she’s a prefect at Rosemead Grammar, she lives in a mansion, and her gorgeous girlfriend is a future prime minister. So when she risks it all by creating a hoax to expose the school’s many problems – with help from notorious bad-girl Will Everheart, no less – Harriet tells herself it’s because she’s seeking justice. And definitely not because she finds Will oddly fascinating. 

But as Will and Harriet’s campaign heats up, it gets harder for them to remain sworn enemies – and to avoid being caught. As tensions burn throughout the school, how far will they go to keep their mission – and their feelings for each other – a secret?

Why Should I Read It?

Do you want some gay hate to reluctant partners in a venture to we’re destroying the patriarchy together to oh shit we’re in love? (The answer is, obviously, yes.)

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Red, White & Royal Blue

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Casey McQuiston
Goodreads
Rep: bi mc with ADHD, gay li with depression

TWs: panic attack, outing

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him. 

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Why Should I Read It?

You: Charlotte you rec this so much, give it a rest.
Me: I’LL GIVE IT A REST WHEN I’M DEAD.

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History is All You Left Me

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Adam Silvera
Goodreads
Rep: gay mc with OCD (ownvoices)

Griffin has lost his first love in a drowning accident. Theo was his best friend, his ex-boyfriend and the one he believed he would end up with. Now, reeling from grief and worsening OCD, Griffin turns to an unexpected person for help. Theo’s new boyfriend.

But as their relationship becomes increasingly complicated, dangerous truths begin to surface. Griffin must make a choice: confront the past, or miss out on his future.

Why Should I Read It?

If you want to cry over a book (and sometimes you do need to, don’t you?), then this is the book for you. It’s one you’ll need the tissues to hand for (and the chocolate and/or other endorphin boosting foods). But don’t worry, there is at least a happy ending here.

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That’s it for this rec list. Are there any you love that we haven’t included on here? Let us know!

charlotte

19 thoughts on “Book Recs: Neurodiverse Characters

  1. I hadn’t heard of a bunch of these that sound awesome. You should totally read The Outside if you haven’t though. And for other queer ND rep I always rec Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan. Its an m/m dual pov between an autistic guy and a guy with suicidal depression and anxiety

    Like

  2. Thank you so much for this list!! I’ve been looking into finding and reading more books with neurodiverse characters because I don’t read enough of them but I had no idea where to start! This post provides perfect starting points though, so thank you again!!

    I LOVED RWARB and IWYATB, and I’m really looking forward to We Are the Ants, The Outside, and Six Goodbyes We Never Said. Amelia Westlake sounds so amazing too! A bad girl and good girl romance – sign me up please!

    Liked by 1 person

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