We all know how US-centric the book blogging community can sometimes (often, if we’re being less nice) get. Myself and Anna have probably fallen into that trap on this blog a few times as well. So, in the interests of expanding this blog, here are 20 UK (and Irish) YA books.
First, a disclaimer: I haven’t read every single one of these books. And some of them aren’t even published yet (boo). But in the interests of raising awareness of LGBT lit out there that isn’t set in the USA*, I’m putting them all on here.
* Loosely speaking. Two books on this list still are.
Out of the Blue
Rep: bi mc, lesbian li
Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland
When angels start falling from the sky, it seems like the world is ending. Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived.
As the world goes wild for angels, Jaya’s father uproots the family to Edinburgh intent on catching one alive. But Jaya can’t stand this obsession and, still reeling from her mother’s recent death and the sudden disappearance of her ex-girlfriend, she’s determined to stay out of it.
Then something incredible happens: an angel lands right at Jaya’s feet – and it’s alive …
Last Bus to Everland
Rep: gay mc
Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland
Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a “knock-off Narnia” that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants.
Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again.
All the Invisible Things
Rep: bi mc
Setting: London, England
Vetty’s family is moving back to London, and all she can think about is seeing Pez again. They were inseparable when they were small – roaming the city in the long summers, sharing everything. But everyone’s telling her it’ll be different now. After all, a boy and a girl can’t really be friends without feelings getting in the way, can they?
Vetty thinks differently … until Pez tells her she’s ‘not like other girls’. But what does that even mean? Is it a good thing or not? Suddenly she’s wondering whether she wants him to see her like the others – like the ultra-glamorous March, who’s worked some sort of spell on Pez, or the girls in the videos that Pez has hidden on his laptop.
How can she measure up to them? And who says that’s what a girl is supposed to be like anyway?
Girls of Paper and Fire
Rep: wlw mcs
TWs: sexual assault, sex slavery, rape, violence
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.
But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
Rep: gay Gujarati mc
Setting: Bristol, England
TWs: racist violence and slurs
Told over the course of the ten rounds of his first fight, this is the story of amateur boxer Sunny. A seventeen-year-old feeling isolated and disconnected in the city he’s just moved to, Sunny joins a boxing club to learn to protect himself after a racist attack. He finds the community he’s been desperately seeking at the club, and a mentor in trainer Shona, who helps him find his place in the world. But racial tensions are rising in the city, and when a Far Right march through Bristol turns violent, Sunny is faced with losing his new best friend Keir to radicalisation.
A gripping, life-affirming YA novel about friendship, radicalisation and finding where you belong.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found
Rep: bi mcs
Setting: a small Irish town
One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.
Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.
When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found…
The Truth About Keeping Secrets
Rep: lesbian mc, bi li
Setting: Ohio, USA
TWs: full list here
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?
Rep: wlw mcs
When Agnes made a promise to her girlfriend Ellie, she thought they would be together forever. One year later, Agnes is keeping that promise and it’s put her in a situation she never could have predicted; climbing a desolate mountain, in miserable weather, with Ellie and her new boyfriend Steve. But when the weather takes a threatening turn and the sky-high tension between the trio hits its peak, Agnes will have to push herself further than she ever thought was possible…
The Henna Wars
Rep: lesbian Bengali Muslim mc, bi Afro-Brazilian li
Full blurb TBC.
Page Street has acquired Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars. Pitched as When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the romcom is about two teen girls with rival henna businesses who fall in love. The projected pub season is spring 2020.
Ace of Spades
Rep: black lesbian mc, black gay mc
Full blurb TBC.
Usborne has acquired an “explosive” high-school thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé that examines institutionalised racism.
Ace of Spades is about Devon and Chiamaka – rivals at the Niveus Private Academy. An anonymous texter starts spreading secrets about the two students, who find themselves at the centre of a disturbing game.
Rep: lesbian mc
Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself – and others – in order to be set free. And love may be the key…
All the Bad Apples
Rep: lesbian mc, wlw li, bi side character
The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
Queen of Coin and Whispers
Rep: wlw mcs
Full blurb TBC.
Helen Corcoran’s Queen of Coin and Whispers, in which a queen and her spymaster wrestle with feelings for one another, amidst a financially crumbling kingdom, treason, and the spymaster’s investigation into who murdered her father, pitched as The Winner’s Curse meets Graceling, to Michael O’Brien at O’Brien Press, for publication in spring 2020, by Eric Smith at P.S. Agency (world).
The Falling in Love Montage
Rep: wlw mcs
Full blurb TBC.
The YA contemporary romance follows 17-year-old Saoirse Clarke, who is looking for anything but a relationship after an epic breakup with her girlfriend—until she meets Ruby, who convinces her to embark on a summer of carefree, no-strings-attached dates inspired by the montages in Ruby’s favorite rom-coms.
The Big Lie
Rep: bi mc
TWs: racism, homophobia, antisemitism, torture, violence
A startling coming-of-age novel set in a contemporary Nazi England.
Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive. Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?
The Big Lie is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story that explores ideas of loyalty, sexuality, protest and belief.
Sonny and Me
Rep: gay mc(ish)
FOURTH YEAR. TWO PALS. ONE MURDER. WELCOME TO BATTLEFIELD HIGH…
‘Whoever said yer school days are the best days ae yer life was at the absolute wind up. I hink maist adults dinnae mind whit it was really like. Wait til yeese hear whit Sonny and me got detention for…’
Daughter and Sonny are two best friends just trying to get through fourth year at high school. But when their favourite teacher leaves unexpectedly, and no one will say why, the boys decide to start their own investigation.
As they dig deeper into the staff at Battlefield High, they discover a dark secret which one person will kill to protect… Will they uncover the truth without being expelled? Can their friendship survive when personal secrets are revealed? And will they manage to skive off double English?
Alex in Wonderland
Simon James Green
Rep: gay mc
In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben… who, as Alex’s bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend.
Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems…
Rep: wlw mcs
The first in a dazzling, commercial, historical adventure series set in the extravagant and deadly world of the French Revolution. A whirlwind of action, science and magic reveals, with a diverse cast of fearless heroines, a band of rebels like no other.
Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?
In a fast and furious story full of the glamour and excesses, intrigue and deception of these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.
Rep: mlm mc
When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought? But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown. Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved.
Rep: mlm mcs
After a zombie apocalypse turns America into a wilderness, a handful of communities survive in military refuges in the national parks, surrounded by water. But when winter comes, there’s nothing to stop the dead from crossing the ice.
When homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore, he’s forced to leave the lake-bound community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he’s always watched from afar, herd the dead from their shores.
But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they’ve ever known.
The Black Flamingo
Rep: mixed-race black gay mc
Fiercely told, this is a timely coming-of-age story, told in verse about the journey to self-acceptance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Poet X and Orangeboy.
A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.
Have you read any LGBT UKYA? What was your favourite?