Book Recs: YA Contemporary That Isn’t About Coming Out

Books which features coming out scenes are all very well and good — we do, after all, need to see a wide range of those and there are areas where that story still hasn’t been told — but sometimes you just want to read a book where the fact that the main character is gay is wholly incidental to the story. That is, not a coming out story, nor really a romance.

So, here are 10 books which (hopefully) suit that remit. Yes, some do feature romances, but they aren’t romance books, in the sense that it’s central to the story. (Oh, and they’re all contemporary, because it doesn’t really make sense to make my task easier by including other genres, since obviously they wouldn’t have coming out scenes.)

But anyway. On with the list.


Picture Us in the Light


Kelly Loy Gilbert
Rep: Chinese American gay mc, Taiwanese American mlm li
CWs: past suicide, past child abduction

Why Should I Read It?

Anna still hasn’t read this one (a crime which can never be forgiven), but perhaps you will all do better. It’s a book about a boy who finds out his family is not all that he’s believed it to be and starts uncovering secrets with the help of his friends. And he also just so happens to be gay.


This is What it Feels Like


Rebecca Barrow
Rep: Black lesbian mc, wlw li
CWs: alcohol abuse, car accident

Why Should I Read It?

It’s an absolute travesty that this book has fewer than 600 ratings on Goodreads, it deserves way more than this. It centres on a group of girls who used to be best friends, and members of a band together, before everything fell apart. Now, they’re getting back together for a shot at the prize but have to navigate new dimensions to their relationships. It’s so good and guaranteed to make you cry!


All the Invisible Things


Orlagh Collins
Rep: bi mc
CWs: addiction

Why Should I Read It?

This list would be nothing if I didn’t shove a UKYA novel in your face and beg you to read it. It’s also just been published in the US this year, so your excuses for not doing so are steadily running out. It’s a book about crushes (but no romance) and rebuilding friendships and I love it so so much.


Yesterday Is History

Kosoko Jackson
Rep: Black gay mc, gay lis

Why Should I Read It?

Yes, fine, this one isn’t out yet, and it’s bordering on being sci-fi enough that including it is cheating, given the rules I set out above. But. I can’t not (and also it uses time travel as a device to tell a story in the present so I think that counts). It’s a story about grief and surviving and everything in between and if there’s one book you preorder in 2021, let it be this one.


This Time Will Be Different


Misa Sugiura
Rep: Japanese American bi li
CWs: mentions of drug addiction and attempted suicide (side character), mentions of abortion

Why Should I Read It?

Alright so the LGBT character in this isn’t the main character, but love interests are main enough, surely. Also I just want to rec it. Yes, the romance is a little more major than in the others on this list, but it still sits second to the plot surrounding the mc, her mother and her aunt. And it’s a great book all round, to be honest.


Amelia Westlake


Erin Gough
Rep: lesbian mc, lesbian mc with anxiety

Why Should I Read It?

Rivals having to work together and out to take down an abusive teacher? Can you imagine a more perfect premise? No, you cannot. Their relationship develops so well and so believably, you’ll be rooting for them the whole time.


Keep This To Yourself


Tom Ryan
Rep: gay mc, biracial Black gay li
CWs: murder

Why Should I Read It?

Mystery as a genre may be again verging on cheating given what I said this rec list would be about, but. Consider this: it’s still contemporary. Anyway, I stayed up until 1am reading this a couple of years back, I so completely couldn’t put it down. And the ending! I’m still thinking about it and how good it was.


People Like Us


Dana Mele
Rep: bi mc, lesbian side characters
CWs: animal murder, past suicide, murder

Why Should I Read It?

Morally grey sapphics? Yes please! This one has it all: murder, blackmail, and sapphic characters who will do anything to stop their secrets coming out. If you haven’t yet read this one, you don’t know what you’re missing, I know, but trust me. It’s a lot.


Eight Pieces of Silva


Patrice Lawrence
Rep: Black lesbian mc
CWs: toxic relationship, past death of a parent

Why Should I Read It?

This is a book about sisters, or stepsisters to be more precise. But stepsisters who love each other and will do anything for each other. It’s also a book about helping someone in a toxic relationship where they don’t recognise just how toxic it is.


Running With Lions


Julian Winters
Rep: bi mc, British Pakistani Muslim gay li

Why Should I Read It?

I said no romance novels on this list but I have to make an exception for this one (although I still maintain it’s not quite what I’d label a Romance The Genre romance novel…yes I’m clutching at straws). But anyway. It’s about the found family, okay. That’s why I absolutely had to include it.


What would you rec?

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4 Replies to “Book Recs: YA Contemporary That Isn’t About Coming Out”

  1. ‘sometimes you just want to read a book where the fact that the main character is gay is wholly incidental to the story’ -YES YES YES!!! 100% I’ve added most of these to my list. I loved Running with Lions – I love the found family trope ❤ also It’s great to have books that discuss sexuality in sports!

    Liked by 1 person

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