Happy pride, friends! This year I wanted to compile a list of books you should read his June (and all year long). From science fiction and fantasy to thrillers, I’ve got you covered with these YA and adult titles with on-page queer representation that I’ve read and loved.
As a reminder, all Reader Voracious book reviews list representation and I maintain a Diversity Index where you can drill down and to find books I’ve reviewed with with specific rep.
This post includes affiliate links and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you.
18 Queer Books I Loved
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
🌈 Gay and Lesbian rep 🌈
This Cinderella retelling has a queer black girl overthrowing the patriarchy and is an intensely powerful story that reimagines the fairy tales we all know, weaving them together with the ways society uses stories to control people.
Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1) by Nina Varela
🌈 Sapphic romance 🌈
A love that could birth a revolution.
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, Designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will.
Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was Made to be beautiful, to be flawless. And to take over the work of her father.
Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla.
Set in a richly-imagined fantasy world, Nina Varela’s debut novel is a sweepingly romantic tale of love, loss and revenge, that challenges what it really means to be human.
Do you like stories where robots catch feelings? If so, this sapphic enemies-to-lovers science fiction duology needs to be on your reading list! (I really can’t believe I never wrote a review… gotta remedy that.)
Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1) by Kim Smejkal
🌈 Ace, Nonbinary, Pansexual, Trans rep 🌈
Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.
Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.
To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
Ink in the Blood and its gorgeous cover drew me in, but I definitely stayed for the amazingly lush writing and three-dimensional characters. Smekjal’s writing is lush and beautiful with beautiful descriptions but is also fast-paced and engaging. The book opens up in media res and we jump into the fray with Celia.
Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
🌈 Lesbian and Bisexual rep 🌈
Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?
It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.
If you are a fan of found footage and mixed media storytelling, this is a book you need to add to your TBR. The writing is effortless and instantly engaging. There’s a quick and snappy flow to the story despite being told in a series of mixed media documents that are assembled a bit out of order. The way the files are organized makes for a tense thriller of a read that is difficult to put down.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
🌈 Trans and Gay rep 🌈
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Cemetery Boys is a delightful YA paranormal fantasy debut set during Día de Muertos that features a trans main character, a ghost love interest, gay romance, brujeria and is bound to capture your heart! I absolutely adored this book and its characters; I cannot WAIT for you to be able to read it when it releases on September 1st!
Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor
🌈 Aro, Ace, Bisexual, Demisexual, Lesbian rep 🌈
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
This science fiction debut is so incredibly special, friends. I love books with uneasy allies and conflicting goals, and Tarnished Are the Stars does this well. I love and will die for these characters. I didn’t expect to adore them but here I am, utterly attached and wishing it wasn’t a standalone novel so I could go on more adventures with them.
Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan
🌈 Gay rep 🌈
oh my GOD, this was an incredible mystery/thriller read! I’m hardly ever surprised and usually have the killer pegged early on, but this one kept me guessing until the very end! absolutely incredible and highly recommended. I still think about this one 2 years later!
Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton
🌈 Genderfluid and Polyamorous rep 🌈
Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.
Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.
Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.
Strange Grace is an amazingly atmospheric and poetically written story that celebrates the found family, the love people feel for one another, and the sacrifices they are willing to make for the people they love.
The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis
🌈 Bisexual and Gay rep 🌈
In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová– a widow with secrets of her own.
When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.
After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.
Words cannot express how much I adored this debut. Atmospheric and engaging, The Lights of Prague swept me away to another time and place. This is a must read for fans of immersive historical fantasy with vampires and the secret society that hunts them in the dark.
Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
🌈 Bisexual and Genderfluid rep 🌈
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.
Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.
Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…
And she’ll need to play.
I absolutely loved Ace of Shades – it is full of a characteristic that I lived for in fantasy: a vivid world, a complex political history, complex characters. It is a fast-paced story that has everything I love in fantasy executed well.
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
🌈 Trans rep 🌈
Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.
With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.
Two timelines, magical shoes, and a dancing plague. Dark and Deepest Red masterfully weaves together the strange history of the dancing plague in 1518 with Hans Anderson’s “The Red Shoes” for a powerful retelling about identity and self-acceptance.
The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) by Renee Ahdieh
🌈 Lesbian and Genderfluid rep 🌈
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.
At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.
I was swept away by the beautiful writing and transported 150 years into the past. I dream of beignets. And Bastien. But this is more than just a paranormal romance with vampires; it’s a coming of age story and love letter to the city of New Orleans.
The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1) by Margaret Owen
🌈 Gay, Pansexual, Nonbinary rep 🌈
Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.
A fugitive prince
When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.
A too-cunning bodyguard
Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?
If you are a fan of rich fantasy worlds with complex politics, an adorable cat with a fantastic name, and an unlikely group bound together to maybe forge something better, The Merciful Crow is for you!
Dead Dead Girls (Harlem Renaissance Mystery #1) by Nekesa Afia
🌈 Lesbian and Gay rep 🌈
Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.
Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She’s succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie’s Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan’s hottest speakeasy. Louise’s friends might say she’s running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don’t tell her that.
When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she’s been trying to ignore–several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her.
Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She’ll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process.
With an amazing atmosphere, complex characters, and engaging plot, I devoured this book in two sittings and can’t wait for Louise’s next adventure.
The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee
🌈 Bisexual and Gay rep 🌈
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
The Fever King is one of those rare books that not only grips you from the first page but also stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. It’s been two years and I still need to protect these characters with all of my being. I liked that I never really knew who to trust and it felt like I was along for the ride alongside Noam… and that meant that as the stakes got higher, so did my anxiety!
Raybearer (Raybearer #1) by Jordan Ifueko
🌈 Ace/Aro rep 🌈
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
This is a book that will suck you in, keep you riveted until the end, and have you begging for more. Beautifully written and intricately plotted, Raybearer is a must-read for people who love rich world-building and found families.
A Spark of White Fire (A Spark of White Fire #1) by Sangu Mandanna
🌈 Lesbian rep 🌈
Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.
It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.
Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.
If you enjoy political intrigue, space operas, complex characters, and amazing world-building A Spark of White Fire is for you! This is a genre-bending retelling of the Mahabharata that is easily accessible to YA fantasy readers and I cannot wait for you to fall in love with Esmae, Rama, and the rest of these characters!
There Will Come a Darkness (There Will Come a Darkness #1) by Katy Rose Pool
🌈 Gay rep 🌈Goodreads Amazon B&N Book Depository
Five lives stand in its way.
Who will stop it… or unleash it?
For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.
All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. As chaos takes hold, five souls are set on a collision course:
A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart.
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.
One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer? Perfect for fans of Throne of Glass, Children of Blood and Bone, and An Ember in the Ashes.
There Will Come a Darkness is an ambitious epic fantasy debut with fantastic world-building and a cast of fully realized characters you can’t help but love. This book is action-packed and has high stakes, making for a gripping read!
Let’s Discuss LGBT+ Recommendations!
So there you have it: my 2021 Pride Recommendation List! I had a fantastic time going through my reads to choose backlist titles that I want everyone to read. My original intention was to include books on my owned TBR and upcoming releases, but this list is already pretty big so I focused on books published in 2020 and earlier. This means all of these books are available now! 🎉🎉🎉
Which books published in 2020 and earlier with queer representation would you like to recommend?
Let’s go on another adventure together!