Gender inclusive books for tweens and teens
It is so important that children and teens read books that include a diverse array of characters – so that they can find themselves and their own thoughts represented in positive ways. And also, so that they can learn to be accepting of the many identities around them in society. The tween and teen years, especially, are a time when questions such as “Who am I and how do I fit in?” are uppermost. This list of gender inclusive books for tweens and teens that I have chosen here is a great starting point.
Some of these books are about characters discovering their gender identity or their sexual orientation. Some are about characters struggling to get others to accept them for who they are. And some are just cracking stories that happen to have a lead character who is LGBTQ.
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Gender inclusive books for tweens:
Shane is a 12-year-old trans boy who is happy with who is is. The big question of this book is whether his friends will stick by him when they learn the truth. It’s beautifully written, sensitive and hopeful but without glossing over the issues that young trans people face. By M.G.Hennessey (8-12yrs). As an alternative (or if you want more like this) check out Too Bright to See (10-12yrs) by Kyle Lukoff or, for older kids, Felix Ever After (12yrs+) by Kacen Callender.
Ana is nonbinary but her passion is competitive figure skating – a sport in which girls wear sparkly frilly dresses and boys take the lead. When she meets a transgender boy skater, Ana is confronted with difficult choices about how to be authentic and true to herself but still pursue her ambitions. By A.J.Sass (8-12yrs).
A heartwarming graphic novel about a gender fluid prince with a double identity as Prince Sebastian by day and the celebrated Lady Chrystallia by night. This boy wears dresses with style and aplomb! A classic fairy tale about friendship, secrets and fabulous frocks. Written and illustrated by Jen Wang (12yrs+).
This princess rescues princess love story is surprisingly good, mainly due to really strong characters and highly accessible illustrations (it’s a graphic novel – well, short story). Recommended for every home and every bookcase. By Katie O’Meill (9-12yrs). If your tween enjoys this book, then they might also like Star-Crossed (9yrs+) by Barbara Dee or Love Frankie (10yrs+) by Jacqueline Wilson. Or slightly older tweens (11yrs+) might go for The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan.
Snapdragon is all about being different, being an outsider, a misfit. But the acceptance of individuality and uniqueness that runs through this book is joyful. It is a celebration of being queer – in every sense of the word – and of being you exactly as you are. Graphic Novel by Kat Leyh (10yrs+).
A beautifully written story about Grayson who, despite being born a boy, knows she is really a girl. The story follows Grayson’s journey towards openness about her true identity and acceptance – with a little help from her friends. By Ami Polonsky (10yrs+). Also take a look at The Deep & Dark Blue (8-12yrs) by Niki Smith.
Gender inclusive books for teens:
If you are not sure where to start looking for gender inclusive books for teens, start here. This is a brilliant collection of 17 original short stories featuring wonderful characters with a huge array of diverse identity positions. The stories are by some fantastic writers and set in different moments in history and across different cultures – so, despite being fictional, the book recreates a beautiful fabric of LGBTQ lives which is ignored by most history books. Edited by Saundra Mitchell (13-17yrs).
I like this book because, unlike a lot of LGBTQ Young Adult fiction, it is not about the struggle of coming out or discovering one’s sexual identity. The lead character is confident, content, self aware and happy being gay. It’s just a love story. A well written and engaging love story. By David Levithan (14yrs+).
A transgender girl, a monster named Pet, hidden truths and adults who don’t get it – a strange but beautiful mix of fantasy fairy tale and gritty social commentary written in wonderful prose. By Akwaeke Emezi, 14yrs+. If this appeals, also take a look at the wonderfully romantic and magical When the Moon Was Ours (14-17yrs) by Anna-Marie Mclemore.
This is YA fiction at its absolute best. Be warned, this is an emotionally challenging read. The story takes a group of young people with diverse identities and binds them together in a fight for their rights. Set in the USA, it combines difficult social issues, including police brutality, race, and gender identities into a heart-breaking story. By Mark Oshiro (14yrs+).
Set in San Francisco in the 1950s, this is a classic story of love triumphing over adversity and discrimination in a culture where girls can only love boys not each other. A passionate and romantic tale and a useful reminder of how far we have travelled towards inclusion and acceptance. By Malinda Lo (14yrs+). You could also check out Summer of Salt (13-17yrs) by Katrina Leno.
Have I left off your family’s favourite book from this list? Please leave a comment and let us know your recommendations for gender inclusive books for tweens and teens!
*The age ranges are those provided by the publishers. This is not a sponsored post, though I was gifted some of these books by the publishers. It contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through from this post to Amazon and make a purchase, I will receive a small fee (see Disclosure Notice for more info).