I've always adored queer YA novels, especially ones that aren't realistic fiction. These books all have LGBT+ protagonists and romance subplots, but within themselves are compelling and darkly fascinating stories. I highly recommend these novels to anyone whose obsessed with science fiction and fantasy genres, because these books will blow you away!
The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer explores the mysterious story onboard the ship named the Coordinated Endeavor, representing the last two factions of Earth. Together, these two boys, Ambrose and Kodiak, are stuck in a profound, thrilling space mystery about why they are in space and how they got there. Neither can remember the launch or the fact that they were going to be working together. They quickly learn that they need to work together and interact with one another to get the ship's tasks done. They join forces to investigate the strange inconsistencies of the Coordinated Endeavor's AI system and unravel a disturbing mystery that leaves them wondering what their true purpose for being there is. This book will make you ponder the meaning of life by how philosophical it gets, as well as about the existence of reality itself.
A Complicated Love Story Set In Space by Shaun David Hutchinson is another story featuring two gays in space, but accompanied by another passenger along for the ride. Noa, DJ, and Jenny wake up on a spaceship called Quirosity, with no knowledge of how they got there or why. None of them were trained for any sort of spacefaring adventure, and therefore have minimal knowledge of what to do when systems on the ship begin to malfunction. Noa wakes up in a space suit space-walking, with only the audio of DJ to guide him back inside. Unlike the last book, this one relies more on humor and classic television tropes to guide our protagonists in navigating the ship and how they got there. Each time they begin to prod deeper into the mystery surrounding how they got there, new problems appear and make them lose all their progress.
We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson puts into retrospect how small we are relative to the universe. Henry Denton is a teenager who keeps getting abducted by aliens, but nobody believes him. These aliens abduct him and give him a decision to press a world-saving button or not. For a normal person, this would be an easy choice, but for a depressed teen, it isn't as easy. He spends time contemplating this life-altering choice while surviving high school and avoiding his ex. Interspersed through the regular chapters are short stories the protagonist writes for a science project, all the ways the world could end. These are small tidbits that show his dark humor but also how often he thinks about the world ending. Will he find someone that convinces him the world is worth saving, or will he become more resolved about the choice that it shouldn't be? Would you press the button?
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston starts as a random meet-cute that slowly devolves into the mystery of why one girl is physically incapable of getting off the Q train. August is a newcomer to the city and is a freshman in college, but a girl on the Q train stops her in her tracks. Upon talking to her and getting to know her, she finds out the unraveling mystery of why she can't leave the Q line. The girl thinks it's still the 1970s and is taken aback when she is told it is the twenty-first century. With no memory of the times in between, it's up to August to fill in the gaps for her new friend (and lover), and try to find out how to get her off the train.
The Simon Snow anthology by Rainbow Rowell delves into many well-loved tropes, like enemies to lovers, bad brooding roommates, and magical entanglement. This novel is about Simon Snow, a 'chosen one' for how much magical power he holds within him. The problem is he doesn't know how to control it, no one does, leaving him as just a magical orphan. His roommate at the only magical academy, Watford, is quite the opposite. He's studious, smart, and athletic, and Simon never shuts up about him. His best friends, Agatha and Penny, bemoan on a regular basis how much Simon talks about Tryannus Bazilton Grimm-Pitch (Baz for short), but he seems to be hyper-fixated on him. Because he hates him, that's why. He's just so brooding and scary, and Simon can swear he's almost been killed by him hundreds of times. But now, Baz hasn't come back for his last year of classes, and Simon's worried he's plotting something big for Watford and the magical community as a whole.
This collection of novels holds a very special place in my heart since I was able to see queer representation while having engaging and thought-provoking plots. The science fiction titles on this list may leave you questioning your reality and give you some philosophical dread, but I promise you the payoff is worth it. In all of these novels, you'll find everlasting friendships, hope, and good LGBT+ representation that doesn't play to heavily into stereotypes. You're not going to be able to put any of these novels down.