I feel like there are a certain number of queer books that we’re always talking about. They get lots of hype and attention which, despite being in most cases well-deserved, should expand to many more titles. I am very guilty of this as well, and I cannot claim to be a perfect example of reading underrated books as often as I would like to. However, there are a few books that I’ve quite enjoyed over the years—ranging from 3 to 5 stars—that I would like to see reach more people who I know would truly appreciate them. Here I’ve attempted to compile a list of some of those books:
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Despite the fact that David Levithan is a well-established and well-known author I’ve barely seen anyone talk about this book, and personally, it’s one of my favourites.
Based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Magical, whimsical, and even creepy at times. I truly enjoyed my time reading this and I couldn’t put it down. The dual timeline adds to the mystery and the pull of the story.
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 much bigger, something she won’t talk about.
Then Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses, and holding tight to secrets.
The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert
Now this is a book I’ve not heard anyone talk about, which is quite surprising because it’s a very enjoyable read. A historical fiction murder mystery set in New Orleans infused with queerness, what more can you ask for?
Millie is running the show at the Cloak & Dagger, a swinging speakeasy in the French Quarter, while her aunt is out of town. When a young socialite wielding a photograph of Marion—the boy in the red dress and the club’s star performer—starts asking questions, Millie wonders if she’s just another fan. But then her body is found crumpled in the courtyard, dead from an apparent fall off the club’s balcony, and all signs point to Marion as the murderer. Millie knows he’s innocent, but local detectives aren’t so easily convinced.
Running with Lions by Julian Winters
Genuinely such a fun time. This is just a quick, light-hearted coming-of-age read about a sports team! It is cheesy and delicious; sometimes that’s all you need.
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him.
When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
A book about exploring magic with female friendship and queerness at its core.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.
Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić
A sweet, funny, heart-warming story that centers around BDSM. It is a stunning graphic novel—the illustrations are simply breath-taking—about female sexuality. *It is quite graphic, so be warned if you don’t like that*
Lisa’s tastes were always… unique. Longing to be restrained, without restrain. Lisa always felt like something was missing from her love life—until she met Ally. Ally was implacably ordinary—successful job, nice house, an average childhood—except for her preference for bedroom domination.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
A gorgeous narrative on intergenerational trauma told through a mermaid story. Inspired by a Clipping. song, so I highly recommend listening to the audiobook, narrated by Daveed Diggs.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu. These memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Fast-paced and cute. It can be cringey and cheesy at times, but it’s part of its charm.
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness is a very well-known TV personality, so I know for a fact that this book has been well-loved. However, I’ve not seen many people on the book community talk about it, and I believe this is a fantastic read beyond it being a celebrity biography.
Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so… over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma—yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit. Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
Here we go again, I’m mentioning this book once more. A historical fiction about a vampire polycule with a deliciously rich atmosphere. This Dracula retelling is a good depiction of toxic relationships and emotional abuse.
Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.
What are some of your favourite underrated queer reads? Have you read any of the books on this list? Did you enjoy them?