See also: Gay teen fiction
File:YA lesbian novels - book spines.jpg

Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind was one of the early young adult novels featuring love between two girls, but new books about lesbian and bisexual teenagers have since been published, including the above books by Sara Ryan, Julie Anne Peters, and Judy Maclean.

Lesbian teen fiction is a subgenre of young adult fiction and LGBT literature. Books that fall under this category include themes of romance or attraction between female teenagers, including bisexual teenagers. Authors of such novels may or may not be female, gay, or bisexual. Novels that deal with the topic of lesbianism but not in teenagers (such as Julie Anne Peters's Between Mom & Jo) are generally not classified as lesbian teen fiction.



The first young adult novel is thought to be Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer, which was published in 1942.[1] At this point, no young adult novels contained lesbian themes.


In Ruby (1976) by Rosa Guy, the main character is a girl from the West Indies. The novel tells the story of her relationship with another girl. Other young adult novels with lesbian characters and themes that were published during this time include Sandra Scoppettone's Happy Endings Are All Alike (1978).

Frequent themes in books published during the 1970s are that homosexuality is a "phase," or that there are no "happy endings" for gay people, and that they generally lead a difficult life.[2]

The School Library Journal reported,

Throughout the 1970s, there was, on average, a single young adult title per year dealing with gay issues. Although many of these early books were well written — and well reviewed — gay characters were at best a sidekick or foil for the straight protagonist and at worst a victim who would face violence, injury, or death (fatal traffic accidents were commonplace). Young protagonists who worried that they might be gay would invariably conclude that their same-sex attraction was simply a temporary stage in the journey toward heterosexual adulthood.[3]

Judy Blume has been cited as a catalyst in the 1970s for an increase in inclusion of "taboo" topics in children's literature, which include homosexuality.[4]


In 1981, Jane Futcher published Crush, about a high school senior who falls in love with another girl. The book shows the conservatism and homophobia of the 1960s boarding school where it takes place. Although the book does not end tragically, homosexuality is treated by the people around the protagonist as a mental illness.

Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind, published in 1982, tells the story of two high school girls who fall in love. The novel, which has never been out of print, was a step forward for homosexuality in young adult literature.[3] It was published in hardback and by a major press. In the book, homosexuality is seen as something permanent and to be explored, not "fixed." [2]

In Kansas, a minister led a public burning of Annie on My Mind when it was donated to a school library.


During this decade the number of lesbian-themed young adult novels published rose. Nancy Garden published two novels with lesbian protagonists, Lark in the Morning (1991) and Good Moon Rising, and received positive sales and reviews. In 1994, M.E. Kerr published Deliver Us From Evie, about a boy with a lesbian sister, which was well received by the public.[5] Other books published during this decade include Dive by Stacy Donovan (1996), The Necessary Hunger (1997) by Nina Revoyr, The House You Pass On the Way (1997) by Jacqueline Woodson, Girl Walking Backwards (1998) by Bett Williams, who intended the novel for an adult audience though it was popular among teens,[5] Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (1999), and Truth Dare or Promise (1999) by Paula Boock.


The 1990s represented a turning point for young adult novels that explored lesbian issues, and since 2000, a flood of such books has reached the market.[5] Each year since 2000, an average of 10 to 12 young adult novels with gay or lesbian content has been published in the United States.

The public attitude towards lesbian themes in young adult literature has grown more accepting. In 2000, the School Library Journal included Annie on My Mind in its list of the top 100 most influential books of the century. [6]

In the past, most books portrayed gay people as "living isolated lives, out of context with the reality of an amazingly active community."[2] Today books have progressed, with gay characters not as stigmatized and separate.

There are fewer books about female homosexuality than male homosexuality,[7] and yet fewer books on bisexuality are published. Despite the fact that availability of books with lesbian and bisexual themes has increased since the 1960s, books with non-white characters are still difficult to find.[2] [8]

Complete list

See also


  1. Donahue, Deirdre. "Books give honest portrayal of growing up gay", USA Today, June 28, 2001. Retrieved on 2007-02-28. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 'Targeted' young adult fiction: the need for literature speaking to gay/lesbian and African-American youth. Retrieved on 2007-03-04.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jenkins, Christine A.. "Annie on Her Mind: Edwards Award–winner Nancy Garden's groundbreaking novel continues to make a compelling case for sexual tolerance", School Library Journal, June 1, 2003. Retrieved on 2007-02-25. 
  4. Goodnow, Cecelia. "Tacoma writer's gay-theme teen novel offers insights to young adults", April 7, 2003. Retrieved on 2007-02-25. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Warn, Sarah. "Lesbian-Themed Young Adult Novels On the Rise",, December 2003. Retrieved on 2007-02-25. Archived from the original on 2013-01-10. 
  6. Staff. "One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century", School Library Journal, January 1, 2000. Retrieved on 2007-02-25. 
  7. Woolls, Blanche; David V. Loertsche (February 17, 2005). The whole school library handbook. American Library Association, 109-112. ISBN 0838908837. 
  8. Warn, Sarah. "That was Then, This is Now: Young Adult Books for Lesbian and Bisexual Teens",, May 2002. Retrieved on 2007-02-25. Archived from the original on 2013-01-10. 

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