Skip To Content
  • Best of 2021 badge

15 Wonderful Books By Trans, Genderqueer, And Nonbinary Authors Released In 2021 That Definitely Deserve A Place In Your Bookshelf

With books from publishers big and small, trans and nonbinary authors have been killing it this year!

1. Can't Take That Away by Steven Salvatore (they/he)

Bloomsbury / Via bloomsbury.com

Released: March 9, 2021

Summary: Carey Parker is a newly out genderfluid teen who dreams of being a diva like their hero, Mariah Carey. After coming out, Carey is finally starting to feel comfortable in their own skin, allowing them the confidence to chase their dreams and audition to play Elphaba in their school's production of Wicked. Despite being a perfect fit for the role and nailing their audition, Carey is met with resistance from a homophobic teacher and public outcry from some of their classmate's more conservative parents. Carey and their friends must fight back against a queerphobic administration in order to defend their role as Elphaba, as well as their right to be themselves. This YA contemporary debut doesn't shy away from tough topics, but is ultimately a story of queer and trans joy. Through Carey, Steven Salvatore gives gender non-conforming teens a voice, and what a beautiful voice it is.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

2. The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (they/them)

macmillan publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

Released: March 16, 2021

Summary: Anna-Marie McLemore has been writing beautiful YA novels with their unique blend of magical realism and contemporary for years now, with countless novels featuring great representation of identities all across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Their latest release, The Mirror Season, is perhaps their most hard-hitting novel yet. 

Protagonist Graciela 'Ciela' Cristales' life is forever altered when she and a boy named Lock, who she barely knows, are sexually assaulted at the same party. Due to the trauma, Ciela loses the magical ability inherited from her bisabuela, to be able to bake the exact kind of enchanted pan dulce that the recipient will need, and bits and pieces of her world are turning into shattered mirrors, which are becoming increasingly difficult to hide. When Lock comes into Ciela's life with no memory of the incident at the party, Ciela must deal with her increasing guilt about what happened to them, and she knows she will have to deal with it all alone. This is a heartbreakingly honest novel about rape culture and the trauma faced by both male and female survivors; it is an incredible read with an important and very real message — take care while reading this one.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

3. Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (they/he)

macmillan publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

Released: March 23, 2021

Summary: Aiden Thomas brought us one of the best books of 2020 with Cemetery Boys, so when I heard that his sophomore novel would be a modern-day retelling of Peter Pan, I was instantly intrigued. The novel follows Wendy Darling, who disappeared in the woods with her brothers, John and Michael, five years ago, only to turn up alone six months later with no memory of what happened. As children start turning up missing in Wendy's town, and a mysterious boy named Peter enters Wendy's life unexpectedly, she is forced to confront her trauma, as well as what really happened to her and her brothers. This retelling is a dark, contemporary fantasy that will keep you guessing the whole way through.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

4. Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (e/em)

HarperCollins / Via harpercollins.com

Released: May 4, 2021

Summary: Trans teen Noah Ramirez considers himself an expert in the romance department, so much so that he runs a popular blog about trans happily ever afters. The blog is gaining in popularity until a troll reveals the stories as fake, leading Noah to believe that the only way to save the diary is to prove the stories true and provide hope to trans readers around the world. After having posted a bit of an exaggerated meet-cute between himself and a boy he just met named Drew, the two make arrangements to fake-date to save the blog. In order to prove the existence of true love for trans teens everywhere, Noah and Drew must create their own love story, and Noah may just discover that he doesn't know everything about love after all. With great queer and trans representation and chock-full of romance tropes of all kinds, Emery Lee's debut will have you swooning.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

5. The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons (he/him)

Penguin Random House / Via penguinrandomhouse.com

Released: June 1, 2021

Summary: When 15-year-old Spencer Harris comes out as a transgender boy, he is forced to switch schools due to the resulting bullying. When Spencer starts at Oakley, a liberal private school in Ohio, he makes the decision to go "stealth" (when a trans person decides to "pass" as cisgender and not reveal their trans identity for whatever reason). Spencer thrives at his new school, even joining the soccer team and becoming closer and closer with his sweet (but religious) teammate Justice. When he signs up for a soccer tournament and his birth certificate is revealed to contain an "F" gender marker, Spencer needs to decide if he wants to risk outing himself and possibly losing everything he's gained at his new school, or to fight the league on their decision and fight for trans rights in the process. Perfect for fans of Ted Lasso and Julian Winters' Running With Lions, this book will make you feel a whole spectrum of emotions.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

6. The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver (they/them)

Scholastic / Via scholastic.ca

Released: June 1, 2021

Summary: The Ghosts We Keep is a queer YA contemporary starring Liam Cooper (they/he), who is dealing with the sudden and painful passing of their older brother, Ethan, in a hit-and-run. Told in alternating timelines 'before' and 'after,' the reader learns of Liam's relationship with his brother, as well as what Ethan was like as a person. As Liam's grief eats away at him, his friendships are neglected, and he grows further apart from his two best friends as he withdraws further while grieving his brother. Feeling isolated and alone, Liam finds a friend and confidant in his brother's lifelong best friend, Marcus, from whom he learns he may not be so alone in his pain. Deaver tells an honest, heart-wrenching story about grief that is ultimately a tale of hope and moving forward. If you enjoy a sad book with hopeful undertones or like books with nonbinary leads, pick this one up on your next book haul!

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

7. The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon (they/he)

Harlequin / Via harlequin.com

Released: June 1, 2021

Summary: H.E. Edgmon's YA debut is a wonderful anti-fascist fae/witch fantasy set in a Fae Kingdom. Wyatt Croft grew up a witch in a land ruled by fae, where he was looked down upon for his mere existence. When Wyatt loses control of his magic one night, he flees the fae (and his betrothed, Faerie Prince Emyr) and takes refuge in the human world. In the human world, Wyatt comes out and begins his transition. While Wyatt had considered his marriage null and void,  Emyr was tracking him down in the human world to pull him back to Asalin and the world of the fey to face his future as Emyr's husband and a Faerie King. This book deals with tough subject matter like abuse, trauma, queerphobia, and racism, while still managing to have dialogue and a main character that is laugh-out-loud funny. If you want a quippy book that will also make you think, add this to your TBR.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

8. One Last Stop by Casey McQuinston (any pronouns)

macmillan publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

Released: June 1, 2021

Summary: Casey McQuinston's debut novel Red, White & Royal Blue became an instant fan favorite when it was released in 2019, leaving fans with high hopes for McQuinston's sophomore novel. Let me tell you, One Last Stop does not disappoint. When protagonist Alex Landry, a self-proclaimed cynic, packs up and moves to New York City alone at 23, the last thing she's expecting is to find love. Her plans are thrown off course when, on her commute to work, she meets Jane on the subway. August is instantly intrigued by Jane, a butch punk who wears a leather jacket and still listens to cassettes. 

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

9. Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa (they/them)

Amazon Publishers / Via amazon.ca

Released: June 8, 2021

Summary: Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun is a heartwarming coming-of-age YA debut that follows a queer Latinx teen's very public coming out, and the joy and challenges that come with his intersecting identities. Julián Luna is a 17-year-old closeted gay kid in the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, whose plan is to graduate high school and attend UCLA in order to finally come out and be able to be his authentic self. When Jules gets drunk at a high school party and accidentally comes out on Twitter, he is forced out of the closet at his Texas high school as well as to his homophobic father at home. Meanwhile Mat, Jules' Twitter crush from LA and a fellow queer teen, slides into Jules' DMs. As Mat and Jules' connection grows, they both must figure out how to navigate a long distance relationship along with making major decisions about their futures...and their future together. This is a beautiful novel with such lovable characters; it is realistic and raw without centering pain. Garza Villa has written the happy queer novel we all needed as teens. 

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

10. A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (all pronouns)

Penguin Random House / Via penguinrandomhouse.com

Release Date: Aug. 3, 2021

Summary: I was hooked on Victoria Lee's new YA novel before I even read it. Described as a sapphic dark academia, A Lesson in Vengeance follows Felicity Morrow, a teen girl returning to finish out her senior year at Dalloway School a year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. Felicity is reassigned to her old room at Godwin House, a dormitory that is rumored to be haunted by The Dalloway Five, previous students (and suspected witches) who all died mysteriously on the grounds of the dormitory 300 years ago. When Felicity arrives to a new housemate, Ellis Haley, who is also a writing prodigy working on her second book, she is asked to help with research, as both Felicity's thesis and Ellis's new novel promise to explore the mystery of the Dalloway Five. Despite promising herself she would get away from the school's dark history to escape her own dark past after the death of her girlfriend, Felicity finds herself enamored with Ellis and entangled in her school's dark history once again. A great addition to the dark academia genre, this novel will have you guessing at every turn.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

11. Act Cool by Tobly McSmith (he/him)

HarperCollins / Via harpercollins.ca

Released: Sept. 7, 2021

Summary: When I heard that Tobly McSmith would be releasing his second YA novel with a trans male protagonist, I added it to my TBR instantly. Act Cool stars August Greene, a trans teen who leaves his home and his transphobic parents to live with his aunt in New York and attend the School of the Performing Arts in order to follow his dreams of being an actor. The only problem is that in order to attend the school, August had to promise his parents that he wouldn't transition upon moving to New York. August believes that as an actor, he can play any role, onstage and in real life — even the role of his parent's daughter. Unfortunately what may be standing in August's way is his inability to stop playing a role and just be himself. This is a great book full of heartbreak, searching, and ultimately joy, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli's Simon-verse novels.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

12. Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (they/he)

macmillan publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

Released: Sept. 28, 2021

Summary: Do you enjoy queer southern gothics and dark academia? Do you also have a strong stomach and a penchant for horror? Then Lee Mandelo's debut novel Summer Sons is for you! This adult horror novel follows protagonist Andrew as he discovers the death of his closest friend Eddie, who has died of an apparent suicide while away at school in Nashville. Following Eddie's death, Andrew decides to attend grad school in Nashville and investigate the mysterious circumstances under which his best friend died. A bit like The Haunting of Hill House meets The Raven Cycle, this debut is a wonderful exploration of grief, queer love, and hauntings both literal and metaphorical.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

13. Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (she/her)

macmillan publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

Released: Sept. 28, 2021

Summary: Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars is an absolutely brilliant blend of science fiction and fantasy with a dash of contemporary. The story follows Katrina Nguyen, an Asian American trans woman and self-taught violinist who has just run away from her abusive and transphobic parents to live with friends, taking only her violin and the essentials. When a string of bad luck (and abuse) leaves Katrina on the street and without a violin, she meets world-famous violin instructor Shizuka Satomi, also known as The Queen of Hell, who aids her in buying back her pawned instrument and offers her a new home. Miss Satomi, unbeknownst to Katrina, has made a deal with the devil to deliver the souls of seven violin prodigies in exchange for her own success. She has already delivered six souls, and plans to coach Katrina until she is fit to be the seventh. Along the way, Miss Satomi meets and falls in love with Lan Tran, a seemingly normal single mother of four who also happens to be an alien starship captain escaping the Endplague on her home planet, and who might just change everything. Ryka Aoki completely delivers with this one, managing to tell a wholly unique story, while also covering heavy topics with the respect and weight they deserve. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

14. The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta (all pronouns)

Penguin Random House / Via penguinrandomhouse.com

Released: Oct. 12, 2021

Summary: Agender teen baker, Syd, has always had the ability to bake feelings into food. When Syd experiences heartbreak for the first time and deals with it by making brownies that happen to break up everyone who eats them, including the owners of Syd's workplace, bakery and queer-owned community space The Proud Muffin, Syd must go on a mission to bake just the right thing to reunite all the couples that the brownies broke up. This is the perfect comfort read, it features so many characters of so many different queer identities, and most importantly, it centers queer joy. This is a book that will stick with me for a long time.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.  

15. You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson (they/them)

Button Poetry / Via buttonpoetry.com

Released: Nov. 9, 2021

Summary: Andrea Gibson's latest poetry collection covers multiple topics, including gender identity, queer identity, Gibson's own experiences with chronic physical and mental illness, suicide rates in queer youth, breakups, suicidality, and grief in the time of coronavirus (just to name a few). The collection is over 100 pages, but I devoured it in a day. Gibson explores heavy topics with humor, unflinching honesty, and their usual optimism, evoking a range of emotions in the reader. This is one poetry collection I will highlight and return to over and over.

You can get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore via Indiebound here.