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Rainbow Book Award
The Rainbow Book List is created by the Rainbow Book List Committee of the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association. Originally a joint project between the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Roundtable and the Social Responsibilities Round Table, the Rainbow Book List presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age. For the 2021 year, the committee created a recommended list that encompasses over 600 titles but highlighted the top 10 for teen readers (included below). https://glbtrt.ala.org/rainbowbooks/
2021 Rainbow Book Award Books
All Boys Aren't Blue by
In a series of personal essays, LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Set in a summer camp, this sweet and sharp screwball comedy set in a summer camp for queer teens examines the nature of toxic masculinity and self-acceptance.
Cemetery Boys by
Yadriel, a trans boy, summons the angry spirit of his high school's bad boy, and agrees to help him learn how he died, thereby proving himself a brujo, not a bruja, to his conservative family.
The Circus Rose by
A retelling of Snow White and Rose Red in which teenage twins Ivory and Rosie battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family.
Imagine an America very similar to our own. It's got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not.
I'll Be the One by
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls can't dance. Shouldn't wear bright colors. Shouldn't call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering, intense world of K-Pop, and to do that, she's about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother have set for girls like her.
Miss Meteor by
A teen who secretly arrived with the meteor that gave her small hometown its name discovers that she is turning back into stardust and teams up with her best friend in an effort to secure her human existence by entering a local beauty pageant that has always been won by thin, blonde, white girls.
War Girls by
In 2172, when much of the world is unlivable, sisters Onyii and Ify dream of escaping war-torn Nigeria and finding a better future together but are, instead, torn apart.
When We Were Magic by
When Alexis accidentally kills a classmate on prom night using magic, her best friends Roya, Iris, Paulie, Marcelina, and Maryam join in using their powers to try to set things right.
You Should See Me in a Crown by
A black, underprivileged misfit from a wealthy, prom-obsessed midwestern community carefully plans to attend a prestigious medical college before the unexpected loss of her financial aid forces her to compete for her schools prom-queen scholarship.
2020 Rainbow Book Award Books
In Jam and Redemption’s hometown of Lucille, there are no monsters anymore — or so they’ve always been taught. But when a creature emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting and claims it’s here to hunt a monster, Jam and Redemption must reconsider what they thought they knew, and answer the question: how do you hunt monsters if no one will admit they even exist?
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by
Rukhsana, a Bangladeshi-American teenager, must balance her life between conservative Muslim parents and her friends who don’t understand her family and culture. Rukhsana knows her family will not approve of her love life – she’s secretly dating a girl. Her parents discover the relationship and send her to relatives in Bangladesh to marry a nice, young Bengali man. Rukhsana finds unlikely allies as she carves out her own path to live the way she chooses.
The Music of What Happens by
A chance encounter leads Max to help Jordan run a quirky food truck, which may be the only thing standing between Jordan and his severely depressed mother from becoming homeless. Max is hiding his own trauma, while Jordan is struggling with the responsibility of taking care of his mother and the resentment his feels towards his two best friends. Opposites attract as they struggle to face their demons.
We Set the Dark on Fire by
Daniela Vargas is the Medio School for Girls’ top student, and upon her graduation, she’s guaranteed a life of comfort and luxury as she’s picked to be one of two wives to the city’s most promising young bachelor. As Primera, she’s been through years of rigid training, but nothing prepares her for the decisions she’ll have to make after her marriage — especially not when she’s asked to spy for the resistance, or when she finds herself falling for someone forbidden.
On a Sunbeam by
A romantic space adventure that spans the halls of the boarding school where Mia and Grace fell in love, to the ancient structures on distant planets in the far reaches of the galaxy. Separated under mysterious circumstances, Mia is determined to reunite with Grace – and she will brave anything to find her again.
Nova is a young witch who wears a hearing aid and lives with her two grandmothers. Tam is a nonbinary werewolf on the run from their stepdad. The two, who were childhood friends, reconnect and soon romance is in the air.
2019 Rainbow Book Award Books
Girl Made of Stars by
Mara is dealing with a difficult breakup with her ex-girlfriend when her twin brother is accused of rape by one of her best friends. She struggles with her own past trauma and pressure to maintain the status quo.
Let's Talk about Love by
Alice is asexual and biromantic, which is something she’s been dumped for in the past. She was not expecting to fall head over heels for Takumi, a fellow library employee.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by
Darius struggles with bullies, depression, and his weight. When he goes to Iran for the first time, Darius makes connections to his Persian heritage and forges a friendship with neighbor Sohrab.
*Book available on Learning Ally
Girls of Paper and Fire by
In a fantasy world where there are humans, demons, and human-demons, Lei is forcibly taken to become a concubine to the demon king. She must survive violence and rape with her fellow courtesans, who learn to reclaim themselves and fight for their freedom.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by
Jack is an unabashedly out, sex-positive high school junior living large in New York. When he reluctantly agrees to write a sex advice column for a friend’s blog, he also starts receiving “love letters” that become increasingly threatening in tone.
Odd One Out by
Coop has feelings for his lifelong bestie Jupiter, but knows nothing will ever happen between them because she is a lesbian. When Rae moves to town and joins their tight twosome, all their feelings collide in this messy, realistic story about falling in love, new romance, and friendship.
DeadEndia: the Watcher's Test by
Barney’s folks kicked him out of the house when he came out as transgender. He lands a custodial job at Pollywood, a haunted amusement park named after a famous movie star, where he and his friends deal with demon possession, zombie cowboys, time travelers, and first love.
2018 Rainbow Book Award Books
The ABC's of LGBT+ by
Mardell’s self-published reference book is an introductory text that looks at incredibly complex issues from both theoretical and anecdotal perspectives.
The 57 Bus by
Sasha is an agender white teen living in a middle-class suburban neighborhood of Oakland, California, Richard is a black teen living in a crime-plagued part of the city. One afternoon, their paths cross on the 57 bus, with disastrous results. Based on a true story, the book is written in a documentary style.
*If you read this in 9th-grade social studies, select a different book to read.
*Book available on Learning Ally
We Are Okay by
After the sudden loss of her grandfather, Marin moves to college, isolating herself from her past. When her best friend Mabel comes to visit during winter break, she is forced to come face-to-face with her grief.
Ramona Blue by
Blue-haired teenager Ramona works odd jobs to help support her family in a town that hasn’t quite recovered after Hurricane Katrina. Although she identifies as a lesbian, Ramona is thrown for a loop as she realizes her feelings for Freddie, her male best friend.
They Both Die at the End by
Mateo and Rufus both find out that they are going to die today. Over the course of the day, their stories and lives converge. Starting as a search for a final friendship, the boys develop a relationship far deeper than either of them expected.
Dress Codes for Small Towns by
Billie McCaffrey—artist, preacher’s daughter, and general troublemaker—finds herself in an awkward position when she and her four best friends accidentally burn down a section of their church. The friends, and Billie in particular, find themselves in the spotlight as they work to save the cherished harvest festival and stay out of trouble.
The Backstagers Vol. 1 by
When Jory transfers to an all-boys private school and joins the Drama club in an attempt to make new friends, he discovers the mysterious world of the backstage.